VR + Documentary = Yes please.

Have you ever watched a movie using virtual reality goggles? It's pretty cool, but also pretty limited. They may be different, but the ones I've tried were shown through Oculus software. You are placed into a "theater," which incidentally is the coolest part: you get to look around a virtual theater that actually feels large and open. After selecting your film, you get to watch it on two tiny screens (in the goggles) that feel like an actual auditorium. My most recent experiment was watching The Lego Movie in 3D. The experience was pretty amazing, actually but as the technology stands right now, it's also awkward and fairly low-res. From my few forays into this arena, however, I can say with confidence that this will be a "thing" and perhaps even a game-changing one.

A new studio, Scenic, has recently launched with the express goal to foster the creation of non-fiction (yes!) films for VR viewing. Some of the directors on board include Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story), Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?), and Sam Green (The Weather Underground)...to name a few. The first round of films will be released this summer with a purported 40 in its first year.

A lot about this venture is innovative and extraordinary but the stand out, for me at least, is the focus on non-fiction media. Filmmaker Magazine's Paula Bernstein quotes filmmaker Gary Hustwit, saying:

“VR is kind of dominated by gaming and CGI stuff. I think there is a real potential for documentary film to be made with this technology. But again, it’s about getting a lot of filmmakers to try it out and wrap their minds around it and figure out how it fits into their creative process."

Bernstein notes that VR is fundamentally about taking us to places we otherwise can't go, real or virtual. One could argue that documentary shares a similar goal. It's also a genre that's embracing innovation. Two 3D docs come to mind: Pina (Wenders) and The Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Herzog). Both bring you into places you really can't go otherwise. The first takes you onto the stage during a dance performance and the latter takes you into a restricted-access French cave containing 30,000 year old paintings.

The marrying of VR and documentary is an exciting and fitting one to be sure. We should all keep our eyes on Scenic's upcoming releases.

For more information, click here to read Bernstein's article.

Inexplicable Magic of Cinema: Internet Edition

I love listening to Werner Herzog. He has the most bizarre take on the world, one that is often dark and poignant. He's also unintentionally funny (although he knows this about himself as he appeared as himself/notself in an episode of Parks and Recreation). Whether he's talking about the madness of a man who lived and died amongst grizzly bears (Grizzly Man) or unlocking the mystery of 30,000 year old caves by way of digital 3D technology (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, his approach is unique, profound, and perplexing.

I also love watching his movies. The man literally moved a huge steamship over a mountain to demonstrate a point about madness in Fitzcarraldo. He expressed a similar sentiment about the Spanish conquistadors in Aguirre, The Wrath of God. The threads of civilization, destruction, madness, wonder, and beauty run steadily thoughout his works. And this is why I'm excited to see what he has to say about the internet. The trailer teases us with visions of crazy ("the internet is evil!"), technophobia ("the internet is killing us!"), and visionary possibility ("Elon, I'll take a ride to Mars!). One thing is for certain, this won't be a simplistic depiction of civilization on the brink of innovating itself out of existence (well, not entirely it appears), or how the internet will save us all. In true Herzog fashion, the trailer depicts a complex, fascinating, and confounding film.

Click here to view the trailer.