By: Shannon Carroll, Guest Contributor and Creative Director at Vivid Story
This past Spring, I released my virtual reality film Women on the Move, made with the poverty-fighting organization CARE and Oculus VR For Good program. After our world premiere at SXSW and leading events including the Skoll World Forum, the film has now been watched by millions online.
This inspiring film gives viewers an intimate look at women who started a movement by coming together in rural Niger. Part of Oculus’ VR for Good program, viewers are transported into the lives of Fatchima and her granddaughter, Nana. Fatchima unlocked a better future for women in Kagadama, Niger, 25 years ago when she helped create one of the very first CARE Village Savings & Loan Associations, or VSLAs, changing the course of her life — and Nana’s.
Oculus launched VR for Good last year, matching 10 nonprofits with 10 rising filmmakers to bring a variety of social causes to life. Our journey began with the inaugural VR for Good Creator’s Lab at the Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA last summer. There we were given training, mentorship, equipment, funding, post-production support, and developed our projects concepts. A month later we were in Niger, Africa, filming Women on the Move.
Through making Women on the Move, I learned a tremendous amount about crafting a successful virtual reality project for causes.
1. Engage Sense of Presence.
What makes virtual reality unique is the sense of presence. When you pull a headset over your eyes, you become part of the experience.
For Women on the Move, we knew we wanted to reach CARE’s target donor audience of “compassionate mothers” based in the US who are ages 35-55. Every creative decision was made to increase the sense of emotional and physical presence for this target audience. We placed the camera at the standing height of 5’2″ to match the height of an average woman, and crafted the narrative of the film to engender cross-cultural feelings of maternal and familial bond.
2. Collaborate with Technology Partners.
The speed and growth of virtual reality technology makes this an excellent time for corporate and nonprofit partnerships.
Consumer-level headsets have only been available since the start of 2016. New headsets and cameras are continually being released and improved. Technology companies are eager to prove VR’s social and cultural impact beyond the gaming industry. Several companies have started formal programs to promote the creation of social good content, like Oculus VR for Good which was recently extended in Oculus’ announcement of $50 million towards outside creators to create non-gaming VR, and HTC Vive’s VR for Impact commitment of $10 million dollars. Other tech companies like Google have similar but less formal efforts with camera lending programs. I recommend seeking out these opportunities by aligning your mission with their business priorities.
3. Expanding Platforms Create Opportunities.
Expanding platforms are creating exciting opportunities to tell your story, including virtual reality hand controllers, room scale projects, and augmented reality.
Consider how to take advantage of the freshness of new platforms to distribute to your target audience and create a PR buzz, like Charity: Water’s storefront campaign last year. Women on the Move was made to be viewed on headsets for events and face-to-face fundraising, and we created a shorter version optimized for watching on Facebook.
There is incredible opportunity in virtual reality to foster connection. The efficacy of virtual reality for causes is fascinating, from behavior change to fundraising. It’s an exciting field because the rules are being written and expanding with each new development. My advice is to think creatively about what can unlock your audience emotionally and through the senses. There is great potential in this new method of storytelling, and we’re only just getting started.