I got an update from Traveling While Black director Roger Ross Williams after he’s been traveling around the world at different outreach & engagement screenings. I did a deep dive discussion with Williams in my interview with him at the debut at Sundance 2019, and it continues to be one of the most powerful experiences that I’ve had in VR as it is able to provide a deeper context and provide access to a context and conversations that are hard to be shared with people who have not also had those same experiences of racism in America.
Williams talks about how Traveling While Black has been able to set a deeper shared context for people who have a wide range of experiences of discrimination. He’s been seeing some really powerful taboos being broken after group screenings that have a wide range of demographics. He also talks about how cultural influencers were able to originally see it at Sundance, and take it back to their communities for a series of community engagement screenings.
One place that screened it last year, was a Future of Storytelling pop-up in New York City where the CEO of Walmart had a chance to see it. He was so moved by the experience that he took it back to Walmart headquarters in Arkansas to show to his entire executive team.
I the early days of VR, Williams says that it isn’t always about having millions of people see an experience, but it’s more about having the right curators and cultural influencers who bring it back to their communities. This will continue to cultivate an appetite for more social impact experiences at these film festivlas, and regional, bespoke location-based entertainment locations and cultural hotspots. Then eventually as there are more headsets available, then there can be more direct distribution options for these types of experiences.
But seeing where Traveling While Black has been over the past year, and the impact that it has already have can be a model for other VR for Good projects to think about alternative distribution models that escape the hits-driven, economic monism of consumer VR.
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