South Africa's first virtual film almost a reality

15 June 2017

Technology & Convergence

The unlikely duo of a former production assistant for Velocity Films and a Finnish marketing director had both become disenchanted with the direction film was headed. Then‚ because of chance encounters‚ they became infatuated with the new medium of virtual reality (VR).

“You can be at the most exciting movie‚ but there are still certain parts where it gets boring: ‘Hmm‚ I’ve seen this before.’ But VR is completely new. The feeling and emotion you get from these films gives you chills. It’s both thrilling and exciting‚” co-producer Simon Sutton said.

Sutton and co-producer Olli Thtinen then came up with the idea to write‚ fund and shoot South Africa’s first virtual reality motion picture‚ entitled “14 Minutes.”

“VR is becoming huge internationally. There is a whole new wave of media coming from it. We want to inspire that new wave in South Africa. This exciting venture in filmmaking breaks all the rules that the industry has. It implements a new set of rules‚” Sutton said.

The film‚ which coincidentally will last 14 minutes‚ follows the lives of a detective and mental specialist tasked with stopping a terrorist attack.

The duo has 14 minutes to infiltrate the mind of the terrorist‚ find the bomb and stop the attack.

Viewers will play along as a third character known as COBS.

“COBS‚ short for computer operated brain scanner‚ is a robot that will be the point of view for the viewer. You will actually be able to look down and see his body. You know you will be a part of the film‚ in fact you’re part of the team‚” Sutton said.

Viewers will take on active roles‚ eventually helping characters make choices such as which door to open or which path to take.

“In traditional film the viewer is an observer. You feel sympathy for the character and you project yourself into the film‚ but you aren’t really there. With VR you are an active part of that world. It’s totally immersive‚” Thtinen said.

Currently in pre-production‚ the two producers are finalising their cast as well as locking down locations in Cape Town to shoot. Scene locations include Rondebosch‚ Koeel Bay and Claremont.

“We are in the Mother City. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we want to showcase that. It’s the perfect fusion of Africa and the rest of the world. People come from all over the world to shoot here‚” Sutton said.

The film will release in early November. In the meantime Thtinen and Sutton will host VR workshops for both aspiring filmmakers and actors to increase excitement around the new technology.

They also plan to open their new VR production company: Bioscope.

While VR filmmaking is considered revolutionary at the moment‚ Sutton and Thtinen hope it will become a standard part of the cinematic experience.

“I’d really like to see people in South Africa get excited about VR. I think it is really picking up and will be huge in the next five years. Imagine just going to a theatre and everyone puts on their individual headset to watch a film. That is the dream‚” Sutton Said.

Source: Sunday World

Watch Ingrid Kopp talk about African VR film projects that Electric South has funded: