Produced by Annie Lukowski & BJ Schwartz of Vanishing Point Media, The Hidden is a VR thriller that allows you to step into the shoes of an undocumented immigrant as you watch your daughter being grilled by two ICE officers while you hold your breath hiding.
The story follows Sophia, a young Mexican-American woman living in rural America, as she is harangued, first verbally and then physically, by suspicious ICE officers. The piece, which stars Cassie Hernandez (NCIS: New Orleans), proves virtual reality’s unparalleled ability to align audiences with a character’s subjectivity, and provides an effective vehicle for commentary on sensitive, real life events like immigration raids.
Currently in post-production, the project evokes tension by using VR to place the viewer in different roles throughout thestory, including letting them see events through the perspective of a family member hiding within the home. The goal of theexperience is two-fold: revealing both the tactics used by ICE, and enabling viewers to step into the perilous shoes of undocumented immigrants. Ultimately, the film serves as a testament to the utility of VR as a medium to amplify tension, drama and empathy, while also showcasing its ability to add depth and emotion to the physical set and surrounding.
“We were made really aware that the power of virtual reality is to put the viewer in the shoes of another soul, and in a place and under a threat that you never would be yourself,” explained BJ Schwartz, who co-directed the film alongside fellow filmmaker Annie Lukowski.
“As important as the social issues are to us, VR really needs to be a compelling entertainment medium,” Lukowski added. “To get the message across, you really need to entertain audiences. So we landed on the thriller genre.”
Lukowski and Schwartz are the co-founders of the VR production company Vanishing Point Media. Previously, the company has produced digital content and 360 videos for brands such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Banana Republic, and Stan Lee’s L.A. Comic-Con. The Hidden will stand as both the company’s longest project to date, as well as its first original narrative piece.
“The Hidden really reaffirmed for me that VR is truly the director’s medium,” Lukowski surmised, remarking on the production process. “By shooting long master takes, you really have to guide the actor through an entire performance. You can’t craft a performance in editorial…you don’t have that safety net that comes with traditional films. For this, you have to get theperformance on set, which is a challenge and so much fun for both the director and actors. I just loved working with theactors on this project.”
The Hidden has recently wrapped up production and will be released in early 2018. It was produced by Charles Uy and stars Cassie Hernandez, Christian James, Gustavo Quiroz, Gonzalo Bouza, Geoffrey Kennedy, Darren Campozzi and Mike Tarnovsky.
Image credits – Peter Cramer.