Char Davies. Tree Pond, Osmose (1995).

Digital still captured in real-time through HMD (head-mounted display) during live performance of the immersive virtual environment Osmose.

Immersence Inc.

OPEN IMMERSION: A Virtual Reality Creative Doc Lab

Curriculum + Program

The First Virtual Reality Creative Doc Lab produced by the
CFC Media Lab, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and JustFilms | Ford Foundation

October 11-19, 2016 | Toronto

In this Endgadget interview written in January 2015 Nonny de la Peña, the "godmother of virtual reality," speaks to the perceived power of Virtual Reality (VR) as more than just a storytelling medium but as an “empathy engine,” an idea further reinforced by Chris Milk, founder of VRSE, in his infamous TED Talk. When we take these grand claims and position them alongside the large economic gains predicted for the AR/VR market - $30 billion worth of revenues by 2020 - we have the makings of a media revolution quite similar in cultural and economic scope as when the Web hit the commercial mainstream in 1994 with the introduction of the Netscape browser.

Today we know the impact of networked, digital media in cultural production has been vast bringing both opportunities and challenges/threats to diverse creators. We have accessible and cheaper tools of production, but also new incumbents acting as gatekeeping monopolies; we have direct engagement with our audiences, but also major issues regarding privacy and big data; and we have faster and faster broadband but unevenly distributed around the world.This next evolution of technology, called the “final platform” by Oculus Rift’s chief scientist, brings full-blown immersion into this networked digital world we live in. But this next evolution of technology – VR - will also more than likely amplify the pressures that define the Internet as we know it today.

How then, do we ensure that we design this “final platform” in a way that addresses these pressures and indeed creates a more inclusive, mindful and intentional media space?

It is crucial that creators play a role in the construction of the VR ecosystem -- its tools, techniques, language, workflows, experiences, and so on – as its being invented. More importantly, it is crucial that creators of all kinds, including those under-represented in technology and media circles and coming from diverse communities participate in this process.

To that end, CFC Media Lab, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and JustFilms | Ford Foundation have launched OPEN IMMERSION: A VR CREATIVE DOC LAB that will bring diverse creators from both the US and Canada to learn about, explore and experiment with VR storytelling, in particular as a form they can use to draw attention to issues of inclusion, racial and social justice.

In this inaugural year, six First Nations artists in Canada will work alongside with six artists from the American South.

OPEN IMMERSION has been designed to immerse these artists in both the theory and practice of creating VR experiences through an inspiring and rigorous hands-on creative development process comprised of keynote presentations, cast study critiques, group sessions and peer collaboration.


The CFC is committed to providing accessible practices that are in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). If you require accommodation at any stage of the application process or have any questions regarding appropriate accommodations please contact Deborah Fallows, CHRO,


The artists participating in this lab come from a variety of disciplines in film, theatre, visual art, interactive media and more. 

The six Canadian artists are: 

Scott Benesiinaabandan: An Anishinabe intermedia artist,Benesiinaabandan works primarily in photography, video, audio and printmaking, and currently is based in Montreal.

Kevin Lee Burton: An award-winning director, programmer and editor, Burton is originally from God's Lake Narrows First Nation in Manitoba, Canada.

Danis Goulet: An award-winning filmmaker whose short films have screened at festivals around the world, Goulet (Cree/Metis) was born in La Ronge, Saskatchewan and now resides in Toronto.

Nyla Innuksuk: A filmmaker originally from Igloolik and Iqaluit, Innuksuk is nowworking in Toronto on a variety of projects, including music videos, television series and her own documentary film about Inuit youth.

Lisa Jackson: An award-winning filmmaker working in both fiction and documentary, Jacksonis Anishinaabe, has a BFA in Film Production from Simon Fraser University, and has completed the Canadian Film Centre’s (CFC) Directors’ Lab.

Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers: A Blackfoot and Sami actor, producer, filmmaker and curator from the Kainai First Nation, Tailfeathers divides her time between Vancouver, Canada, the Blood Reserve and Sami territory in Sweden.

The six American artists are:

Michaela Pilar Brown: An image and object maker, Brown is a multidisciplinary artist using photography, installation and performance.

Kimi Maeda: A theatre artist based in Columbia, South Carolina, Maeda’s intimate visual performances cross disciplines and pushboundaries. Her ephemera trilogy is a collection of sand drawing and shadow performances that deals with memory, home and trans-cultural identity.

Tiona McClodden: A visual artist and filmmaker, McClodden creates work that explores and critiques issues at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and social commentary.

Jacqueline Olive: An award-winning multimedia producer and filmmaker, Olive founded Tell It Media in 2011 to create documentaries that tell nuanced stories of the people, places and cultures that make up our diverse world.

RaMell Ross: A Rhode Island-based artist whose work has been exhibited in the U.S. and internationally, Ross is currently a Research Affiliate at the MIT Media Lab and an Assistant Professor of Practice in Brown University’s Visual Arts Department. He is in production on his first feature film, Idiom (Hale County This Morning, This Evening).

Kai Lumumba Barrow: A New Orleans-based visual artist, Barrow sews together elements of interactive theater, multimedia installation and performance to create “visual operas” that explore ideas of community, place and identity. 


About The Canadian Film Centre (CFC)

The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) is a charitable organization whose mission is to invest in and inspire the next generation of world-class Canadian content creators and entrepreneurs in the screen-based entertainment industry. A significant economic and cultural driver in Canada and beyond, CFC delivers a range of multi-disciplinary programs and initiatives in film, television, music, screen acting, and digital media, which provides industry collaborations, strategic partnerships, and business and marketplace opportunities for talent and participants. For more information, visit

About CFC Media Lab 
The Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab (CFC Media Lab) is an internationally acclaimed digital media think tank and award-winning production facility. It provides a unique research, training and production environment for digital media content developers and practitioners, as well as acceleration programs and services for digital entertainment start-ups and related SMEs. Program participants have emerged as leaders in the world of digital media, producing groundbreaking projects and innovative, sustainable companies for the digital and virtual age. CFC Media Lab is funded in part by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

About the NFB
The NFB is Canada’s public producer of award-winning creative documentaries, auteur animation, and groundbreaking interactive stories, installations and participatory experiences. NFB producers are deeply embedded in communities across the country, working with talented artists and creators in production studios from St. John’s to Vancouver, on projects that stand out for their excellence in storytelling, their innovation, and their social resonance. NFB productions have won over 5,000 awards, including 15 Canadian Screen Awards, 17 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies. To access many of these works, visit or download the NFB’s apps for mobile devices and connected TV.

About the Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation seeks to reduce inequality in all of its forms, and artist-driven documentary and emerging media projects are crucial to this effort. As part of the Ford Foundation’s Creativity and Free Expression program, JustFilms funds social justice storytelling and the 21st century arts infrastructure that supports it.For 80 years the Ford Foundation has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Curriculum + Program

A Nine Day Residency to explore immersive VR storytelling with 12 diverse creators from Canada and the U.S.

The residency begins at the Canadian Film Centre with an orientation and a 2-day VR knowledge immersion with guest speakers/mentors, VR case studies, and hands-on access to innovative VR projects.

With insights and information on hand from this VR knowledge immersion, the residency will move to NFB’s VR lab in downtown Toronto to embark on an intensive 7-day R&D prototyping lab. Each artist will join a pre-selected “Creator Team” tasked with creating a VR experience prototype that explores a specific idea, such as composition, scale and point-of-view.

Agenda for the 2-day VR Knowledge Immersion

(This draft Agenda is subject to change)



Keynote Presentation: History of VR as a Medium for Artistic Expression

Presented by Michael Naimark


Panel Discussion: Storytelling in VR

Moderated by Yelena Rachitsky.
Featuring Panelists:


Journaling Exercise

Presentation: VR for Social Impact

Presentation by Lina Srivastava

VR Showcase

Curated selection of VR projects to experience

Insight Gathering Exercises

Cocktail Networking Event


Insights and Ideas

Keynote Presentation:
VR as a Documentary Form

Presented by Oscar Raby


Panel Discussion: 360 Video and Beyond

Moderated by Ana Serrano. Featuring Panelists:
J. Lee Williams, Occupied VR
Karen Vanderborght, FatalimageFatale
Elli Raynai, Cinehackers


Panel Discussion: Hybrid VR

Moderated by Ana Serrano. Featuring Panelists:
Milica Stefancic, Jam3
Ben Unsworth, Globacore
Stefan Grambart, Secret Location


Producing for VR: Hands on Workshop

Closing Remarks




Following the two-day knowledge immersion days, artist residents will engage in a 7-day production lab with their creator teams. These seven days will be peppered with workshops from a variety of artists, academics, creators and production partners including: