Interview: Joe Hunting talks about the HBO we met in VR and misconceptions about online spaces

We met in virtual reality It takes its subject matter to the next level. The 91-minute documentary explores how relationships and communities have shaped in the virtual world during the COVID-19 lockdown. In this film, shot entirely within the realm of virtual reality, director Joe Hunting takes viewers into these spaces.

“I hope people will stay away from her We met in virtual realityFirst, to feel enlightened about a new reality they’ve probably never heard of, and technology that can be really fun and engaging, while also connecting with very emotional stories,” says Hunting as he reflects on the film’s message. them and to be dear to them.”

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As the story continues to run, viewers are introduced to a variety of avatars – and their experiences with love, loss, and mental health – and computer-generated worlds. The documentary had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival before its release on HBO Max. In our interview with Hunting, we talked about his film festival experience, and the inspiration behind it We met in virtual realitymisconceptions about virtual reality, the resistance he received for wanting to shoot in an online space, and more.

Ranting game: We met in virtual reality It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival prior to its release on HBO Max. Talk to me about your film festival circuit.

Joe Hunting: We showed in Sundance, then in Copenhagen, Baltimore, and at the Calgary Film Festival. We recently went to the Sydney Film Festival. It was an absolute dream come true. I never thought we’d get such a great movie tour. The most special part was being able to party with all the people in the movie.

GR: How did the production process start? What inspired you to make this movie?

the hunt: My inspiration really goes back to 2018 when I first entered VRChat, the platform where the documentary was filmed. I got into VRChat by reading articles on how the platform helps people socialize. I was studying films and documentaries at the time and was a gamer, and I had a lot of online communities, so these stories spoke to me on a personal level. I immediately jumped in and started talking to people about their experiences and led down a path of curiosity. I wanted to share this story with the world and talk about virtual reality from a human point of view.

The moment of inspiration in the feature film production was Pandemic. It made me drop everything and want to share a longer story about technology and its value. We’ve all experienced isolation during that time, so I knew the audience would empathize with virtual reality and what the people are shaped there.

GR: This is incredible. I am intrigued by how our relationship with the internet has changed. I thought days ago, “When did it become normal to have online friends?”

the hunt: this is exactly right. Social media and virtual reality are constantly growing and forming new ways of communicating.

GR: What is the biggest misconception about virtual reality?

the hunt: There is a lot. The misconception I often encounter is that you will never leave virtual reality and that people who are involved in technology have no real jobs, friends or relationships. But in fact, balance is the key. There’s also a lot of confusion about how you’d move in VR, if you’re walking in your own space, and people think they need a really big room to go in VR in order to move around.

But in reality, we all use analog sticks on our controllers to move like a video game. There are a lot of technical things that people miss. I really hope that the documentary will help people understand what this world is and how it works as well.

GR: I was impressed that the documentary was shot entirely in virtual reality. What are some of the creative liberties the decision gave you?

the hunt: One of my biggest liberties is that I’m probably one of the only documentary filmmakers who have been able to make their film entirely in their pajamas, which I really enjoy saying, but speaking more seriously, I was able to locate Scouts and travel between thousands of different locations in a heartbeat. I can connect with people and stories from all over the world. I didn’t have to travel to the US, Canada or London to tell these stories and meet these people. We can jump into a virtual world and have a conversation in minutes.

GR: I’m not sure how your production team will be structured or the financial situation, but have you had any opposition to your idea of ​​filming this entirely in virtual reality?

the hunt: In terms of production and pre-production, the documentary was entirely self-financed. I worked while I was shooting and then ran a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to support the final push to get the film into festivals. When the movie was completed, I was fortunate enough to acquire Cinetic Media, Film Division, and XDR, which are all great movie production companies and sales agencies. And now, I feel really lucky to be working with HBO. But in terms of production, that was a solo adventure and done out of passion.

GR: Were there any moments where you held yourself back?

the hunt: Good question. I definitely received opposition, but not for her We met in virtual reality Because I was in a position where I was able to stick to it wholeheartedly. I had just graduated and this was my first movie outside of film school. I let myself go through it, and gave myself a blessing in wanting to follow through.

But I had opposition in my first short film shot entirely in VR. I was really passionate about experiencing this new reality, so I spoke to my film teacher, and I said, “I want to show this movie. It’s about virtual reality. It’s about new technology. It’s about the people inside. And we’re going to shoot it all in that space with virtual cameras” . He rejected the idea completely. He said, “I don’t understand how this is a viable option. I don’t understand the value you see in that, and if I had already started filming, we could not accept the offer.” I ended up making this movie on my own, and I loved it and kept going.

GR: I’ve always thought of online spaces as something that started out as a center for outcasts. Can you talk about how you represent marginalized communities within virtual reality in the documentary?

the hunt: The Internet was pioneered by marginalized communities, people who were fleeing the real world to celebrate themselves and others who were not celebrated in the real world. It’s a similar situation when we come to virtual reality. It’s important to me, when talking about virtual reality and getting my first virtual reality documentary, that these people talk about it, that I let them tell their own story and talk from space rather than from an outside perspective. This has always been important to me. I hope people will see it and this documentary will go down in history forever, and we will always remember the societies that pioneered this field.

We met in virtual reality They are currently streaming on HBO Max.

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