At Sundance, the VR
Filmmaking Revolution
Is Officially Underway

VR-at-Sundance (1).jpg

By Angela Watercutter

When she takes off the headset, her eyes are wet.

It’s the opening of the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program, and I’m in line to see interactive artist Chris Milk’s new virtual reality experience Clouds Over Sidra—but I let Shari Frilot, the event’s senior programmer, go ahead of me. (It’s her efforts that led to Clouds even being here, after all.) While Frilot wears the Samsung Gear VR, getting an immersive glimpse into the life of a 12-year-old girl in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, Milk and I get a glimpse at the emotional impact that VR story telling can have. “I love watching people’s reactions,” Milk says.

If he has his way, Milk will be seeing a lot of those. Days ago, he announced the launch of his smartphone app and distribution platform VRSE, which allows folks with a smartphone and Google’s Cardboard device to watch a series of VR experiences. In addition to Clouds, early offerings include Vice News VR: Millions March, a short documentary of the December 2014 police brutality protests in NYC that Milk made with director Spike Jonze, and Milk’s CGI-rendered abstract pieceEvolution of Verse, which puts a VR twist on early film audiences’ terrified reactions at watching a train speed toward the camera in the 1895 French filmL’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat.

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Gabrielle Brown