Meet the Teams & Mentors Embarking on Our Inaugural Immersive Films Program

Earlier this year, Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive Programs partnered with Google’s Daydream team on an Immersive Films Program. The open call focused on the ‘5 elements of nature’ (earth, fire, wind, water, space) and we invited creators to respond to the call from the focal point of their interests, narratives and POVs. The results were fascinating, and after sifting through hundreds of applications, we are so thrilled to announce the 5 selected projects. The 5 teams will be joining us this week (August 2 & 3) in New York City for a 2-day training lab which will include creative mentorship by a roaster of exceptional mentors and technical training by the Daydream team.

TEAMS

Border Crossing Beta 4.0

Border Crossing Beta 4.0 is part of an ongoing, experimental documentary series that explores the experiences of different people crossing the US-Mexico border. The project tells the tales of these individuals through a scope of surrealism, using 3D scans of different spaces related to their stories (i.e. the Arizona Desert, ancient Mexica/Maya sculptures and architecture, personal belongings, etc) We’d like to tell the story of migration starting in the deep jungles of central America, documenting the trek northwards through mountains, rivers and oceans.

The team consists of 4 main people including: Alfredo Salazar-Caro, a new media artist, activist, educator and director of the Digital Museum of DIgital Art (DiMoDA). Gisella Zuniga, a first generation, Mexican-American filmmaker and writer from south Texas. Recent NYU graduate and experimenting with interactive media. Prashast Thapan, a native of India, experimental game developer and new media artist living in New York and Helena Acosta, Venezuelan Curator, producer and activist, working heavily to develop artworks that function as political actions.
 


Armonia

Earth, water, fire, and wind do not exist discretely; they rely on one another to thrive. ARMONIA is a narrative about these elements journey to unify, and the forces that pull them apart. This narrative is designed for multiple participants (up to four) and each assumes the perspective of one of the natural elements. They follow the story of Iris, a unique bird with the special ability to change the elements it’s composed of. The object of this shared experience is to bring the disparate elements together towards harmony in a story about perspective, trust, and unity.

The team includes: Bracey Smith, Chief Creative Developer at Potential Synergy, has released multiple interactive experiences for the Gear VR/Oculus Go and developed of a VR spatial transition technique now called “fringe editing” that was used by Ken Perlin and his Future Reality Lab’s production of Holojam in Wonderland which premiered at FoST in 2017. Neil Dvorak, an Animator/Illustrator/Modeler - his animation directorial debut appeared in MoMA's New Directors New Films festival in 2013. Sare K. White - Production Designer - She was behind Silas Howard’s powerful family drama, the recently released “A Kid Like Jake,” her credits also include Gillian Robespierre’s “Obvious Child,” Sîan Heder’s “Tallulah,” and Cary Murnion & Jon Millot’s “Bushwick,” which have premiered at Sundance. Josh Bernhard - Writer/Director - is an award-winning writer/producer from New York. His series PIONEER ONE was awarded Best Drama Pilot at the 2010 New York Television Festival and was honored by the 2012 Webby Awards for innovations in internet television.
 


Jeju Haenyeo Doc

Added to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List in 2016, the female divers on Jeju Island in Korea, known as the Jeju Haenyeo, are women who dive for shellfish without the aid of oxygen. The Haenyeo, made up of an aging class of women, some as old as 80, spend hours diving in harsh conditions in a tradition that dates back centuries. These strong women make up a uniquely matriarchal society in modern Korea, one that is strongly connected to their land, the sea and their spirituality. Fraught with dangers, these women continue their work in the face of sweeping change in modern Korean society, bending Earth, Water, Wind, Fire and Space to their will. Weaving together voice-over of Haenyeo prayers, folk songs and audio interviews with documentary VR footage, the guest will experience this rich culture that seems both modern, in its female agency, and traditional, in its methods, that is fast disappearing in modern Korea, in the transformative medium of Virtual Reality. Each act will reflect on a distinct force, from Earth through Space, that reflects the interconnected and deeply grounded Haenyeo traditions.

Jaehee Cho, Creative Director for Stitchbridge, Inc. and a film school graduate from Seoul Institute of the Arts, worked with the emerging platform of VR, creating VR films Imago (2015) and the interactive VR Film Injustice (2015). His VR work was showcased and recognized at Tribeca Immersive 2016, SIGGRAPH 2016, CHI Play 2016 and Games for Change 2016. Sarabeth Boak - CEO, producer for Stitchbridge, Inc. - worked on a number of VR productions including the VR experience about the Holocaust for Carnegie Mellon University Journey through the Camps, being presented at SIGGRAPH this coming August, along with Jack Tsai - a Technical Director, who also developed for Facebook’s Oculus Research, an R&D VR division for the company in Pittsburgh. Prof. Ralph Vituccio - a documentary filmmaker and professor of interactive storytelling and film production at Carnegie Mellon University.



Rainforest

Rainforest is an episodic virtual and augmented reality game where users explore the wonders of rainforest lands, and learn about the many reasons we need to protect it. The main natural focus will be on Earth. In Rainforest, players become immersed into each vibrant and colorful layer of the forest episode by episode, embodying unique flora and fauna and completing challenges to rise to the top of the Canopy. Through immersing yourself in the 5 levels of Rainforest, you will discover evergreen content that excites and informs in new ways, depending on how you interact. Instead of reading about photosynthesis, players can transport themselves inside a leaf to explore their molecular patterns. Bringing people into a realistic virtual rainforest environment can engender empathy, enhance retention, and spur activism on conservation and forestry.

Winslow Porter - a Brooklyn based director, producer and creative technologist specializing in virtual reality and large-scale immersive installations. Winslow formed studio the New Reality Company with Milica Zec in 2016, creating the critically acclaimed cinematic VR experiences Giant and Tree. Milica Zec is an award-winning LA and New York-based film and virtual reality director, named as a Female Trailblazer to The Dot’s list of 200 Women Redefining The Creative Industry. Devon Baur, worked as a festival and live Director/Producer in Los Angeles, Dublin and the UK and is currently a Producer at New Reality Company. Itay Niv - a Brooklyn based designer and animator turned creative technologist, working in a wide array of formats and domains, bridging the digital and the physical.



Water Melts

WATER MELTS is a live-action/animation VR dark rom-com mini-series about people whose loved ones could die soon. Water is transformative. Water is paradox. From water springs life. Water nourishes, water drowns. Water solidifies, water melts. We are (mostly) water. We meet the characters who find themselves in this waiting place, on the blank canvas of a beach, and witness the absurd, quotidian, rom-com moments they have in the face of “waiting”. Some might call our world a waiting place. On this beach, they experience love, lust, and anticipatory grief. Various forms of water like an iceberg and a storm take shape in animations that illustrate transformative subtext and mythic symbolism of Persephone and the Filipino Goddess of the Sea and Death, also ferrying between the underworld and life above the surface.

Lilian Mehrel is writer & director who distills the humor and poetics of life into stories. As a Dartmouth Senior Fellow, she wrote and illustrated a hybrid family memoir. With a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, she earned her MFA  from NYU Tisch Graduate Film. Her awards include the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Tribeca Film Institute, Google, ABC/Disney, IFP Marcie Bloom, and Alfred P. Sloan. Her latest comedic writing can be seen in McSweeney's. Mary Evangelista - a NYC based Director, Cinematographer, and Producer. She was born in Manila Philippines and grew up in SF Bay Area. Her award-winning films have screened at Outfest, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival and Slamdance (as a producer for the feature film Fishbones). Tingerine Liu - a Chinese/Singaporean filmmaker based in New York, worked with a wide range of genres and subject matters. Her first film “Passion, Fruit” won the 2010 DGA Student Film Award. “Dinosaur Rider”- her documentary-fiction hybrid set in China about a rambunctious band of Beijing punk rockers, premiered at Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival and toured in the international film circuit, especially in Asia. Her latest film “My Lady M”, told in a series of vignettes with a large ensemble cast, explores the nomadic lives and loves of a group of Chinese sojourners living in New York city.

MENTORS

Angel Soto Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Son of a car salesman and a flight attendant. Studied architecture and advertising. Always loved films. He is a cinephile. He travels all over the world making films and he is not planning on stopping. His latest VR film Dinner Party has screened and been nominated for awards at Tribeca, Sundance and SXSW Film Festivals. His other award-winning films have been featured at Cannes Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival and Guadalajara International Film Festival, to name just a few. He’s currently in pre-production on his next feature film.


Dumeetha Luthra is a former BBC war correspondent and documentary filmmaker who is now the Founder and Creative Director of Take Pause. Take Pause develops scientifically validated and beautifully produced VR content designed to increase emotional well-being and resiliency for adolescents age 13 and up. Take Pause is currently in beta, and is being tested and used in medical settings and also being piloted in schools.


Jill Basmajian
 is an independent producer and consultant for VR and AR. She brings to the table over ten years of experience in development and production ranging from independent features, network movies, television series, and as of 2015 immersive content. She cut her teeth with the likes of Kasdan Pictures, Disney Channel, ABC Studios, and Kaleidoscope VR. VRs ability to take you somewhere else has kept her attention and fueled her passion in the immersive space. In 2018 Basmajian produced two experiences that premiered at Sundance (SPHERES: SONGS OF SPACETIME and BATTLESCAR), and three VR and AR experiences that premiered at Tribeca (VESTIGE, TERMINAL 3, SPHERES: PALE BLUE DOT).
 


Edward Robles writes, directs, and ideates for storytelling across a variety of mediums. Edward began his commercial storytelling education at Smuggler, where he worked closely with director Guy Shelmerdine, eventually co-penning Shelmerdine’s landmark VR experiences Catatonic and Mule. At Here Be Dragons, Edward helped shape VR storytelling for over a dozen projects, including Clouds Over Sidra, The Protectors: A Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, Ghost in the Shell, and Muse: Revolt. His latest directorial effort, Dispatch is an original VR narrative that premiered at the 2017 Venice Film Festival, has since shown at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and, most recently, was the recipient of a Gold Lion at Cannes.


Robin Cho
is an interactive producer of VR and AR experiences. He recently premiered a WITHIN music-composing VR title at Tribeca Immersive in collaboration with rock band OK Go. He has also produced projects funded by Oculus and Jaunt XR while working on major studio IP, and has advised several AR ventures. Cho grew up in Hong Kong and graduated from the University of Southern California after serving in the South Korean military.