July 22nd, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

"We want to explore our creative universes to the maximum, on many supports" - Antoine Cayrol (Atlas V)

A very active figure in the XR industry, Antoine Cayrol is the co-founder of Atlas V studio (and before that of OKIO STUDIO). Production, distribution, networking... He seems to be present on all fronts, and has not reduced his presence on events around the world despite the pandemic. First part of an interview to be concluded... early September (suspense).

Advancing within a Covid-19 year

Antoine Cayrol - The sanitary crisis had a limited impact on our activities thanks to the help of the French government - we must salute the support of the industries during this period. Atlas V expanded just before, with a team that has now reached a dozen employees. We were also used to working remotely, internationally. It's a bit frustrating of course, but it didn't change much. We did notice a better adoption of virtual reality, online broadcasting, etc. which is good!

A. C. - Of course Atlas V came out of two years of very intense festivals activity, of presentation of projects: BATTLESCAR, GLOOMY EYES... We are now identified, and that makes things much easier. Logically, all the actors of the market were able to discuss with us despite the isolation and the health crisis. This would not have been the case if we had to start from scratch. The timing was in our favor, and we were also able to finalize MIRROR, FORTUNE!, MISSING PICTURE (EP1) and MADRID NOIR in the last few months.


A. C. - And it was a good time to develop new projects! We were able to discuss with the authors, to re-launch ideas of VR video game, of adaptation of our licenses (in particular of GLOOMY EYES in game and feature film). I am primarily a producer, but I am very interested in distribution issues. And in XR, it is necessary to diversify to find new sources of financing for producers, authors, rights holders ... I work on these topics with Danielle Giroux (see her interview) who is responsible at Atlas V for our projects (and some others) concerning international sales and / or publishing depending on the film.

A. C. - The integration of the Lyon-based studio Albyon (France) into the group does not necessarily change our way of working. Albyon and Atlas V are two separate entities on our projects, which can work together... or not. It all depends on the expertise required: we can call on another studio, or entrust the project to Albyon. There is also the question of the territoriality of expenses and financing. And several studios can intervene on a project. We remain very flexible on this question.


A. C. - On MADRID NOIR (by James A. Castillo) we benefit from the support of Oculus, which wanted to release the film very quickly after its world premieres (Tribeca and Annecy). This will not prevent us from continuing its circulation in festivals in the coming months. But we had to respect its online release window. There is an obligation to meet the public, to sell the project to those who do not come to these events. Or even those who don't know about them!


A. C. - So we chose to focus our efforts on marketing devices for the stores (TikTok campaign, Youtube...), rather than efforts towards the specialized press. The only constraint is to respect the exclusivity of the stores for this type of release, which can sometimes be blocking for festivals hosted on competing platforms. On the other hand, once the project is released, we can discuss with events to give them easy access.

A. C. - MISSING PICTURES is a project that I initiated. We have just recruited a producer, Oriane Hurard (see her interview), who has taken over the management of the project but I remain personally involved at every stage: casting, financing, production. Oriane brings us a new beneficial impetus for the release of the second episode, and the production of the third one, which will start shooting this summer.


A. C. - One day Joseph Beauregard (author and journalist) proposed me this concept of "films you never made", declined from a series of articles on the same principle for literature (Le livre que je n'ai pas écrit, Le Monde, 2011). I then produced with my first production company a first series of 10 filmed interviews for the Forum des Images, Radio Nova and Arte, directed by Clément Deneux. With Barbet Schroeder, Gaspar Noé, Joe Dante, Michel Hazanavicius, Christophe Gans, Yves Boisset, John Landis, Peter Bogdanovich, Tobe Hooper... A few years later, Clément proposed another form around this idea, but this time by recreating the films of the authors interviewed. It became MISSING PICTURES, with a real VR format.

A. C. - We look for the authors who are the subjects of the series, before the film itself. In the case of Abel Ferrara, it was very simple (and very fast) through common contacts. Clément met him in Rome, and immediately told us about this post-apocalyptic film project in New York, BIRDS OF PREY. Three months later, we were shooting. The second episode was initiated with Taiwanese financiers and co-producers (PTS, Serendipity...), who proposed to Tsai Ming-liang.


A. C. - We have planned 5 episodes in VR, but I would love to develop the concept for other media: podcast, written, etc. We maintain the memory of the cinema, of the projects that do not see the light of day (and they are numerous!). It is essential to devote time to them. On this project, we are lucky to have Clément Deneux as director. Clément has a vision of the whole, he doesn't let go of anything and it feels good!

EVOLVER, the next evolution of Atlas V?

A. C. - We've always had a strategy of exploring our universes thoroughly, whether it's to produce multiple episodes or not. We can start with a vertical slice development that proves the strength of the story (teaser, prototype, prologue) before launching full production. We have just done it again with EVOLVER, without it being an absolute rule for the rest.


A. C. - On EVOLVER, which was initiated by Renee Pinnell of Kaleidoscope, we initially had something very ambitious, LBE and multi-user, in several chapters. Terrence Malick, Edward Pressman and Orange came on board as co-producers. We came in with Marshmallow Laser Feast to do the actual VR production and direction. We then redesigned the project to make it an experience for today's market - and in a single 40-minute piece.

A. C. - Funding for projects for blinds or for the LBE (like EVOLVER) are two very different things. Besides our intentions for online content, it's fascinating to be involved in such ambitious projects, linked to concrete exploitation in places - for immersive rooms or other cultural places.

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