ILMxLAB's Vicki Dobbs Beck on Innovative and Immersive Storytelling.
Vicki Dobbs Beck is Executive in Charge at the groundbreaking ILMxLAB, which harnesses the storytelling and innovation talents at Lucasfilm, ILM and Skywalker Sound to create new ways to tell stories immersively. Vicki will give a keynote address, entitled “Step Inside Our Stories,” at the VIEW Conference on Tuesday, Oct. 24, beginning at 5:30 p.m. She will also be joining “Blade Runner 2049” VFX Supervisor John Nelson, Weta Digital Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri and Baobab Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Eric Darnell on Friday, Oct. 24, for a panel on “The Future of Storytelling,” moderated by Steve Beck and beginning at noon.
Your VIEW Keynote is titled “Step Inside Our Stories,” and that’s what ILMxLAB aims to do, bring people inside stories through immersive entertainment experiences. That seems so futuristic. How is ILMxLAB making that happen?
Lucasfilm’s legacy is storytelling, whatever the medium. With virtual reality, we have a new and unique opportunity to leverage the power of PLACE and CONNECTION by literally putting you at the center of a living world. We then enhance the experience by making your presence in the story truly matter. To achieve these multi-dimensional experiences, we build on a strong technology foundation and combine the talents of ILM, Skywalker Sound, the Lucasfilm Story Group and couple that with a core team of xLAB filmmakers, designers and engineers to bring immersive stories to life.
What sorts of stories is ILMxLAB looking to tell?
As with all stories, we aspire to create content that is compelling, impactful, and even provocative, but we want to do so in a way that truly leverages what is unique about the medium. We are not doing adaptations. We endeavor to create ‘Immersive First’ stories that are specifically designed to maximize the potential of these new mediums. We want to evoke emotions and establish a deep sense of connection to worlds and the characters that inhabit these spaces. We want your engagement with the story to matter.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
This is a new and largely unproven space. We must remain resolute in our quest to push the boundaries of immersive storytelling – honing our craft – while the pace of adoption accelerates and the market begins to take hold.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the team we have built at ILMxLAB. We are bringing together the best talents from film / visual effects, interactive design and engineering – encouraging them to learn from one another in order to create something powerful and entirely new. We want to help define the state-of-the art in ‘immersive storytelling’. This requires passion and a willingness to experiment and take risks. I am awed by the team’s shared commitment to this vision and I am fortunate enough to see it manifest on a daily basis.
ILMxLAB partners with Alejandro Inarritu on his VR installation “Carne y Arena,” which some critics have said is the kind of experience that VR was made for. How did this come to be and will ILMxLAB be doing more projects like that?
Alejandro Inarritu had a vision for “Carne y Arena” that was both original and provocative – the very kind of stories we, too, wanted to tell. Innaritu has a successful history with ILM on the film side so it was somewhat natural that he would reach out to ILMxLAB when he ventured into this new immersive storytelling space. We were deeply honored to collaborate and help bring Alejandro Inarritu’s vision to life. Legendary Entertainment and Fondazione Prada also deserve recognition for supporting this first-of-kind endeavor. The experience had a profound impact on the crew as well as on those who have had the chance to experience “Carne y Arena” first-hand. And, yes, we will wholeheartedly embrace these kinds of groundbreaking projects in the future.
ILMxLAB is doing a lot of projects within the “Star Wars” universe, which must be a rich environment for such projects. Can you tell us more about them?
Indeed, “Star War”s is one of the richest and deepest narratives ever brought to life. There are countless worlds we, as fans, would like to explore and characters we long to meet. Immersive storytelling platforms offer a means of delivering that fantasy fulfillment – inviting us to BE THERE and CONNECT. Two of our flagship projects: “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire,” a location-based hyper-reality experience developed in collaboration with the VOID, and the Vader VR Story Series targeted for the home, will allow fans to experience the “Star Wars” universe in new and deeply compelling ways. Whereas location-based experiences allow us to highlight one of VR’s strengths: ‘Scope’ and ‘Scale’ while heightening the sense of reality through invoking the senses; immersive episodics offer an opportunity for deeper, more extended engagement.
Where would you like to see the entertainment business in 10 years?
I see entertainment as a much more connected, dynamic experience -- living worlds in which story unfolds on a variety of platforms and across a range of media across time. I anticipate there will be a balance of curated experiences from master storytellers and more open-ended worlds enhanced by those who visit and engage. These worlds will be social and personal.