#1136: “Reimagined” Quill Anthology Animation Series Creates New Fairy Tales with Female Protagonists

Reimagined Volume I: Nyssa uses Quill to tell the fairy tale story of a young woman on a mission to find her friend, and there’s a lot of stylized camera movements that adds a cinematic quality to a spatial story that’s otherwise pretty theatrically staged. It was was produced by Meta, but the launch date hasn’t been announced yet as it’s still making the rounds on the festival circuit.

I had a chance to catch up the director Julie Cavaliere and producer Michaela Ternasky-Holland at Venice Immersive to get a bit more context to this anthology series that they pitched to Meta. They’re creating a new canon of stories inspired by existing fairy tales, but taken in new directions given that they’re writing these new stories for female protagonists. We talked about the process of coming from the film world, how Cavaliere got a lot of pointers and help along the way, how they’re using the elements and temperaments to design their character arcs, their collaboration with Studio Syro, and how the pandemic shut down other film projects providing an opening for them to develop this project. They’re already in production on the next installments in the series with Ternasky-Holland episode II and a guest director coming in for episode III.

Keep an eye out for this series as it’s a polished piece that manages to have a refined cinematic quality while also taking advantage of the spatial medium of VR to transport you into these fairy tale realms.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. It's a podcast that's looking at the structures and forms of immersive storytelling and the future of spatial computing. You can support me on Patreon at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So in today's episode, continuing on my series of looking at different immersive experiences from Venice Immersive 2022, we'll be covering Reimagined Volume 1 Nisa by Julie Cavalier and Michaela Tarnowsky-Holland. So this is a Quill piece that is the beginning of an anthology that's looking at fairy tales inspired by existing fairy tales but kind of modulated into their own stories to have these female protagonists and also using Quill to be able to do this animation. And so we talk a lot about the transition from the film and cinematic world into the spatial world and the different unique considerations and working with Quill and the Quill artists and yeah just the collaboration between the director and the producer and trying to Get everything to work together within the context of an immersive storytelling experience So this will be eventually released on oculus and to be shown as a serial Hasn't been announced when it's going to be coming out but look for it on the film festival circuit And if you had a chance to see it, then you can listen to this to unpack it a little bit more we talk about process of telling the story and creating a character and all the different dimensions of how to reveal a character through the context of the spatial medium of VR. So that's what we're coming on today's episode of the voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Julie and Michaela happened on Sunday, September 4th, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:48.753] Julie Cavaliere: My name is Julie Cavalier. Actually, this is my VR debut and my directorial debut for Reimagined Volume 1 Nisa. So I'm a newbie in the VR world.

[00:02:00.869] Michaela Ternasky Holland: My name is Michaela Ternasky-Holland, and I've been doing VR since 2016. My main focus is usually in social impact, documentary work, especially when it comes to thinking about people getting onboarded and how they have aftercare in VR. But for this project, I dabbled in a little bit more of a narrative experience with my first time collaboration with Julie.

[00:02:21.823] Kent Bye: Awesome. And maybe each of you could talk a bit more about your background and your journey into VR and immersive storytelling.

[00:02:28.092] Julie Cavaliere: Sure, so I come from more of a traditional film, TV and theatre background. I originally cut my teeth at a production company, Scott Rudin, and then turned left, went to the Actors Studio, studied that, studied writing at Columbia, and then comedy and all of that at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. And then I stumbled into the Tribeca Film Festival, the immersive section, when I was in between running around seeing films. and I was really inspired and I had an idea I was working on and I thought this style of immersive storytelling would be a perfect fit and I sought out just advice and speaking to people. I was connected with Michaela and then we started just by sharing ideas and discussing VR as a whole and where the industry is going and then wound up collaborating on this project.

[00:03:22.906] Michaela Ternasky Holland: I have a dance and journalism background. I studied journalism in school, but left school for nine months and did a whole cruise ship, a contract with Disney. And while I was on that Disney cruise ship, I really got to see immersive interactive storytelling at the highest level, whether it came to guest hospitality, dining, or even entertainment. And so I took those skill sets back into my life as a student and started to think about how we can marry really impactful nonfiction stories and journalism with these immersive interactive techniques. And when I found virtual reality and augmented reality, I was like, this is the thing that can scale these types of immersion and interactive qualities on a higher, more expansive, inclusive level than just building a physical installation or a physical building. And since then I've done work with Time Magazine and continue on to do work with Games for Change and Freelance and Consult with other different productions.

[00:04:16.092] Kent Bye: You mentioned that you stumbled into the Trebek immersive and saw a number of different pieces and then here that you have with this piece it's reimagining fairy tales and so maybe you could talk about what happened after you saw those experiences and then those story ideas and how they started to develop from there.

[00:04:32.245] Julie Cavaliere: Yeah, so actually I wound up connecting with one of the directors at Tribeca Immersive whose film was being shown and he was kind enough to take me to breakfast and we were sort of just talking and he also had dabbled in traditional, you know, flat film and then came over to VR. So we were just talking and I told him about this idea I had after stumbling through this old anthology of fables, folktales, things like that, and I came across this little-known Brothers Grimm story called The Tale of the Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear. It's really concise. And so I told him sort of where I was starting to go with it and he was really encouraging. And then I went back and I just wrote a first draft. And so then the more I started to see VR pieces and the more I started to think about it, the more and more it drifted away from, you know, humans, the more and more my imagination kind of took over. It was kind of this A to C to, you know. And yeah, we just started building it out. I started thinking about the aesthetic all of a sudden. I had this very clear idea for what I wanted Nisa to look like and just pulling all of these art references because that's something I have a passion for and I'm self-taught in. And then from there, again, I connected with Michaela and we started speaking with Meta, who was kind enough to come on board, and then found collaborators in Studio Syro, you know, that animation studio which did Tales from Soda Islands, and we were just off to the races.

[00:06:10.545] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I know you had mentioned in part of your behind the scenes talk from the creator that the boy who was trying to understand fear, that you wanted to change it from a boy into having more female characters because there's not a lot of female protagonists within these fairy tales. And so maybe you could talk about wanting to gender swap and explore similar themes, but to make it through Nisa.

[00:06:31.895] Julie Cavaliere: Yeah, absolutely. So in the original story, again, this piece was mainly just inspired by it because the original story is about this young boy who just, you know, doesn't understand fear and goes on this whole journey and at the end is rewarded by having this beautiful wife and all of these things. And so just by reading the title, even before I did a deep dive into the story, I thought of the issues of fear conditioning in women and female self-actualization and this idea of how often girls are told to be careful. and how even though it's with the best of intentions very often what happens is that little girls are pulled away from trying new things and they're more safety cautious and not even physically but then it takes a toll emotionally as well. So then I started to think about it through that lens. And then again after I began my collaboration with Michaela we realized just in speaking to people and getting their feedback that this idea of reimagining folk tales, mythology, fables from all over the world that aren't that known through this kind of gender inclusive lens had legs and was something that we can really explore and use this immersive medium Similar to when you're young and somebody tells you the story and it's just all-consuming and it is your whole world for the 10 minutes that that story is being told to you. We kind of wanted to reproduce that idea or bring someone into this kind of experience that way.

[00:08:06.865] Kent Bye: And Michaela, as you were coming into this project, what were you presented with? A pitch, an idea, or a script, or at what point did you take on this as a project to start this as a collaboration?

[00:08:17.769] Michaela Ternasky Holland: It started really casual, it really just started over a coffee and Julie was looking for advice and I was sort of advising her around how VR short films have a really great ability to kind of do a festival circuit but there was like limited distribution at the end and trying to help explain that you know we don't have like a Hulu Netflix like if you go into this VR experience you might not make a ton of money back like you would in like a short film but that the creation process is really rewarding and that there's different levels of interactivity and At that point, I think Julie was just really keen on starting at a very casual development process. So we would get coffee like every other month and kind of continue to discuss. And she was also still working on the script at the time. And so it was very relaxed until COVID hit. And we realized, well, you know, a lot of the productions that Julie had been working on in film, even some of the documentary 2D productions I had been working on, also sort of started to close. And so we were able to actually kind of move our focus over to reimagined, since it's something that we could do very, very remotely. And it was something we could continue to develop. So at that point, we really hit the ground running. That's when we collaborated to put together a pitch deck. That's when we really started to look for mentors to talk us through where we think this would go. We never thought about Quill at the beginning, we thought about all these other kind of platforms and these other types of interactivity and through being advised you should make this anthology series, through being advised why don't you think about like a VR native platform like Quill, it's so much cheaper to make something beautiful in Quill or in Google Tilt Brush, we were slowly building out sort of our arsenal of pitch materials and then in 2021 I think it got real when we finally got connected to the META folks at Quill, Ryan and Goro and they were so excited to meet with us and they were so excited to work with us to try and see if we could unlock some funding at META and so I think it was like sort of a slow going. 2019, 2020, and then finally in 2021, we really felt the rollercoaster take off. And I think that that was great because if at any point in time before that we were going to take off, I don't know if either Julie or I would have had the bandwidth to really help support and manage an anthology VR animated series.

[00:10:25.349] Kent Bye: It's really interesting to hear that whole journey. At what point did you find the quilt artist that worked on this piece?

[00:10:32.650] Julie Cavaliere: So after we sort of pivoted to the idea of Quill and we were kind of thinking about that, actually it was an artist who came on to just help us with concept art. He was helping us just kind of, Michaela and I again during COVID, we were like, let's focus on this. We decided to build out the deck. We wanted to commission an artist just to help us with concept art because the art style was so specific. So we felt, you know, instead of pulling like Pinterest references, just to have some really dedicated art and specific art would be really helpful. And then just with chatting with him when he heard we were going down the Quill route potentially, he was lovely enough to suggest the team at Studio Syro. He pointed us to Tales from Soda Island. We checked out their series and then felt that actually the style of what they were doing could transition quite well to the style that I had in mind for the series, for volume one at least.

[00:11:28.693] Michaela Ternasky Holland: Yeah, Micah and I have been collaborators a few times on different projects. He came on to do Face to Face. I would collaborate with him on a couple other small Tilt Brush projects, or I would always recommend him for Tilt Brush projects. And so he was really excited to jump into Quill and actually play with Quill and kind of use that platform and was really incredible. And I had also been a fan of Tales of Soda Island and Studio Syro, and you know, you don't really always make the connective points when you're in a producer mode. You're thinking, oh, they're probably busy with other projects. And I think what's really powerful about Tales of Soda Island was their use of 360 storytelling. And I knew that Julie and I were very much aligned on the world of let's make this a 360 experience. A lot of the pieces you might see in Quill have just a 180 point of view where you have a couple of things that are animated and then things behind you are very less densely drawn out and of course the platform has its limitations but as much as possible we wanted people to watch this experience and say this is why it was in VR instead of asking why was this in VR and so when we aligned with that we saw that in Syro we felt they would be a really strong team we then reached out and see if they wanted to collaborate with us on volume one The beauty of this anthology series is we get to collaborate with a different director, a different story, and also different artists. So you won't see the same exact artists working on Volume 2 as you would see on Nisa. And that also, I think, keeps the style of anthology really fresh and new for the whole team.

[00:12:51.131] Julie Cavaliere: It also keeps it really organic to the story we're trying to tell. So although, you know, the anthology is connected by these themes of retelling these stories through a gender-inclusive lens, we are allowing each story to kind of dictate the way it should be told and the style it should be told, and then we're seeking out to collaborators based on that, which is really exciting.

[00:13:12.213] Kent Bye: When you were putting together the initial pitch, did you have an idea of what the entire anthology was going to be before you even started to work of producing the actual content of the first one?

[00:13:21.738] Julie Cavaliere: Yeah, we had spoken. So I came in with this idea. We built it out to the idea of an anthology. And then Michaela wanted to direct volume two, which she's doing. And she had a strong idea for that. And then we sought out collaborators for volume three. And we're bringing in a guest director for volume three. So when we did present our pitch to Meta, to Ryan and Goro over at Quill, we had stories outlined you know, for each of the following volumes. We had a script obviously for the first one, but each of the following volumes, you know, there is a specific story and a reimagining of the mythology for volume two and a folktale for volume three that we want to share.

[00:14:03.619] Michaela Ternasky Holland: And a really specific art style for each of those volumes too. And I think the art style for Nisa really comes from Julie's imagination and what inspires her. And then for the next two volumes, the inspiration really comes from cultural references of those pieces and or references of people who have gone on to create art based on some of that folklore, based on some of that generational shifting and adjusting their art style to still remain true to their heritage. It'll be really exciting because we see Nisa as sort of the gateway into getting you deeper and deeper into these lesser-known cultures or lesser-known myths.

[00:14:38.063] Kent Bye: Wasn't there a VR for Good project that you had worked on as well? Was that in Quill or was that another platform?

[00:14:44.254] Michaela Ternasky Holland: Letao is a traditional VR animated experience in Unity, so they use just traditional 3D models. But that definitely was a really strong reference for me coming into Nisa as a producer and coming into this kind of anthology series, having had a background working with animators, working with concept artists, and now moving into these roles of commissioning artists to work with us closely. But for anyone out there who has a traditional animation background, If you are interested in Quill, take your time and make sure you do your deep dives because the platform, just like anything with XR, has its quirks and has some of its limitations that we constantly work with Syro and with the meta team to figure out how we could work around so that we can make a really robust, incredible animated experience.

[00:15:27.198] Kent Bye: Well, Quill is interesting because it was acquired and then at some point it was put back into the original creator and almost like, I don't know if it's open source, but at what point did you come into, were you using Quill when it was still owned? Or like, if you could help elaborate the original acquisition and then they're relinquishing because it's interesting because it's being used as a platform, but then it's, I guess, a tool that has been released back into be continually developed.

[00:15:51.676] Michaela Ternasky Holland: So we had just come in when Quill had been renamed Quill by Smoothstep. We had just started production at that moment and it had been renamed from Quill Theater to VR Animation Player. And so we really were coming in at a time that we saw that Quill was changing rapidly. The platform itself stays the same which is good and bad because unfortunately what we've experienced is the platform doesn't get a lot of love anymore from updates or developers. It's really whatever the owner of the platform Smoothstep wants to do with it. And so there's certain bugs and things that we've requested to get fixed and we're sort of at the mercy of Smoothstep because it's not a meta-owned platform anymore. But what's great though is that the pieces now don't live on Quill Theater, they live in their own little VR animation player. So anyone who's like, oh it's on Quill Theater, we're like, It is Quill Theater, but now it's called VR Animation Player. But what's great about that, it means we get to see this beautiful, collaborative kaleidoscope of projects from all these amazing creators all in one place. Now it's not embedded in all these deeper, oh, I have to go find a Quill project, or I have to go find Quill Theater. It's all just listed out very similar to Oculus Media. And so that's where we're actually pulling a lot of the artists we like to work with, is we're pulling from their actual artwork on Quill Theater, a.k.a. VR Animation Player.

[00:17:06.139] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's a couple of cool pieces at South by Southwest, the Ilho and Yong, a Korean piece about memory, and then Lustration, which is a whole amazing piece. And some of the experiences that I had on those pieces, and actually there was also some at Tribeca using Quill. So I'm seeing at least one or two pieces in the festival circuit with using this as a platform. with illustration as an example, there were certain things where I was like, well, why didn't you do this or that? And they're like, well, it's really kind of a limitation for what Quill can do. And you have to kind of like orchestrate the project in this specific way. And so it sounds like that on the one hand, it allows the ability to very quickly prototype the art. But on the other side, there's some limitations that if you were in Unity, you'd be able to do specific things. But because the way that Quill is built, it provides some constraints for how you're designing and creating. And so Wondering if you ran into some of those constraints along the way.

[00:17:56.740] Julie Cavaliere: Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. It's a quirky little platform, isn't it? But as Michaela said, it has a lot of strengths to it, but especially there were certain things. So the opening shot of our piece, this kind of flyover, was something that I was pushing for quite strongly. And the lovely people at Studio Syro, we were going back and forth just in terms of the limitations and what we can and cannot do and trying to figure out workarounds. And it was a very heavy shot. And I learned quite quickly, you know, polys and optimization, it's getting too heavy. What's the poly count? What's the poly count? And then when we were sort of in what I would call a more traditional like post-production and we're doing sound design and score, we were running into a lot of little quirks in terms of the compression of the sound when you put it through quill and the spatialization when you put it through quill and losing certain frequencies and things like that. encountering that again when it goes into the quest headset. And so a lot of these little things to navigate along the way, a lot of these little glitches, these little things would pop up. What is that? You know, all of a sudden Marmee, the mother of Nisa in the story, she was missing part of her robe on one export just because these little quirks would sneak in. So you really have to comb through everything with a fine tooth comb in order to make sure that all of the glitches are out.

[00:19:23.853] Kent Bye: Yeah, I noticed that in your piece in particular there's a lot of things that hadn't really seen before in cool pieces and I think that overall it had this real cinematic quality of like moving through into shots and almost like a level of spatial editing that reminds me of the aesthetic or style of Battlescar which was a highly stylized animated like almost music video that was kind of pushing the forms of what kind of stuff you can do with the style. So I'd love to hear a little bit about the movements and the camera that you had in your piece? Because that seemed to be a key part of introducing me and grounding me into this other world that you're introducing in this piece.

[00:19:58.991] Julie Cavaliere: Yeah. And so, like I said, I come from more of a traditional film and TV background. So I cut my teeth just in school and when I was an undergrad and just kind of learning about camera and lighting and sound. And then when I did Pivot and I went to the Actor's Studio Drama School, You know, you were learning everything there is to know about theater and I became very interested in theater in the round and actually noticed a lot of similarities between this medium VR and theater in the round. So I was pulling a lot from that. I felt very strongly very early on. I didn't want a lot of obvious cuts. I didn't want this kind of jarring thing. I wanted everything to feel smooth. You know, I kept likening Nisa to this kind of element of air in the beginning. She's not very grounded. She's sort of floating. It's also why we have that opening shot the way it is. So I just didn't want the camera work to have a lot of weight and I thought what an interesting place if we are immersing people then let's work within that medium and hide the cuts and move camera and think about it from a theatre in the round perspective and what would happen if we kind of just had theatre in the round with a camera and then just going back actually to like Royal Shakespeare Company archives and things that have been recorded that way and sort of the way they moved camera, getting inspired by that, getting inspired by really old films. I re-watched Hitchcock's Rope. If you're not familiar with it, that's all done in one shot. So just sort of the way he played with camera and transitions and very early on those hiding of cuts and the way he played with that and I just sort of built that out.

[00:21:41.266] Michaela Ternasky Holland: Yeah and I think one of the things I came in just from a producer perspective but also from a VR creative perspective is I was constantly advising our team and advising Julie like alright if we're gonna have such smooth camera movement we need to make sure the user never feels claustrophobic to a point where they might get nauseous and so was constantly giving notes about the camera movements great but you need to move that object or the The movement through the forest that you see, it's looking really good, but we're too close to the trees and there's too much darkness. We need to pull the trees back. So like, while the camera movement creation was all Julie and our team was incredible, there was times I had to step in and just say, you know, the camera movement's perfect. We just need to think about the placement of objects and the placement of our audience, right? And we really need to make sure that the audience is comfortable through this experience, even if Nisa's uncomfortable. And so there was just a really fine balance where I would just come in every now and again and just give a couple notes about you know objects being too close or like the cuts being a little too strong and we need to kind of move the trees a little farther back and other than that though at the end of the day like Julie really took the camera and played with it to an amazing extent that I'm still to this day I get in Nissan I'm like this is such a great piece.

[00:22:50.982] Julie Cavaliere: The other thing is, the good thing about that is because it's my first time in VR, I'm quite sensitive to motion and can get motion sickness. So in these moments where we're falling and things like that, our incredible artists, you know, they spend so much time in headset that they're immune, where I would come in and I would be like, I'm nauseous. I'm nauseous. I'm nauseous. So I really hope between all of us and Studio Syrah's awareness and Michaela's advisement that it is a smooth experience for everyone.

[00:23:21.321] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm well past the point of having cultivated my own VR legs. I'm not immune, but I know my triggers, and it was comfortable enough for me, but I can appreciate how if I would have gone back in time and watched this piece, it could have made me sick. Which I think is kind of interesting to see how, like at the beginning, people were very resistant to cuts or even camera movement. It took a while and so I think there's been a bit of like cultivation of capacity for the audience to be able to stomach some of these different types of experiences and so I often like to think about this as a thought experiment of taking Mad Max Fury Road as a film that has like a cut every like 1.2 or 3 seconds or something and if you were to travel back in time and show that to an audience back at the very beginning of film, if they were to watch it, were they be able to grok it or understand it or comprehend it? And so I think that's like similar with VR. It's like we think about these different aspects of VR as a medium and that we're slowly iterating and pushing the medium forward, but we have to not leave the audience behind and we have to like make sure it's comfortable. And so I think between the two of you being able to think about those different considerations, but also your own physical capacity to be able to see this, You've been able to land in something that, for me at least, was comfortable. I think it takes much more wider user testing to know for sure, but that was one of the takeaways I had in terms of just the style of the story of how it was crafted and put together with the spatial editing. So yeah, I think it works quite well.

[00:24:44.360] Julie Cavaliere: Thank you, and I think it's also a testament to not only us, but the team at CSIRO, because once we kind of all synced on the story I wanted to tell and the way I wanted to tell it, then they got quite excited to put in their ideas, and it was really exciting to go to work on Zoom. every day and stuff like that and then finding ways like for me to pay homage to certain films that shaped me like there's a moment a shot that is really just kind of an homage to Jaws and things like that like when we meet our antagonist for the first time and things like that so it was really what was amazing about this medium just overall is once you can kind of unlock that part of your brain it's so creatively freeing because it's Although we're talking about some limitations with Quill, there's so much that can be done as long as you can think about it, there are workarounds. So it's really, really exciting to have completed it and have it showcased here in World Premiere here in competition.

[00:25:46.843] Michaela Ternasky Holland: I think that's a testament to Julie's vision for the project. Like, from the beginning, she was, like, really pulling from Expressionism, Impressionism styles. And I don't know if everybody who watches this project will be like, oh, that's exactly what I'm seeing necessarily play out. But you'll see there's, like, a certain level of care and detail to the world. And one of the first kind of quote-unquote homework tasks I gave to Julie was, like, you need to really know what world you want to build and why you want that world to be in VR and why you want these characters to be in VR. And she did that homework. And the beauty of the project isn't just the incredible script. It isn't just the incredible camera movements. I mean, also one of my favorite parts is these gorgeous cinematic landscapes that she's built with these inspirations from Expressionism and Impressionism. And then Studio Saro sort of putting that magic flair and quill to make those so iconic textures of paintings and textures of like well-known artwork come to life. To this day, I think the cave is like one of my favorite moments because that's when we start to transition from one art style to another.

[00:26:45.998] Kent Bye: Yeah, being here at Venice there's a production bridge and so there's different projects that are getting up and giving these pitches. So I'm just struck by how, what's the process of taking a story and talking about the essence of a story of who the character is or what the context is or what the character arc is. And also in your process that you were pretty deliberate in mapping out each of these different stories of these three different phases at the beginning and so When you were giving the pitch, I'd be curious to hear a little bit about how did you talk about the story or the context or the character arc that you really wanted to dive into in kind of your pitch?

[00:27:17.563] Julie Cavaliere: Sure, yeah, so like I said, we had all of it mapped out in terms of the three stories for this anthology. We had outlines already for them, so I think the most important thing is when you're going into a pitch, like, be ready to play. Like, you need to understand the world you want to jump into and the characters and all of that, and just try to anticipate as many of the questions that you think whoever you're pitching to may have. So for me, we had the first script not done. We were pretty far along with it. So we had that for reference. We had commissioned Micah to do concept art. So we had that. We had strong visual references that we pulled from just the internet. Pinterest and I had a very strong idea for the first volume of the art styles I wanted to pull from and why and how it was always people got I think tired of me just talking about how it relates back to the story, how everything goes back to the story. everything has to come from the story. And I think we applied that to the other two volumes, and so when we were in the pitch itself, we spoke about the anthology as a whole, what we wanted to say with it, and then we went specifically, volume by volume, to discuss how we were going to do it, and why each volume was necessary to tell the story we wanted to tell as a whole with Reimagined.

[00:28:37.256] Kent Bye: And so who is Nisa then, and what journey does she go on?

[00:28:40.352] Julie Cavaliere: So Nisa is this little deconstructed witch. I felt very strongly that there were no black hats allowed. We are not in Kansas anymore. I kept joking, not in Oz either. So she is this witch who doesn't know what fear is. She has never experienced it. She's precocious. She runs, jumps, climbs trees. I always liken her to a bit of Amelie, if you're familiar with that film. if Amelie rolled in the mud for a while, like it's that kind of sensibility. The other thing I kept stressing is that she's not, she's naive, she's not stupid, she's just never experienced that and she is approaching this coming of age where, just in terms of references for witches and things that I was reading, just witches throughout the world and different cultures, there is a time where women are thought to come into their strongest power, which is very often when it's snuffed out. So I wanted to capture that and her being on the precipice of that and that kind of crossroad. And so she loses her very best friend in the world, a broom named Broom, quite creatively, and she goes on this journey to find her broom. And then in the meantime, she comes in contact with her familiar spirit, Baloo, which is a bat. And again, these are all kind of deconstructed characters, pulling a little bit from cubist elements, and then winds up going on this much larger journey to learn about fear, and more importantly, how to harness it, not to run away from it, but how she can use it to kind of inform her choices going forward, and hopefully save her village.

[00:30:21.714] Kent Bye: Right? I want to see it. Actually, I've already seen it. It's really good. It's sort of, I think, the art of story and the character. And for me, I keep coming back to a Robert McKee quote where he talks about how story is all about a character being put into a situation under pressure and the decisions that that character make is a revealing of their character. And the more intense the pressure, the more to the essential character that you're able to get. And so what kind of choices or pressure is being put upon Nisa and what parts of her essential character are being revealed?

[00:30:53.632] Julie Cavaliere: I love Robert McKee, it's so funny you bring that up. I think his book is one of those essential reads if you ever want to consider screenwriting and he's so brilliant that way. But yeah, for her, she is this precocious, like I said, she quite embodies this element of air in the beginning. She's precocious, she's rambunctious. She talks a lot without a lot of thought. It's kind of, you know, whatever, you know, very often what you are when you're 10, 11 years old, you know, it's, she's carefree and, and so what winds up coming out is that she values friendship and loyalty more than anything. So she goes on this journey against her mother's wishes, even though they have a close relationship. That was another thing I, I wanted them to be close but despite her mother's wishes she felt it was more important to be loyal as a friend so that's already the first kind of reveal for her and what she puts forward and what she values actually and thanks to her mother and all of that. So she goes out and with each element of the story of the journey we're finding her stripping more and more away from this element of air and becoming grounded and thinking about her choices and listening to herself. She's too busy sort of buzzing around to have any kind of contact with her intuition, with any kind of thought or instincts that she may have. So it's really her developing this awareness and this trust of herself and kind of a grounding where she doesn't lose the essence of who she is, but she then kind of merges with this idea of fear and speaks a truth from there. So with each sort of story beat, we're showing her making this choice to continue on, sometimes irresponsibly and naively, but when she has the opportunity to run, you know, I don't want to spoil it, but she makes these choices more and more from a place of intuition and a grounding and then hopefully finds a reconciliation and not a loss of her former self, but more of an incorporation of this wiser version of who she wants to be and letting those values dictate who she wants to become. So I say actually the end is very much her beginning.

[00:33:12.739] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm very much inspired by the elements in terms of, you know, how I think about the different qualities of presence with the air being mental and social presence and the fire being active presence, but there's also intuition that's a part of the fire element and the water element being the emotional presence and the earth element being embodied and environmental presence and so It's interesting that you were more explicitly using an elemental, kind of the dissociative aspects of air being floody or just trapped in your head. The earth element being the groundedness of being in your body, in the earth, connected to the environment around you. And for Jung, he translated the elements into the air element being thinking. the fire element being intuition, the water element being feeling, and then the earth element being sensing. So there's a way in which that you're starting with the thinking, but moving into the intuition and the grounding of the embodiment. And to some extent, there's an emotional presence through the fear of overcoming the fear in that sense. So interesting to see how the elements can more explicitly move in between them and with the goal of trying to really integrate and synthesize them.

[00:34:15.493] Julie Cavaliere: And for me, what happened when we kind of merged that air element and that earth element, then there was fire. And that's where her power came from. And that was sort of my own reinterpretation and redefinition of the elements as I wanted to express them in the story. Yeah, absolutely. And it's fun to see kind of that interpretation in other pieces and what that means and that playing of it. But for me, I felt very strongly from the beginning that it was with the combination of those two elements, especially when she internalized them, that that is what created fire.

[00:34:51.390] Kent Bye: Awesome, well you have distribution eventually with Meta since they funded it and so you're premiering here at Venice and are you going to plan on doing more of a festival run or are you going to then head towards having a launch date for this first episode?

[00:35:03.557] Michaela Ternasky Holland: We will not share this launch date yet, it has not been formally announced, but it is coming next year to a MetaQuest headset near you. We would love to see Nisa have a really robust festival run, we'd love to see the buzz pick up around it because the goal is that Nisa is sort of our big opening number and then we follow it up with Volume 2 and Volume 3 and we just continue to hopefully not just grow recognition for the brand of Reimagined within the immersive space but maybe in a wider level of just a storytelling space and of course also to help empower the next generation of storytellers to see a completely female-led, female-produced, female-directed team go into this medium and make something that I think what we like to say is the ageless audience item. So it's not fully adult, it's not fully childlike, it's kind of speaks to that in-between person that is sort of like, I have a little bit of child in me, but I'm also very much an adult, or I have a little adult in me, but I'm very much a child. And I think that that's really important that these pieces get made with also the future of those people in mind and getting inspired and showing that these were what we were doing 10, 15 years ago in VR and, you know, take the mantle and move forward with it.

[00:36:15.822] Kent Bye: Awesome. Yeah, it's a great series. I love the vibe. You know, I love the look and feel and the story. You know, it's a well-told story and I'm curious for the second edition. Are you in production, post-production in that or where are you at in that process?

[00:36:28.257] Michaela Ternasky Holland: We are currently in production of volume two. We have completed concept art. We are in the modeling phase right now and we are currently banging down the script.

[00:36:37.966] Kent Bye: Awesome. So that's exciting to go back and to have the distribution, but also go back to work and keep doing it.

[00:36:44.824] Julie Cavaliere: That wasn't enough. We're beginning pre-production on Volume 3, end of September. So the train is moving.

[00:36:53.091] Kent Bye: Awesome. And finally, what do you each think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality and immersive storytelling and what it might be able to enable?

[00:37:02.347] Julie Cavaliere: I mean, who knows, right? I feel like five years ago, could you have predicted some of these pieces? I think it's so exciting and I was fortunate enough to attend this press conference today, which was about, you know, immersive and focused on that with Michel and Liz and the head of the festival. And I think what's so exciting, and I know the most boring question that I keep getting asked, that they were getting asked, is this medium replacing film? And absolutely not. It's just another tool in the way that stories are being told. So some stories should be told theatrically, some stories should be told with flat film, and some stories really require that immersive feeling. And what's been interesting that I've been experiencing are kind of the blending of these worlds. So taking theater pieces, which is, you know, the oldest, and kind of finding ways to incorporate sort of augmented or VR, you know, these kinds of newer ideas. I think that's really exciting. And also just finding pieces that are pushing, as you mentioned, pushing sort of what you think you know about VR and XR at the moment.

[00:38:10.620] Michaela Ternasky Holland: I mean, I think it's human nature to take the tools around us and start to play and explore how we use those tools in our day to day life. So, for example, that's where architecture came from. That's where sculpture came from. That's where painting came from. That's where film came from and photography. And so I think at the end of the day, We as humans are spending more and more time in a digital reality, whether you're on your laptop, on your phone, you are constantly interacting with people on social media, you're interacting with people via email or via Zoom. This is all on this like kind of 2D plane and this kind of 2D mechanism, but humans are always hungry. We're always reaching for more. That's why we go to the moon. That's why we build a better telescope than Hubble. So I think these headsets and sort of this groundbreaking work moving into VR as something that is here to stay, which I feel like we were a little questioning back in 2016. We're like, we're not sure if this is going to hit quite right. But obviously with now seeing that there are people using headsets, whether that's B2B or B2C, I think It's a question of like, why wouldn't we express ourselves using this medium? Maybe it's not a medium everyone wants to use because at one point in time, not everybody was using film. At one point in time, not everybody was using photography. But there were those people who just kept exploring and expanding and expressing themselves. creatively, expressing themselves in a business manner, trying to create businesses around these mediums. There are people expressing themselves to tell their own stories. And so I think that that's what's the most exciting about VR. I don't tell people, right, it's the future. I don't tell people it's everything that we're going to be doing. It's just another tool. It's another thing that we can get our hands dirty in and where it's going, I'm not sure, but my hope is we continue to be both creative, collaborative, social, and inclusive as we continue this process in the VR industry and wider XR industry.

[00:39:52.761] Kent Bye: Awesome. Anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:39:59.375] Julie Cavaliere: Just how appreciative I am of everybody I've met and their generosity and Michaela especially, but everybody that I've spoken to in this world and asked questions, how generous they are, how lovely they've been and how There's been no judgment in terms of any kind of ignorance that I've had or question that I've had. Everybody that I have met so far in this community has been exceptionally inviting and excited to share what they know, excited to share what worked. More importantly, what didn't work, wanting to take a look and advise or give advice on what I was working on and vice versa, asking me for my thoughts. So it's been just really, really welcoming and exciting to kind of dive in headfirst. So I'm just really appreciative of the community as a whole, as well as my collaborators.

[00:40:52.408] Michaela Ternasky Holland: I mean, I'm always really thankful for this industry. I think this industry has always been a place that I feel safe to express myself, whether it's in my way of being a producer, or my way of being a director, or my way of being an impact coordinator, or an impact-minded person. I just have a deep appreciation that we were able to bring this piece to Venice, and that we were able to see the wider community in person, and my hope is that the community will continue to be connected. Maybe someday, quote-unquote, fingers crossed, outside of a film festival environment, maybe in our own festival environment, our own sort of gathering of an environment that we can all it could be digital or physical, that we all can really just be able to continue to support each other and appreciate each other's works. While we see this industry sort of take off in all these different directions, it's always great to come back to our core of creative and storytelling and art, and so it's just a deep humbling that I get to be a part of this industry in so many different ways, shapes, and forms.

[00:41:48.766] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. I really enjoyed the piece. I feel like it is a nice fusion of all these different disciplines and backgrounds, and pushing forward both the structure and the forms of spatial editing and the architecture, but also just the storytelling. And look forward to the rest of the series. And yeah, congratulations on launching here, and look forward to being out in the world. So thank you.

[00:42:09.076] Julie Cavaliere: Thanks so much. We'll keep you posted. Thank you, Kent.

[00:42:13.077] Kent Bye: So that was Julie Cavalier and Michaela Tarnowsky-Holland, and they had a piece there at Venice Immersive 2022 called Reimagined, Volume 1, Nisa. So if you want more context for the wrap-ups, then I'd recommend checking out the episode 1121, where I talk about all the 30 pieces in competition. And in episode 1144, there's an immersive panel that I did at Venice with some other immersive critics talking about the art of reviewing immersive art and immersive entertainment. I recommend checking that out in order to dig into a little bit of my own process of what I'm trying to do with these larger series and trying to unpack and discuss the art and science of immersive storytelling with a lot of these different pieces that we're showing at Venice Immersive 2022. So, 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 so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

More from this show