The NEXT Pavilion flings open its doors at Cannes
by Vassilis Economou
- CANNES NEXT: At the first conference of the Film Market’s newly overhauled NEXT section, distribution was equated to content in the VR environment
“How do VR Films Fit into Film Distribution/Exhibition Schemes?” was the title of the first conference held in the Film Market’s newly overhauled NEXT section, which took place this morning in ΝΕΧΤ’s conference room. We should remind readers that everything NEXT is situated right at the heart of Cannes’ Palais des Festivals, Level -1, Aisle 14.
Organised by German company Reelport, the conference focused on the plethora of challenges that creators of VR content must face in today’s burgeoning market for something as new as virtual reality. Deloitte’s chief disruptor, Ed Grieg, introduced the subject by emphasising the importance of distribution and creation of content, which in the VR market are now considered equivalent. As cinema struggles to constantly deliver a unique experience, so VR should find a way to produce and create something unique for its consumers, who, despite the original predictions, didn’t manage to make the market worth $1 billion in 2016.
Another major issue that affects distribution and, to some extent, the media’s ability to penetrate the masses is the lack of any social experience. Cinema is not traditionally thought of as a solitary event, so a VR cinema-like experience is not seen as being as attractive as it could be by the potential audience of the new format. So the main suggestion to solve this problem is to adapt to the distribution by starting small, and getting ready to collaborate and, most importantly, iterate.
Reelport’s Tilman Scheel mentioned, “It is too early to know what will happen to VR. We are still on the first generation of devices, and at the moment we can only share experiences, rather than giving answers.” The conference’s panel comprised Myriam Achard (PHI Centre), Mario Kenyon (Furious M), René Louis Cacciuttolo (VRrOOm), Paul Bouchard (Wide VR) and Jip Samhoud (&Samhoud Media), who discussed the subjects of what VR is today and what happens next. The main issue remains the creative part of storytelling, as it is still hard to attract filmmakers to venture into this technology. Everyone agreed that an immersive theatrical experience will be the next step, although the content is not there yet. In contrast to 3D technology, where cinema and films were the driving forces behind expansion and creation, VR is rooted in different distributors and mainly in gaming platforms. As a result, the talents and the storytellers are not yet making their way towards VR. Kenyon opined, “Virtual reality is going to happen, regardless of what we think of now as new media. In ten years, this will be the standard for our future society.”
The conference wrapped up by focusing on the financial side of this venture: as the market is not so mature yet, this might seem more like a future investment. Certainly, we can agree that VR is a new support that is trying to diversify and distance itself from traditional models of cinema, as its narrative form is not comparable to what we already know. But still, storytelling is the key element here, while VR is just the tool.
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