Project: Cabinet of Curiosities

For the Cabinet of Curiosities project my group presented a story about a character called Alma Thea, who was talking to a member of our group, Chris, online until mysteriously cutting off contact. We presented a video detailing the search for Alma, with Chris realizing from posts an Instagram account that she was in Coventry, and proceeding to try to track her down by going to the locations photographed in her Instagram.

When this plan fails he turns to Oliver (played by me), a new friend, who hacks Alma’s Instagram account to try to find a way of contacting her. When this too fails they try setting bait; advertising a signed VHS copy of The Last Unicorn, Alma’s favourite film, to try to make contact with her. Then in audio segment of our presentation a phone call between the two is heard and she tells Chris to stay away from her.

Then our group implored members of the audience for any information on Alma. I, who was in the audience in character as Oliver, reveal myself to be the real Alma. After Chris storms away I am given the chance to explain myself, that I was using the internet to express a side of myself that I couldn’t in real life, that I didn’t tell Chris because I wanted him to become friends with the real me. Our presentation ended with a reconciliation between Alma/Oliver and Chris.

For the creation of the character we took particular inspiration from two items of my own Cabinet of Curiosities ( www.the-0ld-curiosity-shop.tumblr.com ) a short film Break Free by Ruby Rose and the animated film The Last Unicorn. From Break Free, a film which sees Rose transform from the conventional image of an attractive woman into a tattooed man, we took the idea that our character was trying to discover their true self. From The Last Unicorn, in which a unicorn goes on a journey to find the rest of her kind, we were inspired for our character to be searching for other people like her. We also took inspiration for our character’s name from the protagonist of The Last Unicorn’s name, Lady Amalthea, which became Alma Thea.

These ideas combined with an idea from another member of my group, to have our character catfish (pretend to be someone else online) members of our group. A central theme for our character and narrative was the idea of identity, and the true self, and in this way we wanted to subvert the typical catfish tropes, which are centred around revealing someone to be something other than what they say they are online, by suggesting that rather than the “true self” being Oliver, the person Alma is revealed to be, Alma is the real true self that Oliver has had to hide, with Chris at the end of our presentation telling Oliver, “You are the Alma I know”.

I personally created a tumblr account for the character ( www.alma-thea.tumblr.com ), on which I took inspiration from my group’s cabinet items  (such as punk Disney edits, or street art) for the content I reblogged, but I also tried to include foreshadowing of the narrative on the blog. For example in her blog description I put the quote, “We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream”, from the novel of The Last Unicorn, to foreshadow that Alma is not who she says she is (what she seems), but also the reveal that she is what Oliver wishes he was (what he dreams).

There was also two photo posts I reblogged that I thought made excellent foreshadowing; two pictures of neon signs, the first reading ‘Anatomy is not destiny’, foreshadowing Alma/Oliver being trans* (something I thought of the character as, but we did not make explicitly clear in the presentation), and the second reading ‘You’ll get it eventually’, which is really just a comment on the entire deception and later reveal by Alma. We also included foreshadowing in our video, as in the scenes in which Chris and friends are looking for Alma by following her Instagram trail I (Oliver) can be seen walking away in the background of scenes, foreshadowing that Oliver was the one taking the pictures on her instagram.

Overall I am quite happy with how our presentation turned out, I think our video was good quality, our acting and presentation was good and people really appreciated the message we were trying to convey. The only things I was less happy with was that our presentation ran rather long, apparently reaching thirteen minutes when it was supposed to be about six, and there were a couple of inconsistencies in our narrative.

As for the times issue, I had planned and expected for the talking sections to be snappier and faster, as I knew out video was quite long, but perhaps then it might have felt rushed. If anything our video should have been shorter to give us more time to talk within the time frame. As the for inconsistencies, one was in the video in which Chris states that Alma goes to Coventry University, but previously he had been surprised to see she was in Coventry; I did notice this actually when we were filming, but in a desire to get the scenes filmed quickly I chose not to worry about it. I regret that now and wish I had asked to do a retake to correct the plot hole.

The other inconsistency was that in our video Chris seems to be showing strangers a picture on his phone of Alma, but in the presentation Chris stated he had never seen a photo of her. This was a surprise to me, actually, as in previous discussions of the presentation I had said we should show her twitter account and the photo (we had already picked a copyright free photo to use, it is actually the cover image for this blog post) at the start of the presentation, and was expecting this to happen. Instead Chris actually said her twitter was deleted and he had never seen her, I don’t really know why this change happened and I was quite surprised at the time.

Andrew Sheller is a Media Production student at Coventry University. You can see more content from Andrew at their Facebook page through this link.

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