Reel life: Staff member film shown at Ann Arbor Film Festival

With the finite amount of space in physical reality, Mechanical Engineering Associate Secretary Charlie Toeppe wants to explore something new. Something without limits.

With this in mind, Toeppe—who has a strong interest in science and art—created the film Heck.exe.

Pleased with the finished product, he entered the experimental film to the 2016 Ann Arbor Film Festival. And it was selected.

“I’ve been going to the Ann Arbor Film Festival for many years and I wanted to be a part of it,” Toeppe said. “I submitted the film more than six months ago and put it in the back of my mind. Then, almost out of nowhere, I got an email saying that it was accepted. I read that email over and over again.”

In March, Toeppe watched his work on the big screen.  Surrounding Toeppe, hundreds of others in the audience did too.

Starting with a mix of cartoon-ish figures and sounds representing the chaos and space limitations of Earth and ending with a Carl Sagan pale blue dot-like graphic, the six-minute film was a included in the Regional Films category showing at the Michigan Theatre.

“When it finished, I heard someone say, ‘If you can’t show this film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, where can you show it?’ I took that as a compliment,” Toeppe said. “People might wonder, ‘What’s that about?’ I have my idea, of course, but a viewer might have another idea. That’s the beauty of art.”

Toeppe, who collaborated with nationally known video artist Andy Heck Boyd, said his interest in virtual reality—and specifically headgear like the newly released Oculus Rift—took him to this creative place.

“Earth is where we are, and we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We are all violently mashed together here [as the film illustrates], ” Toeppe said. “But virtual reality technology opens up another space—one that is much less limiting.”

In addition to spatial reasons, he said virtual reality—like books, music and films before it—offers new perspectives.

“It’s a fully immersive experience that will allow you to step into someone else’s shoes,” he said. “This virtual world will have an empathic effect on the  physical one we all live in. It seems counterintuitive, but I believe this new technology will give us shared experiences, bringing us closer together. More harmony, less chaos.”

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