ILMxLab has been doing a lot of interesting experimental work. The company hopes to develop the future of storytelling experiences using new technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. At the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, the geniuses behind the new Industrial Light & Magic company told me that Lucasfilm Story Group had mapped out the next half dozen years of Star Wars stories and beyond, and they are already developing experiences — some which will be available in VR, others in other platforms — which will be created by big-name filmmakers and top screenwriters and intersect with the stories we will see on screen.
At Star Wars Celebration Europe 2017, ILMxLab announced their first big project, a Darth Vader VR project that will be created by David Goyer, screenwriter of The Dark Knight and Man of Steel and director of films like Blade: Trinity and The Unborn. We reported on this briefly over the weekend when it was announced, but now we bring you more information and some quotes from Goyer himself, who claims that his virtual reality Star Wars story will make you cry.
What ILMxLab is trying to do is not create virtual reality video games — I think this is a big misconception among media and fans alike. The company seems to be primarily interested in the technology as a storytelling device. I got to experience Trial on Tatooine at Celebration and it might be the best VR experience I’ve tried yet, and that’s because it does some pretty interesting things with experiential storytelling. In fact, the lightsaber/stormtrooper sequence at the end was the least interesting thing in the demo as it felt more like a typical video game experience.
During the ILMxLab presentation at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016, Pablo Hidalgo revealed that the new ILMxLab experience would “move beyond the experiment.”
"What we’re working on right now, is a way to get in your hands an original Star Wars story that can only be told through Virtual Reality. And it will be exclusive and cinematic in that realm."
Of course, Hidalgo is talking about producer/writer/director David Goyer who is working on a standalone Darth Vader story. And when Goyer talks about his Darth Vader VR project, he talks about how you aren’t playing it.
"I’ve worked in games, in first person shooters, and [with this] no, you’re not a player. This is not a game. This thing we’re working on, you’re not a player."
Goyer likes to describe the consumer of this content as a “visitor.”
"You are the visitor in this story, happening in and around you, which to a certain extent, you may have some affect on."
He admits that you will be able to interact with things, but he seems much more interested in using the technology as a way to experience a story rather than a game with story elements.
"We’re doing these builds, these proof of concepts. And the difference between cinema, television and VR especially at the fidelity that this team is doing it, is you really feel like you’re there. The sense of presence, and its not just a buzz-word, when you guys get to experience it you will feel like you’re there."
And it sounds like his Darth Vader: A Star Wars VR Story (not the official title, but Disney please feel free to steal it from me) might get emotional:
"It’s surprisingly very emotional. It can make you sad. It can make you lean in and feel for a character in a way you haven’t before. In a way you really can’t do in any other medium, in books, in film… And it can scare you, trust me, in a way you’ve never been scared before. It’s experiential storytelling and there’s the plot but its surprising how much you feel and how emotional it is. Even as we’re experimenting with it, there is stuff that makes you tear up and cry, and its really phenomenal."
Continue to the next page to watch a teaser trailer for David Goyer’s Darth Vader VR project and learn more about what this VR experience will explore story-wise.
David Goyer’s Darth Vader VR Project Teaser Trailer
Goyer says he has been approached for a lot of VR projects over the last couple years but was reluctant to become involved even though he was impressed with the technology. He found out about ILMxLab when he was having informal conversations at Lucasfilm with Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm head of story and Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, which we can only assume was for an unannounced film or television project. His interest resulted in a phone call in December asking if he wanted to try “this crazy groundbreaking thing” and of course he said yes.
"My family is like ‘What are you working on?!?’ It’s so new but one of the things thats exciting about it from our perspective is, I think even a year from now you guys are going to have much more of a context of… what’s neat about what we’re working on is we don’t even have a name for the genre of storytelling that we’ve been working on for a while now. But if you’ve experienced the Trails on Tatooine as I did, I was really blown away by that, but based on what we’ve been working on for the last half year of so, that’s like here and what we’re working on is up here. And I’m just losing it as I’m working on it. I’m really excited for a year, or two, whenever it happens, and you guys get to experience what we’re working on. It’s pretty mind-blowing.”
And Goyer admits that creating content for this new medium is very different.
"Even writing it, we had to come up with what the format is, because it’s not really a script. Like how do you even write this? It’s like a spreadsheet. We spent a couple weeks figuring out how to do that."
This experience is being created alongside the Lucasfilm Story Group which means that it will be a part of the new Disney Star Wars canon.
"This exists within the Star Wars universe. It involves characters that you know, or some that may have been talked about but you’ve never seen before. It will be adding to the existing canon."
I wonder who he could be talking about when he says characters that may have been talked about but we’ve never seen before. As for how they came to a story focusing on Darth Vader, Goyer revealed the origins of the idea:
"First it was very blue sky and this idea originated from something that John[Gaeta] and Kiri were talking about a couple of years ago. We talked about, we have this incredible new storytelling platform that allows you to feel in a way that you’ve never felt before and possibly feel for someone in a way you’ve never felt for them before, and allows you to feel like you’re in a real place. So we thought, we have the entire Star Wars universe at our disposal, what planet do we want to be on, what location, what character is so iconic that we need to know more about. And we want to experience these things in a way that can’t be experienced in a film or a novel, but can be experienced in VR."
As for what else ILMxLab might be working on, Mark Miller says they’ve already “begun work with some of the best writing talent from the film and game world” alongside the Lucasfilm Story Group in San Francisco.
Banner Photo Credit: Lucasfilm