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Melbourne International Film Festival / All the feels

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our customisable research platform featuring the world’s most innovative, creative and effective ad campaigns and marketing ideas

Australian film festival lets people experience a movie emotionally before they watch it

The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has created an experiment that enables people to ‘feel’ the emotions elicited by a film before they watch it.

The MIFF Emotion Simulator, developed with McCann Melbourne and Melbourne-based AIRBAG, is a chair customised with 12 electrodes, which are then attached to the major facial muscles of the person sitting in it. The chair produces electrical currents that stimulate the person’s facial muscles to convey the expressions of happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, anger and surprise.

Participants in the experiment can choose which of the festival’s movies they would like to preview by ‘feeling’ the emotions that film produces. MIFF worked out the emotional impact of each film by using a Fitbit to measure the pulse rates of viewers while they watched it. The data enabled two-hour long films to be condensed into intense, one-minute-long experiences comprised of a series of emotions.

The experiment builds on the work of Guillame-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne’s 1862 study, ‘The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression’ where the scientist explored how expressions were linked to the soul’s emotions.

Throughout the Festival (30 July to 16 August) people can apply online to participate in the experiment or visit the MIFF Lounge in Melbourne’s FORUM Theatre where the MIFF Emotion Simulator is located.

MIFF is filming everyone who sits in the Emotion Simulator chair and sharing the clips of each experience on social media (see video above). This allows Melburnians to get a taste for how they might feel after watching some of the 370 movies on offer.


Contagious Insight / 

Cutting down choice / MIFF needs to help its attendees navigate the 370 relatively-unknown films that are on offer. Barry Schwartz’s ‘The Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less’ explains that too much choice can actually make consumers more anxious about making decisions. This choice paralysis can become even more acute if you consider that Melburnians are unlikely to have heard much about each of the films beforehand. We can imagine MIFF attendees getting overwhelmed by the amount of films on show, but by either sitting in the chair or watching a video of someone else doing so online, viewers get a super-snappy preview. Yes, this preview won’t tell them very much about the film’s plot or cast, but it might rouse their curiosity about at least one the festival’s films.

Heightened emotions, heightened awareness / The Emotion Simulator gets people talking and thinking about the film festival. Getting electrodes attached to your face to involuntarily stimulate your muscles into different expressions is a novel experience that people might want to try just to see what it feels like. And if they do try it out, you can bet that they would be more likely to tell their friends about it than if they simply watched a trailer online.

Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)


This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O. Contagious I/O is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious I/O contact