Rethink creativity

How our Miramar Creative Centre’s emerging technology and talents connect to redefine how stories are told.

What do Thor director Taika Waititi, The Luminaries author Eleanor Catton, and Flight of the Conchords funnyman Jemaine Clement have in common? Well, apart from all being deeply talented, they all attended Victoria University of Wellington in the bustling capital city of New Zealand. The University has been a hotbed of talent for many years now, but as these new stars start to shine, it begs the question: who or what is next?

The future of storytelling

The head of Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Design Innovation, Doug Easterly, has an idea. “I can really see a big shift beyond traditional media into blended realities. We are on the cusp of a storytelling revelation. This is as big a moment as L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat.”

He is referring to the stampede at the first true cinema experience, roughly translated as, the Arrival of the Mail Train. When it debuted in Paris in 1895, the experience of seeing a train moving towards the screen sent the audience screaming out of the theatre.

Shock of the new

Any new augmented or virtual reality cinema would have a similar effect. Researcher Raqi Syed explains, “The challenge is how to get your audience past the shock of the technology and engaged with the narratives.” She should know. As the programme director for the University’s Master of Design Technology, her research has been focused on storytelling in emerging mediums.

Her recent project, Minimum Mass, has been featured at both Cannes and Sundance film festivals. The 20-minute VR experience is the story of a couple who experience a series of miscarriages and come to believe their children are being born in another dimension. Set in contemporary Rotorua, New Zealand, as well as the speculative world of black holes, it is a short interactive narrative developed for the Oculus Rift S-Platform.

Bringing together creativity and technology

Syed’s fellow collaborator and faculty member Areito Echevarria is invested in the process too. His resume is impressive and includes work on War for the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, The Hobbit Trilogy, Avatar and Black Hawk Down. In 2014, Areito was awarded the Scientific and Technical Academy Award, but he has invested himself in virtual reality for a new challenge. He says, “My work on Minimum Mass is at the intersection of creativity and technology, serving as both a writer and technical designer. It’s super challenging, but that is what makes it worthwhile.”

With Weta Digital (Avatar, The Lord of the Rings) and Park Road Post (Wolf Warrior II, King Kong) down the street from the University’s cutting-edge Miramar Creative Centre, the future of storytelling feels near. Easterly believes, “We are going to have some student here, someone who will take all this great work and crystallise it into a story that really connects the dots, and we can’t wait to experience it.”

Established in 1897, Victoria University of Wellington is a globally recognised civic university. We are leaders in sustainability, creativity, and government, and our research intensity is ranked #1 in New Zealand (Performance-Based Research Fund, 2018).