The newest project from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez takes fans into the VR world of The Limit. The first-person "immersive cinema experience," starring Michelle Rodriguez and Norman Reedus, will be featured on the STXsurreal app by STX Entertainment.
Michelle plays a genetically enhanced weapon that goes after the people who created her. Robert, Michelle, and series writer Racer Rodriguez (aka Racer Max, Robert’s son) were on hand for a NYCC panel Thursday to discuss the innovative new VR experience.
The idea to take the story into VR territory, said Robert, came from his son. “When I asked Racer if he wanted to write a movie, Racer asked if he could write it in VR,” said the Alita: Battle Angel director, explaining his belief that the format holds untapped potential beyond the world of video games.
“I love the visual aspect of storytelling, like comics and video games. The next level of video games is VR, and I wanted to do storytelling in VR,” he said. “I always wanted to be an early adopter, so we started the company RR (double R) to help drive the VR industry faster.”
Once they’d teamed up with STX Entertainment, via the company’s VR division STXsurreal, it was time to dive into the meat of how a first-person point-of-view story might play out in VR. That’s where Michelle began to contribute creatively, on top of her starring role. “We need the sky, a car chase, and some guns. We put those together and we could have a great VR short," she said.
Working off that immersion-focused premise, the team turned a script around in only two weeks’ time. Michelle said acting for VR bore at least a little similarity to experiencing the finished product as a viewer, since it required a more direct relationship with the specially-made camera used to capture her scenes.
“It's interesting — half the time, when you are acting, you are doing your best to avoid the camera,” she said. “Now my co-star is the camera. I feel like it's Ferris Bueller's Day Off.”
The Limit premiered a trailer for the panel audience, showing off a series of intense action scenes in which Michelle and "you" — the participating viewer — sky-dive, ride a motorcycle, and fight.
Achieving a level of story immersion that transcends merely re-appropriating conventional 2-D material to put the viewer persuasively inside the action gives VR the kind of power, as an emerging medium, that Robert said he wants to harness as one of the format’s innovators. “You can tell stories that are more intimate. You feel like you are part of the story,” he explained.
Getting the chance to create a story aimed at a younger audience also gave Robert and Racer Max, as a father-and-son team, the chance to learn from each other. “Work with your audience to make something for your audience,” Robert said. “I wanted to make a kids' movie, so I worked with him because he was a kid. I'm working with him on this because he is 100 percent immersed in the VR world. Without him, I wouldn't have known some of this stuff was possible.”
Clocking in at around 20 minutes, The Limit will be available starting Nov. 20 for all VR platforms.