×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Pioneers at Felix & Paul Studios Break the Mold of Traditional Storytelling

The bi-national creative shop is rewriting cinematic language to invent new types of narrative and interaction

In the world of entertainment tech convergence, there are few nuts harder to crack than live-action virtual reality. The medium presents seemingly endless technical challenges, starting with how to shoot with a camera rig that can see everything all around it, or digitally create the illusion that it can.

Even more daunting are the storytelling challenges faced by filmmakers raised on cuts, close-ups and dolly shots, working in a medium in which edits are considered to be too jarring, camera movement can be nausea-inducing and the viewer’s gaze is free to wander away from the action.

For those VR newbies, Felix & Paul Studios chief content officer Ryan Horrigan has some advice: check your baggage at the door.

“If you’re coming in thinking it’s cinema, it is a little bit, but not really. And it’s a little bit like theater, but not really,” says Horrigan. “I like to say it’s like literature: you’re placing the viewer inside the subjectivity of a character, or you can be in someone’s dreams, memories or hallucinations. What we’re finding is there are a lot of different narrative shells we can put you in where you feel like you have subjectivity, but we can still give you a narrative story.”

For last year’s “Miyubi” (pictured above), a co-production with Funny or Die co-starring Jeff Goldbum, Felix & Paul used a straightforward device: it put the viewer inside a 2-foot-high Japanese toy robot given to a boy on his birthday in 1982. Instead using straight-ahead edits, Miyubi runs out of power or is shut down at the end of a scene, then reboots in a new setting, months later, so the transitions are organic to the story.

“Our studio’s work combines the art of storytelling with the art of presence, and the synergy between both of these things is really what makes a VR experience fly or not fly,” says Felix & Paul Studios director and co-founder Felix Lajeunesse. “If we cannot find a way to really integrate the viewer into the story in a way that feels seamless and symbiotic, we don’t tell that story.”

Lajeunesse says they don’t necessarily think of the viewers as characters in their immersive experiences. For instance, in “Strangers,” the company’s first piece produced for the Oculus headset back in 2014, they conceived of the viewer as a friend visiting the artist, singer-songwriter-pianist Patrick Watson, in the studio.

To date, most of Felix & Paul’s work has been documentary in nature, giving viewers unique first-person experiences, from visiting President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in the White House (“The People’s House”) to flying in jets and working underwater with astronauts preparing for a trip to the International Space Station (“Space Explorers: A New Dawn”).

“When it comes to documentaries, [virtual reality] feels like a natural thing that works exquisitely well,” says Lajeunesse’s fellow Felix & Paul director and co-founder Paul Raphaël. “On the other hand, when it comes to fiction, that’s a whole other challenge, because you’re now playing with reality, you’re cheating, you’re lying, in a sense.”

That storytelling challenge is central to the “Rashomon”-style narrative of the studio’s upcoming series “Pinkbox,” which will put viewers inside the memory of a woman being interrogated about an uprising in a red light district in the near-future, then contrasting it with an alternative viewpoint of the events from drone footage.

“Every time we create a new project, we are re-questioning everything,” says Felix & Paul Studios co-founder and producer Stéphane Rituit. “We feel we’re on a train on steroids where in five years we have to catch up to what the cinematic language has been evolving for a century.”

More Artisans

  • Chile's Production Incentives Include New 30%

    Chile Incentives Pilot Program Aims to Draw Producers With 30% Rebate

    With over 2,500 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, the long and narrow South American country of Chile encompasses a remarkable variety of weather patterns and landscapes. Filmmakers traveling there will discover that the Chilean Economic Development Agency in alliance with nation’s film commission recently launched what it calls a Pilot Program for High-Impact Audiovisual Investment [...]

  • Set di "Gomorra 3", regia di

    'My Brilliant Friend,' 'Gomorrah' Show Different Sides of Naples

    When Saverio Costanzo, the director of HBO and RAI’s “My Brilliant Friend,” started to plan how he would depict the grand but gritty city of Naples — one that’s so vivid in the imaginations of millions of Elena Ferrante readers, he quickly decided that the working-class neighborhood at the core of her four Neapolitan novels [...]

  • (L to R) SAMUEL L. JACKSON,

    How a Costume Designer Brightened M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass'

    Paco Delgado’s costumes are as varied as his films. Contrast the drama “The Danish Girl,” the futuristic fantasy “A Wrinkle in Time” and the period musical “Les Misérables.” Now he’s in comic-book territory with M. Night Shyamalan’s newest superhero/supervillain thriller, “Glass,” which Universal releases Jan. 17. The costume designer’s career began in Barcelona and London, [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

  • READY PLAYER ONE

    How Writer-Crew Collaborations Are Changing the Script for the Creative Process

    In traditional filmmaking, once a script is written, the director and department heads break it down and figure out the costs and logistics of production. But if the screenwriter collaborates during the creative process with key crew members, the entire production can benefit.  Such collaboration offers the prospect of help on many fronts. For example, [...]

  • avengers infinity war

    'Avengers,' 'Lost in Space,' 'Ready Player One' Lead Visual Effects Society Nominations

    The Visual Effects Society announced nominees for the organization’s 17th annual awards on Tuesday. Leading the way in the film and TV fields, respectively, were Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and Netflix’s “Lost in Space.” Each picked up six nominations. Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” received the most nominations among animated feature contenders with five. “Ready Player One” [...]

  • Dynasties BBC Vundu Pack

    Bush Guides, Night Cameras Help BBC America’s ‘Dynasties’ Catch Unique Moments

    Just getting to one of the locations of BBC America wildlife documentary series “Dynasties” — presented by David Attenborough and following the lives of endangered animals — requires an 11-hour flight from London to Johannesburg, a two-hour connection to Harare, Zimbabwe, an hourlong chartered Cessna 206 trip to Mana Pools National Park airstrip and an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content