Virtual Reality (VR). It is the sharpest tool that ever existed for telling a story. Ever! That’s what VR film-maker Gina Kim says. Successfully, she makes us viewers experience – with full viewer particiption – the last moments in the life of a South Korean sex worker who bleeds to death after having been fatally assaulted by her sex customer, a US soldier.
The sharpest tool ever for telling a story! The sharpest tool ever for creating empathy. That’s what Gina Kim wants to do with VR. And she does it!
At Västsvenska Filmdagarna 2017 the announcement for day two was to discuss how to create Virtual Reality narratives: ”VR-experiences are increasingly produced and consumed. Billions are being invested in VR technology. But what happens with VR narrative content?”
Swedish and international VR pioneers were gathered this day. Saleen Gomani and Ellen Subraian, with their VR work Billy – sponsored by Svenska Filminstitutet (SFI). Paul Blomgren DoVan, one of the creators of the ”Håkan Hellström in VR”-concept. Roger Wallén, representing SVT VR innovation. Viktor Peterson, executive at CLVR Works, and Gina Kim (on Skype) with her prize-winning VR-production Bloodless.
When all was said and done at Västsvenska Filmdagarna 2017 the VR issue was not ”how can we create good VR stories?” Good stories were exhibited. Narrative Virtual Reality can be done. We saw it. The question that no one could answer yet was ”Can VR stories, with full viewer participation, be made available to a general audience?”
Those who have got somewhere in this direction are Nobelmuséet and CLVR Works, making educational VR in collaboration with the Sheik of Dubai who sponsors a VR project for educating future Nobel prize winners in Asia.
But this is still a long way from making VR story-telling available to the general public. To most people, the equipment needed is still too complicated for regular use at home. The major question, then, is not if good VR stories can be made, for they can. The major question is, will enough people see the VR stories? Will the money a producer invests in Virtual Reality stories produce any profit? Will investors even get the invested money back?
Until there’s a reasonable chance for this, VR narrative productions will be viewed by a rather narrow audience. Yes, the Swedish Film Institute (SFI) does sponsor a few productions. Yes, Gina Kim won the Best VR Story Award in Venice 2017 for her stunningly empathetic VR story Bloodless. And yes, the Nobel Museum and CLVR Works make educational VR stories for the sheik of Dubai.
But Roger Wallén and Swedish Television (SVT) are not ready. He tells us they’re experimenting with Mixed Reality (MR) in connection with sports events and big concerts. But not yet with VR storytelling. And Paul Blomgren DoVan is more or less doing the same thing as Roger and SVT in entertainment. And Viktor Peterson says neither Nobelmuséet nor CLVR Works have any staff nor money particularly for VR narratives.
So, how and when will this narrative tool materialize in its full capacity? How and when will Virtual Reality story-telling be made available for the general public? It’s said to be the sharpest story-telling device ever! The answer is blowing in the wind.
Read also our report from Gina Kim’s lecture on her VR film Bloodless.