Alex Ruhl and Chloe Thomas at Raindance VRX | Blend Media

The Raindance VR Experiences Summit was full of fascinating talks and panels including a panel hosted by Blend Media’s co-founder and CEO, Damian Collier, on the ‘Exploration of Narrative and Storytelling in 360°’.

Two of the panelists, Alex Ruhl and Chloe Thomas, spoke vibrantly about various issues brought up during the panel including the transition between making ‘traditional’ films – or as they’re commonly called in the VR community, ‘flatties’ – and 360˚ films, and the comparison between the disciplines of 360˚ video filmmaking and theatre.

Much like the Raindance Festival itself, the sense that can be drawn from these two figures, both filmmakers in their own right; is a passion for bringing brilliant, immersive experiences to the people.

Chloe Thomas began her career in documentaries, before going on to directing comedy and drama. She is best known for directing the first season of the Horrible HistoriesHorrible Histories, a comedic historical television show for children; for which she was nominated for a BAFTA award.

Alex Ruhl, however, started out as a TV producer, later becoming an all-round VR filmmaker and founder of production company CATS are not PEAS. The most notable aspect of Ruhl’s career in the VR/360 space is her work using VR experiences in order to better the quality of life for those with a terminal illness; an endeavour that has gained her international press. The two then decided to collaborate on a 360 narrative project.

“I’m sitting under a tiny tripod, you [the actors] are dictating the whole speed of it!”

During the panel, and in our interview afterwards, Chloe and Alex focused predominantly on Keyed AlikeKeyed Alike; a VR film produced by CATS are not PEAS. The film was directed by Chloe and written by Alex. The film stars Gemma Whelan, who was cast as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, and Natacha Karam, who starred in NBC’s The Brave. It was the first VR film that Chloe directed and was Alex’s first 360˚ narrative piece.

They spoke at length about the challenges that can arise when shooting a VR film in terms of production, directing and acting. Chloe specifically highlighted the power actors possess in the 360˚ filmmaking medium. “I’m sitting under a tiny tripod, you [the actors] are dictating the whole speed of it!” She recalled. When interviewed later, Alex discussed the importance of chemistry between actors when shooting a VR film, as there is no way to manipulate using the techniques frequently adopted in filmmaking.

Overall, the excitement coming from this creative duo is palpable. They are not mere evangelists preaching to the choir, but filmmakers going out and shooting narrative VR experiences for everyone to enjoy.

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