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New story realities are virtual, augmented and mixed

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Photo captures lighted graffiti in a darkened room

Image from BattleScar exhibit at The Portal

LMU Playa Vista officially opened its doors last Friday night, Sept. 21, 2018. Almost 150 invited guests mingled as they explored “The Portal,” a showcase of immersive storytelling in virtual and augmented reality exhibitions experienced as part of the L.A. Film Festival in partnership with LMU.

Dean Peggy Rajski of the School of Film and Television paid tribute to this unique collaboration between the festival and LMU, saying, “We share a passion for storytelling and desire to help initiate the next generation. When you tell an authentic story, it doesn’t matter what platform or medium that’s used – it’s the story that counts.”

Curated by Jacqueline Lyanga, “The Portal” exhibits spanned the globe and offered users a rare opportunity to experience virtual and augmented realities including: encountering racism as a black man in various stages of his life in “1,000 Cut Journey”; witnessing the lives of NASA astronauts in their training and missions in “Space Explorers: A New Dawn”; and experiencing the animated story of a young woman and her father in a post-apocalyptic world in “Arden’s Wake.”

“The Portal” exhibits were shown in specially-built units in the gallery, in the screening room and several classrooms, with each exhibit using the latest technologies to transport visitors to other realities.

The exhibition was itself augmented by panel discussions that explored various dimensions of virtual reality. The “Women’s Voices in VR” panel looked at VR from the academic perspective. They discussed how VR could give participants a deeper understanding of a life perspective they might not have access to. A Los Angeles premiere, “Queerskins,” directed by Illya Szilak and Cyril Tsiboulski, took participants into a car journey: the participant is in the backseat with Sebastian’s diary and box of belongings while his parents are in front dealing with the loss of their estranged son to AIDS.

In the “Animation in VR” panel, Sarah Eagle Heart, who was a voice on the Native American story “Crow: The Legend,” said, “We’re Westernized in our narrative construction and VR offers an opportunity to teach a relationship to Earth. We got to do that in this project.” There was also a panel exploring “Social Immersive Documentary.” The collaboration between LMU and Los Angeles Film Festival at Playa Vista Campus will continue in 2019.

Rajksi added, “The role of our school is to start the process and help our students transform their stories into ones that touch us all … that shape, enhance and deepen our understanding of the world.”