Hollywood remains hooked on virtual reality. Brothers Andrew and Luke Wilson are the latest to make the 360-degree plunge. The pair co-directed a behind-the-scenes tour of Shinola’s Detroit factory, using Luke as the “man on the street” focal point for both the humor and the information that viewers will experience as they explore the massive facility. They partnered with Reel FX to offer an inside look at how the American brand makes its signature watches, bicycles and leather goods.
“It was a really interesting creative experience because Luke and I had no experience with 360 at all, so in a way we represented the vast audience out there,” Andrew Wilson told UploadVR. “The learning curve was fast and steep for us, and we had a lot of help from the (Reel FX) DP, Celine Tricart. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. But even with something like a factory tour, VR opens up so many possibilities to make it more interesting than what you normally see. And because of those possibilities, you find yourself really being stimulated creatively to try to think of things to do to live up to the technology.”
Luke Wilson has been connected with the guys who run Shinola and their parent company, which also has a studio in Dallas, TX and Santa Monica, CA called Reel FX. He told UploadVR after doing some work with Reel FX in the past, he’s always wanted to do something together.
“They had gotten a kick out of a recent short film Andrew and I created about moving the space shuttle Endeavor from the airport to the California Science Center using guerilla-style filmmaking, so they reached out to us for this project to have a chance to collaborate and give us the chance to break into VR,” Luke Wilson said. “It was exciting for us to have the opportunity to do something different and add some of our humor. VR is typically associated with more adventure-style filmmaking, so it was fun to work with them while they are still dipping their toe in the water of the VR space.”
The shoot employed the Nokia OZO camera to offer users the ability to interact with the Shinola space and staff while also learning about the company’s history. The camera was connected with Reel FX’s proprietary post production workflow tools, allowing the team to spend their time on the creative process, rather than harping on the technical challenges that are often inherent in the emergence of VR filmmaking.
“We had two days to shoot and on the first day we were running and gunning with the factory tour,” Andrew Wilson said. “We knew what we wanted to do, but there was no formal script. And then Luke and I got together to figure out something that really shows this 360 experience. So we came up with the shot where somebody from the factory tosses a football over the edge of a building to Luke, who’s down below. You don’t realize where you are until the person tosses the ball down and you look straight down and it’s a pretty cool shot. It’s like a cliché, but for us it was our big money shot.”
Luke Wilson said what he finds exciting about working with 360 early on is that it puts creative people together with technical people — though in the case of Reel FX also incredibly creative. “It gives us the chance to pick up the technical aspects as we go along,” Luke Wilson said. “In terms of comedy, we played around with it and explored. We put in the wipeout gag scene with the tall stack of blue trays and it really seemed to work in VR. We were able to discover things as we went along.”
Comedy is something that could soon burst out in 360 as a new staple.
“I was talking to Owen (Wilson) about VR and it just seems like a matter of time before those Funny or Die guys start to use it,” Andrew Wilson said. “There’s just so many ways to use it. I’m just thinking about short funny things.”
Luke Wilson believes comedy can be a tough subject matter to approach no matter what the medium.
“A lot of comedy is visual, thinking back to Buster Keaton starting out with no sound at all, just doing things that visually amused people,” Luke Wilson added. “Then there is more thoughtful humor, like Woody Allen. Dialogue-driven humor, not gag humor. In VR these two need to somehow mold together: funny dialogue with some sort of funny visual trick. It’s going to take particularly talented people to think of a way to do it, but it will be done and the first big hit will make a huge impact.”
VR is also impacting the way fans can interact with their favorite stars. Luke Wilson’s latest project, the Showtime TV series Roadies, took an inside look at the lives of the people who put on traveling rock concerts. VR has the capacity to bring fans onto sets of series and movies far beyond the scope of current EPKs (electronic press kits).
“In the time that I’ve been in Hollywood, I’ve really seen behind-the-scenes content become more prevalent,” Luke Wilson said. “In terms of VR, imagine how fun it would be for somebody who loves movies, or how incredibly informative of a learning experience it would be for someone who wants to become a filmmaker. They can see the sound man and the focus puller on set and see the “magicians” doing so much of the hard work behind the scenes in filmmaking. It’s a real art. VR could really give people a chance to experience filmmaking and see what it’s like.”
As for the Wilson brothers, they’re already hooked on the technology and thinking about what to explore next.
“It’s been such a seminal experience that we’re trying to work on ideas right now to do a longer short in the 360 realm,” Andrew Wilson said. “It’s just incredibly exciting and stimulating and we had an unbelievable experience. It really opened our minds to something that’s going to be the way of the future.”
That future is now for the Wilsons, which is good news for Shinola – an American company that is set to benefit from the creativity of these Hollywood brothers jumping into the VR fray.