StudioFest held this year’s film festival virtually. No, not on Zoom — inside the fantasy world of virtual reality headsets.
To pull off the virtual festival, each of the guests, including the 10 competing filmmakers, the StudioFest team, and industry professionals Evan Glodell and Patricia Vidal Delgado, were sent brand-new Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets. They used them to experience all of the weekend’s events, including watching movies in a virtual theater and mingling with other attendees via their avatars. You can get a glimpse of what the festival looked like from the inside via the video above.
“We wanted to ensure that we could host an event regardless of the state of the world, which is why we took the event this year into VR. It was so cool and we want to keep at least some VR component around in years to come,” said StudioFest co-founder Jess Jacklin.
Marking the third year of the festival, the 2021 event, which took place from Sept. 17-19, was a big departure from past years. The inaugural year of the festival took place in person in Phoenicia, New York, and the following year’s event took place in Ojai, California. Both involved soirees, readings, and screenings in which finalists were able to meet and interact with industry guests. Last year’s festival was postponed due to the pandemic, so those submissions were rolled into this year’s virtual festival, which gave finalists the next best experience to being there in person.
“When it’s tough to bring people to film festivals, we thought, why not bring the film festival to filmmakers? We couldn’t be happier with how the weekend went. The VR experience absolutely rivaled our in-person events in the past,” said co-founder Charles Beale. “It felt like you were in the room with everyone.”
The 10 finalists hailed from the U.S., Canada, and Thailand, and the top prize was awarded to Courtney Hope Thérond. Her prize? Making a film with StudioFest.
The first StudioFest winners Anna Mikami and Matthew Sorvillo, made the film Souvenirs, which was acquired by A+E Networks. Jessica Liu and Lowam Eyasu are slated to go into production on a feature film later this year.
For those curious to learn more about StudioFest, MovieMaker partners with them on a documentary series called Demystified, which chronicles the journey of each StudioFest feature film from concept to distribution.
Main Image: A glimpse inside of StudioFest’s VR Experience 2021, courtesy of StudioFest.