The virtual reality buzz machine has been running in high gear for over a year, but save for a handful of high profile experiences, the bulk of the headlines have belonged to the tech side of the new landscape.
However, the tide of creative opportunities in virtual reality is rising. Artist and director Chris Milk has teamed with producers Patrick Milling Smith and Brian Carmody to start a new virtual reality production company called VRSE.works. The new venture has hit the ground running, unveiling the first film shot in virtual reality for the UN at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.
“Clouds Over Sidra” follows a 12-year-old girl in Jordan’s Za’atari camp, home to 84,000 Syrian refugees, as she goes to school, to her makeshift tent and even to the football pitch. The film, created by Milk and Gabo Arora, a senior advisor at the UN, aims to provide an intimate look at life within a refugee camp and a new perspective on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The film will be available on VRSE.works’ new virtual reality app, launching at the Sundance Film Festival, and iTunes.
The new company also has in the works a photo-realistic, CGI-rendered 3D virtual reality film by Milk called “Evolution of Verse”, and a collaboration between Spike Jonze and Milk for Vice, filmed on the streets of New York City during the million man march protesting ongoing cases of police brutality.
VRSE.works is currently producing an immersive film by Guy Shelmerdine which straps viewers to a wheelchair and takes them on a horror-filled tour of an insane asylum, as well as a collaboration between Andrew Thomas Huang and Björk that is set to launch at the Museum of Modern Art in 2015 as a part of a retrospective of Björk’s collaborations in film, fashion, art and music.
The producers behind VRSE.works have assembled an elite roster of directors, artists, and technologists who will be available to work on VR projects. In addition to Milk, Shelmerdine and Huang, the roster includes Dougal Wilson, Keith Schofield, The Daniels, Marco Brambilla, Encylopedia Pictura, Adam Berg, Sleep No More’s Felix Barrett, and Tim & Eric, among others.
Milk, a director known for pushing new frontiers of storytelling, with projects like Arcade Fire’s Wilderness Downtown, had created a music-driven virtual reality experience for Lincoln called “Hello Again,”, and it was that project that led to conversations with Milling Smith and Carmody and the eventual launch of the new VR operation. “When I first saw the (VR) work Chris had done, it blew my mind” says Milling Smith. Milk has developed proprietary VR technology through his past projects and Milling Smith says the team wanted to bring that tech expertise together with the level of storytelling developed through his company Smuggler’s work in commercials, films and and theatrical production. “Most of the VR to date has been produced from the tech space; our company is director and artist-driven. It’s a marriage of tech and storytelling,” he says.
The brand space is “massively receptive,” to developing VR projects says Milling Smith, and the company will also be focusing on the sports and music worlds. The company has also brought on Oculus product lead Joseph Chen as executive technology producer.