Manual Cinema: Special Effects

Performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company, Manual Cinema, was founded in 2010 by UChicago alumni, Drew Dir and Sarah Fornace, in collaboration with Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter.

Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories that transport audiences. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality. The resulting parade of images is fantastical and feels at once strange and familiar, new and old, real and dreamlike.

An integral part of the Manual Cinema experience is the combination of the backstage and on-stage spaces, which means that an audience can see, not only the projected images, but the means by which the actors create these images. Audience members can even interact with the actors and puppets after shows. The Chicago Tribune remarked that Manual Cinema’s open approach to storytelling shows that “you can still fall in love with a fictional character, a puppet, even when you see all the strings and learn how they are pulled.” For Manual Cinema, how you tell a story matters as much as the story itself.