Afterlife – Featured Female Filmmakers Part 12

This blog mainly focuses on film directors, but the concept of film is starting to become a bit blurred in this 21st century of new technologies. The traditional notion of film has shifted dramatically to try and incorporate on-demand and interactive types of entertainment. This week’s featured director is working in this new space by combining a series of creative outlets including theatre, film making and video games to create a unique interactive Virtual Reality experience called Afterlife.

Luisa Valencia got involved in VR by accident. “When I was managing the video department of a Music Production Company in Montreal back in 2014. They wanted to make the jump into the emerging industry so I was thrown into the water without knowing how to swim, but it was the best thing that could happen to me on a professional level.” Luisa said.

She became incredibly passionate about working in VR and after meeting another like-minded passionate VR professional began work at Signal Space Lab. “I found in this place the perfect combination between technical development and a creative environment where the boundaries are being constantly pushed,” Luisa said. “We want to master seamless interactive cinematic VR and I feel we are on the right path.”

Afterlife is Signal Space Lab’s third big project and explores the difficult subject matter of death, grieving, and what happens to the people we leave behind once we are gone. A seemingly heavy topic to explore on an interactive level, I asked Luisa what her approach was when it came to these dark themes.

It was tough for me to get close to such a theme especially as a mother. It also came to my life at a very sensitive moment.” she said, “When we started the project, my dad was dying and I was going through a grieving process as well. But it was very beautiful because researching for the project helped me a lot at a personal level.” Luisa discovered through her research and personal experience the core of the Afterlife project, which had a more powerful message about life than death. “We should all admire kids ability to live in the present, seeing the world just as one should. We should all be able to be PRESENT in life,” she said. “I will love that when people leave the experience, they will question themselves if they have enjoyed their own lives and their loved ones to the fullest.”

The special aspect of the project being delivered as VR is the possibility to witness somebody’s life without being a part of it. The core of the Afterlife experience is this idea of being present in a space, but not present in life. “We’ve designed 29 paths that could lead to thousands of possible playthroughs and multiple endings. 45 scenes in total, this was challenging if we think what it takes to do that in cinematic VR” Luisa explained, “The way the user will navigate through the experience is seamless, there is no use of traditional UI so it will be a more natural process. Users can follow the action by just intuitively showing interest in one character more than another.”

The project combines different creative outlets such as theatre, film making and video games, making it unique in its form. But this seemed to be less of a creative inspiration and more of a requirement when it came to building the world in which Afterlife exists. “Inside the VR headset, you enter a space,” Luisa explained.“We had to audio visually tell a story but without framing inside a virtual space, so we approached it as if it was theatre. We also have a singular audience so we added agency. You get that person involved by adding elements from video games into the equation.”

And so directing something using varying forms required a greater understanding of VR technology including its limitations, but also its possibilities, as well as a team that could help bring it all together. “We have been growing in VR together as a multicultural and very cohesive team,” Luisa said, “We have all been pursuing the common goal of creating amazing VR content and because of the nature of VR, each new project leaves us with more knowledge and experience.”

Because it is such a new space there is also capacity for more women to really make their mark as the industry begins to evolve. As a new form of expression for creative people VR is a limitless and a powerful new tool for storytelling. Luisa expressed that “We should take care of that power and drive it in the right way, which is to be thoughtful, constructive and compassionate.” 

Afterlife does not currently have an official release date. Please check and follow the links below to stay updated:

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