Sundance 2015: a New Frontier in Filmmaking

new frontier chris milk sundance virtual reality

The Sundance Film Festival has been instrumental, since its inception by Robert Redford in 1981, to independent film, helping shape and introduce new cinematic voices from around the world. This year, the New Frontier section was almost exclusively devoted to Virtual Reality and it featured works from a diverse array of forward-thinking creators.

My friend Leigh Ferreira is a Digital Strategist and Independent Film enthusiast who was at Sundance and was able to experience a number of VR projects. She shares highlights of what she saw below:

Sundance is an annual event for me and the one thing I look most forward to in the year. I’ve been going to Sundance for years and it always has been about independent film.

I started going because of my love for independent film and somewhere in the past few years my personal/professional worlds have collided and it has now become a place for content distribution and tech conversations. I’m seeing more tech friends there too. It’s been amazing to see the rise of Virtual Reality as part of the conversation. Outside of the incredible films featured this year, the thing most talked about and what I was most excited about was the VR work.

New Frontier

New Frontier has provided an exciting platform for new media and exploratory work. This year almost every project there was VR based (different experiences: games, Birdly, content with headsets). It felt like a virtual walk through of what is happening in VR. There were also some great speakers/talks about what work is being done.

Kudos to Sundance for embracing this trend, bringing in doers to share their work and starting the very early industry conversation.

Projects varied from being a protestor in the 1979 Iran Revolution to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with Reese Witherspoon in the film Wild to walking in someone’s shoes and then seeing the other person’s perspective to flying through San Francisco. So cool!

I tried Google Cardboard and got to take one home. 🙂 Not as immersive as some of the other headsets, but a good experience and a great cost effective way to bring VR to a wide audience. There were also some inspiring talks from industry experts and wonderful art installations.

Highlights from New Frontier:

Merrell was not a part of New Frontier, but created their own space to take consumers on a virtual hike and get them excited for their new hiking boots. This truly was experiential marketing at its finest. The VR work/experience was really well done. Such a great way to demonstrate the power of VR. I expect we will see a lot more brands doing projects like this.

As a marketer, I love it.

Oculus Story Studio

I was lucky to go to the Oculus party (thank you Mark and Morris & Ryan/Specular Theory!) and hear about the launch of their Story Studio to produce original VR content and see their first film Lost. The Oculus headset is tethered to a computer, so you watch in a booth. WOW, was this amazing! It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be a part of the film/360 degree experience. I was there, in the woods. With the robot. Once you take the headset off, you instantly start thinking about all the incredible things you could use VR for. To teach, to take people around the world, to make them a part of an experience.

Oculus has teamed up with some brilliant artists/filmmakers like Chris Milk and Felix&Paul Studio and plans to produce 3 more VR projects this year. I can’t wait to see what they create.

Oculus headset now on my wishlist.

Can you tell a story with VR? I think so and I’m excited to see what VR filmmakers will create.

VR shows all the signs that it will finally come to life in 2015 for brands, for narrative storytellers and as was initially planned, for gamers. It’s exciting to see the acceleration over the past few months, which I detailed in a post published earlier this week.

The Montréal-based production group I work with, Mediabiz, is very much focused on VR narrative content and we will unveil our plans soon, with an exciting announcement.

Both Leigh and I will continue to offer insights through posts here and some thought pieces we plan to produce. We are also embarking on a State of he Union of VR and will be looking for feedback/input/data.

We see incredible opportunities to tell stories with VR and we’re discussing doing some consulting work to bridge the film and tech worlds and possibly hosting a VR Festival.

We would love to hear feedback on what you would like to see featured as well as ways we can work together. Please leave a comment below or email us at

Stay tuned!

About the Scout

Frederic Guarino

Paris born, NYC and Tokyo bred. Frederic Guarino is a geek turned movie and TV producer. He is a proud husband and father of two who digs karaoke, BBQ and iPhoneography. Frederic works for @mediabizint in Montreal.

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