Why Hollywood Filmmakers Are Making the Jump to VR Movies

Why Hollywood Filmmakers Are Making the Jump to VR Movies

There’s nothing like sitting down in a packed theater for the newest Hollywood blockbuster: the smell of popcorn, the quiet, excited chatter, the plush seats, and the slowly dimming lights all enhancing the experience. The excitement is palpable on a movie’s release date—all of us gather in one place to see something we’ve been waiting ages for.

Film has long been associated with some of our greatest stories, and modern technology is expanding that storytelling potential to new horizons, making this an exciting time to be a film fan.

With 3D movies already growing in popularity, it’s not a big leap to imagine audiences experiencing the thrill of VR movies in theaters. We’re already seeing filmmakers beginning to add VR to their repertoire—so what is it about this emerging technology that’s drawing film talent, and what does that mean for games and movies?

Filmmakers Explore Storytelling Potential in Virtual Reality

Though games have yet to achieve the massive appeal of film, they have their own unique ability to tell stories. The interactive nature of games connects us to emotions we don’t typically experience when we read or watch a story unfold (such as guilt or pride). Playing with our emotions can result in incredible stories unique to games, something that may interest those looking to branch out of one medium and into another.

While Untold Games’ creative director Flavio Parenti has a long history as a video game fan, it was the unique potential of virtual reality that drove him to try development. He discovered the technology through a forum for Mafia II players, and was an early backer of the Oculus Rift Kickstarter, inspiring him to revisit his aspiration for game development by teaming up with some seasoned pros in the field.

Loading Human is a dramatic, emotional game using techniques from film and stage acting to create a story that’s as investing as any found in other media.
Loading Human is a dramatic, emotional game using techniques from film and stage acting to create a story that’s as investing as any found in other media.

The result is Loading Human, an upcoming next-gen adventure game told in virtual reality. Parenti’s experience as a film and stage actor gives him additional insight into how this technology can do things differently. Driven by intensely emotional storytelling, Loading Human lets you explore fully 3D environments and unravel a narrative packed with themes like life, love, and death, making you a participant rather than a passive watcher. It’s that expertise in film that sets Loading Human apart from many early VR games, as it plays both like a game and a movie. This duality makes it all the more interesting for players looking for the ultimate VR experience.

Experimentation Leads to Unique VR Movies in Film Festivals

Some creators are drawn to doing the unexpected, pursuing whatever unique medium they can to tell new stories. Though video games are newer and not always compared equally alongside traditional media like film and literature (they first appeared in 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival with Rockstar’s L. A. Noire), VR is helping bridge that gap. Though it seems odd to find a path to game appreciation through a new medium, the growing popularity of experimental VR movies could be exactly what games need to gain mainstream appeal.

Anthony Ferrante’s Killer Deal plays with the concept of interactive film, making a unique virtual reality experience.
Anthony Ferrante’s Killer Deal plays with the concept of interactive film. Image Source: Tribeca Film Festival.

At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, there were 23 VR and other interactive installments showcased. These varied widely in content and interactivity, some feeling more like immersive films, while others headed more toward game territory. The Guardian’s 6×9 let players experience the frightening nature of solitary confinement firsthand, complete with clips from prisoners who spent months isolated in small cells. The film even showed brief hallucinatory flashes, to showcase how terrifying the experience could be, based on real-life accounts.

Sharknado director Anthony Ferrante also made an appearance with his VR movie, Killer Deal. Known for the violent, slapstick-like humor of Sharknado, Ferrante created a VR film with a similar feeling—you play as a salesman out to rid himself of a high-tech weapon, pursued by a menacing figure. While it doesn’t venture quite into game territory, Ferrante’s use of the technology echoes the silly, fun approach of his films.

Technological Promise Draws Action-Oriented Directors to VR Movies

For experienced filmmakers looking for the next great technology to capture their vision, VR movies may be a natural evolution. While accessible virtual reality is still in its early days, it’s becoming an increasingly popular target for those looking for the hottest new technology.

Michael Bay, known for films like Transformers and Armageddon, recently joined forces with The Rogue Initiative, a production studio comprised of industry veterans and other experienced virtual reality creators and filmmakers. The studio aims to create interactive media in a variety of formats, including virtual reality. Bay is known for his special effects use and action-oriented films, making the immersiveness of VR a tempting place to flex those muscles.

While it’s not clear exactly what kind of productions The Rogue Initiative will be creating with Michael Bay as part of the team, it’s not hard to see why the filmmaker might venture into virtual reality. With a team of experts behind him, his ambition and passion for thrilling filmmaking make the potential of virtual reality a promising venture. The excitement VR movies can elicit is unique; seeing what The Rogue Initiative will produce with Michael Bay on the team will be an exciting time for fans of both film and virtual reality.

VR Movies Bridge the Gap Between Game and Film

Virtual reality holds intense interest for filmmakers and film fans of all kinds. Whether it’s for the storytelling potential or another feature it offers, VR movies and games can combine the unique immersive power of interactive media with more classic storytelling, providing a transitional bridge for people interested in one or the other, but not quite sure where to jump in. With famous filmmakers making the leap, there unlimited potential for virtual reality on the horizon, making it one of the most promising new entertainment technologies.

Releasing October 13th, Loading Human uses the power of virtual reality mixed with the storytelling expertise of an experienced filmmaker to tell an emotion-driven story. Preorder your copy today!


Andrew Nguyen

Producer, gamer, coffee roaster, leather worker, and part-time streamer.

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