“Wild” is a film, from Fox Searchlight, starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, based on Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”. Cheryl decides to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. She uses this journey to heal from a divorce, a self destructive past, and the death of her mother.
Virtual Reality is being used to experience all kinds of entertainment, but Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, at Felix & Paul Studios, are taking films to the next level. They’ve produced an experience in the “Wild” universe by putting the viewer in the scene with Witherspoon. This may not sound enticing on paper, but imagine being completely taken away from the world you know by putting on a headset and headphones and immersing yourself in another world. This is the dream of any storyteller, and VR is another tool encroaching the landscape. Lajeunesse and Raphaël have already made several VR films that take you through real life experiences like being a part of Mongolia’s nomadic yak herders or the Cirque du Soleil show, Zarkana. With “Wild”, this is the first film where the viewer’s reaction (depending on where you look) helps dictate where the story will go.
Making VR films is very different from the traditional 2D screen. The challenge of directing the viewer’s attention gets a little tricky when the viewer can look anywhere. The camera angle is virtually non-existent (or technically user-defined), edits are jarring, and story experiences will have to be tried and tested. This was also the start of film when it was being displayed in Nickelodeons and the famous “Arrival of a Train” by the Lumiere Brothers scared audiences into thinking the train was going to burst out of the screen.
We are at the very beginnings of a new way of experiencing interactive and time based art.