Atlas V Sets ‘Gloomy Eyes,’ ‘Crusoe,’ ‘Fortune’ by Atlas V Admin

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Atlas V, the Paris-based VR powerhouse whose “Spheres” and “Battlescar” are playing at the Venice Film Festival, is developing and producing several new projects with international talent, including “Gloomy Eyes,” “Crusoe” and “Fortune.”

“Gloomy Eyes” is a real-time animated VR series directed by Jorge Tereso and Fernando Maldonado, the duo behind the 2012 animated short “Shave It.” Set in 1983, “Gloomy Eyes” centers on a zombie who is an outlaw and has access to things humans don’t see or understand. In his world, zombies have been around for almost a decade but are being hunted down and hiding in the forest. The three-part series is being produced by Atlas V, 3DAR and Arte.

“Crusoe” is being developed by Jalil Lespert, the director of “Yves Saint Laurent” and “Versailles,” and Pierre Zandrowicz, who previously helmed “I, Philip.” A re-imagining of the classic tale of Robinson Crusoe, the room-scale experience follows an exile into a spiritual and poetic world where the user interacts with others. “Crusoe” is being produced by Atlas V, Film France and Onze Cinq.
“Fortune” is a documentary series in augmented reality that will be directed by Brett Gaylor, whose credits include “RiP: A Remix Manifesto,” about copyright issues in the information age. “Fortune” will explore in a playful and modern way what lies behind currencies and the power of money in our society. “Fortune” is produced by Atlas V, Arte and Canada’s NFB.
 

Atlas is also developing “Destiny,” a VR documentary to be directed by Andres Jarach (“El Gaucho”), about a kid who doesn’t like to eat but who grows up to become the famous chef Pierre Gagnaire.

All these projects are being backed by France’s National Film Board (CNC).

Altas’ production slate also includes Jan Kounen’s mystical experience, “Ayahuasca,” as well as Clement Deneux’s “Untold Stories,” a documentary series being produced with the BBC and Arte, which will feature well-known directors exploring passion projects that never got made.

Atlas V is attending Venice with Eliza McNitt’s “Spheres,” an interactive journey inspired by the iconic “Pale Blue Dot” image of planet Earth and exec produced by Darren Aronofsky (with the voices of Jessica Chastain, Patti Smith and Millie Bobby Brown), and “Battlescar,” an animated series narrated by Rosario Dawson, about a Puerto Rican living in New York City in the late 1970s.

All three episodes of “Spheres” are playing for the first time at a festival and are competing in Venice. “Battlescar,” which previously played at Tribeca, is screening out of competition.

Prominent presence for French works at Venice VR by Atlas V Admin

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With no fewer than 8 French immersive works selected for the second edition of Venice VR, this event once again highlights the robust health of the French virtual reality sector. In terms of the number of films presented, France is the second most highly-represented country, just behind the United States.

 

The 75th Venice International Film Festival is taking place from August 29 through September 8, 2018. For the first time this year, the Venice Virtual Reality section will shine a light on immersive interactive and linear experiences, with 40 works to be showcased, including 30 in competition.

Among the 25 countries represented at Venice VR, France counts a total of 8 productions (including one minority production), second only to the USA, reflecting the prominent status and high visibility of French VR works at this time.

Alongside productions by leading players in the sector, such as Atlas V (BattleScar, SPHERES), viewers will also have the chance to discover The Horrifically Real Virtuality—the new installation by DVgroup, who created a sensation last year with Alice, the Virtual Reality Play, The Roaming - Wetlands—as well as the latest creation by La Prairie Productions, whose 2017 work Proxima earned acclaim at numerous festivals, and, last but not least, Isle of the dead produced by Les Produits Frais and Arte, and inspired by the painting of the same title by Arnold Böcklin. In addition, three new contenders will reveal their first immersive works: Eclipse by Jonathan Astruc and Aymeric Favre, Umami by Landia Egal and Thomas Pons, and Elegy by Marc Guidoni.

France's presence at this event also extends to the jury. Following the 2017 jury members John Landis, Céline Sciamma, and Ricky Tognazzi, this year's jury will comprise the Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (jury president), the Italian writer/director/performer Alessandro Baricco, and the French actress Clémence Poésy.
The Venice Virtual Reality jury will present the following three awards: Best VR Immersive Story, Best VR Experience for Interactive Content, and Best VR Story for Linear Content.

The complete program can be viewed here.

Darren Aronofsky’s Three-Part VR Series ‘Spheres’ To Premiere At Venice Film Festival; Millie Bobby Brown Narrates Final Installment by Atlas V Admin

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Darren Aronofsky’s three-part virtual reality series Spheres will make its world premiere at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, which also will mark the debut of the final chapter of the series, narrated by actress Millie Bobby Brown.
 

Brown, who received an Emmy nomination for her supporting role as Eleven on the Netflix series Stranger Things, lends her voice to the actual first installment in the trilogy, Spheres: Chorus of the Cosmos, which explores the sounds of the universe from the vantage point of earth.

Spheres made history as the first VR project to land a seven-figure deal at the Sundance Film Festival, where it screened Spheres: Songs of Spacetime, a journey into a black hole that’s narrated by Jessica Chastain. That second chapter in the series is an Emmy finalist in the 2018 jury category “Innovation in Interactive Media.”
 

Patti Smith narrated the third installment (and second to screen), Spheres: Pale Blue Dot, which made its debut at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival’s Immersive category. It concludes the series with a bang, or rather, the big bang.

Director Eliza McNitt conceived of Spheres as an opportunity to transport viewers to a world beyond our own. Aronofsky and Ari Handel executive produced the series, which is presented by Oculus Studio & Protozoa Pictures. The project was made with support from Intel, and involved the production companies are AtlasV, Crimes of Curiosity & Novelab and made with support from Intel.

Following its Venice premiere, Spheres which will be available on Oculus in this fall, distributed by CityLights.

Atlas V Teams With BBC, Arte on ‘Untold Story’ VR Series by Atlas V Admin

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Atlas V, one of Europe’s leading virtual reality studios, has partnered with the BBC and Arte to develop “Untold Story,” a VR documentary series showcasing well-known directors exploring passion projects that never got made.

Directed by Clement Deneux (“Zombinladen”), the eight-part documentary will feature material created during pre-production, including storyboards, animatics, concept art, and original artwork. Footage of the featured directors will be shot with volumetric cameras and inserted into a VR experience.

The directors, whose names will soon be unveiled, will narrate some key points of their respective projects, explain why the movie was important for them and why it never got made. Atlas V has enlisted high-profile casting agent Juliette Menager (“Versailles,” “Sense8”) at Paris-based Joule Studio, who previously worked with Atlas V on their short “Alteration.”
 

A 10-part web format of “Untold Story” was previously made for Arte with Christophe Gans, Barbet Schroeder, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, Michel Hazanavicius, Gaspard Noé and John Landis, among others.

“Untold Story” will mark the first co-production for a VR project between Arte and the BBC, Europe’s leading VR broadcasters. Well-known VR experiences commissioned by the BBC and Arte include “Home: A VR Spacewalk” and “Notes on Blindness,” respectively.

Atlas V, launched six months ago by Paris-based VR pioneers Antoine Cayrol, Pierre Zandrowicz, Arnaud Colinart and Fred Volhuer, has presented several VR experiences at international festivals, notably Eliza McNitt’s science-themed “Spheres,” Nico Casavecchia and Martin Allais’ animated experiment “BattleScar” (pictured), and Aaron Bradbury ‘s grief-themed nonfiction “Vestige,” which played at this year’s Tribeca.

VR Experience ‘Vestige’ Acquired Ahead Of World Premiere At Tribeca Film Festival by Atlas V Admin

The virtual reality documentary Vestige has been acquired by U.K.-based distributor Other Set ahead of the project’s world premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, a sale that marks the third virtual reality experience to be acquired at a major film festival.
 

Vestige takes the viewer on a journey into the mind of Lisa as she remembers her lost love, Erik. Within an empty void, fragments of past memories appear of their life together. As participants explore these recollections, their actions trigger new memories that reveal other facets of the story. Over time, these memories lead to the shocking moment of Erik’s death.

Each viewing reveals a different path to this moment.

Vestige allows the viewer to experience the healing that can be discovered on the other side of grief and loss,” said Other Set founder Andy Whittaker. “The experience showcases the unique power of the VR medium to connect audiences to Lisa’s very human story on a visceral, human level.”
 

The project is directed by Aaron Bradbury, who has been working for the past nine years on immersive media, and produced by Paul Mowbray, Antoine Cayrol and Jill Klekas Basmajian. Vestige was created in collaboration with NSC Creative, an award-winning studio that specializes in immersive content, Paris-based Atlas V and Emmy-award winning media company RYOT, and funded through Kaleidoscope, which has raised more than $4 million to finance original projects.

“Vestige is really pushing the limits of what can be done with volumetric capture and multi-narrative storytelling right now,” said NSC Creative director Mowbray.

The film is scheduled for a spring 2019 release and will be available for the  Oculus RiftHTC Vive and Microsoft VR headsets.

Vestige was created using Depthkit’s volumetric capture technology.

Virtual Reality Finally Sold Big at Sundance: Here’s What It Means for the Future of the Marketplace by Atlas V Admin

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While everyone was busy complaining about slow sales at the 2018 SundanceFilm Festival, something remarkable happened: The festival saw its first major VR acquisition. For a reported low-to-mid seven figures, CityLights bought the three-part VR series “Spheres,” directed by science-storytelling whiz Eliza McNitt, narrated by Jessica Chastain, and executive produced by Darren Aronofsky.

A few days later, in the first sale of a VR documentary at Sundance, Dogwoof acquired “Zikr: A Sufi Revival,” directed by Gabo Aror. “Zikr” is a 15-minute interactive VR experience that uses song and dance to transport four participants at a time into ecstatic Sufi dance rituals; in addition to location-based installations, the deal includes funding for an online version of the VR experience that allows multiple players to be networked at once.
 

In the six years since the festival’s New Frontier section presented its first VR piece, Nonny de la Pena’s “Hunger in LA,” the format has faced more tolerance than warmth. However, these sales could represent a sea change: Buyers are willing to pay significant sums, and those buyers include traditional distributors.

While the just-launched CityLights will roll out “Spheres” on VR platforms (first on Oculus Rift, with others to follow), Dogwoof is a 14-year-old documentary producer, sales agent, and UK theatrical distributor that had its own film at Sundance with World Cinema Documentary selection “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist.” Dogwoof acquired “Zikr” through its newly formed VR-focused company, Other Set.

Arora expects “Zikr” will be available via home VR systems as well as in LBEs — location-based entertainment installations — in places like museums and art venues.

LBE was this year’s hot buzzword at New Frontier. While an LBE can refer to a museum installation (like Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Carne Y Arenas” at LACMA), the real excitement is for building something akin to modern-day arcades — much as the videogame industry did until home consoles could provide a more sophisticated experience.

“New Frontier itself is a location-based entertainment center and always has been. A lot of the New Frontier artists have been tapped for the openings of some of these new centers,” New Frontier chief curator Shari Frilot said in a phone interview from the festival. “People are excited to go with other people to check out something new and fresh that they haven’t already experienced.”
New Frontier also created a model for VR monetization through its virtual reality theater space, The Box. It used Two Bit Circus’ 360 video-sync technology to simultaneously run a curated program of 360 videos on 40 headsets, allowing audiences to experience the same content at the same time. Frilot and New Frontier previously experimented with a 360 sync screening in 2016, when they showed Lynette Wallworth’s early VR piece “Collisions” simultaneously to 250 people at the Egyptian Theater.
 

Frilot also noted that LBEs can help overcome a lingering issue facing the VR industry: the intimidation factor. “There’s something to be said for going to experience VR where you have someone who knows their way around the equipment to help you,” she said. “VR can still be a little intimidating for the average consumer, and the LBEs are going to make a real impact with that.”

Hollywood’s response to the burgeoning VR industry has ranged from bemused disinterest to cautious optimism; no one wants to be caughtnotkeeping an eye on this whole VR thing, but neither has anyone quite figured out what to do with it — or, more to the point, how VR makes money. While these sales are interesting in and of themselves, it’s worth noting that both projects center around storytelling rather than tentpole IP.

Arora was inspired to make “Zikr,” a “musical 360 documentary experience” after observing Sufi Muslim euphoric dance rituals helped shift his own deeply held prejudices about Islam. Arora was raised Hindu in a family that experienced discrimination by Muslims, and he sees “Zikr” as an opportunity to model how minds and hearts can be changed by opening people to other cultures. Working with Dogwoof, he says, is “an important first step, to join forces with them in collaborating and do something that’s never been done before.”  

Fred Volhuer, co-founder of Atlas V, the immersive entertainment company that co-produced “Spheres,” said the sales prove what he already knew: VR is just fine, thanks. “We have been hearing a lot of contradictory stories about the VR space, studios were closing, people are getting nervous,” he said. “I was all the more shocked because I was already working on [the acquisition of ‘Spheres’] even before Sundance. I wanted so much to write a memo to say: ‘It’s unfair to say the market isn’t working, when it’s just a specific problem with one or two companies.’ We could even say VR is thriving because of all the beautiful content we’ve seen at Sundance this year.”
 

Aronofsky, whose Protozoa Pictures executive produced “Spheres,” said he was drawn to McNitt’s blend of story and science. The director first became interested in VR in the ‘90s, when he met the pioneering computer scientist Jaron Lanier, who coined the term virtual reality. “It was all very fascinating, but then I went down the filmmaking path for a long time,” Aronofsky said. “I’ve been approached to do stuff, but I’ve been busy telling narrative film stories for a while and hadn’t found the opportunity to do it.”
 

Aronofsky said Protozoa helped McNitt tighten her story, a guidance that served as a kind of paying forward. “I enjoy producing and helping young filmmakers — I remember at one point being a struggling filmmaker myself and wishing I could have that kind of help,” Aronofsky said. “Eliza is a pretty exceptional person and full of energy and drive. I love her connection between science and storytelling. For me, it was about creatively supporting Eliza, and I was as surprised and excited as anyone when it sold.”

McNitt said she initially balked at the idea of applying classical storytelling to her film. “When we first met, they asked me: ‘What is the hero’s journey?'” she said. “At first I was resistant to them. I said, ‘Look, this is VR, it has a bit of a different journey.’ But they pushed me to realize there is a journey and the hero isyouand as you go through this experience, what you experience is the hero’s journey…it was very exciting and inspiring to find Protozoa and to see how deeply they believe in science and storytelling.”

While the attention of acquisition execs brings optimism to the VR community, they also bring the observer effect: their interests inevitably shape and shift the developing VR content space. As the industry takes VR content seriously, devs and artists who pitch to VCs will need to learn how to pitch to Hollywood, which is a different game with its own rule book.

“If you look at how literature, music or cinema developed as craft, it started with artistic, specific work and then it creates industries and jobs and then blockbusters,” said Atlas V co-founder Arnaud Colinard, who co-produced “Spheres” and “Battlescar,” another New Frontier project. “In Hollywood, they want to start already with the blockbuster. And I think the problem is that when you have an industry that is pushing already for mass adoption and the blockbuster, there is a risk to kill the identity of this medium… it’s not the ‘Pixar of VR,’ but it needs some great director of indie film to simply tell a great story.”
 

Atlas V plans to work with directors and screenwriters who don’t come from the VR industry and support them with technical teams who can help them realize their creative visions. “Programmers, there are a ton of them, very talented,” Colinart said. “But right now we need storytellers, people with a point of view and with something to say,”

That commitment to storytellers seems imperative. On VR panels throughout 2017 at Sundance, SXSW and beyond, conversations acknowledged that the absence of compelling stories prevented wide acceptance of VR and 360 content, and focused on the need for the VR industry to fund storytellers’ projects.

Former New Regency development exec Ryan Horrigan, who’s now chief content officer for VR pioneers Felix & Paul Studios, said the deals are encouraging but they don’t mean the industry quite has things figured out. “Maybe it’s like when Netflix had its first sale at Sundance and it will lead to more sales for more content creators,” he said. “What we think about at Felix & Paul is probably exactly what the producers of ‘Spheres’ and Joel [Newton, co-founder of CityLight] are thinking about, which is: ‘How are we going to make money from it?’”

His conclusion: “There’s no right answer,” he said. “We’re going to try a lot of new things. We self-distribute across platforms. We’re looking at the indie film world as a model. We are asking questions, like: How many monthly views do we need to make the distribution models work? So that we have P&Ls and we can show financiers that it’s backed up by real-world models that are familiar to them from the film industry. Get a bit of money from various places, leverage different territories, leverage different windows.”

Frilot noted that the content stirring the most interest tends to be episodic series, rather than one-offs. “Pay attention to the fact that this sale (of “Spheres”) is around a series,” she said. “You can build a business plan around VR series at LBEs. And then when you have someone like will.i.am involved with a series, and you connect that with brick-and-mortar space and community and people connected in a room together, it becomes more than just the technology. It becomes a movement around the content.”

European VR Pioneers Join Forces to Launch New Venture by Atlas V Admin

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Some of Europe’s pioneers in VR – creators of the high-profile, award-winning “I, Philip,” “Notes on Blindness” and “Alteration” – are banding together to launch Atlas V, an immersive entertainment studio that’s kicking off with two experiences to be showcased at Sundance’s New Frontier.

a by Antoine Cayrol and Pierre Zandrowicz from Okio Studio (“I, Philip,” “Alteration”), Arnaud Colinart from Agat Films (“Notes on Blindness”), and Fred Volhuer from Shuttershades.io, Atlas V will roll out at Sundance with Nico Casavecchia and Martin Allais’s “Battlescar” (pictured) and Eliza McNitt’s “Spheres.”

“Sphere” is an interactive journey inspired by the iconic image of “Pale Blue Dot,” which transports viewers into the deepest pockets of the universe to bring to life interactive visions of future worlds. It is being made in collaboration with Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Atlas V is producing with Crimes of Curiosity and Novelab.

“Battlescar” is a coming-of-age animated narrative experience taking place in the burgeoning New York City punk scene of the 1970s, featuring Rosario Dawson. Atlas V is producing with 1st Ave Machine, Fauns and Arte France.

“Joining forces will allow us to combine our respective expertise in narrative, live-action VR, which Antoine and Pierre did at Okio, and animation VR using video game technology, which I did at Agat Films,” said Colinart, whose “Notes on Blindness” played at Sundance in 2016, won Tribeca’s Storyscapes Award that same year, and was a finalist at SXSW in 2017.

The eclectic slate of Atlas V includes “Mirror,” a sci-fi experience directed by Zandrowicz, who had previously directed “I, Philip”; “Lights,” which is directed by Julien Mokrani and lensed with Silicon Valley light-field tech pioneer Lytro; and an experiment by Gaspar Noe (“Irréversible,” “Enter the Void”).

“At Atlas V we will aim at crafting immersive entertainment experiences of all kinds, from virtual, augmented and mixed reality, and we’ll weave French storytelling heritage with the most advanced video-game workflows,” said Zandrowicz, who also cited an immersive theater project that will take place at the Odeon Theater in Paris.

Zandrowicz said he was greatly inspired by Alejandro Iñárritu’s VR installation “Carne y Arena,” which was shown at Cannes this year, and is looking forward to creating live, immersive installations that will be showcased at festivals.

“We have an ambitious festival strategy because it’s a crucial step, especially when you’re working in immersive entertainment, to gain the recognition of your peers in France and abroad, as well as gain access to top talent and filmmakers,” said Colinart. He cited Noe and Jan Kounen, who are currently working on projects set up at Atlas V.

“Atlas V will also strive to create films that can be accessible enough to reach wide audiences with either big IPs, strong cast or well-known directors – or all three,” said Cayrol, who founded Okio Studio with Zandrowicz and Lorenzo Benedetti in 2014.

The founders said North America was a key market for their new joint venture. “In North America, a lot of resources are being injected in hardware, but very little on content development and creation. In Europe, and especially in France, it’s the opposite, in parts because we are backed by public institutions, regional funds, and we have great schools like the Gobelins,” Cayrol said.

The trio said they wanted to create a production pipeline between North America and Europe, and to start working with daring, independent VR filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Altas V boasts offices in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and in Lyon, France, the birthplace of cinema and home to the rich cultural heritage of the Lumiere brothers.