Los Angeles-based creative studio VR Playhouse and director Elijah Allan-Blitz immerse viewers in the arduous immigration journey of WWII refugees in the newDefying the Nazis VR experience, available exclusively on the LIFE VR app. The immersive film is a companion to the documentary Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War from award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, which follows an American couple’s courageous mission to help refugees escape Nazi-occupied Europe in 1939.
This powerful and emotional piece allows viewers to see and hear what it was like to leave Nazi France and travel on a boat from Portugal with Martha Sharp as she rescued children seeking asylum in America. Viewers are taken on the voyage across the Atlantic and can hear the range of emotions in the voices of the survivors, including the joy of reaching safety. The piece uses voiceovers and archival photos from the documentary to create a full CG VR experience. VR Playhouse produced the impactful piece in association with Artemis Joukowsky and Farm Pond Pictures. Click HERE to view the experience on the LIFE VR app.
“Defying the Nazis VR drives home awareness of the hardships that thousands of refugee families are enduring amid the current European migrant crisis,” says VR Playhouse CEO Christina Heller. “With this immersive story, the past is rendered palpably present.”
LIFE VR is Time Inc.’s dedicated VR platform featuring immersive, next-level storytelling from Time Inc’s global brands. LIFE VR will launch as a free standalone app for iOS and Android with programming distributed across all channels where VR is available, including Cardboard, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus.
The VR Playhouse team paid careful attention to detail to maintain period authenticity for the piece, in order to craft a more relatable experience for viewers. They used images from the WWII vessel SS Excambion, which was the actual ship the refugees traveled on, as inspiration for their CG ship, as well as referenced historical images of 1940s NYC for crafting the Statue of Liberty and NYC skyline. To create realistic depth and texture, they shot live-action actors on a green screen and composited them into the lower deck of the ship. While maintaining historical accuracy was always top of mind for the VR Playhouse team, they were also mindful of creating an emotionally vivid and reverent depiction of the travelers’ stories.
“What we were creating was not an accurate representation of the actual journey, but rather a representation of the multiple memories of this journey,” notes VR Playhouse Creative Director Dylan Southard. “Virtual reality provides a unique platform to explore the concept of visualizing memories and sharing history in a way that is dynamic and emotionally engaging. This is the future of museum exhibits.”
About VR Playhouse
VR Playhouse is a Los Angeles-based creative studio and full-service production company specializing in virtual and augmented reality. With a fervent passion for transporting viewers through meaningful experiences in immersive media, founders Christina Heller and Ian Forester have amassed a specialized team with diverse backgrounds ranging from production to animation, journalism, VFX, theater and live events. From creative to production and distribution, VR Playhouse delivers complete projects through its cohesive VR pipeline.
Boasting a broad range of projects in the commercial, live sports, cinematic narrative and high-end real estate industries, VR Playhouse’s original VR content transports viewers into unexplored times and locations, allowing audiences to transcend their daily lives and experience new perspectives and emotions.