As the production designer on such seminal films as The Crow, Fight Club, and Minority Report, Alex McDowell created what he calls "future realities"Ñgathering real information from laboratories, corporations, architects, and urban planning to envision worlds that don't yet exist but one day very well might. Since the release for Minority Report, for example, more than 100 patents have been filed for new technologies based on the film's imagined ones, such as gesture controls for computers and TV and self-driving cars.
Now, as Director of the USC World Building Media Lab and World Building Institute, McDowell and his interdisciplinary students are using this same methodology to design storyworlds that unfold across multiple media platforms, including those that don't exist yet. They're also applying their findings to help solve real-world problems, from climate change to the refugee crisis. It is McDowell's hope that by telling convincing stories that immerse audiences completely, their eyes can be opened to the possibilities of different kinds of future outcomesÑand designers, media-makers, and scientists can push to make those possibilities a reality.