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July 13th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

“We want to explore new narratives with EVOLVER” – Sam Pressman (Pressman Film)

The new VR project EVOLVER by cinema producers Terrence Malick and Edward R. Pressman was presented this week during the Cannes Film Festival at the Orange booth – After a first introduction at Annecy last month. We met with Sam Pressman, one of the producers at Pressman Films who works on the project.

From Stanford University to EVOLVER

Sam Pressman - I discovered virtual reality with SPHERES (from Eliza McNitt, produced by Atlas V and Darren Aronofsky), which I had the chance to see quite early when I graduated from Stanford University (where is the Virtual Human Interaction Lab or VHIL). There were some cool projects there, and advanced technologies. But at that time, it felt like more conceptual arts. I believe what we watch impact the world, and VR has a big role to play in that. We can’t limit our imagination to simple entertainment.

S. P. - René Pinnell (whose company Kaleidoscope has been a great connecting force in the industry) had the dream of EVOLVER for many years. He contacted us through a mutual friend to present the project to both my father Ed Pressman, who has an extensive carrier as a producer on many major feature films, and Terrence Malick. For René who grew up in Austin, Terrence is a creative god!

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Starting a VR project with Terrence Malick

S. P. - When Ed and Terrence worked on BADLANDS, its first film as a director, they were making up the rules! Independent cinema was just getting started, and it was great to explore out of the creative tradition. With EVOLVER, it’s the same feeling. They are both philosophers, and that’s how they want to go forward on new projects.

S. P. - At this time, he was editing A HIDDEN LIFE – which Orange bought later, and that’s how we ended up working with them on EVOLVER. Terrence had previous experiences with VR, and didn’t want to replicate his feature film’s mood. If I believe in something with virtual reality, it’s the fact that we do not have to replace the cinema or the theater, or just showing things we can do on flat screens. It’s a revolutionary tool, we have to think of new narratives, that cinema can’t explore.

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S. P. - He was very interested on our approach of EVOLVER as a science project. We want to get a deeper approach that cinema, not just being a voyeur in the story. It has to do with a transcendental way of experiencing it. The prologue is just the tip of the iceberg; we see a hearth, a breath… and we connect to our environment. The next phase as a Location-based and multiplayers experience simultaneously will be a giant puzzle for each group of users – and the interactions you can have with the story.

Music is key to EVOLVER

S. P. - And the music! We are lucky to work with Wu-Tang Clan and Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) on EVOLVER. It has its own narrative. From sound waves we try to stimulate our brains, to focus on our breathing. It is exciting to imagine a group experience where we can all synchronize at the same time – Not speaking about the fact that is a unique experience where you’re not distracted by your smartphone!

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EVOLVER – Next phase

S. P. - We hope to present in 2022 a real LBE group experience. You will enter as a single user, with some haptics and body scan. The idea is to let you explore a space where you can walk freely with concrete interactions. We want to find strategic partnership with venues around the world that can present EVOLVER; museums, foundations, etc.

S. P. – We have a dream team with Marshmallow Laser Feast (LFF) and Atlas V on EVOLVER. And working with many countries, it’s quite exciting. Everyone is trying to find the right way to present the project, whether you’re a fan of the musicians, of the art, or Malick. You will have a good reason to come and see your VR project next year!

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