deadCenter Film Festival explores virtual reality 

click to enlarge Little-Potato-Still-01_Ben-Jakupcak-_Photo-Credit_NathanMMiller1.jpg

While the film festival gets most of the glory, deadCenter is also dedicated to encouraging and educating filmmakers. During this year’s event, a new form of the craft will see the spotlight with the Virtual Reality Experience shorts program and panel discussion.

Moving beyond 2-D and 3-D movies, virtual reality is an immersive experience that puts the viewer in the midst of the action, said director of programming and education Kim Haywood.

“This continues our theme of expanding how people think about the medium of film,” she said. “We’ve added a 360-degree component to our festival.”

Starting at 11 a.m. Friday-Sunday, visitors at 21c Museum Hotel, 900 W. Main St., can view eight virtual reality films in a come-and-go exhibit for free.

The films range from three to eight minutes long and cover a variety of subjects, from documentaries to fantasy.

Short Syzygy takes the viewer inside rehearsals and the performance of Paul Taylor Dance Company’s 30-year-old work of the same name. Voice-over narration by the original cast provides insight into the choreography while the viewer receives up-close access to the dancing.

Festivalgoers experience two versions of the same film with 2-D short Little Potato — part of the Love, Sex & Death Shorts program showing 7 p.m. Friday and 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Harkins Theatres Bricktown 16, 150 E. Reno Ave. — and virtual reality short Potato Dreams. Both films are autobiographical documentaries about Little Potato, a homosexual who grows up in the Soviet Union, and his journey to the United States with his mother, a mail-order bride.

The first-person viewpoint is used to illustrate the fantastic with films The Giant and Haunt. In The Giant, the viewer experiences the endless growth of a girl getting larger and larger and watching as the universe dissolves around her.

Haunt puts audiences in the role of a ghost floating through the life she used to be part of and invisible to those around her unless they look straight at her/the audience.

Former film critic and founder of WonderTek Labs Kim Voynar, an Oklahoma City native, spent months curating the films with Haywood. Haywood said the festival presents a unique opportunity to show the potential of the medium.

“When you think of it, most people are using virtual reality as a gimmick,” Haywood said, “so we want to highlight how filmmakers are using it to create a narrative.”

Four female virtual reality filmmakers will take part in 360/VR: The Evolution of Immersive Storytelling, a panel discussion 1 p.m. Sunday at 21c, moderated by Voynar.

“The filmmakers doing the panel will talk more about why they’re making films this way and also to share with Oklahoma filmmakers how to use the technology to tell their stories,” Haywood said.

Film was once a medium in which audiences could get lost, but with people holding screens in their pockets, it has become less intense.

“We’ve gotten away from that group immersive experience,” Haywood said. “Virtual reality is a way to get people back to that, into a story.”

Learn more about deadCenter Film Festival in this week’s Gazette.

Print headline: Virtual vision, Virtual reality films put deadCenter audiences in the midst of the action.

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