Day one of VR Days kicks off at the NEXT Pavilion
by Ernesto Leotta
- CANNES NEXT: The USA, Canada and France presented their best VR projects through a series of screenings and talks with their creators
If you were among the visitors to the NEXT Pavilion on Sunday 15 May, you can’t deny that history has been made. For the first time, the Cannes Film Market hosted a genuine virtual-reality film theatre, with seats, tickets and queues of cinemagoers eager to experience the many possibilities of the VR world.
The VR Days, a two-day showcase of the latest and most exciting VR projects from all over the world, will run until Monday 16 May and is free of charge for every market badge holder who can grab a ticket from the NEXT staff before they run out.
A breathtaking assortment of VR docs, cartoons and fiction films from the United States had the morning audience glued to the edge of their seats. These included Invasion! by Eric Darnell, The Second Line: A Parade Against Violence by Angel Manuel Soto and Matt Ogens, and Defrost Episodes 1 and 2 by Randal Kleiser.
Each screening, lasting about 35 minutes, is followed by a talk with the creators, where the viewers can hear their opinions and the ideas that served as the inspiration for their works. "Virtual reality is a delicate medium," started off Mario Kenyon of Furious M, who curated this selection. "If you experience it the wrong way the first time, you might not want to retry it, and that would be a shame. For this reason, I believe that people need to be guided during these early VR times, and I decided to handpick and exhibit the most valid projects to the public."
"The holy grail of VR is putting the viewer at the centre of the film's world," added director and producer Eric Darnell (who has Antz and the Madagascar franchise under his belt). "In Invasion!, I used a bunny as an anchor for the audience, just like a magician would do: he looks in the same direction he wants the viewer to look. The main story is right there, but you feel empowered to choose limitless paths."
The second half of the day saw the "upper neighbours" take over the VR theatre: SODEC, the PHI Centre and the Québec Film and Television Council offered the crème de la crème of VR in Quebec, showcasing an incredibly diverse selection of works by the acclaimed Félix & Paul Studios, ranging from educational docs to musicals and immersive sport experiences.
Later on, chief content officer Ryan Horrigan and producer Stéphane Rituit answered viewers' questions on behalf of the Lajeunesse and Raphaël duo (Felix and Paul's surnames), during a panel moderated by transmedia thinker and creator Michel Reilhac. "Presence is crucial if you want your audience to be completely immersed in your story," explained Horrigan. "In LeBron James: Striving for Greatness, you're not just witnessing the champion's life; you're living it. You have his trainers, friends and LeBron himself talking to you: that's the power of eye contact."
After a stimulating Q&A session, Reilhac wrapped up the day by "checking the pulse" of VR. "Directors and producers from every continent are pushing their creativity to make the most out of this new medium; some countries might seem ahead of others, but what I know is that we are all in this revolution together. We only need people to believe in it."