James Gavins’ afrofuturistic, sci-fi thriller-based film “Cicada” explores a parallel universe in which a psychotherapy simulator will ease the trauma from Black history in America. It debuts this afternoon at 4 p.m. with a film screening followed by a panel discussion at the UW Union South Marquee Theater.
“I’m kind of in-between sci-fi and psychological thriller, that’s kind of my jam,” Gavins told Madison365.
Gavins produced the film in partnership with the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery Virtual Environments as the first-ever Creator-in-Residence as part of the Science to Script program. The project provides programs for national and local audiences while connecting artists with UW-Madison faculty and students to create scientifically accurate content.
“Art is a powerful avenue to introducing ways of learning,” said Illuminating Discovery Hub Executive Director Ginger Ann. “…Science to Script looks at how we are supporting science narratives with different types of storytelling.”
The film is adapted from the stage play “Cicada,” created by Gavins and Karl Michael Iglesias. and is part of the Wisconsin Science Festival which kicks off today and runs through Sunday. In a parallel universe, they have decided to give out reparations. Gavins has been chosen to beta test a psychotherapy simulator that will ease the trauma from Black history in America called Cicada.
Gavins, an interdisciplinary artist, often incorporates storytelling, music, movement and comedy into his work.
“I think I visualize things as film so for me even as I did the first show, I tried to make it look like a film in my head,” Gavins said.
Indie film director James “Knowshun” McGee helped him fulfill his vision on the big screen. In addition to shooting the film in one day, McGee assisted in post-production, editing the film to capture Gavins’ futuristic narrative.
“Watch this movie like you’re watching a cicada mold, the outer layers start to die and wiggle out,” he said. “When you’re watching the movie, watch it evolve right in front of you.”
The film features a lot of futuristic technology, however, with the production crew incorporating many current technologies in the filmmaking process including virtual reality software and other brian imaging tools from the UW Virtual Brain Project.
“The Looking Glass is glass that projects a visual image, kind of like a hologram, which is the best way to describe it,” UW Madison Senior and Computer Science major Kudirat Alimi said.
She developed the virtual code for the film environment. The Looking Glass allowed the team to project an image of a flashing brain rotating for James’ character to interact with while filming. The main character also interacts with something called the “CAVE.”
In person, the CAVE might just look like a room with lights but is more than that. The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment located within the Discovery Building, projects images onto the walls, floor and ceiling of a 10-foot cube. Users are immersed in an interactive experience with high-resolution, 3D graphics and glasses tracking a user’s gaze.
“When he arrives at the Cicada facility he’s in a building structure. He goes into the CAVE which is kind of this weird lit-up virtual environment and then he gets transported into another location which is the DeLuca Forum which is another room in the Discovery Building,” said Karen Schloss, assistant professor of psychology.
Ann hopes seeing these technologies included in the film will inspire people to think more of STEM-related fields. Schloss described their meetings with Gavins as a creative fest but admitted she had no clue how to make the film work at first.
“I had in my mind how this could actually look, but I had no clue how to execute it,” Schloss said.
“Cicada” debuts this afternoon at 4 p.m. at the UW-Madison Union South Marquee Theater. It is free to the public. After the premier, Middleton Cross Plains Area School District Principal Dom Ricks will moderate a panel featuring members of the production crew.
Registration will be open up until five minutes before the event. Content may be unsuitable for minors younger than 14 years of age due to language and sexual innuendo.