B E A S T S
STORY, DEVELOPMENTS AND BENCHMARKING
A MOMENT OF REFLECTION:
I recently took a trip to Topanga Canyon for New Years. When I was walking around the neighborhood I heard a horse belt out intermittent neighs from a stable. It almost seemed like he was summoning me. When I walked up the dirt road and met this beautiful creature and I raised my hand to pet him but he was frazzled. He backed up and circled around his pen before coming back to me and moving slightly closer. I kept my hand there as a peace offering. Then I noticed his front leg twitching near the torso. I stared into his eye and saw a deep hazel iris that looked like a sinking canyon with a dark oval pupil basin. I saw a reflection of myself in his eye and smiled. He neighed loudly and circled the pen again. He came back yet closer to me and his leg trembled more. At this point I started feeling the tendonitis from my right knee that I injured in college so I shifted my weight. In that moment I was transported to the memory of my experience, the feelings of pain, pride, depression, agony, uselessness, struggle, redemption and glory came over me. I was so emotional that I wept for the horse and the 17 year old version of myself I realized how I can better develop this project to promote the empathy I had felt in that split second in a more efficient and effective way.
Research and development:
In further developing this concept I spent time researching VR projects and recalling my experiences. Examining the delights and frustrations with the existing implementation of the technology.
I attended Sundance New Frontier in 2016. I had a great time experiencing all of the new methodologies of storytelling and I had the opportunity to visit a few trade shows in 2016 as well. Some of the highlights from my experiences with VR are: Evolution of Verse, Take Flight and Collisions. I think these show a range of fluid storytelling, hybrid between documentary, fiction and animated experience. I really enjoyed experiencing ILMxLab’s Star Wars Holo-Cinema that used 3D "stereo viewing" to give me a solid augmented reality viewing experience. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the process of bringing Leviathan to life because my friends worked on the design and research in the USC World Building Media Lab so that was my favorite experience.
Alex McDowell thinks VR suffers by removing its viewer from the ordinary world. "Part of the problem of VR is the dystopian aspect — you're on the train going to work and suddenly you're somewhere else," he said. "We wanted you to feel connected to the real world." Leviathan creates a tactile experience that matches with your virtual one.
I was at first apprehensive of delving into virtual reality because when I first wrote the concept I was in a theme park design class studying world building from a theme park and museum perspective. I wanted to create the visceral feeling of being in the space: the smells, space and textures of this experience. I wanted to stay true to that vision because those are aspects that help draw the comparison and connect man to beast but I knew that was the challenge.
I talked with a few members of my team; Ayana Baraka, co founder of VR Girls and Brian Rhodes, from the Leviathan project, to further develop the concept. In our brainstorms we moved towards making a more tactile VR experience staying true to the architecture and the production design that I originally dreamed of but giving it a facelift and leveraging VR to accomplish scale, depth and transitions more uniquely.
When I experienced In The Eyes of An Animal at Sundance last year I was able to feel the wings of an insect and the sonic vibrations in my body with the use of the Sub Pac. It opened me up to feeling empathy of the animal with more than just my eyes and ears. I want to use the Sub Pac to do the same for this project. When you play college football you are always hurting in some way after fighting with 300 lbs. angry men every day. When you stand on solid ground with a real thoroughbred horse you feel the vibrations of their feet and their breath in the air.
Holo-Cinema by ILMxLabs motivated me to deepen the experience with motion tracking. The Star Wars experience was an awesome use of augmented reality. We are looking to use the same concept of motion tracking of the participant to give them a personalized experience but we will calibrate the VR experience to have the same root of the physical location that we have built but changeable through the experience. We plan to have the smell of fresh shoes and fresh hay mixed in the locker room and lockers with etched in signatures from former players, helmets and jerseys. We plan to have around 6 people in each group experience that will be tracked, and virtually suited up with the appropriate gear for each scene to fulfill a group experience.
To create a more tactile environment we will create elements that connect the sense of touch with 3D models of CT scans, and other elements in the world that will be moveable and transfer the feel with the GloveOne. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAZidk_mPc8
In order to succeed in this feat we had to reimagine some of the scenes and scale back on some of the story to go deeper rather than longer and I think the project will benefit from the new focus.
REFINEMENT OF STORY
STAGE 1 ) Foal Stage – Documentary/Fiction Hybrid: Foals are bred from two top retired horses and brought into the world with the intention of competing at the top level. They often play on the ranch and get their bearings with the other horses and then they are put into a structured system so that they can succeed at sport.The journey of the main character from Pee Wee football and his ascension to blue chip athlete. The pressures and support of a community invested in football. Juxtaposed with the journey of a horse bred to race and it’s development as the owners nurture it to become a champion.
The documentary aspects of the film will live within the projection of the first stage to build the hype and center the experience in reality. Much like Khalil Joseph’s Double Consciousness, experiencing the youthful journey of the foal and the child with a split screen that aligns with how a horse views the world will give us a meditative deep dive into the imperfect truth of the subjects and invest us in the dreams that will pay off in the end.
STAGE 2 ) Yearling Stage – VR Experience: This stage is the process of growing up in the world of college sports. Being introduced to the rigors of the schedule and getting acclimated to life as an elite thoroughbred. Within this locker room the audience is chaperoned by the coaches and the staff of the team and reigned into their locker/stables. They are taken on a surrealistic trip that merges the two worlds and lands them in the most epic locations from on the field during kickoff with a flood of large horses chasing after to you. Venture to in the weight room/barn house with the team surrounding them as you max out and run neck and neck with a thoroughbred out the gates down a track. In the doctor's office they see the methods of treatment for the multitude of injuries that these Beasts endure with X-Ray/CT Scan vision. Eat a trough of the most exquisite chicken rice and salad in the cafeteria while ESPN speaks of today's news about your coach's multi-million dollar contracts. Watch people bet on them as your jersey sells out and overhear a teammate discuss money troubles with his mother. A startling injury derails the success of this young colt leaving him on the turf as the audience pauses and the owners hold their breath. The larger than life coach stands over us, calls "riverside" for the play to flip around and whispers to the trainer, "take him out back and shoot him." Get carted off the field and give a thumbs up to the crowd without knowing your true fate. A montage of struggle to walk, training in underwater tanks, learning . Long conversations with mom pushes us to the next room.
STAGE 3) Stallion Stage – Open Field Narrative Projections: The return to the field of play is a tough struggle for an athlete. Showing the grit and determination of a beautiful animal in a free space filled with football bags and dummies, lined with green pastures in which horses are racing and depicting the glory of competition for the audience. Finishing off with a quote from the team chaplain that encapsulates the whole journey in a few words.
We gon fight. Til we can’t fight no more, we gon lay down.
Bleed a while, we gon get up. And fight some more.
Fight some more
Fight some more
Fight some more
STAGE 4) Retirement Stage: A room filled with hologram depictions of former Beasts telling their stories and what they think could help better college football. Leaving the opportunity for the NCAA to change.
DESIGN OF VR EXPERIENCE
3D RENDERING OF THE EXPERIENCE
EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS WORK ON THE SUBJECT
These pieces were done in 2013 and 2009 respectively. I have grown much as a filmmaker but these are similar tone to where I am aiming to hit with hybrid documentary and fictional filmmaking. I plan to add more wonder, humor and higher production value as we are bringing new cinematic aspects to the table and I have developed in my sensibilities.