VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Oldenburg, Aaron

Aaron Oldenburg
US videomaker


1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background• My background is in new media art and I teach game design full-time. I also spent 7 years doing HIV/reproductive health education, including two years in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa.

2. When, how and why started you filming?• My work tends to start out as a video game or an installation, with no intent on making a video. The video begins as documentation, then becomes something else. The chance events in the game, or the exploration of an installation, become a linear narrative. Sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing unconsciously by making these other works is just to create sets or materials for a video. I have also done animation, though, that was specifically for video, but I don’t do that so much anymore.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?
• My most recent work for about a year has been exploring the procedural aspects of religion through video games. This summer, though, I went in a new direction, which was more journalistic: I went to Jonestown, Guyana, to interview people there, which I’m attempting to turn into a short film or video installation on how the Peoples Temple and its tragedy became a part of the local culture and environment. In the near future, though, I imagine most of my “films” will just be documentation of my electronic sculptural pieces.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
• I still try to make them as short as possible.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
• Screen capture software, Fraps, for documenting my games, which is also a popular software for creating Machinima. Then it’s just Premiere, and a cheap miniDV camera.

6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
• I don’t know what you mean by chances. Could you elaborate?

7. How do you finance your films?
• They’re very cheap to make. Out of pocket. Though I did use a Maryland State Arts Council Award and a University of Baltimore Faculty Research Grant for the Jonestown project.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
• I mostly work individually but have done some animations with a friend or two. They tend to me more like exquisite corpses, with everyone thinking individually and trying to cram everything together at the end. Which actually worked out well.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
• Werner Herzog has inspired a lot of my work, particularly my pieces associated with travel and cross-cultural experience. Probably not so obvious with video games. My influences there are recent indie gamemakers: Increpare, Cactus, Jason Rohrer, and older interactive CDROM artists, like The Residents.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
• Video will likely be a side-effect of my main work, although maybe I will realise that all of what I thought of as my main work was just a weird way of making films. I don’t see myself as a film/video maker, though.

11. Can works of yours viewed online besides on VideoChannel? Where?

List some links & resources

Experimental video game makers:
Jason Rohrer:

Haruhiko Shono (Gadget, L-Zone, Alice):
Cosmology of Kyoto:
The Dark Eye:
Laurie Anderson’s Puppet Motel:
The Residents’ Freakshow:
Bad Day on the Midway:
The Path, by Tale of Tales (although recent, their games remind me more of this era):

Most inspiring Werner Herzog movie: Fata Morgana, a source for new indie games that I follow

Other video game artists:
Eddo Stern:
Brody Condon:
Cory Archangel:

Favorite video artists:
Olaf Breuning:
Ryan Trecartin:
Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn:
Shana Moulton: