Tanna Frederick, award-winning actress of film and theater, is ready to show off Defrost, a 360-degree virtual reality movie, with the world. The movie is one of the first of its kind, using Samsung Gear VR Goggles to create an immersive, emotional experience for viewers. Frederick describes the production of the film, what it's like acting in a virtual reality film and Oculus technology.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Defrost?
Frederick: Randal Kleiser approached me with the idea for co-producing and acting in a pilot he had actually written in college using VR technology. I have been fascinating with the quick and stupendous possibilities new tech can provide as an artist and a story teller – both as to how it affects the actors, crew, and audience. I was immediately on board.
Q: Why did you decide to create a 360-degree virtual reality movie?
Frederick: Having had trained in the acclaimed writers program at the University of Iowa, I have always enjoyed taking leaps and risks in translating new and innovative ideas from the playwright to the audience. We were always doing cutting edge material and manipulating space, sight, and sound to concoct the ideal final product equation and often that required throwing a bit of caution to the wind. The word ‘no’ never came up as a solution, only ‘let’s try it’. It was exciting and harrowing and required thinking out of the box for many productions but the productions were always fascinating and different. In terms of film, this strategy holds many parallels to doing new ground breaking theatre work. Filming 360 is offering us as artists a groundbreaking new way to tell a story – the fourth wall being broken cinematically. That’s about as exciting as it gets, and holds so much potential for powerful storytelling.
Q: How is producing a virtual reality film different than producing a regular film? Is there a certain way you have to film?
Frederick: Since the entire room can be seen lighting for the scene has to be worked into the atmosphere to look natural, which is a challenge. Again, one is breaking the ‘fourth wall’ so to speak. You can’t have a boom op in the picture and everyone is constantly being filmed so everyone and everything in the room must be ‘on’. Also, you are using one take because of the tech. So instead of editing together multiple takes and shots the best single take must be chosen. That’s a tough one.
Q: How did working with film director, Randal Kleiser, enhance the film?
Frederick: Randal has a brilliant vision. He is so very hands-on. In fact, he was actually in the film the entire time wheeling in Joan Garrison as a nurse. So the director was able to make his way onto the set and still direct us by being a silent actor in the scene. Very smart problem solving.
Q: Talk a little about Samsung Gear VR goggles and why you chose to use them?
Frederick: It's not that I chose to use them. In fact, they scare me a bit in terms of art and isolationism. But I figure the way to move forward with the future is to move with it and be proactive – to create work that brings people together or feel less alone. The content of Defrost provides that, and the projects I move forward with with do the same. Randal sent me a video of his 82-year-old mother in the hospital watching our pilot. She became so immersed in the material she was actually talking back to the characters. I cried when I saw it. It was a line where I asked if I could call the viewer 'mother' and told them I loved them. She said 'I'd like that very much'. That is fascinating.
Q: How is it acting in and producing a film simultaneously?
Frederick: It is a completely immersive experience. I love it because you end up seeing a project from conception to release. It’s another way of putting your entire heart and soul into a film.
Q: Why did you decide to work with Immersive Media (IM 360)?
Frederick: Immersive Media was already on the forefront of 360 degree technology. It just made sense to partner with such a pioneering company for our one-of-a-kind project.
Q: How is the post-production process different for a virtual reality movie?
Frederick: This film was one take so we just had to make sure prior to post-production we were getting the material we had originally hoped.
Q: How will Oculus Technology change the way we view movies? And how soon can we expect to see this change?
Frederick: The Oculus will give the viewer an even more immersive journey. For the first time, the viewer will be able to truly have the first person experience; they will be able to feel emotions and see reactions. A more economical version of the Oculus is coming out around Christmas. Everyone will be able to be a part of this unique way to experience media.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Frederick: I am so excited for everyone to experience Defrost!