The experimental documentary showcases how social VR technology can affect our emotional and social relationships.
We Met in Virtual Reality is a 90-minute feature documentary that tells the story of five different members of the VRChat community through their own voices as they navigated romance, friendships, and self-discovery in the virtual as well as the real world.
Filmed entirely in VR during the height of the COVID pandemic, the film’s director, Joe Hunting, spent hours in VRChat using Hirabiki’s VRCLens, a cinematic quality virtual camera, to capture candid moments of people as they coped with global lockdown restrictions using social VR.
For Hunting, who is a filmmaker in the real world, the film was about finding real people who turned to VRChat to satisfy their social needs. He ultimately discovered a community of users who genuinely cared for each other and who wanted to give back to the technology that brought them all together.
Hunting sat down with VRScout to talk about his film, We Met in Virtual Reality, which is filmed entirely in VR, telling me, “The film presents an immersive journey through the world and different VRChat communities. Each individual that you meet shares really unique perspectives on VR and each engages with their community in different ways. For them, VR means very different things,” adding, “Through their eyes, the film presents a very broad portrait on how social VR can affect our emotional and social relationships with each other, but also within ourselves.”
Though the film explores different communities in VRChat, it primarily follows the lives of five specific people and how they use VRChat as a way to connect with others from around the world. Each individual is addressed by their respective avatar names in the film; at no point do we learn their real-world identities.
Jenny is an ASL (American Sign Language) teacher who spends time in VRChat’s ‘Helping Hands’ community helping to create a supportive educational environment for all hearing, deaf, and hard-of-hearing VR users.
Dragonheart and IsYourBoi met each other in the exotic dance world ‘Club Zodiac’ where they now serve as official admins. They are also a couple who have never met in the real world.
Lastly, you’ll meet DustBunny and Toaster. DustBunny is a VRChat fitness instructor specializing in VR dance classes. Toaster is DustBunny’s long-distance partner. The two have met once in the real world. Since the pandemic, however, the two have used social VR technology to continue to grow their relationship.
Despite taking place in VR, conversations with the aforementioned subjects feel incredibly raw. “I want people to connect with these voices and feel their emotions in the same way that they would as if they were in the real world, but also the film is so much about expression and having fun, and being playful, and embracing a new side of yourself that maybe you’ve never discovered before.” Hunting continues by saying, “I want people to walk away from the film feeling inspired and excited to embrace their own individuality, whatever that might be.”
When asked if there was a specific moment in the film that resonated with Hunting, he hesitated, afraid to spoil a certain part of the film. “It was a real testament of what VR can mean for someone, and for them, it meant a great deal,” adding, “that was a really special moment to be a part of. And there are other moments in the film which made me realize how precious social VR is for people.”
Hunting and his team were all in during the production of the film. So much so the creator was treated to his own virtual birthday party conducted inside VRChat. “During production in June, it was my birthday and I had a birthday party with the cast, everyone involved in the film, and friends from the real world. And I had this birthday party in VRChat. With this outdoor world with picnic benches. We had a DJ. I was in that world for about 10 hours speaking with people and just enjoying my time. It was such a special experience, and I’m so grateful for everything that happened on that day. That moment really floored me. That’s when I realized that I had found my people and tribe.”
We Met in Virtual Reality doesn’t focus on the technology behind VR. Instead, it highlights the human side of immersive technology. As for if Hunting has met anyone in the film in real life or in their physical form through a video call? He has not. At least not yet. “If the film is selected for festivals, the cast and I will definitely take the opportunity to meet physically to attend screenings together, which I sincerely hope happens. That’d be a lovely bow tie on the whole project.”
Hunting has submitted his film to several film festivals, including Sundance, SXSW Film, Glasgow International, Hot Docs Film Festival, Dublin International Film Festival, and SF International with plans for the Tribeca Film Festival.
Hunting has launched an IndieGogo campaign to help him pay for music licensing, which is still required in order to release the film. Funds will also help with submission fees to other film festivals. If you’d like to donate to Hunting’s campaign or would like to know more about his movie, click here.
We Met in Virtual Reality and Hunting have no affiliation with VRChat. This is an independently crafted film produced in collaboration with communities on the platform.
Feature Image Credit: Joe Hunting