September 14 and 15, 2018, four playwrights came to the GI for an intensive workshop on VR filmmaking. The workshop was hosted by Gada Jane, Research Associate at the GI, and Michael Wheeler, Co-Creator and Artistic Director of SpiderWebShow Performance.
The playwrights were Erin Brandenburg, playwright and director, Rosamund Small, playwright and writer, Nicolas Billon, playwright and screenwriter, and Ahmad Meree, playwright and performer.
Gada Jane designed the workshop with the intention of getting the playwrights to focus on how they as artists could express their own ideas through VR. She said:
So often the technology can become the focus just because it’s new and there’s a lot to process, but we really wanted to focus on storytelling. My goal was to get the playwrights to stay focused on their own interests as artist and how those could be translated to this new medium.
Jane kicked off the workshop with a discussion on the overarching goals. Ultimately, their purpose was to collaborate with one another and generate strategies for telling immersive stories in VR that leveraged their skills as playwrights with the medium's ability to evoke and express complex emotions.
The four playwrights spent the first day using VR equipment and testing out a variety of film and game experiences. The second day, they got back together and formed a creative cluster, discussing what they had learned as well as their perspectives on the advantages and challenges of storytelling in VR.
Filmmaker Naseem Loloie captured the workshop and produced a 3 minute Docu-Video:
Their voices come together in this video. Collectively, they express that VR requires a new paradigm for storytelling. Michael Wheeler says:
The biggest similarity between VR and theatre, is that these are still three dimensional stories. So there is a real connection between the two modes. VR is a really large medium. There are stories you could shoot realistically with 360 video, there's content that could be rendered in an animated environment, there are pieces where you're static, pieces where you move, and there's different ways that interactivity could happen. So in terms what VR is, it's a multiplicity of things actually.
How would you write for an audience that is going to be inside the story? The playwrights shared several strategies throughout the workshop, a few of which are offered in the video, for writing in VR and leveraging the potential that Wheeler describes.