When you give a damn about something, you help it push new boundaries…
In case you’ve been living under a rock our friends over at Hollywood Suite have been running a free preview from Dec.1st through Jan. 5th at all major cable providers offering hours and hours of fantastic programming from classic films to some long unseen deep cuts. There’s also so mini marathons running throughout the month as the programming team dives into the X-Men universe, looks at some of the best from the likes of Sally Field, Tom Hanks & Mel Brooks as well as a wide array of family favorites to enjoy during the holiday season. You can find out more about Hollywood Suite and their Free Preview right here.
They’re also not hesitating to branch out into original programming as well giving their unique perspective on the worlds of film.
A Year in Film explores the art of film and filmmaking, with expert insight into how films reflect the events, mood, politics, and culture of their eras. The series immerses you in film history and pop culture with rare archival footage, interviews with stars and long-forgotten commercials. With thought-provoking analysis and fun memories from filmmakers, industry insiders and critics, each episode examines: the lasting impact of iconic films; the technical achievements that brought us today’s blockbusters; the hidden gems and cult hits that have gained a following; and what movies can teach us about ourselves and the world we live in.
It’s locally produced and high quality insight from a myriad of colleagues talking about film in the year’s 1978, 1983 with episodes on 1992 but also 2007 premiering every Sunday in December as a part of the free preview. Our Paolo Kagaoan is going through all the episodes, so check back here often to see our takes on this original programming over at Hollywood Suite.
On top of all that, they are getting into something pretty cool but admittedly something that I know little to absolutely nothing about, the world of VR (aka Virtual Reality).
In this new venture, we get back to the farmhouse where a genre was born in Night of the Living Dead VR Experience which is available Steam and Oculus platforms now.
In a full-scale 3D recreation of the film’s iconic farm, it’s kill or be killed as the undead are clamouring to get in. The virtual version allows audiences to perform several tasks including: Boarding up the doors and windows to keep the living dead out of the house, Shoot Zombies to keep them from eating you alive, Play the soundtrack on an old school record player and so very much more.
“We are taking audiences directly into the black-and-white rural Pennsylvania farmhouse and zombie apocalypse George A. Romero created in his classic film,” said David Kines, President Hollywood Suite. “We have built a completely interactive 360-degree experience as well as a fascinating companion documentary due out early 2020.”
Raising the Dead: A Re-Examining of Night of the Living Dead, produced by Hollywood Suite, contains exclusive interviews with original cast and crew members along with film experts who provide insights into the horror classic. The documentary will air in March 2020 on Hollywood Suite but you can see clips from the documentary WHILE jumping into this VR Experience.
I got the chance to jump into this world and take a look at the experience but also spend a few minutes talking with the games developer; Arv Slabosevicius over at Pyramid Attack about developing this new experience with something like Night of the Living Dead where they put you in the actual farm house something hardcore fans would simply kill for and he had this to say.
Oh totally, I look at this as this kind of brand new experience where you actually get to participate in this iconic film. I know I watched it as a kid growing up and I still remember the first time that I saw it. I mean the inspiration for it all ultimately was the documentary component that was created by Hollywood Suite and it was exciting to be able to create this black and white homage in the VR space which is actually not that common and playing inside this very moment of cinema.
It’s a really neat experience that you have to see to believe and it makes for something that is really the forefront of taking the cinema experience and putting it in the VR realm. Arv had this to say when I brought it up…
In this instance I would say yes, but VR is a hard one to really pigeon hole because it works well for certain games and for an ‘experience’ like this, that puts us in a place that really no longer exists almost in a way that something like Google Earth VR can quite literally put you on the street you grew up on or something like that. It creates a completely immersive experience which can be pretty cool.
Immersive is the right word as it all puts you right into the moment with nowhere else to go, for fans this will be a real trip and it makes me excited for other opportunities about blending cinema and VR, Arv had a good suggestion which made me very excited.
There’s no doubt it…I mean think of ‘The Shining’ and being in the middle of the Overlook hotel and surrounded by all the snow in that kind of chaos. In cinema, there’s tons of inspiration and for anything in film if you can think of a story that has an incredibly strong setting then you are undoubtedly in business. If the budget is there, the possibilities are endless…
It’s incredibly forward thinking for a broadcaster like Hollywood Suite to be actively developing content on these fronts. In addition to checking out this VR experience we got a glimpse behind the curtain with producer Ryan Mains about the inspiration about going in the VR space.
It all kind of came out of our first project that we did for VR called ‘Ferris’ Room’ which was basically a recreation of the iconic Ferris Bueller bedroom (we also did a documentary about the artist who did it). The VR was initially a companion piece for the documentary so people could experience the room and we felt like it was the unique thing so that people could get the experience from something that for all intents and purposes isn’t actually there in real life. Sarah’s recreation was only ever mounted three times and now has actually been sold! A guy is using it as his home office! But yeah it was just the perfect thing to recreate in VR and we we’re lucky to be able to do our part.
A lot of this content does dove tail a little bit into the realms of fan fiction and there’s no doubt that on something like Night of the Living Dead there could be some complex intellectual property hurdles you’d have to jump through in order to get this off the ground. Ryan was well versed in those struggles…
Yeah with ‘Night of the Living Dead’ it was a little different then ‘Ferris’ Room’ which was essentially a recreation of an artist’s re-creation. We ended up talking primarily with his old production company ‘Image 10’ as well as the Romero estate. His production company is still running today as his long time partners, friends and family are still very much a part of it all and we got all the permissions we needed that way. It was all above board, particularly considering the unique surroundings around the film and how it basically went into the public domain not long after it was made. While it was certainly a headache for them back in the day they are actually the first to admit that it’s BECAUSE of all that the film has successfully stayed so relevant all these years because it’s just been played so much. Obviously artists’ rights are really important to us and we did everything above board with them, which actually was a big help for them in re-establishing their copyrights on the film.
There’s such a long history on a movie like this and the VR experience is pretty spot on with the movie. I asked Arv what kind of access they had to archival material while creating all this and his answer really proves what a labour of love this all was.
We found very little reference materials while in production and yeah we had some photographic production stills from back in the day but there was very little actual material that we found. We actually tracked down a super fan that actually did a whole schematic of the house which was a huge asset for us. It’s so hard to understand a space without ever actually getting to be there, so that was a good starting point for us but after that it was quite literally going through the movie frame by frame in order to understand the direction and get a spatial awareness of it all. We just tried to make sure it was as close to the original film as humanly possible.
To put it plainly this kind of stuff just doesn’t happen every day and if you have any kind of access to an Oculus Rift or Steam platform I recommend checking this Night of the Living Dead experience out because combined with this, their A Year In Film series, the upcoming documentary and not to mention the free preview running until Jan. 5th on all major cable providers there’s really no doubt that much like us here at In The Seats, Hollywood Suite actually cares about cinema.