William is a short dramatic Virtual Reality film that immerses users in the shoes of William, a Canadian Aboriginal child, who was taken away from his home and parachuted into one of the former 139 residential schools in Canada.
Not only will you witness the events he saw and experienced—you will live through these events. You will feel what he felt, act as he acted. While in William’s skin, you will experience the unthinkable. The language used in this production is NOT a real language. It intends to mimic the understanding that Indigenous children, most of who did not speak English nor French, had of their school teachers.
We had the opportunity to ask director Sonia B. Boileau a few questions about the project.
What is the theme of your project?
The core theme is Indian Residential schools. More precisely how these horrific assimilation establishments operated and the impact they had on young Indigenous children.
How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?
I do not consider myself to be an immersive media content creator actually. I create content of many mediums. We chose immersive media for this project so non-Indigenous people could have a better understanding of what our ancestors and families went through.
What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?
Honestly the biggest lesson I learned with this project was to treat it like theatre. You set the stage, you rehearse with your actors and then you go for it. The rest of my crew handled the technical stuff.
What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?
It’s blooming! It’s going so fast that it is very hard to keep up. Even now, the process for William (the methods and equipment used) is already outdated!
What do you have planned for the future?
I’m currently working on my second feature film. And hopefully in the near future we will be able to produce other episodes of William, in order to fully explain the impacts of the Indian Residential school system on our peoples.
What would you like to share with fellow content creators and/or the industry?
VR is such a powerful tool to get people to FEEL and not just watch. I therefore suggest that people use it wisely. Put it to good use. It has the power to change how we perceive situations, history, other cultures, etc.
Sonia B. Boileau is a bilingual Mohawk filmmaker and graduate from Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, Canada. Over the last decade Sonia has developed and produced television projects in English and French ranging from children’s programming to socially driven documentaries. Sonia won the PRIX DE LA DIVERSITÉ at the 2011 Gala des Prix Gémeaux for her documentary Last Call Indian. In 2015 Sonia’s first feature film Le Dep premiered at the prestigious Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic. Since then it has won awards and made the official selection of several festivals around the world.
She also made a feature documentary about the impacts of the 1990 Oka Crisis called The Oka Legacy, which earned her a Golden Sheaf award at the 2016 Yorkton Film Festival, and is currently working on her second feature film Rustic Oracle. Beyond film and television Sonia is still very much involved in community-based productions that focus on the well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Sonia is also the 2016 recipient of the APTN Award of Distinction given during the Montreal’s First Peoples Festival.