FIVARS 2021 Spotlight – A Frequency At Lavernock / Amledd Yn Larnog

FIVARS: What lead to the creation of this piece?
During lockdown Lavernock was a place just out of reach, beyond the allowed 5-mile radius, despite it being my late husband’s place of rest and somewhere that has great meaning for me.

It’s where Marconi sent the first-ever wireless signal across water, from Flat Holm island, where there was once an isolation hospital for cholera. Many of us struggled with the need to communicate in a time of isolation and this felt like an interesting theme to explore: whether separated by Covid or language or geography or death.

Once the lockdown was lifted, I worked with performers and sound designers in the devising of a piece at the church on the cliffs and on the beach, responding to the rich history, geography, and mythology of the place.

We all brought our stories and preoccupations to the piece, creating an immersive tapestry of movement, text, and sound that is unique to us in that place, at that time. This is part of a portmanteau project, and A Frequency At Lavernock is inspired by the ghost stories of The Captain’s Wife who haunts this part of the coast of South Wales.

FIVARS: What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?
I come from a theatre and film background and have worked in immersive theatre which shares many qualities with 360VR.

I worked with performers who come from a dance/physical theatre background and we approached this piece in the same way. Through devising and rehearsing process as we would for a site-specific theatre production. Tailor-made in response to the location.

Once rehearsed, the scenes were shot in one take with the camera as ‘audience’ at the center of a performance piece created especially for them. In post-production text in Welsh and English was added as part of the landscape and the natural sounds of the site were integrated into the soundscape as well as Morse code, which is what Marconi used to send his first messages across open water.

It was a joy to work in this way – without a pre-written script – and the dream-like quality of VR works very well for this type of immersive, slightly Lynchian surreal piece.

FIVARS: How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?
I first experienced VR through Google cardboard and fell immediately in love with it! I was taken by its similarity to immersive theatre which is where I started my career as a performer before I became a filmmaker and screenwriter.

Coming later in life to VR, I knew it would be a challenge to learn the technology but having been a stop motion animator I also know that I have a LOT of patience when it comes to learning how to do something I love.

In 2018 I won a Creative Wales Award which allowed me to spend a year learning how to make immersive artistic XR and attending Venice VR Island. The more I saw, the more I wanted to make immersive experiences akin to my early theatre work which also combined my experience in filmmaking and storytelling.

FIVARS: What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?
Very nascent. I believe I am the only creator of fiction-based, artistic 360VR in Wales.

There are a few companies making games and documentary/tourist/health-based VR, and a fantastic company making 360 for domes. But nobody else that I know of in Wales who is making live-action artistic VR for headsets.

FIVARS: What do you have planned for the future?
To complete the larger project and find a way of presenting it to audiences. To raise funding for a new project I’m excited about and just to keep making work!

It would be lovely if someone wanted to commission a piece – it’s very hard to find funding in the UK for this type of work, especially as a woman who doesn’t come from a tech background.

FIVARS: What would you like to share with fellow content creators and/or the industry?
I’d love to collaborate with other content creators. I miss the sense of community that animators and theatre creators have, or maybe I’m just not part of it, having come into the industry from a different angle.

For the industry, I’d like to encourage people to give those of us who don’t come from a tech background a chance, especially women/NB creators.

FIVARS: Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?
Yes, very.

FIVARS: Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m looking forward to being part of the festival and our world premiere! I think this might also be the world’s first-ever artistic 360VR in Welsh and English?

FIVARS in FALL Runs October 15th to 17th in West Hollywood, and October 22nd to November 2nd Online.
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