Virtually Livin’ Action with Daniel Bydlowski

Writer/director/editor Daniel Bydlowski caused a stir this year with his film Bullies. This twenty-eight-minute tale of a young boy who makes a discovery beneath his school, one which promises to keep him safe, received numerous accolades at prestigious film festivals around the world including the Newport Beach Film Festival (Honors Award — Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking: Family Film Short), Near Nazareth Festival (Best For Children and Family), Woodpecker International Film Festival (Best Film -International — Children Film), Sydney Indie Film Festival (Family Film Award), Nevada Film Festival (Special Jury Award), Tri-Cities International Film (First Place in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy — Short category), and numerous others. Perhaps most prominently, the film won Best Fantasy film and Jury’s Choice at the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. San Diego Comic-Con has proven to be an indicator of a filmmaker’s ability to connect with a mass audience; its reception of Bullies was overwhelming. In addition to the public attention, Bydlowski came onto the radar of producer Stephen W. Pugh. His work with major studios such as Pixomodo (Iron Man 2, Hugo, The Hunger Games), Synaptic VFX (The Day After Tomorrow, Night at the Museum, Terminator: Salvation), as well as productions like Hellboy, The Man in the High Castle (Primetime Emmy Award winner), Game of Thrones (Golden Globe winner), and others has established Pugh as one of the most prominent visual effects producers in the modern industry. In Bydlowski, the producer recognized a peer who understood the progressive potential for storytelling. The two have partnered to create the virtual reality film Livin’ Action, currently in preproduction and scheduled for a 2021 release.

Bullies was proof that Daniel possessed the ability as a storyteller to reach the interest of different audiences. It was his knowledge of directing animation, experimental films, documentaries, live-action fiction, and research in VR that convinced Pugh of Bydlowski’s ability to create an innovative story via the VR format. Describing his aspirations for this film, Daniel relates, “I would like to give the audience the ability to interact with the story in a different manner, with increased control of how to entertain themselves through a new medium. I want them to feel how their own imagination can fill up reality in an entertaining way. In other words, I want to replicate daydreaming through storytelling.”

While many of the specific details of the story cannot be revealed until Livin’ Action is released, the creators of the film have shared a general sense; perhaps to pique the interest of curious audiences. The central character [Stan] goes to watch a film in a typical movie theatre. When the film starts, he notices that the screen shows an audience sitting in a movie theatre, much like the one he is sitting in. Disconcertingly, they all seem to be looking directly towards him. It feels like a boring film and Stan, together with the people in his audience, become impatient. Things start to get weird as Stan notices that the audience on the screen is reacting to the audience which he is part of. When Stan moves, the audience on the screen follows him with their eyes. When Stan tells a joke, they laugh. The question becomes: who is the audience and who is the film? When Stan and his audience start to be invaded by characters of all different movie genres, it appears that the audience who were supposed to be real are actually the film. The very premise is mind bending and fourth wall breaking in its most advanced form, due to the VR presentation.

The new medium of VR films carries with it a number of challenges for filmmakers. Continuity and the fact that VR projects don’t “cut” can definitely change and complicate things. Everything in the production must be designed to take into account extremely long shots which can be demanding for the crew and for actors who need to memorize lines extensively. Much of Bydlowski’s research into VR and planning has been based on volumetric virtual reality; that is, creating a template that would allow the audience to move around the scene and around the screen characters that invade their space.

While he is somewhat uncomfortable with the label “pioneer”, Daniel concedes that the obstacles which accompany this new filmmaking technique are well worth the potential gains for him. He communicates, “Most people see VR as an ‘experience’ only but I believe in its storytelling potential. The story of Livin’ Action is perfect for VR as it invites us to explore the limits of the fourth wall. I believe that VR is a completely different technology that is going to eventually become the next vehicle in storytelling. The popularity of streaming services had the side effect of decreasing the level of immersion which audiences felt watching a film in the movie theatre. VR gives that immersion back without requiring us to leave our homes. I believe that advancements like the size and comfortability of VR goggles and technology which allows the avatars of a viewer’s friends to be felt present will transform this from niche to mainstream entertainment.”

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Kelly King writes for numerous popular online media outlets in addition to being a staff writer for NYC & LA based/internationally published Drumhead magazine.

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kkingme2003@yahoo.com

kkingme2003@yahoo.com

Kelly King writes for numerous popular online media outlets in addition to being a staff writer for NYC & LA based/internationally published Drumhead magazine.

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