*Cover image by the Miro Shot Collective
Sundance is one of the most renowned film festivals in the USA that has expanded in recent years to feature the growing immersive industry in their New Frontiers program. It’s an opportunity for creatives from all over the world to gather together in one space to share their work, and to share ideas.
Across the pond (the Atlantic Ocean), other festivals are also taking shape that represent the European community of industry and content creators. This year, VR Days Europe in Amsterdam will be celebrating its 5th Edition.
In these early days of VR and AR, artists have to travel around the world to find their niche audience. Without events like these, the industry that already faces numerous challenges, would struggle even more to innovate, which requires the joining of industry and artists under one roof.
In this interview for The Boolean by Benjamin de Wit, founder of VR Days Europe, we hear from two artists at Sundance who have experienced both events, and we get a picture of what it means to have their work featured at these festivals. Ezequiel Lenardón and María Belén Poncio are the lead artists on the VR short film 4 Feet: Blind Date. They are from Argentina.
Q: I’m here with Ezequiel Lenardón, Co-Creator and Creative Producer on 4 Feet: Blind Date, and with María Belén Poncio, Co-Creator and Director also on 4 Feet: Blind Date, a VR piece from Argentina. What does Sundance mean to you?
María Belén Poncio: For us, being at Sundance is really exciting. We’re really grateful about being here because we think that it’s the place for independent cinema, and for risky productions. We are always trying to make people uncomfortable in a way, so I think here artists can make these kinds of stories that go further, make people uncomfortable, make them ask questions and find different perspectives of reality.
Ezequiel Lenardón: This is the North American premiere of our piece. So it’s the first time it will be shown in this part of the world, and for us as filmmakers that is super important. It is a great honor to be here in Park City, and to be sharing our piece with all the people here.
Q: Can you briefly tell what your work is about?
María Belén Poncio: 4 Feet: Blind Date is a VR short movie about Juana. She’s an 18-year-old girl in a wheelchair and she wants to explore her sexuality, so she goes on a blind date with a guy who she meets on social media. Both will discover how they feel and how they relate to one another.
Ezequiel Lenardón: The piece is based on a real life experience. The lead writer is Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, an internationally renowned activist for accessibility, who’s been in a wheelchair for more than eight years. This piece dramatizes and shares a very different perspective on how we’re used to considering disability.
Q: And why did you choose VR for this piece?
Ezequiel Lenardón: VR offered us the opportunity to immerse viewers in a way they could not only see the content, but also live it. It’s called 4 Feet because this is the height where someone sitting in a wheelchair usually is, and this is where you experience the film. We thought that the format was a lot more powerful way to actually be in the skin of someone that is living their life in a wheelchair.
Q: What do you think is the most exciting developments in the immersive VR space you foresee in this next year?
María Belén Poncio: What I feel is new in VR is the interaction between between different people living an experience at the same time and having in some way an avatar that tracks your body, and moves with your body in real time in the digital world. I feel that this is the most exciting development that we are going to see this year.
Ezequiel Lenardón: I think that now we’re moving beyond VR, and we’re moving into an XR arena. That means that in the near future we will be experiencing a mix of reality, not only a total shutout from reality, but also mixing real things with things that are content created. So I think that we’re moving towards a more mixed reality scenario.
Q: Will we see you at VR Days Europe?
Ezequiel Lenardón: We were actually in VR Days Europe in 2018, and 4 Feet: Blind Date was also presented there. So we were very happy to share a piece at the Church of VR, one of the first places in the world that fully supported this content. So we would love to go back. We hope to continue creating content that we can be at VR Days Europe in the future.
By Anne McKinnon / @theboolean.io
Benjamin de Wit / VR Days Europe