Vayable was created to be a marketplace for unique travel experiences, and travel experiences don’t get more unique than FataLAtour, a thought-provoking, fake blood-splattering tour of Los Angeles involving specially designed SFX packs and a beguiling blend of fact and fiction. Every time you walk past the location of either a real or movie murder, there’s a bang and a burst of blood. It’s hard to know what to make of it, so for the inside story we questioned its creator, David Leonard (pictured above)
Did your background as a photojournalist and reporter inspire the creation of FataLAtour?
When I was reporting at the scene of a crime, I’d feel an emotional connection. I left journalism to study design and media arts at grad school and I was using my computer to sort data on murders in Los Angeles, and I felt like I was disconnected from the reality of the murder. My thesis is in psychoactive geo-locative experiences, which is about how you can encode space with emotional content, and I started thinking about how I could create a narrative emotional experience with a mobile device; something that alerts you to your environment as you walk the streets.
What did your professors think of your idea?
They didn’t like it at first, they thought it was morbid. So I took a detour and focused only on movie murders, and the professors were happy. But why are people comfortable with Hollywood murders but can’t address real murders? So I merged the data together, real and imagined murders, and it’s interesting to see what happens when the line gets blurred. It’s a fine art-meets-technology project.
How do guests on FataLAtour respond to this unusual experience?
It really depends on the individual. Some people are looking to have a laugh while others have a very visceral reaction. Sometimes the journey raises issues that are very personal. I hope it helps people think about how Hollywood creates a picture of what a death is. In the cinema you’ll see so many images of violence, but people don’t like to hear about real violence. Our perception of reality is so altered by these simulations.
Is FataLAtour an anti-violence statement?
There’s definitely an anti-violence message in this project, but it’s more about investigating our relationship with death. What’s the relationship between death in movies and death in real life? While I’m totally against violence I recognise the reasons why people play violent video games, and new media offers a space to experience action at a heightened level, which can be exciting. I want to put people in the movies but I also want to put people in reality. In LA, real and imagined violence are so intertwined. It’s about trying to open up that space.
You use blood packs on the tour. Should people expect to get messy?
Definitely. I created the technology [which simulates the experience of getting shot] with Hollywood special effects people. They’re fully safe and I worked with Academy Award-winning SFX people.
What are some of the places you visit on the tour?
Downtown LA and Hollywood. Some people I’ll take on a driving tour. Sometimes Wilshire, sometimes South Central. It depends on the customer and what they want. Downtown LA is a really amazing place that people don’t really know about. It has been the set of so many great movies.
What’s the future for Fatalatour?
It’s still a labor of love, something I’m figuring out. I think this kind of immersive experience will be successful in the next few years. I’m working with augmented reality glasses to create hallucinogenic-like experiences on Venice Beach. Technology has been governed by engineers and programers who aren’t necessarily good storytellers, but that space is opening up to artists, to more edgy ideas. Technology is all bubblegum pop and we haven’t yet reached the rock ‘n’ roll phase. That makes me excited.