We often ponder the future of Australian comedy on this blog, especially screen-based comedy, so it was interesting to read on TV Tonight last week that Screen NSW and the ABC will fund a small number of VR projects, including two new comedies:
Genre: Narrative Comedy
Company: Hardy White Pictures
VR Company: Paper Moose
· Writer/cast: Seaton Kay-Smith
· Director/cast: Nick Hunter
· Producer: Michelle Hardy
Synopsis: Aussie Cops is an Ozploitation comedy series about two very fair-dinkum cops investigating a grisly murder. A locked door murder of sorts experienced in 360 degrees from the point of view of an inquisitive new recruit.
The Hold Up
Genre: Narrative Comedy
Company: Jungle FTV Pty Ltd
VR Companies: Cutting Edge, Nylon Studios, Panavision Australia
· Executive Producer: Chloe Rickard
· Producer: Sarah Nichols
· Director: Scott Pickett
· Writer: Charlie Garber
Synopsis: A young man’s preference for the ‘real’ over the ‘virtual’ is put to the test when his life is threatened by two ethically conflicted bank robbers.
If some of the names involved in these projects sound familiar, it’s because they are. Aussie Cops’ producer Michelle Hardy has previously worked on Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am and #7Days Later, while writer/cast member Seaton Kay-Smith was also a writer and performer on Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am and The Roast. The Hold Up’s production team are equally experienced; Chloe Rickard’s credits include Soul Mates, Here Come The Habibs! and The Moodys, Scott Pickett was in Review with Myles Barlow, and Charlie Garber was a writer for Miles Holbeck: The Member, Here Come the Habibs! and No Activity.
But even with all that experience of making TV comedy amongst its makers, will Aussie Cops and The Hold Up be any good? VR as a medium for narrative comedy is pretty much uncharted territory and one where the makers will have to think very differently about how they’ll construct the story and set up the gags. In a recent episode of Radio National’s Download This Show, which discussed VR filmmaking, tech journalist Peter Marks raised one fundamental problem with the medium for narrative storytellers:
…it’s a hard way to make a film, because normally when a director makes a movie they get your eye to go somewhere, they can do it by using focus, by using light, by the composition of the frame. In a virtual reality movie, I don’t know how you do it. They [the audience] may not be looking anywhere.
The best-known example of a VR comedy is Interrogation, a 360-degree sketch made by Funny or Die. It puts the viewer in the role of a suspect “getting grilled by the worst detectives in the business”. The website Upload VR reviews it in some detail, but it seems the potential for the audience to look around the room is exploited by the makers…
Without actually giving away the reason for the interrogation, the Funny or Die sketch makes great use of the 360-degree space. Everywhere you look, there are hidden jokes all around… Nearby is a blood splatter with a label that says “Oops!” There is even a moment when another officer comes into the room and in the background a clown can be seen getting arrested. It all flows well together, which is still rare to see in these quickly developing times.
As fans of background gags, this all sounds pretty promising (or at least it will be once we get ourselves some VR headsets). But it’s also clear that there’s potential for the viewer to miss gags delivered by the characters if they spend too long looking at that kind of thing. Either way, we look forward to seeing the results of these experiments…somehow.