3. Spotlight: Women in VR - Janicza Bravo
By Alice Bonasio
Activist and VR filmmaker Janicza Bravo was initially skeptical about VR, but became a convert when she realized the impactful multi-sensory potential of the medium, which she brilliantly demonstrated in her debut immersive piece ”Hard World for Small Things.” The challenging yet humorous piece draws attention to the problem of police brutality, using Virtual Reality to bring the viewer into a closer, more intimate contact with these often-dismissed and dehumanized "minorities."
The live-action fiction piece (she says that watching Chris Milk's talk on VR as an empathy machine was a big influence at the time) about police violence which was featured in the 2016 Virtual Arcade at the Tribeca Film Festival and built upon her impressive previous film and theater work. Born in New York, where she studied theater at university, raised in Panama, and now residing in Los Angeles, Bravo has been making innovative and engaging independent cinema since 2011, and her short "Gregory Go Boom" won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and she was subsequently named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Cinema.
Interestingly, she said in a 2016 interview that her background in theatre proved really useful when she started working in VR. “I started to feel like directing theater with a camera, like theater in the round. You start to get the feeling that you're the actor on the stage. You feel like one of the performers in the piece. I directed it that way. When you call action, it feels like the opening night of a play every time. The director cannot stay on the stage. On a traditional film set, there’s a camera and monitors and the director hangs out in one corner of the room while the performance happens. With VR and the way its cameras work, you call action and then you’re hiding in a hole somewhere and the actors have full control of the world,” she explained.
Every Tuesday we'll shine a spotlight on the female trailblazers making their mark in immersive tech and their work. If you have a story you think we should feature, just hit reply to this email or tweet me @alicebonasio.