This week at the NYFA, we spoke to award-winning mixed reality (MR) extraordinaire, James Marks. He told us all about VR & MR and its place in the film industry. If you’re a tech-geek-film-buff, you’ll already be aware of that VR & MR is causing an immersive stir within film-circles. It’s a regular discussion/event at nearly every film festival. Not forgetting, it has now officially gone mainstream in South Korean cinema. It’s just a matter of time before Blockbusters are using it as a common viewing platform.
Most importantly, it’s the younger generations and future filmmakers that need to grasp this growing media and utilise it to stand out from the crowd.
But, to gain true insight into MR and VR and film, you’d have to talk to James Edward Marks. Psych-Fi founder, DoubleMe and Hackstock co-founder and curator, LOVIE shortlisted and Webby honoree and judge – it’s safe to say that James knows a thing or two when it comes to blurring boundaries.
How James Marks came to VR/MR
James has always loved film, like most, seeing Star Wars was a very memorable moment for him. At the young age of 19, he started working at Glenbuck Films shipping films all over the country and helping set up VJ projections for bands & clubs. The company was eventually taken over by the BFI and it was then that James had access to their film archive and began to value the history and heritage of film.
In true mixed-reality-pioneer form, James has found himself working on a variety of media platforms. Later in life, he worked for a YouTube company, running campaigns as well as working in advertising. He didn’t exactly
enjoy his time in the Ad industry, but mixed with the YouTube creator experience it gave him the skills he needed to get people to believe in your ideas. “Which is something every producer/director needs to know how to do”.
After this, James managed to break the world record for most people sharing a virtual reality experience. To celebrate his long-time pal, composer, Simon Boswell (Hackers, Shallow Grave) 30th Anniversary, they created a live virtual reality experience.
“Simon would play his music live and the audience would take a virtual pill, go back to the 90’s and meet pop-culture characters based off the film, Hackers – that was how Hack the Planet was born”
James has gone on to be a “visionary provocateur, tech tinkerer & trippy hippy. An award-winning new media, social video for good & mixed reality experiences maker, curator & speaker.”
MR & VR in film
Whilst virtual reality immerses you in the digital, mixed reality anchor the digital in the real world. They both, however, both blur the lines between what’s ‘real’ and what’s not. Arguably, something that the concept of a film is already based off.
James believes in the future, film, music, animation, theatre and gaming will all blend into one immersive experience. In the past, we’ve come across surrealist filmmakers, Buñuel perhaps being the most legendary. So, the idea that film narratives do not all have to follow one particular formula is not wholly uncommon. However, it is now more than ever that surrealist film can be fully expressed through recent technology. Not only that but, James argues that “we’re moving towards the more short-form- film doesn’t have to be epic and long”. Therefore, film doesn’t have to have a beginning, middle and end or have a certain length – its fluid, lucid. It can be what you make of it.
“The technology is ready” – James pointed out. But, we’re all caught in the idea of owning one industry, when VR/MR is all about taking away our concept of boundaries.
Future filmmakers and VR & MR
As a filmmaker, you need to be on top of which direction technology is moving in. If you’re technically inclined, showing willing in a new media can also be a way into the industry. Take, for example, Gareth Edwards (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director), used his skills in visual effects to further his career. He trained in all things VFX and became an extremely valuable asset whereby the ball lay in his court when it came to his career path. So, if you can make a new media niche for yourself as a filmmaker – do it!
James is all about accessibility. He makes all his content and experiences freely available and accessible to anyone with a SmartPhone. He also points out that making your own VR stuff doesn’t have to be expensive or elusive. All you need is a 360 camera to get started. James points out that VR can be a great way to pitch a film.
It’s all about creating
“Just go and make stuff and put it out there”
James quotes Francis Ford Copolla to enforce this point.
It’s future filmmakers that are going to change the scope of the film and anyone can be a filmmaker.
Could you be the next Mozart?
Written by Phoebe Griffiths