Lustration is a 4-part episodic VR series illustrated within Quill that’s in the fantasy, detective noir genre, and created by First Nation Creative Ryan Griffen. It allows you to change camera perspectives within Quill as it blends together aspects of the Afterlife that’s a multiverse dimension overlaid on top of Present day Earth. It’s a character-driven story, that ends up feeling like an initial pilot episode of a much broader story and world that’s just getting started. Lustration originally appeared as a single-issue comic book, and Griffen has hopes to expand the story from this VR series into a television series as well. So I had a chance to chat with writer & director Griffen about his journey into VR, and his process of using VR in order to make the viewer work for and earn the knowledge and story that he’s weaving together within Lustration. The fourth of four episodes are now available on Oculus here.
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A new teaser trailer for the immersive virtual reality series Lustration! Exclusive to our socials and out now for all of you with a sneaky little peak into episode 2. Episode 1 already available and streaming on Meta Quest headsets. We hope you enjoy! #Lustration #Newcanvas #VR pic.twitter.com/IviVGRdyCv
— Lustration Series (@LustrationWorld) March 29, 2022
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So in today's episode, I'm going to be covering the piece called Lustration. So Lustration is a four-part episodic series on Quill. So when you go into Oculus, there's a way to explore when you click in and search for Lustration, or you can find the links down below to be able to go straight there. So there's actually a way that they could take Quill projects and distribute it through their platform. And there's certain conceits that you're able to do specifically in this piece of illustration where you're able to have a panel that has different camera perspectives and you're able to watch different scenes from multiple perspectives. Sometimes the different multiple perspectives are actually fusing together from this world of the afterlife. of this multiverse dimension that's on top of the physical reality of the Earth of the present day. And so, you have these interactions between the present day and the afterlife within this piece called Lustration. So, it's a whole world that Ryan Griffin, who's a writer and director that's coming from the film industry, and it's originally an idea that he wanted to do as a TV series, but then created a comic book. So, there's part of the story that's in the comic book, and then used that pitch to build out different aspects of this world to tell the story within Lustration. So it's out now. I highly recommend you check out the episodes so you'll be able to fully dive into unpacking it I think for the first half or so we kind of covered more broader of his background as an aboriginal creator and his journey into Creating these different types of immersive pieces within VR and his previous work that he did in the film industry So that's what we're coming on today's episode of the voices of your podcast. So this interview with Ryan happened on Thursday, May 12th 2022 so with that let's go ahead and dive right in and
[00:01:54.312] Ryan Griffen: My name is Ryan Griffin. I'm a writer director. I joined the industry just over 10 years ago now, maybe a little bit more, and I've written and created TV shows. I do some directing in the documentary space, short films, and now stepping into the VR world and animation.
[00:02:17.907] Kent Bye: Great. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.
[00:02:23.332] Ryan Griffen: So yeah, look, I'm very pop culture driven. I grew up on comic books, animated series on Batman and I'm a big gamer as well. That's sort of something that both my son and I are big into and I love storytelling. And so I joined the film industry first as a producer because I wanted to understand how production was made, stories got built. And then that was my first step to wanting to become a writer, director and sort of not so much control, but to put out the stories that I wanted to tell. So when I had the opportunity to set up one of our stories in the VR space, I really wanted to jump at the opportunity at that because I felt like it was a different medium and a way to explore the stories I was creating, the worlds that I was creating and allow an audience into that, that the usual medium can't, you know, and that was really exciting for me.
[00:03:31.880] Kent Bye: Yeah. And so maybe you could give a bit more context for lustration and it sounds like it was based upon a comic book and you know, how you took the story and started to adapt it into VR.
[00:03:43.169] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, sure. So, um, back in, uh, I think it's probably 2017, I created a TV show called clever man. And off the back of that, I was asked, you know, what's the next project that you wanted to work on? And I started to pitch the show lustration. which I pitched it as a detective noir story set in the afterlife. And as I would speak to these people, producers and execs from all around the world, they all really enjoyed the idea, but it's quite high concept. And they're like, look, this is really exciting, but it sounds quite expensive. And we're looking for something, if it's going to that point, for it to be something from previous IP. And, you know, that's kind of what everyone was jumping on at the time. It's the real big boom of the Marvel world universe, you know, and a lot of people sort of bringing back or doing adaptions of shows or movies. And so I'm like, how do I do that? And the first step was to create the comic book. You know, I knew that that was something that was pretty attainable before going to anything else. I had previously done a comic book for the TV series Cleverman and yeah, and got the first issue out. Then off the back of that, or a few years later, I met Nathan and he was doing an artist in residency, I'd say, for VR and I had a few ideas, but also pitch illustration as a part of that and having the ability to allow readers of the comic book to spend time in the world and physically walk around within it. And that's kind of where Lustration got brought into the VR space. And for me from then, it was just really leaning into that ability to feel like you're in this comic book, this animated world. And I started to sort of uncover the certain things and ways that I wanted to tell that story in that space. It was all really new to me. I hadn't done anything in the VR space before. I hadn't done any animation. And it was just this process of like, consuming as much as I possibly could in that space and sort of finding out, you know, what are the opportunities here? What, you know, with television, you know, a lot of the rules are already set up or film, you know, you have these rules of what you can and can't do. And in the VR space, you know, they're still being discovered, which is really exciting. And so that's where I first and foremost did in that space is just trying to see what others are trying to do, what looks like it's achievable and what's not, and how we can bend those rules.
[00:06:31.237] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. And Nathan sent me an article that you had written for the Guardian, I think it was back in 2016. It was called, We Need More Aboriginal Superheroes. So I created Cleverman for my son. So you've mentioned Cleverman a little bit. Maybe you could expand a little bit, give a bit more context to this, to Cleverman, and then this article that you wrote about this idea of Aboriginal superheroes.
[00:06:51.852] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, sure. So like I said earlier, I'm huge in my pop culture. And when my son was very young, like any parent does, is push their views of all the things that they like onto their kids. And he really jumped at that and started to really enjoy watching all sorts of superhero stuff. One of them in particular was the Ninja Turtles. And it was just one afternoon, it was just my son and I playing. He was dressed up as a Ninja Turtle and we were just fighting with spatulas and kitchen utensils. And for me, it just sort of hit me that this world of you know, so much pop culture that we don't have something that is connected to our culture, to his culture, that he could go and role play in the backyard, you know, like anyone, Batman or Ninja Turtles. And that was kind of where the first conception of the idea sort of started from. And from there, I went and spoke to elders, Aboriginal elders from around the country, that could take Aboriginal lore, mythology, different stories, both in the dreaming stories, but also stories of colonization, and blend them into this world that would then become the show Clever Man. And it was really to create a character, a superhero character that can empower my son, And that went all the way down to, you know, naming the lead character after that song. You know, just it was these steps of building a world where you could teach about our culture, but also feel empowered at the same time.
[00:08:42.093] Kent Bye: Yeah, one of the things that you mentioned that I found interesting in that particular article was how there's certain protocols in place in order to help preserve the integrity of the oral culture of the Aboriginal stories and to have certain ways in which that some things are revealed or not revealed. And that it sounds like that, you know, with all these emerging technologies, that that was maybe the beginning of a process of working with the elders to maybe use these mediums to be able to allow your culture to continue to grow and then Curious to hear a little bit more about that and then how you maybe picked up that thread for continuing to do this story of illustration.
[00:09:16.728] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, sure. So, um, you know, with any colonized country, um, the theft of land and the theft of stories and the dehumanizing of a culture was everywhere. So it's really hard to keep a culture alive amongst all that. And so sometimes our stories are very protected because of that. And these stories are held by elders who are so protected that sometimes they don't get passed down to any of the families or the communities before they pass away. So, you know, it was a big thing for me to go out and speak to the elders and talk through what we're trying to do here. You know, it's not so much a retelling, but an adaption. It's taking the essence of what our culture is and putting it into our stories. you know, for a few of the Elders, I would describe it to them. I'm like, you know, imagine if we had our own, like a black Harry Potter. And they'd all be like, oh yeah, you know, they were like, they build up the idea of like having the ability to have something like that, that was ours. And then they would start to open up and go through these processes of sitting down with certain Elders, you know, then passing on the story to me. which is a big sort of process of like, you know, giving you the right to tell the story or you've earned the right to tell the story. And that concept is huge in our culture. It's like, you know, knowledge and stories are earned. They're not just a given. So he has to earn the right to hear this story or be told this story. And that is something that I wanted to take from and place into the VR space and the story of Lustration. We had an opportunity here to tell a story that wasn't linear or wasn't so hand-fed to the audience that they had to put in the work to uncover or piece together the story themselves and earn how the story should be told themselves. And that was something that I wanted to really bring forward into the VR world of illustration and something that I want to continue to do across all forms of storytelling that I do. I like the idea of This not being, you know, you know, outside the VR space and not being something that you can just put on and then walk around the house and make yourself, you know, dinner or, you know, clean up while, while the TV's on. You have to pay attention and same in the VR space. I wanted to have it in a way that you had to, you had to be active. You had to listen to all the words, you had to follow each story. And for me, that's, that's really engaging and something that I, yeah, I really enjoy doing.
[00:11:56.176] Kent Bye: Yeah, I saw another pitch video that Nathan had passed along and it had that same idea, the concept of that you want the audience to work for the story. And I really feel like that you're able to explore that a lot within the structure of this piece in terms of it's a spatial story, but with Quill and the ability to change camera angles, but then have different perspectives and different aspects of a scene that may be unfolding across different dimensions. And so I'd love to maybe just have you set the brightest context that you can in terms of the story of Lustration. And what can you tell us about this world that you've created and these many different characters and what they're trying to do within the context of this world?
[00:12:38.232] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, so Lustration, as I said earlier, is a detective noir story, and it follows two protectors of this world known as the Between. And the Between is a place that you go to after death, where you wait to be moved on to eternal happiness, if you will. And we follow several different characters, both in the real world and in the afterlife. and we watch as their worlds collide. And we follow what each of those characters do and the extents that they will go to for the ones they love. And for me, it's about gleaning from many different cultures, many different religions and creating this patchwork quilt of religions and cultures and places into this one environment. but essentially bringing it always back to the lengths that anyone would go to for the ones I love.
[00:13:36.589] Kent Bye: Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about these concepts of genre and how genres from existing media are getting translated into VR. And you'd mentioned fantasy, there's detective, there's the noir and the comic book style that you have with the illustration. So I'd love to hear your process of as you start to work with VR, how you were able to take these elements of genre and inform the process, but maybe with the affordances of VR, you're able to perhaps expand or extend these normal conceits of the genres that you're exploring here.
[00:14:12.678] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, sure. So I think, you know, the first thing that we wanted to do is we wanted to allow, you know, because the episodes are quite short compared to television, for example, I wanted to sort of make episodes specifically around certain characters. And those characters also became connected to genres in a way. And so if you have a look at our episode two, where we've got Illyria and Pline, our two characters, that's sort of structured in a horror sort of element. And so we kind of look at how we can tell a ghost story in that space and how we would structure that. in the VR space and then we had, you know, Bardolph is kind of this thriller detective story and so we would structure that in the same way. So we would take elements from what our audience would know from the genres outside of the VR space and then try and find a way how we bleed them into each episode. So When we're talking about the rules of the VR space, the story rules are essentially set up in a way, but the structure of how you tell that or the camera elements and positioning, a lot of that stuff isn't as so solid. Like obviously we have some structures that we know are set up from television. Like if you want to be more emotional or feel for the character, you set the camera up closer and all these sorts of things. Those sorts of things are still there, but then it's, again, it's how you take that to a different level inside that VR space. Because once you're in that world, it's a complete different experience than television. And we need to understand that that's where our audience is going to a sit and we want to make sure that they're still feeling the same that our characters are feeling both on an emotional level but also that fits the genre at the same time.
[00:16:07.974] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's a lot of direct experiences that I have around the technical aspects of how it's put together that we'll get into. But before we dive into the nuances of my own reaction to the piece, which may get into some of the spoilers of the story, I wanted to maybe have you kind of describe how you pitched the story and what this story is about for you, for people as they're starting to get in and watch some of these different episodes.
[00:16:30.955] Ryan Griffen: Yeah. So for me, the picture at the end of the day is like, I love genre. I love my actions. I love my sci-fi. I love my old detective Noire's Hitchcock films and things like that. But at the end of the day, I also like to make something that is very, in a way comes back to family or way comes back to emotions. I like to make sure that we're hitting both of those. So like I said, the series of lustration, the end of the day is about the lengths that you'd go for family, the lengths that you'd go for love, but it's in this, you know, hyper real world that has these fantasy elements, has these action, noir, horror elements that we can experience as an audience. But that forces you to think. And I think that's for me is something that I was first and foremost, those sort of elements that I wanted to bring in this space and you know, audiences are smart, you know, whether it be that they consume a lot of storytelling or different types of media, but you know, on subconscious levels, people start to learn about storytelling and have expectations. And you've got to understand those elements when you're putting them into this new world to sort of make people feel comfortable, but also wanting to learn and explore in this new space at the same time.
[00:17:56.761] Kent Bye: Yeah, the experience I had is a little bit of like piecing together a puzzle of trying to figure out who these characters are, what they're doing. So I feel like almost being thrown into a variety of different scenes and then having to, like you said, go back and watch different perspectives and the different worlds as they're colliding. But also, I guess from South by Southwest, there was episode one and two that premiered there. And then I noticed that there was individual vignettes with each of these different characters. And I saw that there's actually descriptions of these different characters as I pull up the scene. And I found that actually to also be helpful to provide additional context. And then when those characters would show up in the piece, then I would kind of know how they maybe fit in into where they are located within the context of this world that you're creating. And then there's the fourth I guess is premiering on Friday, May 13th, which it's already the 13th of Friday where you're at in Australia, but here in the United States, that would be tomorrow for me. But I guess the fourth episode is airing and that seems to be at least the completion of the series for now, but maybe you could just give a larger context as to whether or not you plan on continuing the series or if this is sort of what you see as kind of the first season with all these different four episodes and little character vignettes and where you hope to take it into the future.
[00:19:13.205] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, sure. Look, I hope there's plenty more ways to tell this story in the VR space. You know, I also hope that I can build this story both from the comic book world and continuing in there. And then I'd love to do an animated TV series as well and have, and in the same way that we're wanting to have the audience's work into piecing certain parts of the story together, I want to use all three of those mediums to also build extra things. So it can be off-putting for some people to have to go like, what am I watching? I'm not actually getting all this story, but for me hearing that you are picking up on the things that we're doing is like putting extra information just down in the text and the vignettes. So just giving a little bit more here you know, like for me, like it's great to hear because that's the purpose of it. It's to, to just see the information and some people will find it. Some people will just take what the experience that they've given. And yeah, for me, I think that's what's really exciting about this piece.
[00:20:19.942] Kent Bye: Yeah. And I'll, I'll include some links in the description so that people can go directly to there. I did find that it was somewhat confusing to find illustration within the Oculus interface, because if you just go to the apps and search for illustration, it doesn't come up, but you go to explore. I typed in illustration and I saw the episodes that have been published so far in the fourth episode will be airing tomorrow. So people were able to get the full arc of whatever is being produced at this point. And I saw the first two episodes at South by Southwest, and maybe it's a good time to say, if you haven't watched it, go watch it now, because we may be getting into spoiler areas. But I'd love to unpack a little bit my own experience of this piece, because I think you're doing a lot of really interesting things, especially structurally, pushing the edge in terms of, you know, what is possible when you have the ability to move perspectives and through different worlds, even, and how those are colliding. So when I saw it, my first reaction was that the very first scene that you have, you have this, what I presume to be a little bit of an aboriginal trickster type of character who is in between, and he's helping to describe and explain the world, but there's like four different perspectives that you can see what is happening in this scene. What I found when I saw the scene was that there was some scenes because of the spatialized audio was very determined for how far the camera was away that I would actually change the perspective and I wouldn't be able to hear what was being said and I would have to actually end up watching it over again. And so there was a certain amount where I'm having four options to be able to see where the perspective, but some of them were, were sort of like not great options or they would kind of like make me have to rewatch it. So part of my feedback was to reduce the number of cameras that were made available so that when I am switching perspectives, that it is having. something that is a genuine perspective. But I'd love to hear your thought process on that of, as you have the opportunity to move around, the ability to kind of change perspective within the context of a scene and what you felt like that was able to give you.
[00:22:20.368] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, I think you're right in the restrictions that that presents for an audience or the fact that you can become a bit confused. And that's something that we acknowledged quite early. And also is some technical limitations of what telling this story in Quill delivered us, you know, because, you know, in an ideal world, you would have at least the cameras that you want to enhance that scene to its full abilities. So, you know, you're going, this is where you should be starting to pay the most attention to, but the issue is you couldn't kind of jump from scene to scene and go, okay, this is a two camera scene. This is a four camera scene. So whatever was the max camera that you had in your episode, it had to be the same across each of those things. So there were the restrictions of that. And so what we were trying to do is we first tried to go, okay, well, how do you get a four camera scene into a two camera scene? Do you just double up on the two? And then you kind of get to this thing, it's like, oh, well, is it broken? Cause I go to camera two, but it's the same position. So then you go, okay, the next best thing is, then let's go like wide. And so you're just like, oh, I'm now taking out a story. I need to go back in. But it's at least giving you a sense of the world. You know, you're not losing anything. You know, like some people is like, you know, let's take the first scene in the warehouse, for example. You still have some people who go into the VR space who just want to experience the space that you're in. And so I was like, well, let's take that camera and give them that option. So you can be in the story or you can be in the world. And so that's how we sort of came to those decisions. But you're right, because of the restrictions of the platform that we're telling it in or the technology that we're telling it in, limited what we could do in that sort of, you know, and like I said, in an ideal world, I think that you'd want to have going forwards, this is, you know, how we build or what we're doing. I'd love to have it. So it is just allowing the audience to walk around in that space and they become their own camera. But those are the restrictions that we had for the story at this point.
[00:24:42.062] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that was part of the discussion that I had with some folks at Southwest Southwest was the, the ways in which the Quill as a platform creates opportunities, but also certain constraints that you start to have to work around that. If this was a Unity project, you'd be able to do all these things, but then you'd maybe lose the workflow of being able to work in something like Quill. So it's sort of both enabling things, but also constraining things. And so it's interesting to hear that if you want to have four different perspectives throughout the entirety of an entire episode, you have to have all of them available, which explains why there's suboptimal perspectives. Because it's sort of like you're starting off and it's like, okay, as I'm watching, it's like, what is this giving me? But as I go into the other scenes, then you start to blur different worlds together. So maybe you could describe these two different worlds that are kind of like, colliding and how, you know, for me, that was probably one of the more interesting aspects to see how you start to blend and blur together these different realities.
[00:25:39.794] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, sure. So yeah, Lustration is set in the afterlife, but there is also characters that are in present day. And so we wanted to have the ability to tell that story, but in a way that is, that they coexist. You know, if you're telling this in film or TV, scenes are played one after the other, but moments could be occurring at the same time. And that's sort of something that we wanted to do. So sometimes we have, multiple cameras across two realms, the afterlife and the present day. And then sometimes we have scenes that are across the same realm, so within the between, but across two different locations. So we have these abilities to sort of go, these are happening at the same time, where do you as an audience member want to put your time and effort into, do you just want to follow this character and follow their story throughout? Or do you want to go and also see the opposite side of that and then see how this character may possibly interact or affect you know, or how their paths are going to cross. And so again, it was just allowing the audience to experience that. And for me, it's, it's quite fun to sort of explore completely different worlds and spaces, but see how they may be connected. And as the story progresses, start to unpick why you had the opportunity to do that in the first place. You know, we may pose the question earlier on, and there may be a payoff much further down the path, but.
[00:27:17.753] Kent Bye: Yeah, I found that I was really wanting a button that allowed me to either go backwards 15 seconds or fast forward 15 seconds, because you basically have to rewatch the entire scene to see how some of them are interacting. I know that the scene, I think it was maybe the woman who was the detective, Detective Pine, I think it was, and then Allira, who is the ghost that's kind of coming in. There's a lot of ways in which these two worlds are colliding and interacting. And as I was watching it, you kind of have to decide what your strategy is as a viewer, whether or not you're going to have to do a real time switching, or you kind of watch the entirety of the scene and then go to the other scene and watch it. But even when I would watch it with the entirety, it was hard for me to detect how things may have been interacting in a dynamic way. It actually took me watching it a couple of times all the way through, kind of understand how, what one perspective was, another perspective was, and then to switch in between. But if you switch in between, you may miss something. And so it's to not have the back or forwards buttons that made me take a certain viewing strategy. And I think that as a viewer, I would love to have a little button there that would allow me to have a little bit more dynamic interaction to not feel like I'm penalized if I want to switch between different camera angles. And then I switched to an angle where I can't hear something or I miss something that then I have to rewatch it again. So that was sort of my experience. And maybe that's part of the working for it that you talked about, but you know, I think, well, I think it's both right.
[00:28:45.070] Ryan Griffen: And again, it's something that we raised and like, well, how, you know, is there ways around this and again, the restrictions that we have. dictated those choices into the end product. But you're right, there are workarounds in different ways to tell this. And I think going forward, these are all the things that you want to go, okay, how do we maximize that experience going further? But I think You're right. Having the ability to do that, I don't think detaches from the working. It's just adding another tool to do that. And I think it would enhance the experience because like you said, you can be in that moment where at the present, you're having to kind of go through scenes at a time to have the ability to do that.
[00:29:31.025] Kent Bye: Yeah, in some of the scenes, there's not a lot that's happening, and then there's a certain moment that you wait for. So I found myself also kind of waiting for that. But as a creator with the linear media, you have the ability to sort of build and release the tension and control that in a lot of ways. When you have the interactive media, Cause I've, I've created experience called crossover where you're able to switch perspective, but then eventually I realized that it's probably better just to make it more sequential because when you make that choice, sometimes you end up missing something that as a creator, you no longer have the authorial control of knowing that everybody has all the pieces of information. that are key to the story. So I guess it's that trade-off between you as an author that's able to control that through the author narrative versus the generative narrative where you're able to make choice, but sometimes when you make a choice, then you may have less information. So you have to find a way of telling a story where you have to be okay with having fragmented information. And then maybe at a certain point, you understand what the larger picture is because I felt that was another aspect that I had of watching this piece is I didn't know what these worlds are, who these people were. And it's just kind of like, that's part of the puzzle and it's satisfying when you figure it out. But I think it's probably one of those things where I could see how people might get frustrated and not knowing what's happening and then not invest the time or energy or know how to navigate it to be able to get a baseline of what they need to know to have enough context to understand what's happening.
[00:30:56.605] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, I think that's all valid. I think for me, what I'm looking for here is the discussions after the fact, for me, is trying to find people who have experienced it. And having those discussions with someone else is like, what did you see? What did you hear? And for me, those are the real moments that I think is quite fun. Even working with Metta and the executives there, when they would watch it and they've read the scripts, but seeing them talk through what they were doing and seeing them come to certain story points is, for me, it was part of the idea here is that you try and build an audience that participates and feeds certain information or experiences with each other and sort of unpack that. And it's like, well, I didn't get that. you know, in the writer's room or in other projects that I work on, I always talk to our writers or creators and use Avatar, James Cameron film as an example. that you could go and watch that and some people will just go and see a sci-fi, some people will see issues of colonization, some people will see a love story. It's layered so many different ways that each viewer has a different experience in that. And that was sort of something that we wanted to feed into here. And yeah, and just sort of have it so when people finished and there was a discussion point, that's when it's like, well, I didn't get that. And, you know, I didn't even get to see this moment happen and just allow the discussion and make people want to go back and go, let me just, you know, I just want to see if I miss something.
[00:32:37.450] Kent Bye: Yeah. So there's sort of a social sense-making process that happens if you watch it in a group that you're able to kind of discuss what you ended up seeing. I had that experience at Sleep No More, which has got all these multiple narratives and it's impossible to see everything. You have to really capture just a fragment of it and either go and see it multiple times or have that social sense-making process afterwards. So I could see how that could be a part of this process as well. There was a, another aspect I wanted to bring in, which is that, there seems to be an inherent power structure within this world of people who have different levels of authority. And there's different rules that you've created in terms of the world that you've created. There's either different rules or laws that are constructed or made that then have to be enforced in different ways. And there's a lot at stake that could potentially have the collapse of an entire world, or at least that's the mythology that's being shared amongst people to maybe follow the rules. just wondering if you could maybe reflect upon some of the larger themes of the power structure and some of these rules that you've set up in this world that you were maybe reflecting different aspects that are happening in our physical present day reality that are kind of mirrored within this afterlife.
[00:33:48.440] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, sure. So I think for me, the power structure, but also comes back to what we spoke about earlier with the use of power from knowledge and the earning of knowledge and showing that you have the right to have this knowledge. And for me, I see that as a big a big part of society at the moment of freedom of information, the abuse of information, you know, big businesses obtaining information, people and how that may be passed on and how is bred from that. And that's sort of something that I wanted to make sure is, again, placed into my work. I think all my work has, you know, social issues embedded in. in the storytelling and lustration is again doesn't shy away from that. The key thing for me is always to make it yeah like you said a mirror and for us to see what's you know reflected back at us and make us question whether how we can adjust. I think the idea of telling fantasy stories or sci-fi is, in a way, this idea of hope, of fixing the things that we have now so we don't end up like the story that we're watching. And so, yeah, for me, the story of Lustration has several different levels of power and information that we will slowly unpack as the story goes on. But yeah, essentially it's about how the abuse of knowledge can really build into a power game, whether it be over communities, over social issues. Knowledge is power. sometimes that knowledge shouldn't be as freely given because it can be.
[00:35:42.954] Kent Bye: Yeah. One of, one of the experiences I've had just by watching the VR piece, I haven't read the comic book and I haven't seen in the TV show that has yet to be produced. If that ends up happening is that I feel like this world that you've created is really vast and has really lots of nuances and I felt like being introduced to each of these characters and then the four episodes felt like it was just kind of like a taste of this story but that there's much more that's yet to be told so I'm kind of left with wanting to know what happens to this character what happens to this arc what how's this going to unfold and so I felt like it kind of stirred up a lot of interest, but then difficult to kind of wrap up everything within the context of four episodes because it, it feels like almost like a pilot of something to be then expanded into a full arc of an entire season to kind of have the arc of each of these characters that are being introduced, feel like it kind of has a completion to it. Cause it feels like it's been started, but not finished. Maybe like the first act of something that's much larger journey that you're going to be taking us on. So it sounds like the next phase is either to get financing and funding to continue this amongst these different media spread across either the, the TV show that you wanted to produce the continuation of the VR series and the expansion of the comic.
[00:36:56.435] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, definitely. I think. I don't want to stop telling this story. I think it's a huge, it is a huge world. And I think the more people understand the characters and the twists and turns that we've created and that we've got up our sleeves to tell, it is a really fun story and world to explore. And, you know, and it is, it's just building up that process. You know, we definitely want to be putting out more comics. We definitely want to be doing another season in the VR space. You know, it's interesting that you say it feels very much like a pilot because structurally it is, you know, in a way the four episodes kind of time-wise ends up to be almost an episode of television, you know, and we're taking information from a pilot episode. So it does very much feel like, although it's considered four episodes, in standard media, that's episode one. Again, it's that subconscious thing that an audience brings to that VR space, is that we know and feel like, not so much these days, but you used to subconsciously know when an ad break would come up in an episode. You're like, oh, the tension's about to kick in here. I know there's an ad break. And as a writer, you would have to adapt to that. And now going into the VR space, exactly what you're saying, we've given you just enough to then go, come back and watch episode two. But we're bringing those into this VR realm and having to go, well, you just watched four episodes. Yeah. So I think for me, it's like, it's, it is, it is wanting to do more in the VR space, adapt from the things that we, you know, that you've also raised as the limitations in the technology and make adjustments to the story space. And, you know, we have, we have an amazing cast of really experienced voice actors, and I would love to be able to have the ability to put that on in a TV series.
[00:38:57.644] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing where this world and story continues to unfold. And I do think the affordance of VR, of kind of moving in between different realms, I think you're playing with something that is really compelling and interesting and kind of makes sense with the story that you're telling of kind of going in between in some ways it's a layer of a, another layer of reality that's stacked on top of each other. So kind of metaverse metaphors, but the afterlife and another iteration of the multiverse concept playing out in this piece, which I think the medium of VR is able to explore in quite a unique way. So to see those interactions and how those interactions are also revealing different aspects of each of those characters that are then introduced over time as well, I think is interesting. So yeah, I'm excited to see more. I'm a fan and on board and I want to see how it continues to develop. And I guess as we start to wrap up here, I'm curious what you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality and immersive storytelling might be and what it might be able to enable.
[00:39:56.625] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, look, I think it has huge, huge potential. And for me, it comes down to two things. Obviously, the stories that are being created needs to become more accessible, but also the technology itself needs to find a way into more households and more hands around the world to bring people into this space. And you only need that one product or that one thing to start breaking down those barriers. I think we need to let an outside audience know that there's more than just video games on a headset, which I think is something that a lot of people don't understand. The more storytelling projects that are made in this space, put it out into festivals where people can start to see what's over here and pulling them into the world I think is really important. This is just going to continue to grow and I think we need to make sure that the products of the art that we put out, whether it be video games, whether it be storytelling or just social interactions, as long as we're building on that and it's progressing and becomes stronger and stronger and more accessible, I think we could have the freedoms of telling a lot of different things that a lot of other mediums are restricted with.
[00:41:17.777] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?
[00:41:23.841] Ryan Griffen: Look, I would say for the immersive community is that, for me, I think we're a strong community and it is about you know, supporting each and every project in this space and just consuming it and interacting with it in a way because, you know, one project may help the next project and will help the next project. The more that we continue to learn in this space and share with each other within this space, the stronger the space, the stronger the community, the stronger the products and the art that comes out of that will become. you know, and it is, it's just sort of like viewing as much as you can, spending more time in social environments in that space or sharing games, you know, the more that that happens, the more people hear about it, the more this space will just grow.
[00:42:12.702] Kent Bye: Awesome. One quick follow-up. Have you been able to show Lustration to elders from the Aboriginal community or other folks from Aboriginal community and what their reaction might be?
[00:42:22.527] Ryan Griffen: Yeah, look, you know, I've, specifically held episode three is in that space. And yeah, it's just, I live in the city. So next time I go back out West, it'll be packing up the quest to take out there and share that with friends and family out there. Awesome.
[00:42:44.444] Kent Bye: Well, Ryan, I really enjoyed the illustration. I think it's pushing the edge and the boundaries and the structure and the form of storytelling. And I really enjoyed the world that you've created and the characters and look forward to seeing where you take the story in the future. And yeah, thanks for taking the time for coming on the podcast to help break it all down. Yeah, no, thanks for having me. So that was Ryan Griffin. He's a writer and director coming from the film industry, and he's worked on a number of different TV documentary and film projects. And his piece called Lustration is now available to see the first full season, and it's on Oculus Quest. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, Well, I really enjoyed the world that's being created here within Lustration. Ryan did say that you have to work for it. And so there is a bit of having to navigate these different spaces and to kind of piece together the different puzzle pieces as to who these characters are and how they fit into the larger power and knowledge. And given that power and knowledge, then they are able to form this level of hierarchy. Within that context you have different genres of the detective noir you have the horror genre ghost story And it was interesting to hear that on the whole the entirety of all four episodes Kind of feels like a pilot episode so for me as I was watching it I was hoping to see all these characters that were introduced to see like a full arc, but there's yet a lot of other Seasons of VR or within the TV series or even the comic book is similarly like a pilot episode Introducing you to this world and the characters, but not completing the full journey of any one of the characters It's just kind of like a taster to see what trajectory that they're going to be going on and so in that sense I think of it as a little bit of a pilot but it's a full season in the context of VR exploring the medium of VR in these episodic series and So, because of the nature of having half of the two different episodes that are shown at SXSW, which is where I originally saw this, I didn't quite know where the overall arc of this piece was going. But now that I've seen it, now I can see that, OK, this is the beginning of a much larger story that has yet to be told. But it sounds like Meta and Oculus is very interested in exploring this kind of episodic format. And what Ryan was able to do with each of these episodes was to introduce you to just one character and to kind of show that character, but then to also, by doing that, to tie different characters together and to build out the rules and the structure of this larger world and how these two different worlds interact. Like I said in this interview, there was aspects of Quill that is enabling all sorts of new things, but also has lots of weird constraints that is limiting in terms of forcing the creator to make different decisions. As an example, for the first entire episode of Episode 1, they have to have four camera angles in every single scene that they do. However, I would like to see more features built into Quill so that you can have a little bit more leeway to move around the timescale of that, because you're forced to go back all the way to the beginning, which feels like you're being penalized if you move around, which if you're feeling penalized and you end up watching it sequentially, then if at that point, then you might as well watch it as a linear piece. But when you're jumping back and forth, then you end up having to sit through a lot of dead time where there's not a lot of things happening. So it's kind of built for you to dynamically jump around and kind of catch whatever you can. But you might end up missing key points of dialogue that kind of have you lost as to what's happening, because there's a lot of world building that's still happening within the context of this first episodic series. After hearing that he had created a whole comic book that had more parts of the story, I was able to download and read that. There's actually parts of the characters and parts of the story that is revealed within the comic book. I could see how he's creating this mosaic of revealing different parts of this world and these different characters. through these different media. So there's a comic book that he wants to continue, there's this four-part episodic series, and there's these little character vignettes where you go into just a scene and see the character. And there's a description that ends up being some of the more interesting information that I would like to see a little bit more of that information, rather than just in the text, but kind of built into the scene that you're seeing. Those are basically still-life shots of a quill scene. You end up watching it for a few minutes, seeing if there's going to be anything happening, and then it ends up being just a static scene. I'd like to have a little bit more indication as a viewer as to if there's going to be something that's unfolding, because I don't want to just sit there and miss it, but also not have to wait too long to get whatever they're trying to show. But the character vignette is on top of the VR, and then, eventually, he wants to expand that into a TV show. I can see that the comic book tells the story in a much more linear way. In the VR piece, you're playing with time scales, and you have to piece it together like a puzzle a little bit more. Like he said, he wants to have the viewer work for the story, that stories and knowledge is earned. It's not just handed to you. You have to do the work. I think using the medium of VR to have this exploration to piece things together in this fragmented way and for you to synthesize what the story is, maybe through this social sense-making process that he said, that if you see it with some friends, then you are able to talk about it and piece it together with your friends. That's another dimension of being able to understand what the actual story is. It's still somewhat pretty vague as to where the overall arcs are, what the themes are going to be, but he says it's about family. It's about these power structures. It's about exploring different religious themes of the afterlife from a fusion of different perspectives. It's probably different aspects of Aboriginal culture, although it's not exactly clear because there's a sense of things being inspired by certain aspects that he's been having the privilege to be able to hear and then do some sort of translation. But it's not exactly clear, for good reason. It's part of their own process of knowledge transfer from within their oral tradition. Overall, I'm just really enjoyed the journey that I was taking on. I felt like it's kind of like you watch a pilot of a really amazing show and you want to just see the rest. And so I'm just like, I'm hungry to see where the story continues to go. But it just needs more funding and resources to either fund more of the comic book, more of the VR series or more of the TV series. It's interesting to see that VR may end up being this platform that allows creators to take these ideas and sketch them out. The Quill animations are very stilted in the sense that it does feel like a little bit more of a live comic book, where there's very subtle movements, but it's not like a fully animated piece. They're able to build out the world and to really focus on these character-driven Aspects of the story because there's a lot of dialogue and ends up being a very character driven story where you end up learning about the characters But also you have enough of being immersed in this world that you get this sense of how these two different worlds are Interacting and I felt like I had a deeper intuitive understanding of what this world was by actually being immersed within it And then as I read the comic book I was like ah I can see everything that's happening here and then how that may translate that into the TV medium and So each of these medium have different affordances, and I think the fact that you're able to be present in this world and maybe explore around a little bit and kind of piece things together. Like I said, I like to see a little bit more robust tools built in within Quill so that you can kind of navigate that time frame a little bit more and have a little bit more dynamic in the moment, switching between things just to see how these different worlds are interacting. So. Anyway, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.