Avril Furness Directors Directors Writing Immersive Magazine

From Advertising Creative to Immersive / 360 and Virtual to Mixed Reality filmmaking.

By Avril Furness.

I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the most talented creative folk in the industry starting out as a Junior Creative with my Copywriter partner Miles at London Agency Fallon in 2010.

Hiking up a Chilean mountain with an 8 foot inflatable character we called Walter, shooting an ad for Cadbury; to working with legendary stop frame animators at Aardman Animations on a Creme Egg campaign, to writing 90 second Orange cinema spots with the duo Ray Winston and Plan B, for an Orange cinema ad in line with the remake of The Sweeney film. 

In the 6 years working as Creative, and having opportunities to work directly with incredible directors and their producers, attending workshops, casting sessions and going through pre/post production I was inspired to explore writing longer form stories and formats outside of 30-60-90 second cinema/tv campaigns.

A year’s intensive training at film school, enabled me to explore directing shorts on 8mm film, learning the mechanics of a production, and insights into how scheduling works with a team to work collaboratively.  I had seen the Oculus Rift Development Kit and was curious to see – how does writing a 2 Dimensional script translate into a 360 immersive space, what are the storytelling implications and how do you produce for this mysterious format?

I had seen the BAFTA Awarded game That Dragon Cancer and the translation of the serious subject matter of a story of a child with Leukemia into a gaming format was exhilarating. 

The hybridisation of serious storytelling with what I had heralded previously as a format for pure entertainment/ leisure was profound.

My debut VR film The Last Moments was shot at the Bristol Museum’s Exhibition space in the replica room in the exhibition that perfectly represented a room at Dignitas – the Swiss Euthanasia Clinic.  The film shows from first person perspective the experience you would have if having an assisted suicide. 

The VR film I created, unknowingly at the time was a new territory. 

Questions arose around what I had made – was this marketing or a new art form – or a new form of embodied documentary? 

The gamification of a decision to end your life or carry on living had an unexpected impact.  I showed the film at The Met Museum in New York, Sao Paulo Brazil at festivals and XR community groups in S America and festivals all over Europe.  Most memorably; I shared the experience at a Euthanasia conference in Amsterdam.  The film was a conversation starter with psychiatrists, end of life specialists and practitioners.  Engaging healthcare practitioners in an innovative way that revealed a new perspective on the subject was invigorating.

The Right Choice, the film I Directed for The International Committee of the Red Cross and Google was the first of it’s kind to reveal an interactive 360 environment for the charity.  The experience gave agency to the viewer in a decision making process that refugees face on a daily basis in Middle Eastern war zones.  The limited choices you have in the moment that you and your family’s life are under threat were revealed in this documentary-drama.  The film has been shown at The World Economic forum in Davos and has won several awards at the VR Awards festival and The Lovie Awards and at SIMA for Social Impact.

Following on from these projects, my plan is to follow my intuition and keep exploring new frontiers of storytelling and new emerging formats. 

My quest has opened the door in the search for compelling stories as well as innovative new technologies, most recently working with a tech start-up, Constellation AI.  I lived with their AI app for 7 days in a social experiment on myself, (inspired by Spike Jonze’s film ‘HER’).

Currently I am developing a project that attempts to bring an interactive immersive experience that combines AI, 360 and volumetric capture, and exploring the scope of translating this into an online and app experience so that viewers can participate remotely through these uncertain socially distanced Covid times.

My intentions are to continue to bring new dimensions and perspectives to audiences with human stories at the heart of the narrative, and continue to explore new ways of storytelling with the emergence of new technologies. 

Avril Furness. #presenceteam.