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Jan Kounen’s ‘Kosmik Journey’ Headlines Okio’s VR Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

PARIS – Okio, the up-and-coming Parisian production banner behind the Tribeca-playing VR short film “I, Philip,” is developing several VR experiences, including Jan Kounen’s “Kosmik Journey,” Pierre Zandrowicz’s “Mirror” and Julien Mokrani’s “Lights.”

An interactive VR short, “Kosmik Journey” (pictured above) takes place in the heart of the Peruvian jungle, where Kounen meets a healer and gets to experiment a hallucinogenic brew called ayahuasca which is believed to have therapeutical virtues. The experience then allows the user to share Kounen’s visions and sensations as well as interact with the surroundings.

“From ‘Bluberry’ to his recent documentary ‘Into the West,’ it’s clear that Kounen has always been interested in shamanism and mystical experiences, and with ‘Kosmik Journey,’ he’s pushing the envelope even more, said Zandrowicz, who is producing with Antoine Cayrol at Okio and the Luxembourg-based company a_BAHN.

“Kounen’s most experimental work to date, ‘Kosmik Journey’ will takes users on a trip into parallel worlds and into the mouth of a snake, among other things,” said Zandrowicz, who will pitch the project with Cayrol at the Paris Virtual Film Festival, a three-day fest organized by the team behind Series Mania starting Friday.

Okio is using a video game tool called Unreal Engine to create “Kosmik Journey.” Users can interact, as well as see and feel different things depending on their movements, said Cayrol.

Half of “Kosmik Journey’s” budget of 850,000 euros ($972,000) has been raised from France’s National Film Board, the CNC, Paris’s City Hall, and the Luxembourg Film Fond. Okio is now raising the second half from an international partner and possibly Arte in France. The outfit expects to start production in October for a delivery in March, in time for Tribeca.

“Mirror,” Zandrowicz’s follow-up to “I, Philip,” is a virtual reality science fiction experience centering on a woman who is sent to an inhabited planet that reflects surrounding planets, the sun, moon and Earth. Through her journey, she discovers that the planet is also reacting to her emotions and, in particular, a trauma she must heal from. The user plays a role in the adventure, and his/her purpose is revealed progressively.

Budgeted in the $2-million range, “Mirror” is being created in room-scale, a design paradigm that allows users to have their real-life motion reflected in the VR environment. Okio is using both live-action and gaming tools for “Mirror” and will be working with real actors who will be scanned.

Meanwhile, “Lights,” a dystopian VR experience created by Mokrani and Samuel Bodin, takes place in a world that has been turned into a black carbon wasteland by a disaster. The user follows a handful of survivors who are trying to understand what happened and take refuge in a mountain hotel. “Lights” is being developed as a VR miniseries and features real actors whose performances are captured by light-field cameras in a room-scale environment.

“Lights” key crew includes Thierry Arbogast, the cinematographer of “Lucy” and “Valerian”; Louis Morin, the VFX supervisor of “Arrival”; and Marc Caro, the art supervisor of “Alien Resurrection.” The concept artists working on “Lights” are Sylvain Despretz (“Gladiator”), Stephane Levallois (“Alien Convenant”), and Mathieu Vavril (“Thor”).

Okio plans on having “Lights” premiere at a high-profile international film festival next year.

Okio’s most recent production, “Alteration,” world-premiered at Tribeca and was acquired by Oculus in the U.S. and Arte in France. Okio is in talks with MK2 to have “Alteration” play at MK2’s location-based VR venue in Paris.

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