Some of Europe’s pioneers in VR – creators of the high-profile, award-winning “I, Philip,” “Notes on Blindness” and “Alteration” – are banding together to launch Atlas V, an immersive entertainment studio that’s kicking off with two experiences to be showcased at Sundance’s New Frontier.
Founded by Antoine Cayrol and Pierre Zandrowicz from Okio Studio (“I, Philip,” “Alteration”), Arnaud Colinart from Agat Films (“Notes on Blindness”), and Fred Volhuer from Shuttershades.io, Atlas V will roll out at Sundance with Nico Casavecchia and Martin Allais’s “Battlescar” (pictured) and Eliza McNitt’s “Spheres.”
“Sphere” is an interactive journey inspired by the iconic image of “Pale Blue Dot,” which transports viewers into the deepest pockets of the universe to bring to life interactive visions of future worlds. It is being made in collaboration with Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Atlas V is producing with Crimes of Curiosity and Novelab.
“Battlescar” is a coming-of-age animated narrative experience taking place in the burgeoning New York City punk scene of the 1970s, featuring Rosario Dawson. Atlas V is producing with 1st Ave Machine, Fauns and Arte France.
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“Joining forces will allow us to combine our respective expertise in narrative, live-action VR, which Antoine and Pierre did at Okio, and animation VR using video game technology, which I did at Agat Films,” said Colinart, whose “Notes on Blindness” played at Sundance in 2016, won Tribeca’s Storyscapes Award that same year, and was a finalist at SXSW in 2017.
The eclectic slate of Atlas V includes “Mirror,” a sci-fi experience directed by Zandrowicz, who had previously directed “I, Philip”; “Lights,” which is directed by Julien Mokrani and lensed with Silicon Valley light-field tech pioneer Lytro; and an experiment by Gaspar Noe (“Irréversible,” “Enter the Void”).
“At Atlas V we will aim at crafting immersive entertainment experiences of all kinds, from virtual, augmented and mixed reality, and we’ll weave French storytelling heritage with the most advanced video-game workflows,” said Zandrowicz, who also cited an immersive theater project that will take place at the Odeon Theater in Paris.
Zandrowicz said he was greatly inspired by Alejandro Iñárritu’s VR installation “Carne y Arena,” which was shown at Cannes this year, and is looking forward to creating live, immersive installations that will be showcased at festivals.
“We have an ambitious festival strategy because it’s a crucial step, especially when you’re working in immersive entertainment, to gain the recognition of your peers in France and abroad, as well as gain access to top talent and filmmakers,” said Colinart. He cited Noe and Jan Kounen, who are currently working on projects set up at Atlas V.
“Atlas V will also strive to create films that can be accessible enough to reach wide audiences with either big IPs, strong cast or well-known directors – or all three,” said Cayrol, who founded Okio Studio with Zandrowicz and Lorenzo Benedetti in 2014.
The founders said North America was a key market for their new joint venture. “In North America, a lot of resources are being injected in hardware, but very little on content development and creation. In Europe, and especially in France, it’s the opposite, in parts because we are backed by public institutions, regional funds, and we have great schools like the Gobelins,” Cayrol said.
The trio said they wanted to create a production pipeline between North America and Europe, and to start working with daring, independent VR filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Altas V boasts offices in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and in Lyon, France, the birthplace of cinema and home to the rich cultural heritage of the Lumiere brothers.