Seances (film)

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Seances (film poster).jpg
Teaser poster
Directed byGuy Maddin
Evan Johnson
Galen Johnson
Produced byOlivia Cooper Hadjian
Alicia Smith
David Christensen
Dana Dansereau
Loc Dao
Written byEvan Johnson
Robert Kotyk
Guy Maddin
Kim Morgan (additional writer)
John Ashbery (additional writer)
StarringMathieu Amalric
Charlotte Rampling
Udo Kier
Geraldine Chaplin
Maria de Medeiros
Amira Casar
Adèle Haenel
Ariane Labed
Elina Löwensohn
Kim Morgan
Mathieu Demy
André Wilms
Jean-François Stévenin
Slimane Dazi
Jacques Nolot
Grégory Gadebois
Gregory Hlady
Jacques Bonnaffé
Christophe Paou
Miguel Eduardo Cueva
Victoire Du Bois
Jeanne de France
Robinson Stévenin
Jean-Baptiste Phou
Rudy Andriamimarinosy
CinematographyBenjamin Kasulke
Edited byJohn Gurdebeke

Seances is a 2016 interactive project by filmmaker and installation artist Guy Maddin, co-creators Evan and Galen Johnson, and the National Film Board of Canada,[1] combining Maddin's recreations of lost films with an algorithmic film generator that allows for multiple storytelling permutations.[2][3] Maddin began the project in 2012 in Paris, France, shooting footage for 18 films at the Centre Georges Pompidou (this installation was titled Spiritismes, the French word for “seances,” leading to press confusion about the project title)[4] and continued shooting footage for an additional 12 films at the Phi Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.[3] The Paris and Montreal shoots each took three weeks, with Maddin completing one short film of approximately 15-20 minutes each day.[5] The shoots were also presented as art installation projects, during which Maddin, along with the cast and crew, held a “séance” during which Maddin "invite[d] the spirit of a lost photoplay to possess them."[6]

Production history[edit]

Seances grew out of Maddin’s Hauntings project. Noah Cowan, a former director of the Toronto International Film Festival, told Maddin “he didn’t think it was possible to make art on the Internet,” which “reminded [Maddin] of what people said about cinema when it was starting out, when the moviolas and kinetoscopes were considered artless novelties.”[4]

Maddin began with the idea of “shooting adaptations of lost films” and originally conceived the project as making “title-for-title remakes of specific lost films” but altered this plan in favour of producing original material as the project developed. Maddin completed 11 films to show as installation loops for Noah Cowan and the Toronto International Film Festival’s Bell Lightbox theatre for this 2010 Hauntings project.[4]

At the SXSW 2012 festival, Maddin announced that he had begun production on the Seances project, for which he would shoot one hundred short films within a hundred-day span, at locations in Canada, France, and the United States.[7] However, Maddin abandoned this approach to the project to focus more fully on original script creation, partnering with writers Evan Johnson and Robert Kotyk, with additional writing by Maddin’s wife Kim Morgan and American poet John Ashbery.[4]

Maddin and Johnson also co-directed and shot, concurrently, a feature film titled The Forbidden Room, with the same writers. Although often misreported as the same project, The Forbidden Room “is a feature film with its own separate story and stars” while “Seances will be an interactive Internet project.”[4] Many of the actors in Seances also appear in The Forbidden Room.

Algorithmic storytelling[edit]

Each viewer sees a unique film. Software designed by Halifax-based Nickel Media utilizes an algorithm to create the narrative from scenes shot by Maddin, to form a 10- to 13-minute film, each with a unique title.[2] The number of films ensures "hundreds of billions of unique permutations."[4][6][8][9]


Seances was launched on April 14, online and as part of Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes program.[5]

List of "resurrected" films[edit]

In addition to reimagining lost films, Maddin is also "resurrecting" projects that were planned but never filmed. Maddin has stated that he will not be parodying or otherwise mimicking the approach of the directors whose films he is reenvisioning, but rather tried to capture the imagined "spirits of the films, rather than of their directors."[9] Films will not be shown in their entirety, but rather, offered as fragments in order to be recombined online.[4]


The following films were filmed at Centre Pompidou, Paris, February 22 - March 12, 2012.[6]

An additional film, How to Take a Bath (lost Dwain Esper sexploitation film, 1937, USA) was scripted by American poet John Ashbery and completed in 2010."[9] Footage from this film appears in The Forbidden Room. In addition, Ashbery has given [Maddin] a copy of his collage-play The Inn of the Guardian Angel, which was produced from New York Times obituaries and 1930 Hollywood fanzines, to "strip-mine for dialogue for the lost films."[10]


The following works were refilmed at Centre PHI, Montreal, July 7–20, 2013.[8][11]

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In April 2017, Seances received a Webby Award nomination in the Art & Experimental/Film & Video category.[12]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Green, Robert-Everett (2 May 2016). "Seances: Guy Maddin's film generator is an endless cinematic experience". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Seances Guy Maddin". PHI. 2013. Retrieved 2014-12-06. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g ball, Jonathan (2014-12-05). "Guy Maddin on The Forbidden Room and Writing Melodrama". Dr. Jonathan Ball: Writing the Wrong Way (interview with Guy Maddin). Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  5. ^ a b Bernstein, Paula (29 March 2016). "Guy Maddin on The Saddest Music in The World and His Interactive Seances (interview)". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Maddin, Guy, Evan Johnson and Robert Kotyk. Séances: Project Manual. Designed by Galen Johnson. Cinema Atelier Tovar, 2012.
  7. ^ "SXSW '12 Interview: Guy Maddin Talks Making 100 Short Films In 100 Days In Four Countries With Current Project 'Spiritismes'". Interview. The Playlist. 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2012-11-21. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  8. ^ a b Woods, Allan (4 July 2013). "Guy Maddin's performance art installation Seances begins filming in Montreal". Toronto Star. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Romney, Jonathan. "A Canadian in Paris." Sight & Sound (May 2012).
  10. ^ Enright, Robert and Meeka Walsh. "A Constellation of Narratives: Dreaming the History of Lost Cinema: an interview with Guy Maddin." Border Crossings 123 (2012).
  11. ^ Dunlevy, T'cha. "Guy Maddin recreating lost films of the silent era". Montreal Gazette. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Webby Awards: CBC's Missing & Murdered podcast, NFB's Seances vie for online prize". CBC News. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2017.

External links[edit]