FIVARS: What lead to the creation of this piece?
As we delved into the medium of VR, we were captivated by the extent to which participants wanted to be active and interact with the experience. We were curious about contrasting this desire for active participation with a forced experience of passivity and inaction. In particular, we thought about the Bystander Effect, a socio-psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to help a victim when other people are present.
As we looked for a story through which to explore these themes, we remembered Jasmine Feingold’s case from 2009 in Tel Aviv and knew right away her story was the one to tell. Not only was it documented in real-time, but because the victim was not visible during the incident, there was no possibility of racism or ageism hindering her rescue. When we think about this kind of tragic event, we often focus on the victim and automatically judge the bystanders for their inaction. Who are these people and what was going through their minds?
With ‘Bystanding’ we wanted to allow participants to put the judgment and blame on hold and take on the perspectives of the actual bystanders, the ones who witnessed Feingold’s accident that day. However, participants cannot change the course of events; they can only use the medium of VR to step outside of their own shoes and into another.
FIVARS: What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?
For the production of ‘Bystanding’, we utilized volumetric capture, photogrammetry, animation, and 360-degree videos.
In Yiddish, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” Despite our careful planning, COVID also impacted us. In addition to the different time zones between North America, Europe and the Middle East, we also dealt with lockdowns in Tel Aviv, Brooklyn, Berlin, and Montreal. We are so proud of the past 4 months since premiering in Tribeca Film Festival up until today, showcasing at FIVARS, but we also take huge pride in the fact we could complete the project during the pandemic.
FIVARS: How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?
We are both originally from Israel, currently based in NY. We both studied at the Tisch School of Film in Tel Aviv University, but we actually met in Brooklyn years later.
Nim Shapira is a director and creative director that made branded interactive web-based commercials and music videos for clients (www.nimshap.com)
Roi Lev is a creative technologist and producer with a Master’s in Interactive Communications (ITP) from NYU.
Both of us are passionate about immersive media, so we wanted to collaborate, and after bouncing ideas back and forth, we realized we could do this.
FIVARS: What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?
The immersive industry in the US is booming, both leading creators and technologies are seeing this field with strategic importance. We are excited about the opportunities to come, as this is only the beginning of a radical change to the way we engage with stories and others.
FIVARS: What do you have planned for the future?
Nim is a 2021 fellow at the MIT Open Documentary Lab. He is currently working on “The Broom” (IDFA DocLab 2021, La Biennale College Cinema 2021) and “Climate Freakout People Are Not Popular At Parties” (VIFF Immersed XR Market 2021). Both experiences are expected in 2022.
Roi is currently working with Tetavi, producing a slate of volumetric experiences to be announced in 2022.
FIVARS: Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?
Festivals like FIVARS provide us immersive filmmakers with a platform to not only showcase our work, our labors of love (and pain), but also connect with other creators and audiences we might not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. In these COVID times, film festivals are rekindling the fire left behind by shuttered theaters. We cinephiles consider them town squares, places where we share ideas, get inspired by other filmmakers, and most of all – bond.
FIVARS: Anything else you’d like to add?
While this project started before the global pandemic, ‘Bystanding’ is relevant now more than ever. With growing social responsibilities and persistent inequalities exacerbated by COVID, we would like to empower our participants, as well as ourselves, to step out of our comfort zone and help. We may not be able to truly step inside someone else’s shoes or know the full extent of their lived truths, but we can try to step outside our own shoes.
In a time when skimming article headlines has become the norm, taking a step outside our own shoes and towards another’s perspective is even more crucial. We live in a society that is content with intense polarization, classifying everything as right or wrong, good or bad. ‘Bystanding’ seeks to inhabit the grey zone by giving space and depth to each bystander.
Could they have done more? Yes, they could have. But does that make them ‘bad’? Perhaps it makes them human. We believe that one of the biggest challenges our global society is facing today is an empathy deficit. We cannot challenge the Bystander Effect without first trying to understand the bystander.
We hope you find ‘Bystanding’ as eye-opening and meaningful as its process of creation was for us.
FIVARS in FALL Runs October 15th to 17th in West Hollywood, and October 22nd to November 2nd Online.
Find tickets: https://bit.ly/FIVARSfallTix