NEXT presents Fan Club and Next in VR Focus Made in Luxembourg
by Ernesto Leotta
- CANNES NEXT: The event has showcased two cutting-edge VR projects, courtesy of the Film Fund Luxembourg
The third edition of NEXT has got under way with a bang, as this year's special guest came into play on the first day: virtual reality (VR).
A brand-new, jam-packed NEXT conference room welcomed the creators of two VR films powered by the Film Fund Luxembourg, as well as none other than the country's prime minister, Xavier Bettel.
The team behind Fan Club came on stage first, recounting the creative process and the challenges they had to face in order to put together this fiction film in virtual reality. "It all started as an experiment," said director Vincent Ravalec."We wanted to explore the many ways in which this new media could tell a story. My background is pretty diverse, as in my life I've been making films, comics and books, as well as working with the students of a video-game school, and I came up with the idea that VR is a combination of different arts: theatre, film and gaming."
A_BAHN producer Stéphane Hueber-Blies went on to break down the main elements that differentiate VR from any other medium. "Point of view is key when thinking of telling a VR story, but Fan Club features a third-person approach, along with the more traditional first-person one; and the body is the ‘co-protagonist’: if watching a 2D film is like following a musical score, living a VR one is like dancing, as your body becomes part of the experience."
Later on, three young storytellers took the microphone to show the audience the country they grew up in and a couple of failed attempts at getting the attention of their producers, via an entertaining series of slides. "‘Next’ is what we used to hear when showing our previous projects, and it is now the title of our interactive VR film," said screenwriter Frederic Zeimet. "What pushed us towards its direction was the viewer's freedom: in VR, they no longer have to follow the director's subjective view, as they can now trigger the action by simply turning their head around."
But empathy is crucial in order to keep the audience engaged, as director Olivier Pesch wisely pointed out. A VR project must provide the viewer with a backstory, an identity and a relationship with the other characters, who will interact with the viewer and acknowledge their presence for the duration of the film. "Otherwise, the 'Swayze' effect is just around the corner," joked Zeimet. "Remember that scene from Ghost where Swayze stares at the people on the underground but they can't see him because he’s dead? That's exactly what might happen to the viewer: watching the action without being a part of it."