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New, Norwegian VR-course: "Off Piste: the VR Storytelling Lab" Text: Fredrik Graver

The Norwegian Film School, in collaboration with NF:LAB, Hedmark Fylkeskommune and others is hosting a week-long development lab for all who wish to learn to develop VR-projects from idea to finished prototype and to have a project description ready for financing.

– We hope this offer can provide storytellers with the knowledge and experience many are missing when attempting to use a new medium and new technology, says Dean of the Film School, Karin Julsrud.

The Lab is run by Mark Atkin and Tom Millen of Crossover Labs, and they bring with them a team of experienced international mentors who will guide 6 teams through a full week of project development.

More information about applications and deadline will be posted in August.

– We hope many will grab the opportunity. We want creators and storytellers of all kinds, including people from the worlds of film and tv, theatre, writing, radio and podcasting, fine art, illustration, design, dance, music, says Julsrud.

Off Piste will take place at Pellestova Mountain Hotel near Lillehammer, Norway and will have access to facilities at the Norwegian Film School and Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences.

Søk innen 16. september på offpiste.cefima.org

-Vi håper mange benytter sjansen. Vi ønsker å få med kreative personer med mange ulike bakgrunner som film og tv, teater, musikk, dans, billedkunst, illustrasjon, animasjon og mer, og med entusiasme og nysgjerrighet for VR, sier Julsrud.

Off Piste arrangeres på Pellestova høyfjellshotell med tilgang til ressursene på filmskolen og andre fasiliteter ved Høgskolen i Innlandet.

Mike Robbins

Headshot-Mike-Robbins-_filter-1.jpg }}

"I sometimes think that no matter how serious or playful a VR experience can set out to be, there can often exist a streak of the circus or magic show that runs not far beneath. Or at least there should be, because without that whiff of the preposterous, virtual reality seems a bit dead to me."

Producer, director, and creative technologist Mike Robbins, is one of the mentors attending the Off-Piste Lab, which will take place 16-22 October 2019 in Lillehammer. The lab will pull together creatives from all areas of the arts who are interested in exploring the unique opportunities provided by VR.

"Oddly enough VR is often seen as an extension of film or photography, whereas it can just as easily be rooted in writing or painting, academia, or sound and music, or of course, non of the above. There is value in the consideration of that original discipline, and what meaning it brings and takes from the party. Hopefully the participants at this lab can feel they bring something to the creative party, and actually get to create something, and at the same time re-contextualize their existing and hard-won knowledge and skillsets."

"What is the result? Maybe something new, maybe something different, or maybe, just as importantly, a re-affirmation of what was already there inside."

Read more about Mike Robbins here.

Mark Atkin


"VR, more than anything before, spans across all of the creative arts," says Mark Atkins. "And creativity comes from this kind of cross-pollination of ideas and approach."

Mark is one of four mentors at the Off-Piste Lab, which will take place in in Lillehammer 16-22 October 2019, and bring together creatives from a variety of backgrounds in order to develop new interactive works. Mark has spent a decade on this process of cross-pollinating creatives from film, theatre and other media with web- and game-developers. "We also had photojournalists, activists, documentary film-makers and visual artists. People never went back to producing in the same way."

Mark started out in broadcast television, but became disillusioned with the rigidity of the format. "I wasn’t watching tele, so why was I trying to convince other people to do that? Public broadcasting used to have to appeal to everyone, but when the internet took hold and did that more effectively, television responded by becoming more formatted."

"I was trying to make [interactive storytelling] happen within a broadcaster, but it was simply too slow to respond and anything digital was seen only as promotion and never actually as content. So I left."

In 2008, he set up Crossover Labs, and as new works emerged, the company brought the works into the Sheffield Doc/Fest.

"In the first year there were five Macs in a corridor. Three years later we were commanding three large gallery spaces in the city centre and this was the reason most people cited for coming to the festival. In 2014 we programmed Nonny de la Pena’s VR piece Project Syria, which took up an entire warehouse space with her custom rig and home-made sensors. It took a whole team to on-board people and hold the heavy cables. People at that edition of the festival knew that the creative landscape had shifted significantly."

Read more about Mark Atkin here.

Elin Festøy

"You never quite know what’ll happen when you provide people with expertise and access to a network, but often it’ll trigger something fun."

Elin Festøy is the creative producer behind the award-winning mobile game 'My Child Lebensborn’, and 'The Voice from the Forest - Hans Børli in VR'. "You as a user are present," she explains about the relationship between viewer and creator in VR. "It’s not a controlling director, manipulating you with editing. It’s a host, welcoming you as a guest." Elin is one of the mentors during the Off-Piste Lab, taking place October 16-22 in Lillehammer.

"We want people from a variety of backgrounds." Elin says. "Someone with a background in dance would for instance be able to contribute with an understanding of spacial awareness and movement. The most important thing is that people want to come and experience a new method." The lab will take participants through the steps of development to the point where they’re ready to apply for grants or other financing. "Very few people in Norway have experience developing interactive stories for VR. It’s not like with film, where people are familiar with the process, and can estimate a budget from a screenplay.People who are curious about VR can be part of kickstarting a new industry in Norway."

Gayatri Parameswaran

Is an award-winning immersive journalist and creator from India. While starting out as a print journalist with a focus on conflict, human rights and environment, her interest in exploring different mediums led her to virtual and augmented reality.

"Virtual reality can give me the tools to take my audiences to the places I go to as a journalist, to these places of humanitarian crisis, and help them understand and live the moments I live."

Among those projects was the award-winning 'Home After War', which allows the audience to explore the Fallujah home of Ahmaied Hamad Khalaf, after he returns from a refugee camp following the withdrawal of IS troops. Ahmaeid lost two of his sons to an improvised explosive device in his neighbourhood, and returned to a home that very likely could have been booby trapped. "For me it was really incredible to have this notion that a home is unsafe. Because for me, a home is where you feel safest and the most secure. Working with a technology like virtual reality in Iraq has its set of challenges. The security situation is still unsafe. We were staying in Baghdad and had to go every day to Fallujah to gather our material and do our research. But it was worth it. We created a beautiful experience that was premiered at the Venice International Film Festival."

Following her success, she produced ’Kusunda’, where the player explores an endangered language through the memoirs of Gyani Maiyas Sen, the 83-year old indigenous woman who is its last speaker. "She realises the language could die with her, and she wants to do everything she can to pass it on to the upcoming generations." By speaking in Kusunda, the player triggers interactive journeys into Gyani’s past, in order to learn about her unique language and culture. "We really want to use voice because oral traditions are very much at the heart of ancient languages like Kusunda that do not have a script. And by involving the user in speaking the language we also make it empowering to be part of this experience for the user, who will then play their own part to not let the language fall silent.”

"That’s the potential virtual reality has. It can help people experience another reality and be in someone else’s shoes."

A Xueed9

Gayatri Parameswaran

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