#1299: Character-Driven Quill Animation Piece “Perennials” Explores Nostalgia and Family Dynamics

I interviewed Perennials director Zoe Roellin at Venice Immersive 2023. See more context in the rough transcript below.

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

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[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. It's a podcast that looks at immersive storytelling, experiential design, and the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash voices of VR. So continuing on my series of looking at different experiences from Venice Immersive 2023, today's episode is episode number 29 of 35 and number 9 of 10 of looking at the context of ideas and adventure and then 6 of 7 of looking at animation doing a whole mini series of animation and now diving into a little bit more of these cool pieces that we're showing here at Venice Immersive. So we'll be diving in today with Perennials by Zoe Rowland. So this is a piece that is looking at this vacation home that is coming into disrepair and the grandfather passed away in the context of the story and this is based upon a story of Zoe's actual grandfather who's built a vacation home in northern Italy and coming into disrepair and a lot of parallels between her own personal life and exploring these aspects of the contextual domain of vacation, vacation homes and, you know, memories that are coming up within the context of that. And then also these different aspects of family dynamics. And so it's a piece that is the primary center of gravity is as emotional presence of the script that is exploring these relationship between this father and son, and then the son's relationship to his niece that are going there and exploring all these different aspects of memories and regrets and just family relationships and whether or not people are being accepted or not. And then a secondary presence of just the environmental presence of you being taken into the spatial context of each of these different places. And Zoe Rowland's quilt aesthetic, which if you've watched anything like Illustration or The Choice, you may be familiar with some of Zoe's work. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Zoe happened on Saturday, September 2nd, 2023 at Venice Immersive in Venice, Italy. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:09.998] Zoe Roellin: I'm Zoe Rowland. I'm a VR artist and animator and now also director. I work with Quill. I hand-draw and hand-animate 3D environments and VR movies. I come from a background of illustration. I was studying illustration in Switzerland, where I'm from, which is a pretty analog-focused school, actually. So it was a total coincidence that at a comic festival in Lucerne, where the school is based, there was a One Week We Are art workshop with Australian artist Sutu, Stuart Campbell. And I thought, yeah, sounds kind of interesting, you know, check it out. And I was immediately completely fascinated by it. He introduced us to Tilt Brush. And for one, just the possibility of drawing in VR in a 3D space was incredible. And then one step further, starting to think about what can you do with storytelling in 360 degrees, right? And I kept working with that through school. And then afterwards, One of my problems is that I really love storytelling across all media, so I was constantly kind of like, I want to work in VR. No, I want to make a graphic novel. You know, some of my friends are working on children's books. Maybe I should make a children's book. But I just kept being fascinated by VR and then also in Becoming part of the quill community and posting my works also started getting more and more Interests and got some really cool opportunities and I've been working in it for four years now Okay.

[00:03:46.356] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe could give a bit more context as to your journey over the last four years of like starting with so brush and getting interested in VR but Getting your first headset and just kind of your general journey into you know, starting to work with VR as a medium.

[00:03:59.381] Zoe Roellin: Yeah After the workshop, at first, I was lucky enough that our illustration department had purchased one Vive headset. And it was quite a process getting access to that. My head of studies was really working with me, but we were still getting me the key to the little room that I was kept in. It took a long time, but after that, I pretty much spent one summer break just going to the school every opportunity I could get and working on some Tilt Brush pieces. The gallery and museum in Lucerne was actually doing an exhibition all about 360 degrees because the museum was showcasing a really old, really huge panorama painting that's kind of in this round dome and shows a scene of a battle. So it's kind of like you know super super early 360 degrees work and they wanted to do an exhibition that highlights 360 degrees then and now what's being done. So I got asked to create a piece for that and I did that in In Tilt Brush, what was a little bit frustrating to me was that I don't come from a tech background, I don't have a lot of programming knowledge, and in Tilt Brush you can't really do animation, you can't control the viewer's point, like camera drives. So it's quite limited in that. So when I had finished studying and discovered Quill and saw the animation tools that were slowly developed for it, that really opened up a whole new kind of possibilities, right? It was really quite amazing because I felt like opportunities just kept coming my way. And I think I definitely owe that to VR being such a relatively young medium, right? And there being a lot of people just really interested and also a very limited number of VR artists in Switzerland. So shortly after I graduated, I got to create with Quill then, which was actually when I was teaching myself the tool, a seven-minute documentary called My Name is Ola, based on an interview with a refugee that came to Switzerland. And yeah, I created like these illustrated Quill scenes surrounding that. and learned a lot from then and from then on like little commissions and interest kept coming my way until finally we get to Perennials, which is where I got to pitch that to Meta.

[00:06:20.569] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I had a chance to see Joanna Popinska, and she had mentioned that you were one of the artists on The Choice, which I had a chance to see at South by Southwest and do an interview with her and Tom, who also was working on the piece. And so, yeah, so you've been working on other projects and other stuff that, you know, adding quill art into other immersive projects. Maybe you could talk about some of the other projects that you worked on before Perennials.

[00:06:43.995] Zoe Roellin: Totally. Yeah, The Choice, I worked on in 2020, I believe. And that was a really interesting project. Somewhat similar to My Name is Ola, it was once again based around an interview. Though this time you would have Kristen, who was telling her story about getting an abortion, like on screen. So quite a lot of thought went into the style because we had a volumetric capture of Kristen and that huge black space surrounding her, which Joanne and Tom wanted to play with. So they asked me to do quill illustrations for that. But it was a pretty delicate balance of, I really felt like the focus should stay on Kristen. So in the end I went for a very reduced style of just like colorful lines and scenes that leave quite a bit of empty space. When doing documentaries like that I want to make sure that my art never talks over the person that is being interviewed or the person that is telling their story. Also not by adding too much detail that might not be right because we didn't have all the footage that we would need to make things true to life. So I would rather leave them more abstract and leave more room for the story, the interview to fill that space. And around the time I finished The Joys, I also started working on Illustration, which I think you've also done an interview with. I was the lead artist on that. I did all the character models, almost all of the animation, and got to work with Lea Pairano, who's an amazing, cool artist who did the gorgeous backgrounds, and that was a really challenging project. both in development time and also what kind of was the main point or like one really interesting point was that there were several points to view a scene from which I thought was really interesting and you know also Tricky, because it was very easy for the viewer to miss something. But I really liked the approach there. But it also meant that those scenes that were happening had to be really, really big with a lot of characters at the same time. And there's pretty tough limitations in what you can do with Quill. And Quill artists have gotten very, very good at staying within those. But with illustrations, sometimes having four characters in a scene moving was a bit of an optimization nightmare. But we made it work.

[00:09:12.610] Kent Bye: Yeah, and being here at Venice Immersive 2023, I've had a chance to talk to both Studio Syro and Roxandro with their journeys into what Studio Syro folks were saying, like a niche within a niche within a niche. So there's VR and then there's animation in VR and then there's Quill animation within VR. And so maybe you could talk about your own journey into coming into the Quill community and how you started to get ramped up with how to use a tool and participate and the kind of burgeoning community of Quill artists.

[00:09:40.352] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, it's definitely a niche within a niche, right? But I've experienced it as something amazingly positive because people like Ryan, my producer, and also Goro, who executive produced Perennials, they're really putting in an effort to build that community. There's a Facebook group, there's a Discord server. For a while there were weekly live sessions where a quill artist would go into their work or do a tutorial about a technique they had developed. So there just has been this amazing sharing and growth among the community of quill artists. Yeah, I mean, I don't think perennials could be what it was without Studio Sairo paving the way with Soda Island. I mean, so much of what I do with cuts and camera drives, I kind of watch their pieces and saw what they're doing and thought, okay, how can I use that? And also, well, the thing is, there are very few quill artists that work professionally with it. But there's actually still quite a bit of interest or at the very least on some projects right now where we're desperately searching for people who are available to animate and everybody's kind of wrapped up in their own thing.

[00:10:55.632] Kent Bye: Yeah, so with META coming on and starting to produce some of these cool artists that have been working on a lot of these amazing projects, The Choice and Lustration, both were at South by Southwest, I had a chance to see. So yeah, maybe talk about that process of approaching META with a pitch and what was it that you pitched to them?

[00:11:11.852] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, well actually I didn't approach them. I had been posting a lot of cool stuff, both like the things I'd been working on, although that was before the pilot of Illustration or The Choice was released, so it was mostly just my personal works and some storytelling experiments. And I think they thought they were really interesting, so they approached me and asked me to pitch a project to them and laid out like all the, you know, like how it would work, how the collaboration would be, and it was just a complete dream, honestly. Because I think Gora and Ryan are also artists, or they used to work at DreamWorks, they know what it's like creating art. And they are kind of the ones shaping this whole endeavor by Meta to create Quill pieces. And they have done a really amazing job to make it really good for the artists. Like letting us set our own deadlines, giving us a lot of freedom to approach this in a way that works best for us. So when I pitched, I pitched two ideas. Just, yeah, like Ryan and Goro were like, yeah, you can pitch as many as you'd like, probably have two, just in case there's like any overlap. And I pitched perennials. And one auditor was kind of focused around a dollhouse view of a group of people living in an apartment complex and a lot of intersecting stories. which turned out was at very least visually very much like a project they were already producing. So it was pretty clear that that's probably not the one. But I mean from the start I kind of wanted it to be perennials anyway. I had a fairly clear idea of the story. It's based on some real-life events or at least a real-life place that had been in the back of my mind for a very very long time. So I'm really glad they chose or we chose that one.

[00:13:01.519] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe you could give a bit of an overview of what the story of Perennials is all about.

[00:13:06.120] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, totally. So, Perennials is about two characters, Elia and Amy, their uncle and niece, and they travel to this old, kind of abandoned vacation home that belongs to their family. It's shortly after Elia's father, who is the family patriarch, has died, and he builds the whole place. very much his piece of pride. And especially for Elias, in returning there, there's a lot of very complicated memories involved. There's the state of the place to deal with that kind of seems to be gradually worsening. And in the end, it's a story reflecting very much about what is passed on both within a family from generation to generation in terms of expectations and trauma and legacy but to me also on a bigger scale about what is passed on in the world like what if we're given a place in a world that often seems imperfect and how do we deal with that? What do we do with it?

[00:14:12.222] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so maybe you could give a bit more context for how you have a personal connection to this story.

[00:14:18.608] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, I mean, some of it is actually really straightforward and close. My grandparents own an old abandoned vacation home in northern Italy, actually, just across the Swiss border. My grandfather bought it when it was a little hut over Years and years and years he expanded it and built it and it was his pride and joy. And they wanted to retire there when they were old, you know, spend their days in the Italian sun. And then their health got worse and they couldn't go there anymore. And my grandfather couldn't really take care of it anymore. And as opposed to the story, they're still alive. But I think my grandfather was there for the last time like three or four years ago. And on one of those last visits, I went there with him, hoping I could like kind of help him take care of the place. And it was just this really intense experience. This was a place that I had spent all my childhoods in and had very vibrant memories and was still beautiful. But also when we went there, actually, someone had broken in and had kind of torn up the whole thing. And there was nothing to get right. It was nothing but like old stuff lying around. But also seeing my grandpa's broken-in windows and the general state of the house, when he was obviously still very proud of what he had built, was just really intense and helpless feeling. And it's like, what am I going to do with this house if it stays in the family? I can't take care of a house. Yeah, and the more I thought about it, the more I also saw bigger connections between, you know, general sense of anxiety about the world. I think that is pretty common in my generation and probably in every generation. Climate change later than with the pandemic and so on, and it all seemed to come together in that house. And also a little bit in that place, which is a little town in northern Italy, where if you go outside you can see that every second house basically has a Vin Desi for sale sign on it. And that's partially because, you know, the youth doesn't want to live in little towns, they want to move to the bigger cities. But also partially because there were a lot of Swiss middle-class people getting vacation homes there and then basically abandoning them or, you know, not being interested anymore, wanting to get rid of them because the economy has gotten worse. And it's just, to me, kind of turned into a ghost town, which I think is very sad. So it also comes back to the thing of family and generations. This is a thing that was very possible in my grandparents' generation, having a vacation home somewhere, and kind of isn't in mine. What do we do with that?

[00:17:16.554] Kent Bye: Yeah, so I could see the seeds of your own experience and then how some of those elements get translated into the piece of Perennials because there's aspects of memory and nostalgia and going back, but rather than it being, you know, an uncle and a niece with the uncle's father, the grandfather in this case, it's, you know, you're in some ways the niece and the grandfather. and in the story the grandfather had passed away and then right now your grandfather's still alive. So talk about taking the seed in the kernel of what you wanted to capture in Perennials and putting a whole layer of fictional characters to explore the other elements that you wanted to explore in this piece.

[00:17:52.110] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, I did initially think about making it more of an autobiographical approach, right? But I thought that creating fictional characters and a fictional story would allow me to, one, take a step back from things and maybe actually in a way be like more honest and more true that way, but also just really condense the themes that I wanted to be in there into a story that would be interesting to watch and would have a nice arc. So I did that and yeah in a way, you know, I think anyway as someone who creates stories a little piece of you is always in every character, but it's certainly true that like in some ways I'm Denise, in some ways I'm Elias and in some ways I'm even his father. Yeah, and the script writing process was quite a process because there was quite a lot that I wanted to get in. I mean, it's a fairly simple story, but there's a lot of nuance that I wanted to get in there and a lot of underlying, you know, symbolism and themes and so on. Initially, it was planned to be a 10-minute movie. It's a 17-minute one now, so that's a thing. But yeah, I'm really happy how everything... I feel like every line that's in the script serves its purpose and I wouldn't cut a single one. And then maybe to come back to the real-life influence, some things are very closely taken, right? For example, I really was down there with my grandpa in early spring and the heater broke and I was sleeping down on the couch next to the fire. But then other aspects, well, like Amy's, like the little niece's whole existence, for example, are totally new because I thought it would be really interesting adding a further generation with her. And also, what I do find really important to mention is, in the story, Elias's father is a very intimidating figure to him. And we deal a little bit with generational trauma, possibly some abuse that happened or at the very least an approach to authority and a very old-fashioned approach to discipline that makes him a very, very complicated figure. And I need to mention that my grandpa is wonderful. That's not at all rooted in real life.

[00:20:10.300] Kent Bye: But there also seemed to be this theme between the uncle Elias and the grandfather where the grandfather being a very working class carpenter and Elias wanting to be more in the arts and humanities and a writer. So maybe talk about that tension that's also playing out through almost like a search for approval or also like a disconnect between the father and the son.

[00:20:34.211] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, yeah, definitely. In Alias, there's constantly that tension between wanting to go his own path, but there's also that hope of kind of living up to his father's expectations, which he never felt. So what's also happening during the story is him kind of working through his memories of his father, which are complicated, as I said, are often negative. And at some point during a very pivotal point of the movie, or a very dramatic one, coming very close to stepping in his father, or taking the same approach to discipline that his father did, and ultimately rejecting it. But what I also wanted to... In a way, in that moment, he also gets some amount of understanding of his father, and some amount of connection. And then at the end, we actually see him remember his father, little bit of a clearer light it's the first time we actually see the man's face and seeing that you know there was love there and maybe there was also just a trouble communicating and the way of his father's difficulties with expressing emotions with the what we maybe talk of as toxic masculinity or something that's I feel it's quite present in the older generation and also the generation of my grandpa. He's wonderful, but I have never heard him talk about his feelings. That time of being there with him in the vacation home was the first time I ever heard him kind of start talking about his past a little bit. But he wouldn't tell you how he feels about it. I don't think he can. And that sometimes makes it difficult to relate and understand each other.

[00:22:20.270] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm, I'm very curious to hear about your process of your quote artists. And so you're making all of the visuals, but you're also like writing it. So what was that script writing process like to go back and forth or where did you begin? Did you begin with creating out the sketches of the scenes and, and film you create storyboards. And so do you create like a rough sketch of everything and, you know, unity folks often talk about gray boxing. So just getting up something very quick. And so, Yeah, I'd love to hear this dialectic between the art and being a cool artist and the screenwriting and the writing.

[00:22:55.961] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, I did not jump into VR before I had finished the script, but I started the whole process by brainstorming, basically. I had a sketchbook with just little thumbnail pencil sketches of possible locations, possible ways the memories could be integrated into the environment, possible transitions were really important to me, or, you know, camera cuts, compositions that I would find interesting. And from the beginning, I knew that this was going to be in VR. For some scenes, I had a pretty clear idea how they could play out. And I also kept thinking about that all throughout the script. And after that, then, I jumped into VR and did my rough storyboard in there. And actually, the whole process of creating perennials has been a lot of hard work, but also amazingly smooth. things always just seem to come together, you know, like I had imagined how those scenes would play out and then it obviously experiments some more, but often I was like, yeah, this really does work in VR and I had already been developing this style that was very, very loose and some nice balance between realism, but also more very atmospheric and stylized approach to environments. And I started creating the environments, and I was like, yes, this is actually working. I can refine this a little bit, but this is working. And in a way, it was really amazing getting to create almost everything you see visually start to finish. I had Phoenix Spatula, an Australian artist, create some of the VFX, like the fire you see burning in the fireplace is created by him, and some of the fishes you see swimming around. But other than that, it was all me and I also work on a lot of other projects where I'm working in a bigger team and with directors and so on. And especially if you're working with a director who hasn't worked in VR before, there is often that thing of like, Well, I'm not sure if we can do that in VR, actually. And sometimes you can't do that in VR, right? There's much more conversation to be had. Although sometimes that can also be really great if the director asks for something and you're like, well, I can try it out. And then you figure it out and it works. So both creating things mostly by myself, I find really amazing because it also feels very authentic and personal. But working in bigger teams, you also get so many different creative energies coming together and inspiration. And yeah, I love both.

[00:25:32.929] Kent Bye: Yeah, and the thing that was really striking to me was some of the scenes where you're moving through a forest and you're panning in one direction and as some trees cross in the foreground, then you're flipping timescales between like the past and the present. And so, yeah, I'd love to hear a little bit more about the forest and the tree and what you were trying to explore. And maybe from a technical perspective, if there were some shots that you wanted to explore the process of moving through a forest.

[00:26:01.279] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, I'll give the funnier answer first, which is that I really like drawing plants. So I thought it would be a great idea to have a lot of scenes set in a forest. And at the end, I never wanted to draw a tree again. I'm so done with trees. But I think that what I like to call the forest wipe sequence is something I had an idea for pretty early. Because in VR, it's always, I find cuts pretty tricky, like smooth cuts, because If you're looking at something and there's a cut to another scene or even another angle on that scene, and you're suddenly looking into nothingness, that can be really irritating and take you out of the experience for a moment. But this is actually something that I will give credit to Studio Syro for figuring out. If you do something like a wipe cut, in this case I'm using trees, that makes things feel a lot smoother and it works really well. In the forest I had a lot of very rapid glimpses of memories, so I thought it would be really fascinating to use those wipes to have those come in and out and lay themselves over the real life that's happening. And then also just the forest as a place I thought was really interesting because it's where some of the very emotional scenes of the movie is happening and it's a very imposing big place where you often see shots of the characters just alone framed by all that nature and kind of contained within that forest space, now far off from the house which they have to leave behind and really like going within themselves.

[00:27:45.358] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'd love to hear you elaborate a little bit on this, I guess, cool aesthetic that I've seen a lot, where it's very much like a 180 video rather than more of a 360. And I think some of the stuff with Studio Syro had some stuff where you would look around and you have a little bit more of a 360 view. But I think aesthetically, a lot of the cool pieces that I think at least that are here at this year's festival, both with Roxandra's Pepitos and with yours with Perennials, that's a little bit more of like almost like a 180. I don't know if you go beyond that sometimes and maybe go to like up to 200 or 270 is sort of like the max range that I would think. But yeah, love to hear some of your thoughts on this aesthetic of 180 video. And I guess the follow on part of that is what makes it more interesting to do that type of 180 volumetric within VR versus just a cinematic 2D film that would be flat.

[00:28:38.726] Zoe Roellin: Yeah, big question. Lots of angles there. It was definitely on purpose, right? That it's mostly 180. Sometimes backgrounds actually do fade out around you and there's nothing behind you. Sometimes there is a background behind you but it's very low on information. And it is a way of guiding attention, right? Because I think a lot of quill experiences are very storytelling focused, also because a lot of quill experiences that are only created in quill will not include interaction. And that was a decision I made very early in the process, that I really wanted it to be storytelling first, and I really wanted to make sure that nothing important is missed, that the viewer is very routed in what's going on before them, but also I do keep kind of a tight grip on what's happening there. And I think it's completely a from story to story thing what works because I love interactive or you know also more 360 degree experiences but I think it very easily has then kind of a playful character which I felt wouldn't be right for perennials or it's more a thing of discovery which I feel works most if you let the viewer move at their own pace through a story, which I could have done. There's options in Quill to put stops where you can advance, but I didn't want that. I wanted the narrative pacing and flow very much inspired by a traditional movie. And also, I love for when there is interaction and more freedom to explore, I really want that to feed into the story on a very fundamental level. Because I feel like there's been some experiences, particularly older ones, where it just kind of feels like interaction is in there to keep you busy, you know, like give the viewer something to do. But I find it much more fascinating for an Just yesterday at a panel I was at, a Swiss creator was talking about an experience he's working on called Rave, which is set at a rave, and the story only advances when you're dancing yourself. And you know, something like that, right? Where the character of the mode of interaction really feeds into the experience itself, is what I think is great. But I don't think Perennials was the story for that, and Perennials was the story I wanted to tell. So I certainly didn't use all the possibilities of VR, but I also don't think you need to. I think it's important to kind of pick what works for your story. And what I really wanted to use is that feeling of, you've heard that word all the time, but immersion, right? It's a story centered all around a place. that is the catalyst for a lot of emotions, so I wanted to put the viewer actually in that place. And having it be VR and having it be 6DOF, I think, really grounds you in there.

[00:31:41.722] Kent Bye: Has anyone in the Quill community experimented with translating, with making something in Quill and exporting it to 2D video? I guess in the Studio Sairo discussion, they were creating some music videos at the very beginning. But is that something that you have tried or experimented with, you know, trying to do some sort of capture or export for a piece like this into 2D? And if you thought it would work at all in 2D export?

[00:32:06.988] Zoe Roellin: No. I don't know if someone's done an entire movie in Quill specifically for 2D, right? But it's certainly possible. I mean, Perennials has a trailer and some other behind-the-scenes footage. And in the end, Quill is just an animation tool that is actually kind of amazingly intuitive and sometimes quick to use. So I could totally also see it being used as a 2D animation tool. However, could I film Perennials in VR and make it intuitive? 2D movie, absolutely, but I don't want to. Because, you know, if I had made it into a 2D animation movie, I would have created it differently. I would have picked different shots, you know. I'm such a fan of different media and the way you can tell stories of them. And each of them is super special. So I feel like a translation between them just because you want it also in 2D would be kind of a shame.

[00:33:02.648] Kent Bye: Yeah, so you've had a chance to work on a lot of other projects and now that you had a chance to make your own project, I'm curious if there was other technical things that you wanted to explore. We talked a little bit about the story and being able to tell your own story, but in terms of like some sort of technical innovation or experiment or something that was more driven by use of the tool to create some sort of storytelling method.

[00:33:26.006] Zoe Roellin: I think for me it was more about really refining the things that I had learned and also the things that I had seen around in Quill pieces and other pieces because I feel you can definitely also see some pieces where there is a lot of experimentation being done and that's really important, right? And really amazing to experience but sometimes the story kind of suffers for it and sometimes it does work and those are the pieces that really stick out to you, right? For Perennials, it was more about really focusing on the story, really refining the ways I place the viewer, the way cuts work, the way transitions work, and making it into a really, hopefully smooth, impactful story to experience.

[00:34:14.883] Kent Bye: Great, so what's next with Perennials?

[00:34:18.599] Zoe Roellin: Perennials is, nothing I can announce yet, but hopefully going to be shown at quite a few other festivals. Not sure for how long the festival run will last, but eventually it is going to be headed to the VR animation player on the Quest, where people can watch it, which I'm really happy about because, you know, it's going to be watchable for free, which means everybody who has an headset can see it. And that's always a bit of a question with VR things, right? Like how many people are going to see it?

[00:34:48.752] Kent Bye: You have been in touch with the folks at Wellstration, and they say that they're working on the next editions. Is this a project that you're coming back to and working on the future versions of it?

[00:34:58.556] Zoe Roellin: I have no updates for you on that. I know that they're working on it, but nothing I can say.

[00:35:04.379] Kent Bye: Great. And so what's next for you? Where do you want to go in the future?

[00:35:09.571] Zoe Roellin: I'm still working as a cool artist. Right now I'm working as an art director on a really cool project that sadly I also can't talk about and that'll keep me busy till the end of the year. Eventually I would really like to create another original project. you know, in the spirit of perennials, but I am definitely thinking about whether this time I do want to do interaction, because I actually, this I haven't mentioned, but I very much grew up with video games, which might also have been one of the reasons why the transition to VR felt so smooth. And I really like interactive stories. So yeah, there's those thoughts and there's of course also the thought of financing. Where right now in Switzerland there's some really cool developments in that so far for film funds VR has mostly been thrown in. Somewhere between films and video games, sometimes nowhere, sometimes it's kind of on the edges. But I have been hearing that there's actually something in the works, which should happen by 2025, that there will be specific support for VR and XR projects. Yeah, I really, really want to create another original project. I feel like I have other stories to tell, one in specific. Yeah.

[00:36:28.343] Kent Bye: Awesome. And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality, immersive storytelling, and animation might be and what it might be able to enable?

[00:36:38.539] Zoe Roellin: Right, the question. I don't think I have one super clear answer for you, but as it's been very obvious, I love VR as a storytelling tool and my hope for it is there that there's less one ultimate destination for it and more that it continues to grow and is at a place where, you know, it has room for the whole breadth of stories, be it interactive, be it non-interactive, be it 180, 360. Because as I said, I feel there's the combination of things that is right for every type of story. And it can do such beautiful things with empathy, with immersion, with taking you to a place and making you feel like you're there. And yeah, I hope the space for that continues to exist and continues to grow.

[00:37:34.905] Kent Bye: Great. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:37:41.827] Zoe Roellin: It's just, it's really amazing being here at Venice. You know, it's really such a meeting point. Everybody has been incredible. I've met some quill artists who I have been like loosely in contact with for two to three years and I'm meeting them now in person. And I think keep supporting each other, keep working at it.

[00:38:02.273] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, it's been a real pleasure to meet a lot of the different Quill artists in the community and to look at each of the projects and to look at your project and also, yeah, just to hear a little bit more about the backstory and connection to your own story and, yeah, the explorations that you're using of how to use this animation style of Quill to tell these types of stories. And, yeah, there hasn't been a lot of character-driven stories within animation. I guess illustration is one, but, yeah, really dialogue-focused, character-driven stories in that way. So, yeah, I think this is a really great example of that. Yeah, thanks for joining me to help break down not only your process, but also your journey into VR. So thank you.

[00:38:38.111] Zoe Roellin: Thank you, Ken.

[00:38:39.706] Kent Bye: Thanks for listening to this interview from Fitness Immersive 2023. You can go check out the Critics Roundtable in episode 1305 to get more breakdown in each of these different experiences. And I hope to be posting more information on my Patreon at some point. There's a lot to digest here. I'm going to be giving some presentations here over the next couple of months and tune into my Patreon at patreon.com slash voices of VR, since there's certainly a lot of digest about the structures and patterns of immersive storytelling, some of the different emerging grammar that we're starting to develop, as well as the underlying patterns of experiential design. So, that's all I have for today, and thanks for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And again, if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listen-supported podcast, and so 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.

More from this show