VR a Challenge Well Worth Exploring, Says Liman

Film director Doug Liman offered his take on virtual reality programming at a Tribeca Virtual Arcade panel in Manhattan Nov. 3, describing VR as an almost limitless opportunity. He stressed that a VR project making the most of the evolving medium has to be created with virtual reality in mind; conversely, taking a two-dimensional approach to creating VR will likely fall flat.

“You have to write for VR,” he said. “It’s a robust, 360-degree experience. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Liman’s films include Swingers and The Bourne Identity. He showcased his virtual reality series Invisible, which counts Condé Nast Entertainment as a partner, at the event held at Westfield World Trade Center. The Tribeca Film Festival’s programming team curated the VR offerings, which also included the OneRepublic video Kids, created by Hal Kirkland; the aliens-attack story Invasion!, from Baobab Studios; and KÀ The Battle Within, a martial arts showcase from Cirque du Soleil.

Joining Liman at the event were Julina Tatlock, an exec producer on Invisible; Kirkland; and Kane Lee, head of content at Baobab Studios and exec producer on Invasion!. Lee pointed out the “made for each other” nature of animation and virtual reality, and stressed that a story-first approach will help bring VR to the mainstream that much sooner. “It comes down to, do you care about these characters,” he said. “Do you want to know what happens to them?”

Producers and programmers are wrestling with how to make the most of VR for when it does tip over to the mainstream. As the Manhattan event was going on, the NFL and Google announced a nine-part VR project from NFL Films that gives viewers a 360-degree perspective of the game and life around the game. The first episode will be available on YouTube’s NFL channel on Thanksgiving.

Those in attendance at Westfield included Dawn Ostroff, president of Conde Nast Entertainment.

Liman said working in VR was an adjustment, as its 360-degree nature means a vastly larger canvas to fill. “It’s a team sport unlike anything I’ve ever dealt with,” he said. “It has to be great in every direction.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.