How does a film become a room?

HotelCity is an exercise in psychogeographic cinema. Originally called 46°31’26.4’’ N 6° 38’9.6’’ E (the GPS coordinates for Switzerland), the film mixes elements of genre narrative, film-noir and spy films in particular, to tell the story of a secret society and their machinations in and around the city of Lausanne. The film is shot as a series of vignettes which can be watched independently or in one of several orders, chronologically or thematically. The initial intention during filming was to include every graduate of the La Manufacture acting program making for a cast in the hundreds. Not every graduate is featured in the end but the cast contains fifty to sixty different characters and as many story lines, all shot in different locations around Lausanne.

The film was conceived and shot by Francois “FX” Xavier Rouyer, a graduate student in directing at La Manufacture theatre school. FX approached me to try and develop what was initially described as an editing room where visitors could develop their own version of the film.


After a number of discussions we shifted the work away from creating an editing suite and towards creating the experience of the film itself: What does it feel like to edit a film? How do you make sense of a nonlinear narrative? How can we convey a storyline and the inspirations for the story simultaneously? How can a room become a film?

CinemaMutation is the “operating system” that controls the room containing HotelCity. The software was developed to support any type of map-based storytelling, and supports interactive and generative modes. CinemaMutation can also be connected physically to the room. For instance, a printer located in the rafters of each installation produces documents that are relevant to the scene currently being shown to the audience.

In addition to CinemaMutuation, at least half a dozen small embedded computers were used to create video players and customized “web browsers” that could be used to explore supplemental information related to the story. The piece was exhibited three times in Europe.

The Project

  • Two instances of an OSX desktop application, written in Objective-C using native graphics libraries.
  • Additional development using six Raspberry-pi clones (Banana Pi) running Lubuntu.
  • Software features an interactive and generative mode, and is connected to a printer which produces documents related to the current scene.
  • Display software is also an authoring tool, allowing for the expansion of this project and the creation of other similar works.

Public Exhibitions


Additional Information