National Theatre branches into immersive storytelling with studio launch

Melanie May | 20 June 2016 | News

National Theatre is launching an ‘Immersive Storytelling Studio’ that will commission new work specifically to be experienced through virtual reality or 360 technologies.
The studio will examine how virtual reality and 360 films can widen and enhance the National’s remit to be a pioneer of dramatic storytelling.
The first project to be produced by the Immersive Storytelling Studio is HOME | AAMIR, an immersive 360 verbatim documentary. The film follows Aamir, a 24 year-old man escaping the threat of murder in Sudan. Aamir’s father sold the last valuable item the family had to pay traffickers to take his son away from certain death. This begins a journey across Sudan, Libya, the Mediterranean, Italy and France. The film is the first in a series of 360 films exploring the meaning of home through the stories of refugees who have been living in the Calais Jungle, and is a collaboration between the NT, Surround Vision and Room One.
Mahdi Yahya, managing director of Room One said:

“Some stories are so extraordinary that even the most imaginative of us struggle to believe them. This immersive new technology puts an end to that struggle and lets us share in the grief, strength and hope of those at the sharper end of human existence.”

HOME | AAMIR premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest, in an immersive installation as part of Alternate Realities: Virtual Reality Arcade, a programme curated by Mark Atkin, at Site Gallery and The Space that took place from 10th-15th June.
Immersive storytelling and virtual reality are being increasingly adopted by charities to engage people in a cause. This month, virtual reality company Oculus announced two projects as part of its VR for Good programme, one of which will give 10 charities or nonprofits the opportunity to tell their stories through VR. In April, Islamic Relief recreated the war-torn streets of Aleppo in a London warehouse in an event aimed at raising awareness and funds for those affected, while back in February UNESCO targeted funders with an immersive digital storytelling experience that highlighted the importance of providing people that operate local radio stations – key communications channels in reaching local communities – with ICT skills.

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