Cannes XR is a part of the Cannes Marché du Film, which is the business side of the Cannes Film Festival. For the past two years, they’ve collaborated with Kaleidoscope VR to curate a development showcase featuring the creators of immersive stories who are in the early phases of fundraising for their projects. They had already selected over 20 projects in February for their 2020 edition, but they needed to look to alternatives to a co-located event when the global pandemic was announced in March. They had just two short months to convert their gathering to an online, virtual event, and they ended up collaborating with Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Arcade, VeeR, and Positron in putting on a virtual exhibition of over 50 different projects within the Museum of Other Realities.
I had a chance to see all of the experiences, which I talked about in a previous episode with VR critic Pola Weiß, but I also wanted to touch base with Elie Levasseur, XR Program Lead for Cannes XR, to get more context on the event and process of pivoting online. Cannes XR considers itself to be more of a funding accelerator and incubator than market or exhibition of completed works, but these circumstances catalyzed them to collaborate with Tribeca Film Festival, VeeR, and Positron on putting on a more robust exhibition of completed immersive narrative projects ranging from 6 degree-of-freedom experiences that would have normally premiered at Tribeca, to VeeR’s curation of 360 videos from the festival circuit over the past couple of years, to experiences that could work within Positron’s rotating chair, which would normally be a part of a location-based entertainment installation.
This collaboration that Cannes XR catalyzed resulted in what I see as the closest online, virtual exhibition that I’ve seen that matches the caliber of work that you would normally see when attending a major film festival, and it was all available for free through the Museum of Other Realities.
In talking with Levasseur, I got a lot more context as to just how unique this collaboration has been, and it was a short, two months of development time in order to pull together so many different things. He talks about the evolution of Cannes XR in the past three years as something that came out of VR projects appearing in previous years in the Cannes Next portion of the Marché du Film, but it eventually merited the creation of it’s own event. Levasseur explains that a main difference between Cannes XR and other festivals like Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest, and Venice is that they’re focused on the early stages of funding where these other festivals are exhibiting completed projects.
Cannes XR is also collaborating with René Pinnell’s Kaleidoscope VR again as he’s been cultivating a robust community of immersive artists and storytellers. As the exclusive event coordinator for the Museum of Other Realities, Kaleidoscope took charge of collaborating with the MOR, gathering the project builds, and organizing the pitch sessions on Zoom. Cannes XR has been cultivating relationships with funders and distributors, and helped to set up over 200 one-on-one meetings for the group of 20+ projects in development.
Pinnell started Kaleidoscope after his own experiences of going through the the labyrinthian process of fundaising for immersive narratives, and decided to build a social network to reduce the friction and make this process more accessible to more artists and creators. Cannes XR collaborated with Kaleidoscope on the open call for projects, and a lot of the infrastructure that Pinnell has been building happens to be perfectly suited to virtualizing this process that normally has happened face-to-face at a series of International Film Festivals from around the world. If you’re an immersive artist or storyteller, then be sure to check out what else Kaleidoscope has been doing with their monthly, community-funded grants.
This whole Cannes XR event was a bit of a miracle that they were able to pull it off on such short notice. As a result, there were a number of rough edges and bugs within the Museum of Other Realities that I’m sure will be sorted out in future iterations, but the whole event was a pretty remarkable collaboration between the MOR, Cannes XR, Kaleidoscope, Tribeca, VeeR, and Positron. It’s shows that it is possible to replicate aspects of an immersive exhibition virtually, and moving forward I hope that the other immersive festival exhibitions continue to experiment with remote and virtual distribution, and dedicate themselves to doing hybrid events with a physical and co-located exhibition as well as an online and virtual exhibition. Both the Virtual Hamberg (VRHAM) and Cannes XR festivals showed that it’s not only possible, but in some ways more streamlined and a better overall experience avoiding lots of lines and hassles of travel.
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