Wednesday, February 28, 2024

First look inside: ‘Winter’s Dream’

Interview with Bronwyn Averett, project’s Creative Lead

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

What’s it take to make a “Winter’s Dream?”

Bronwyn Averett
The Chronicle spoke with Bronwyn Averett, Creative Lead for Moment Factory of Montreal, maker of the new Winter’s Dream immersive light-and-sound attraction that opens this Friday, Dec. 8, at Fort William Henry in Lake George.

An Atlanta native now living in Montreal, she says, “I really had to discover how to fall in love with winter — because, it’s Montreal. You just have to. A lot of our inspiration for Winter’s Dream came from our experience of being Canadians, being in Quebec or Montreal, very much like the Adirondacks.

“We were thinking, you know, it’s the cold season. But in other ways, winter is a very warm season, because it’s when we gather around lights, and we “We had this vision of a little cabin off in the woods that you can see, it’s kind of glowing from within, and then all around it, it’s snowing, there’s a blizzard, and everything’s cold outside.

“There’s a kind of contrast between the adventure and the magic of being outdoors when everything is so cold and adventurous, and then the indoors, which is very warm and very human focused.

“And so it’s very much about the natural beauty, along with this more domestic kind of light and beauty.”

Ms. Averett said the fort is “a very interesting site, with its central courtyard area, and then the four bastions on the sides,” but “the idea was never to do anything related to the history of the Fort. Not that that wouldn’t be interesting. but we knew we were going to do something very general about winter itself.”

Making guests feel ‘transported’

The visitor’s “journey” includes six installations around the bastions and in the courtyard. Central is a “Cabin of Dreams,” where visitors toss balls of “yarn” at the walls to trigger designs and winter scenes lit from within.

Other installations, all incorporating light and sound elements, are “Full Moons,” “Frozen Lake,” “Winter Woods,” “First Snow” and “Dreamscapes.”

“A lot of our concept was about the outdoors in the indoors,” Ms. Averett said. “You walk into that central courtyard, and you’re indoors and outdoors. You can look up and see the stars, but you’re inside this space.

Light and sound installations. For Winter’s Dream at Fort William Henry, by Moment Factory of Montreal. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe
“Just the fact that it’s a wooden fort, that creates a kind of warmth. The wood has a certain texture to it, that we found interesting.

“We thought it created a lot of opportunities, to have that kind of path that would go around the top, and then a courtyard that you’ll be able to see as you’re walking around the bastions.

“Looking down into the courtyard, it’s almost like you’re looking out onto a village. There’s a lot of interesting viewpoints…

“We thought it would create a really interesting journey. You have an installation on each of the bastions, but you’re able to see them all at the same time. You really get the sense of being in a world.”

Ms. Averett said, “We at Moment Factory often talk about ‘immersiveness,’ and what is an immersive experience? What is it that’s going to make visitors really feel transported into a different place? That was something we really felt the Fort itself as a site was offering.”

10 to 15 creative minds at work

“In terms of humans behind the project we have just a really amazing multidisciplinary team. It takes a lot of creative folks to put this stuff together” — 10 to 15 typically around the table, she said.

“I’m the creative lead on the project but we also have a creative director, we have a producer and a line producer, we have a tech director, we have an amazing art director, we have a set designer, a lighting designer, music director, a composer.

“So there’s all these really interesting people that see a project from completely different points of view, and all those things come together to make it what it is.”

If it sounds like movie making, Ms. Averett says it’s entirely not.

“One thing that we talk a lot about at Moment Factory is taking people out of screens. A lot of our entertainment comes to us through screens, which have amazing capabilities, of course. Whether you’re watching a movie or a TV show, or playing a video game, there’s amazing narrative capabilities of that.

‘Stories in space’

“What we try to do is create the same sorts of emotions and the same sort of engagement, but in a live space, so that, rather than just looking at the screen, people are really connecting with each other.”

“I always wanted to be a writer,” Ms. Averett said. “I moved here after I finished my doctorate.” (She has a PhD in French Literature.) “I was just looking for something more creative to do.

“I discovered projects like Moment Factory, where you could tell stories in space. I thought that was really fun, the idea of going from books, which I had always loved, and I loved writing, going to creating stories in three dimensions with a whole range of technologies.

Immersive light & sound attraction.
“I think that’s what it is about working on the project, collaborating with people who’ve taken such interesting routes that are very different from from mine, and they all come together. Everything they do is really collective projects.”

She says, “Our goal is really to transport people, to give them a feeling of wonder.”

“We’re hoping that this will be a warm gathering place for people to share time together. That’s always the goal. This is meant to be a world that they can explore, a world that invites them to play.

“We want people to come, share moments of collective wonder together, and enjoy maybe seeing the winter season in a bit of a different way.”

“We’re so excited for this,” Ms. Averett adds. “The community has been so welcoming. One thing that we really like at Moment Factory is when we get to work with these communities, and we feel very excited to see people come out and enjoy it. That’s why we do it.”

Winter’s Dream: Cathy’s first take

“I had no idea what to expect, but it exceeded my expectations,” said a woman overheard around the fire pit at a preview on Monday night.

My own quick first take of Moment Factory’s new Winter’s Dream attraction at the Fort William Henry:

Without revealing much of what you’ll see if you go: It’s pretty cool, magical, mystical even. Think, visual experiences wrapped in music that sets an emotional tone, something nostalgic, inspiring wonder. People, like the woman quoted above, seemed to respond with what I’d call a kind of hushed enthusiasm, even the kids.

— Cathy DeDe

Winter’s Dream in Lake George: Some specs

  • Winter’s Dream opens Friday, Dec. 8, at the Fort William Henry in Lake George. Find details, FAQs and tickets at lakegeorge.wintersdream.com
  • Hours are from dusk, approximately 5:15 to 10 p.m., daily except Tuesdays, now to March 31.
  • Closed on Christmas, New Year’s Day and January 2, but open on Dec. 26 and Dec. 31.
  • Cost: Off peak, weekdays: $23.90, $21.90 senior, $19.90 child.
  • Peak days, weekends and holidays: $29.90, $23.90 seniors, $22.90 child.
  • Children 3 & under admitted free.
  • VIP Flex admission and parking passes available for additional charge.
  • Open “rain, shine, or snow.” Notification by email if the event is canceled due to inclement weather.
  • Organizers say, expect to spend 40-60 minutes going through the site. They expect as many as 400 people an hour to attend.
  • Dress for the cold. Food and gifts available to purchase. The site is handicapped accessible.
  • Parking: Website lists six lots including estimated walk times of one to nine minutes, starting with Fort William Henry’s own lot (included with a VIP ticket at $15 for four hours, limited availability). There’s also metered parking at $2 an hour in the Beach Road Lot, at 75 Canada Street, on Elizabeth Little Boulevard and on village streets.
  • High Peaks Distilling and Mayard Center’s parking lots will both be open, free, said info.

$3 million in Bed Tax funding; plan to pay it all back

Chronicle Managing Editor Cathy DeDe writes: The Winter’s Dream project by Moment Factory of Montreal is presented by the Warren County Winter Coalition, business people who first came together to promote tourism during Covid.

Winter’s Dream was seeded with a $3 million grant from Warren County Occupancy Tax funds. The attraction is slated to continue for at least five years. The Winter Coalition told the County they expect to pay back the Bed Tax funding over those five years.

Their aim, they said, is to split expected profits each year, 50 percent to reinvest in expanding and improving the attraction, and 50 percent returned to the County.

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