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Janicza Bravo makes short films about loneliness. In one, Michael Cera plays an abrasive paraplegic who can’t get lucky. In another, Gaby Hoffmann plays a phone stalker for whom the description “comes on too strong” is not strong enough. Bravo’s shorts employ the visual grammar of art-house cinema: over-the-shoulder shots representing a character’s point of view, handheld tracking shots depicting urgent movement, lingering closeups to heighten intimacy or unease, carefully composed establishing shots with an actor in the center of the frame.
In March, 2015, Bravo went to Venice, on the western edge of Los Angeles, to meet with a production company called Wevr. The name is pronounced “weaver,” but it can also be thought of as a sentence, with “We” as the subject and “V.R.” as the verb. As anyone who has read a tech blog within the past five years, or a sci-fi novel within the past five decades, knows, “V.R.” stands for virtual reality—a loosely defined phrase that is now being applied to several related forms of visual media. You put your smartphone into a portable device like a Google Cardboard or a Samsung Gear—or you use a more powerful computer-based setup, such as the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive—and the device engulfs your field of vision and tracks your head movement. The filmic world is no longer flat. Wherever you look, there’s something to see.
The producers at Wevr invited Bravo to write and direct a V.R. project. “I said no,” she told me. “It sounded like a technical thing, and I’m not into technical. But then I talked to my husband, and he said, ‘How often do people just hand you money in this business?’ So I changed my mind.” She thought about what kind of story might be told most effectively in the new medium. “The two words I kept hearing about V.R. were ‘empathy’ and ‘immersion,’ and I wasn’t sure that being immersed in one of my dark comedies would be all that useful.”
Anthony Batt, one of Wevr’s three founders and its head of content, is a forty-eight-year-old with artfully tousled hair and a bushy, graying beard. Some of Wevr’s projects are computer-animated, some are live action, and some combine both elements. “We start by identifying people with interesting minds, and then we wrap them in a creative bear hug,” Batt said. This can entail weeks of meetings, phone calls, and test shoots designed to help directors unlearn much of what they know about two-dimensional films—or “flatties,” as V.R. triumphalists sometimes call them. Neville Spiteri, Wevr’s C.E.O. and another of its founders, said, “We’ve had traditional scripts that can’t work as V.R. unless they’re totally rewritten.”
For Bravo, the bear hug was relatively painless. “Hard World for Small Things” would be a live-action short, with two scenes filmed on location. The first scene—five minutes of unhurried, semi-improvised dialogue—would place the viewer in a car as it wound through South Central L.A., then idled outside a bodega. The second, much shorter scene would take place inside the store. Bravo would use four wide-angle lenses, pointing in all directions from a single source, positioned so that the viewer felt like one of the friends. Then, in postproduction, Wevr would “stitch” the footage together to make a single spherical image. A three-hundred-and-sixty-degree camera rig picks up everything within view, including boom mikes, external lighting, and lingering crew members. It’s possible to remove such visual detritus in postproduction, but this adds time and expense. The standard practice is to call “Action!” and then run and hide. (The camera rig itself is edited out later.) On traditional film sets, the director and the crew are present for almost every scene; on this shoot the car would hold only the camera rig and the actors, who would be wearing wireless microphones. Bravo told her cast to think of the project not as a film but as an intimate play with an invisible audience.
Luis Blackaller, a producer at Wevr, said, “We all liked the concept. We had only a few choices to make.” Like most V.R. crews, Bravo and her team would shoot with GoPros—cheap, shatterproof cameras that are marketed to extreme athletes, not filmmakers. Matthew Niederhauser, a cinematographer, noted that most V.R. experiences are viewed on phones, and said, “You can shoot with big, expensive lenses, but what’s the point?”
An engineer at Wevr built a camera rig out of aluminum and sandbags, to minimize jostling, and the crew did a test shoot with the rig in the passenger seat. “Watching it, you had to turn around the whole time to make sure you weren’t missing anything in the back of the car, which felt annoying,” Blackaller said. So they decided to film from the back right seat instead. Bravo tweaked her screenplay to remove minor cinematic vestiges—insert shots, subtle blocking details—that would be either irrelevant or impossible in V.R.
“Then we had another big conversation,” Blackaller said. “Do we film a dummy?” In some V.R. experiences, the viewer feels invisible; in others, one can look down to see one’s body represented onscreen. In a clumsily animated V.R. segment produced by another company, I experienced a nightmarish version of the latter: I flew through the air, my legs dangling below me, scrawny and immovable. My arms were those of a white man in his thirties, which happened to match my anatomy but might have been distracting, if not alarming, to most humans. And when I craned my actual neck downward I saw a sharp line where my virtual neck ended, leaving a black void where my head was supposed to be.
Crosscurrents of conversation overlap around you. Sev walks into the store. Dell gets out of the car to help an old lady cross the street. You and Renee stay in the car, and Renee takes a phone call. You can turn your head slightly to listen to her, or you can turn farther to watch Dell and the old lady, or you can keep turning until you see two plainclothes cops lurking half a block away. If you’ve seen “Hard World” before, you will fix your eye on those cops and track them as they approach Dell’s car and start trouble. As the hostility intensifies, you might feel frustrated by your incorporeality—your inability to prevent the conflict from reaching its inevitable conclusion.
Jump cut—you’re inside the store. So are the cops, and Sev, carrying a box of cereal, accidentally bumps into one of them. The officer draws his gun and shoots, and Sev crashes to the floor, face up. You watch the film again, and again, and every time Sev falls you feel numb. You were just getting to know him, and now he’s gone. You could look anywhere, but your eyes linger on his still body.
Bravo recently released a short film starring Alison Pill, and she is working on a TV show and a feature—all flatties. “Even while making the V.R. thing, I felt ambivalent about it as a medium,” she said. “But now I think I would do it again. I have some ideas about directional sound that I want to play around with.”
Anthony Batt told me, “A lot of tech people are talking a big game about V.R. right now. A lot of scholars, people way smarter than I am, are coming up with theories about it. And then a few people, including us, are just diving in and fucking doing it.” Wevr has overseen more than twenty V.R. projects, and six more are in production. “Does that mean our stuff is always perfect?” Batt said. “Fuck no! It means we start with no idea of how we’re gonna make a project work, and we make it work. Or we don’t, and the whole thing turns to jello, and we learn.”
V.R. “experiences,” as they’re often called, can be fictional or journalistic, narrative or open-ended. They can look like small-budget movies, big-budget video games, or experimental art pieces with no obvious precedent. Some are called “cinematic V.R.,” or “V.R. storytelling,” to distinguish them from pieces made for more practical ends, such as architectural modelling or P.T.S.D. therapy.
Cinematic grammar no longer applies. There is no frame in which to compose a shot. An actor who directly addresses the camera isn’t breaking the fourth wall, because the viewer is already in the middle of the action. The viewer can look anywhere, so the director often adds subtle visual or auditory cues to indicate where to look, or to signal that the viewer’s gaze can wander without missing anything important.
In “passive” V.R. experiences, you simply enjoy the ride; in “interactive” ones, the environment responds to your choices. Some interactions are simple, relying on nothing more than the orientation of the viewer’s head. In an elegant game called Land’s End, you look around a serene, vividly colored landscape until you see a white orb floating at eye level. If you stare at the orb long enough, it pulls you inside it. Then you look for the next orb, which pulls you forward, and so on; without instruction, you intuit how to navigate your way through a V.R. environment. Other interactive experiences use more complex hardware, including hand controllers and body-tracking sensors, to simulate such activities as painting and mini-golf.
The Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear have been on sale since last year. More sophisticated V.R. headsets have been available to developers for about two years, in prototype form, and are now reaching the market. The Oculus Rift, which produces precise localized audio, sells for six hundred dollars. The HTC Vive, a “room-scale” system that uses laser emitters to track a user’s movement within a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot space, costs eight hundred. (High-powered computers, sold separately, are required for both.) Omer Shapira, an artist and a software engineer, told me, “The tech is advancing astoundingly quickly, but the storytellers are still catching up. Humans are good at picking up language, including visual language, but first it has to be invented.” He mentioned the Kuleshov effect, which was established in the early days of cinema by the Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov. When footage of a man with a neutral expression was intercut with an image of a child in a coffin, the audience thought that the man looked sorrowful; when the same footage was intercut with a shot of a bowl of soup, the man looked hungry. “Over time, that sort of thing becomes intuitive to an audience,” Shapira said.
Television broadcasting began in the nineteen-twenties, but it took decades for TV to become a medium. In the thirties, actors were filmed standing in front of microphones as they read scripts of radio plays. In 1953, WCAU, a station in Philadelphia, launched “Action in the Afternoon,” a half-hour Western that aired live every weekday. It was an ambitious production, but it wasn’t uniquely suited to TV—it was like theatre, only with more technical glitches. In “The Box,” an oral history of television, James Hirschfeld, who worked on “Action,” said, “Sound was the biggest problem. The mikes had to be hidden in the hitching posts along the street. You had to walk over to a hitching post to do a scene.”
Movies also began as filmed theatre, but directors learned to use the camera to heighten emotions. To represent James Stewart’s fear of heights in “Vertigo,” Alfred Hitchcock introduced the “dolly zoom,” in which the cinematographer moves the camera backward while zooming in, or vice versa. The dolly zoom came to signify a moment of great revelation or terror, and it was used at pivotal points in “Raging Bull,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Poltergeist.” It’s not clear whether zoom lenses can be used in V.R.; as far as I know, no one has tried yet. Nor do V.R. directors use montages, dissolves, or split screens—though these are all technically feasible, they might seem abrupt or confusing to the audience, which is learning to watch V.R. while its makers are learning to make it.
Wevr’s offices in Venice occupy two former houses a ten-minute walk from each other. Anthony Batt, the head of content, told me that he grew up nearby, in Pacific Palisades, “skateboarding and getting into fights.” He added, “Back then, you didn’t come down here unless you wanted to get your ass whupped.” Now Venice and its environs are nicknamed Silicon Beach. Google and Snapchat own stretches of extravagantly priced real estate, and it’s a seller’s market for cold-pressed juice. The startup culture is at pains to distinguish itself from that of the movie studios half a dozen miles to the east. If a meeting in Culver City begins with an executive offering you a bottle of water and a nondisclosure agreement, you start a meeting in Venice by grabbing a LaCroix seltzer from the communal fridge and pulling up a chair.
I entered through a side door, passing a single-lane swimming pool and an Astroturf lawn that was being used as a bocce court, and found Batt and Blackaller seated at four white tables that had been pushed together. Next to them was Gautam Chopra, a filmmaker and an entrepreneur who calls himself Gotham. (“I grew up on comic books,” he explained.) He put his BMW keys on the table, set his iPhone to speaker mode, and called his father, the holistic healer Deepak Chopra. The Chopras are working with Wevr on a V.R. meditation experience that will be animated in Unity, the video-game development software. “You put on the headset, and the first thing you hear is Deepak’s voice, guiding you into it,” Batt said. “You float up into the clouds, you see a lotus bud, and a bass sound comes in, very faint.”
“The lotus bud turns into a tree, and you’re surrounded by a kind of green light,” Blackaller said.
“Around here, we like to call normal reality ‘current reality,’ ” Batt said.
“Current reality is the matrix of all possibilities,” Deepak said.
“Dope,” Batt said.
Blackaller suggested that, eventually, V.R. software could be calibrated to the user’s body: “There might be ways to keep track of pulse, or galvanic skin response, and deliver different experiences in reaction to that.”
“Nerding out is cool, but let’s get a little grounded,” Batt said. “Could we build a crude version of this in Unity by, like, next Friday? Because certain things either will or won’t make sense, and we won’t know until we throw it in a headset and look around.” They agreed to convene again in a week.
Batt and Blackaller walked to a taco shop a few blocks away. A Samsung Gear headset was hiked up on Blackaller’s forehead, like ski goggles after a completed run.
“I forgot I had this on,” Blackaller said, sheepishly.
“Even I kind of wanna punch you, dude,” Batt said.
Returning to the office, Batt said, “Will we look back at these headsets and laugh at how clunky they were, like cell phones from the eighties? Probably. Will it eventually be a full-room thing, like the Holodeck, or will it be contact lenses that project images onto your eyes? I have no fucking idea. All I know is we’re addicted to technology as a society, and once we move forward we don’t tend to go back.”
There was a clanging sound overhead: water drumming on the steel roof.
“I think it’s raining,” Batt said. “In current reality.”
Outside of fiction, “virtual reality,” like “angel food” or “infinity pool,” is an evocative phrase that is disappointing if taken literally. An Oculus headset provides no taste and no touch, and it registers only head and hand movement. You never fully lose yourself in the simulation, if only because you’re worried that it’s impossible to look respectable while wearing a plastic face mask.
Primitive head-mounted displays were invented more than half a century ago. The Headsight, built by Philco, in 1961, used magnetic head tracking and separate video projections for each eye. There was a wave of V.R. hype in the eighties, and another one in the nineties, but only in this decade has the technology become sophisticated enough for the wave to crest.
Neville Spiteri, Wevr’s C.E.O., has a background in video-game production. “Around 2010, I started creating a first-person underwater experience,” he told me. “I knew I wanted to make it as immersive as possible, but I didn’t know what that meant in practice. Like, would it be a screen saver?” Spiteri and Batt had worked together years earlier, at a data-analytics startup. Batt, who had also been a digital publisher at Time Inc., recalls, “He showed me some images he was playing around with, and I went, ‘Cool, keep going,’ even though I didn’t really get it.”
In 2012, a nineteen-year-old named Palmer Luckey started a campaign on Kickstarter, asking for help to fund hardware that he was building in his parents’ garage: “Oculus Rift, the first truly immersive virtual-reality headset for video games.” Anyone who pledged at least three hundred dollars would be sent a “developer kit”—a prototype with instructions on how to code for it. Spiteri received a kit in early 2013. “It took a few weeks to port the underwater thing into it,” he said. “As soon as I put it on, I went, ‘O.K., this is what I do now.’ ” Wevr was born, and Spiteri’s underwater animation became a V.R. experience called “theBlu.” The following year, Facebook bought Oculus for two billion dollars. “That was the moment when everyone, including us, went, ‘Holy shit, this V.R. thing is not a drill,’ ” Batt said.
At one point in Venice, Jake Rowell, an art director, helped me into an HTC Vive and invited me to try out “theBlu.” It felt like a walk-in aquarium. For a few minutes, I stood on an underwater reef, poking at a school of pink jellyfish; then I was deep in an ocean trench, using my hand controller as a flashlight while I crouched to look for sea turtles. Because I was breathing normally, I could almost imagine that my headset was functioning as a scuba mask.
Oculus now has its own building on the Facebook campus, in Silicon Valley, and its ambitions have grown well beyond video games. Every new employee is given a copy of “Ready Player One.” Along with computer-vision engineers and diffractive-optics experts, the company employs about thirty people in a storytelling division called Oculus Story Studio. Saschka Unseld, the studio’s creative director, worked at Pixar for nearly six years; at Oculus, he makes short Pixaresque V.R. animations. The first of these, “Henry,” is about a porcupine who wants to make friends. “The goal was to do something funny and physical, almost like the old silent films,” Unseld told me. “But it turns out that what’s funny on a movie screen is not necessarily funny in an immersive environment. If Charlie Chaplin falls on his face, you can laugh at him. If you’re in the space and someone falls on their face right next to you, you feel concern.” Unseld has decided that he prefers V.R. experiences in which the characters somehow acknowledge the viewer. “If you aren’t ever acknowledged, it actually feels more artificial, like the characters are respecting a fourth wall that isn’t there,” he said. “We’re always learning things like this, and we’re always having conceptual discussions about what they mean, but ultimately we make decisions by trying things and seeing how they feel.”
Also at the conference was Janet Murray, a professor of digital media at Georgia Tech who has a nimbus of gray hair. She is the author of a cult classic among V.R. nerds, “Hamlet on the Holodeck” (1997), in which she speculates about the rich cybernarratives that technology will eventually enable. “Every age seeks out the appropriate medium in which to confront the unanswerable questions of human existence,” she writes. “The format that most fully exploits the properties of digital environments is not the hypertext or the fighting game but the simulation: the virtual world full of interrelated entities, a world we can enter, manipulate, and observe in process.” Just as a novel can include poetry, dialogue, and essayistic argument, a V.R. narrative could be capacious enough to incorporate animation, video games, documentary, and other visual media.
One experience that succeeds within V.R.’s current constraints is “Notes on Blindness,” which was inspired by the theologian John Hull, who lost his sight in 1983. For years afterward, he recorded a diary on audiocassette. The V.R. experience animates excerpts of the diary, using only tiny points of light. You begin in darkness, and sounds cause shapes to coalesce fleetingly around you: a tree is marked by the wind blowing through its leaves; a person on a nearby park bench is imperceptible and then suddenly, with the rumpling of a newspaper, springs to life. The images are crude, but their crudeness is part of the point.
Both “Notes on Blindness” and “Giant” premièred at New Frontier, the V.R. showcase at Sundance, along with “Hard World” and some twenty other experiences. Shari Frilot, who curates New Frontier and has seen nearly every piece of cinematic V.R. ever made, told me, “I think we’re moving toward something amazing. I’ve seen a lot of things I really like, but I haven’t seen anything yet that I’d consider a classic.”
The conference’s after-party was held in the meatpacking district, at Samsung 837, a retail showroom built around a two-story tower of Samsung flat screens. The V.R. field’s most notable directors, coders, and theorists gathered in the glow of the screens, drinking vodka cocktails. They all seemed to know one another. I found Winslow Porter in the crowd. “If you’ve been a sculptor for three months, people are not inviting you to speak on panels,” he said. “In this art form, you’re an expert.” People lined up near four swivel chairs, each attended by a Samsung employee holding a Gear headset. “I haven’t done this one yet, but I hear it’s fucking amazing,” my attendant told me when I sat down. “I think it’s about Africa.”
One afternoon, at the Wevr office on Indiana Avenue, three young filmmakers—Blessing Yen, James Kaelan, and Eve M. Cohen—arrived for a preproduction meeting about a V.R. experience they were making, called “Memory Slave.” Wevr was providing equipment, staff, and technical support in exchange for the exclusive right to show the experience on its platform, Transport, which was released earlier this month. One of Wevr’s long-term goals is to be a V.R. equivalent of Netflix or Hulu—both a producer of original V.R. experiences and a destination for watching such content.
Yen and Kaelan, who are dating, have collaborated on many projects, and Cohen often serves as their cinematographer. “It’s a very different job in V.R.,” Cohen told me. “You position the camera, you do light direction, and then you disappear.” The three had worked together on a V.R. short called “The Visitor,” an existentialist piece in which two characters discuss the subconscious. Hoping to limit viewers’ options and orient them toward the action, Cohen had placed the camera rig in the corner of a large room. The rig was at a reasonable distance for an establishing shot, but, without the option of intercutting closeups, it was too far away for viewers to read the actors’ expressions.
“This time, the actors will be much closer to the camera,” Yen said. “Or cameras, I guess.”
“So break it down for me,” Batt said. “What do we need to figure out?”
Kaelan passed out a script. It was one scene of what they hoped would eventually be a feature-length V.R. experience. “We had this idea several years ago, about a dystopian tech behemoth called Parable,” Kaelan explained. “Back then, it was an idea for a traditional feature. Then the V.R. thing started taking off, and we decided that Parable would be a V.R. company, and it became this meta-V.R. cautionary tale. We figured, what better way to ask these questions than by putting people in the headset and making them think it through? Here’s this incredibly powerful technology—is it going to contribute to the end of the species?”
“I hope not, financially speaking,” Batt said.
The shoot was scheduled for the next morning, at a sixteen-hundred-seat neo-Gothic auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. The entire space would be captured by four GoPro cameras, each about two inches in diameter. “Our main character is in the balcony, preparing for a speech she’s supposed to give onstage,” Kaelan said. “Her boss finds her up there, and they have this tense conversation. They’re the only people in this empty balcony. She’s seated the whole time, and he’s pacing a few rows behind her—”
“Or maybe just one row, depending on how the test footage looks,” Yen said.
Cohen littered the table with schematic drawings. “We’ve broken the space into four quadrants, each corresponding to one camera,” she said. “A lot will depend on exactly how we position the camera rig, and then we’ll do blocking and lighting around that.”
“GoPros are terrible in low light, so you’ll want to flood the actors’ faces,” Batt said.
“We want the rig close to the ledge, so you get a slight vertigo effect,” Kaelan said. “Most of the time, you’ll be watching the actors, but when you’re not you can look down and freak yourself out a little. And the main camera, the one on her, we want at just about eye level, with him looming above.”
“A slight change in height makes a big difference,” Batt said. “You put it a couple inches above eye level, she’s tiny. A little below her face, she’s a giant.”
“The other big thing is blocking,” Cohen said. “We don’t want actors hanging out right on a stitch line.” V.R. postproduction is a bit like printing out a world map, chopping it into segments, and then pasting the segments onto a globe. It’s never flawless, but sometimes the seams are inconspicuous—a small blurry patch in the middle of the Pacific—whereas other times you cut out New Zealand. Accordingly, actors are usually placed close to one of the cameras’ “sweet spots,” where there’s less risk of erasure or distortion.
Steve Galle, an engineer at Wevr, brought over an off-white piece of plastic and put it on the table. It was about the size of a coffee mug; it had four rectangular faces, and each face had a circular hole with a GoPro protruding from it. “Fresh out of the 3-D printer,” he said.
“Looks sick, dude,” Batt said.
“What do we need in order to clip it to the railing?” Yen said.
“I think a high hat would work,” Galle said. “And some Magic Clamps.”
“And a bunch of gaffing tape,” Batt said.
Later that night, Kaelan and Yen met with the actors, Caitlin FitzGerald and Brennan Kelleher, to rehearse. Both had appeared in plays and flatties—FitzGerald plays Libby Masters on the Showtime series “Masters of Sex.” Neither had acted in V.R.
“What about blocking?” FitzGerald said. “Normally—I mean, traditionally—I’d think you’d want a lot of tight coverage.”
“Right, and that’s impossible,” Kaelan said. “So you stay in your seat, facing forward, and he comes in behind you, and you hear him but you never look at him. Imagine Bergman shooting this scene. He might do a super-tight profile of you, with Brennan behind you, off to the side, and your faces are kind of next to each other but both facing forward. That’s our best option, I think, because if you face away we see the back of your head.”
“This is fucking cool,” FitzGerald said.
Kaelan told me, “Last year, the dogma was ‘You’re not allowed to move the camera at all.’ Well, people have stories that necessitate moving the camera, so they’re figuring out how to do it. We’re basically at the Lumière-brothers stage—little experiments, like pointing the camera at a moving train and seeing what happens.” Kaelan is a film-theory buff, and he made several references to “Sculpting in Time,” a book by the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. “He was writing in the late eighties, almost a century after the advent of cinema, and he was still trying to figure out what made it a distinct medium. His conclusion was that its unique contribution was ‘expressing the course of time within the frame.’ It’s early days, but I think the unique contribution of V.R. is going to be that it’s time plus space—cinema plus architecture.”
The next morning, Cohen and Galle set up the camera rig in the theatre’s balcony while Kaelan and Yen worked on blocking.
“Wait,” Yen said. “If Caitlin sits here—actually, never mind.”
“What?” Kaelan said.
“I was, like, ‘She’ll be off center.’ But, duh, the viewer can just move their head.”
Kaelan laughed. FitzGerald sat on a plush red seat in the front row of the balcony, and Cohen readied the cameras for a test shoot. “Everyone clear the set, please,” Kaelan said. Then he ducked down between seat rows. “I want to hear their performance, and this is the only way without being in the shot,” he explained. Lying on his back, he yelled, “Action!”
Batt said, “We’ll do a quick, dirty stitch, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.” Cohen removed a memory card from each GoPro—delicate work involving tweezers—and a Wevr engineer uploaded the footage to a Samsung Gear. Yen, standing in the balcony, put on a headset. “Whoa, this theatre looks amazing!” she said. “In this thing, I mean.”
“Can I?” FitzGerald said. “I don’t usually watch myself, but—” She put on the headset and gasped.
“Everyone does that the first time,” Batt said.
“Oh, guys, is this the future?” FitzGerald said.
“Let’s go again,” Kaelan said. Everyone cleared out, and he lay down on the floor. This time, I stayed, lying foot to foot with him. I looked up at the ornate cupola on the ceiling, quieted my breathing, and listened. “Action!” Kaelan said.
Kelleher entered from the rear of the balcony, walking slowly toward FitzGerald. He began speaking about the V.R. technology that the fictional company was planning to unleash on the world. “It’s going to be beautiful, it’s going to be hideous,” Kelleher said. “It’s going to bring joy and sorrow and lust and pain and wonder and pleasure. And it’s a fucking miracle!”
The theatre’s house lights went down, and a spotlight was trained on FitzGerald’s face as her character practiced her impending speech. “For all of human history, art, music, storytelling, religion—those have been our modes for communicating the incommunicable,” she said. “But what if there were a way to know not an abstract version of my experience but what I’m actually feeling?” She looked directly into the camera. “Under your seats is a headset that will change the very nature of what it means to be human. Under your seats is the end of your individuality. Put it on and you’ll never want to take it off. Good luck.”
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