With a new content studio called Scenic, Helvetica director Gary Hustwit has gathered a group of like-minded documentarians to explore nonfiction storytelling in the emerging format of virtual reality. Their goal is to move quickly and keep trying new things.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak, even when I was a kid. A big part of why I started Scenic was to give more filmmakers a chance to play around with [virtual-reality] tools,” Hustwit said at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in November. “You have to start thinking in VR to then be able to create in it. You have to make a lot of mistakes and try things. We know so much more than we did a year ago, it’s crazy—and I still don’t feel like I know that much about making nonfiction VR. But you learn as you go. There is no rule book. My first job, when I was 7 or 8, was selling avocados from our front yard. It was a booming business. I grew up in Southern California, and we had a huge avocado tree in our yard. Four for a dollar—I could clear $20 a day. That’s a lot of money for a 7-year-old.
“[I still love] that idea of creating your own job, starting your own thing. Like when I was in college, getting into punk rock, and then helping my friends start record labels. Being independent and trying to do things on your own and not relying on anyone else for funding or permission to do something: That’s been a theme through most projects I’ve done. It’s about having the confidence to try [something new]. If it works, great—try another project and keep going. And if it doesn’t work, you can go back [and get] a normal job.”