Magazine article Variety

VR Storytelling Gets More Democratic

Magazine article Variety

VR Storytelling Gets More Democratic

Article excerpt

AS DEMONSTRATED BY the passion of thousands of geeks, filmmakers and executives who crowded the VRLA expo in downtown Los Angles on May 4-5, virtual reality may well be emerging as the next hot storytelling technology.

To be sure, VR's road is still a bumpy one. Some filmmakers, including Steven Soderbergh, have expressed doubts about the tech being useful for longer narratives. By contrast, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences symbolically gave its seal of approval to the format by awarding "Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible)," created by director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, a special Oscar at the Governors Awards in November.

Among helmers taking virtual reality a step further are Angel Manuel Soto and Nora Kirkpatrick.

Soto, a Puerto Rican director who's worked mainly on shorts and documentaries, helmed VR short "Dinner Party," an immersive experience based on the avowed alien abduction in 1961 of Betty and Barney Hill, a story widely reported at the time. The mixed-race couple - Barney, a black postal employee, and his wife, Betty, a white social worker - was rare in those days.

"I thought this was a cool way to put people in a place to experience ideas about race and privilege," Soto says. "With VR, you can't look away. You see that many of the experiences of their abduction are influenced by race. I wanted people to understand what it means to be brown in America."

"Dinner Party" was an official selection at Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca and Cannes for 2018. The short was produced by Skybound Entertainment, RYOT Films and Telexist VR, and developed at Sundance's 2017 New Frontier Lab.

Kirkpatrick, an actress, producer and director who's part of the team behind Hulu's five-part VR sketch comedy "Virtually Mike and Nora," will soon premiere "Door No. 1" for the network. The narrative, chooseyour-own-adventure VR comedy takes viewers on a journey through a 10-year school reunion. Snoop Dogg makes an appearance in the project and tries to entice viewers to take the path that involves him.

Kirkpatrick, who created the project exclusively for Hulu as an advertiser-integrated VR series, says she loved the opportunity to bring more comedic experiences to VR: "I like to make people uncomfortable, and that's a lot of what comedy is about. …

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