It’s not the Last Supper as the painting depicts.
Jesus Christ is kneeling on the floor, washing the feet of one of his disciples. A dozen other men are seated around the fire-lit room. You can look over at all of them, up at the ceiling and down into the fireplace.
It’s almost like being there, and that was David Hansen’s reason for making his virtual reality film, Jesus VR: The Story of Christ.
“In some ways, VR is as close to time travel as you could get. It really feels like you’re here, you’re looking around, you’re in that moment,” said Hansen, a Regina-based director/producer.
“I was thinking historically, if you could travel back anywhere in time, where would the majority of people want to go? … The No. 1 person they want to meet is Jesus Christ.”
Jesus VR, the first feature-length virtual reality film ever made, screened at the Venice Film Festival last week.
Being invited to one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world was “unbelievable,” said Hansen.
Hansen had the idea for the film last summer; he spent six weeks in Matera, Italy, making the film last fall. Crew included executive producer Enzo Sisti, who produced The Passion of the Christ, and about seven Academy Award nominees.
Virtual reality hasn’t quite broken into the mainstream, because not many people have caught onto the hardware. To see the films, you need a smartphone and a set of virtual reality goggles, which retail for anywhere from $20 (Google cardboard) to $600-plus (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive). They look a bit like the old Fisher Price View-Master, minus the lever to switch slides.
Hansen expects “a lot of people are going to wake up this Christmas and have VR goggles under the tree.”
That’s around the time Jesus VR will be available to the public.
Making a virtual reality film was more challenging than an average movie.
It required longer takes, because there isn’t just one shot on a camera.
In VR, a central rig has six or eight cameras pointing every which way, to capture 360 degrees of sightline.
Because of the all-encompassing camera angle, Hansen and his assistant directors had to be in costume as extras in order to direct the film.
There was no splicing together of takes. If a scene took 14 minutes, as did Jesus’s sermon on the mountain, that’s how long it took. One mistake meant starting the whole scene over.
“You have to be in character all the time,” said Hansen.
He expects his next virtual reality project will be something kid-friendly to include his children, five-year-old John and eight-year-old Molly.
It’s one thing to make a film. But because the medium is so new, marketing and selling it to audiences would be “a full-time job for two years.”
That said, “Anyone with a cellphone … can get into virtual reality,” so the medium can only grow.
Hansen heads to Toronto on Saturday for the Toronto International Film Festival, where his film Two Lovers and a Bear is screening.
Ashley Martin, Regina Leader-Post, Regina Leader-Post 09.12.2016