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The Tribeca Film Festival Returns With A New Look At VR

The Tribeca Film Festival Returns With A New Look At VR
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TFF curator shares his thoughts with PSFK as the fest kicks off this week introducing its VR film programming for the second year in a row

Mario Valdivieso
  • 20 april 2017

Through technology and new innovative storytellers, the film industry is constantly changing. We went from film stock to digital to films that can be shot on your phone. With every advancement presented to filmmakers, they have to move with the times and embrace the future. That future is immersive filmmaking and with it in mind, Tribeca Film Festival presents Tribeca Immersive’s Virtual Arcade featuring Storyscapes. This is their newest collection of interactive VR films, a program the festival started last year—and where PSFK got to experience a dose of character-driven virtual reality.

This year, we sat down with Loren Hammonds, a curator of interactive content for TFF as well as a lead producer of live events for the festival, who returns to expose the world to new talents in immersive filmmaking.

You’ve been working in film for all of your career. Aside from the obvious, what would you say is the difference between classic cinema and immersive cinema?

“It’s a very exciting time to witness the development of this medium. In much the same way that cinema found its footing through experimentation, virtual reality is also doing the same now. While some creators are using classic storytelling conventions, it’s the added element of interactivity that sets VR apart and allows for a level of immersion that simply can’t exist in traditional films” – Loren Hammonds

As a curator, is there a particular theme you try to do with every year? If so what would you say is the one for this year? If not what’s your selection process?

“I try to let the work inform the program. This year, I definitely saw a leap in terms of the ability to coherently and fully tell a story in VR. In the past, there were some pieces that seemed as though they were acting more as demonstrations of what the medium was capable of. With these advances, it quickly became the driving force of the curation: How are stories being told in VR? We opened for submissions for the first time this year, which helped to increase the diversity of the program, but also made curating more difficult since we got to see some truly great work.”

vr pic.jpg

This is your second year curating for VR filmmaking—how have you seen audiences respond to this new way of telling stories?

“I think Tribeca has some of the greatest audiences in the world. We’re known for attracting culturally curious viewers with our film program, and VR has proven to attract the same. I love the fact that there is a mix of technically savvy viewers and those who simply want to see what the fuss is all about. My favorite memory from last season was walking into our Storyscapes exhibit and seeing the amazing Danny DeVito wearing an HTC Vive headset, and fully immersed in an experience.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Is there a film or collection that stands out this year for you?

“There are quite a few pieces that incorporate haptics, additional elements outside of the VR environment, or even live actors to create more of a mixed reality experience. Those really stand out because they can’t be duplicated at home. They’re essentially the equivalent of a theatrical experience in film.”

What do you think immersive films can bring to the industry’s future?

“Possibility. VR shows us that the sky is the limit in terms of incorporating a viewer into a story. There’s no longer a line between audience and experience, and I’m hopeful that it can help the industry to embrace originality.”

Tribeca Immersive’s Virtual Arcade featuring Storyscapes begins on April 21 and runs through April 29. Tickets for the festival can be purchased here.

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