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Five Ways FIVARS Sets the Standard for the VR Film  Festival World

Stephanie Danielle
Five Ways FIVARS Sets the Standard for the VR Film  Festival World

FIVARS is not your typical film festival. Since its inception in 2015, the Festival  of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories has been exclusively curating and  promoting  the world’s best immersive content. Having discovered or showcased over 150  pieces from thousands of submissions around the globe since it began, FIVARS has  selected and exhibited experiences that are consistently full of ​contemplation, surprise,  delight, controversy and wonder.  “When we launched in 2015, I was very strict about not calling it a ‘film festival,’ because it  was important to distinguish spatialized, immersive experiences from traditional flatties,”  says Keram Malicki- Sánchez, FIVARS Founder and Executive Director.  

  “Now we have Spielberg’s ​Ready Player One​ in the rear view,  plus half a decade of VR  marketing behind us, and there is far greater awareness of the tech and what it can  deliver,” Malicki- Sánchez clarifies, “so rather than referring to FIVARS as a VR festival, we  can focus on the experiences themselves, first and foremost. To amplify VR as the main  attraction would be like saying TIFF is a festival about movie projectors.”    While other film festivals are dipping their toes into the immersive space by incorporating  Virtual Reality elements, presenting a new medium can be more complicated that it seems.  FIVARS set itself up as a UX test bed from the outset. 

Thus here are five reasons FIVARS continues to set the standard for the VR Film Festival World: 

1. Discovery Engine:​ Malicki-Sanchez divides his year between two of the world’s  largest film hubs: Toronto, Canada and Hollywood, California. As a professional  actor of 30 years (American History X, True Blood), he has long-standing  relationships with the film industry, and, as editor-in-chief of decade-old game  journalism site - many ties to the independent game  industry. Malicki-Sanchez is Polish and Ecuadorian, and his mother has lobbied for  the rights and increased media opportunities for visible minorities for decades. All  of these things come together in his curation style.    

2. World Premieres and Exclusives:  FIVARS was the first festival to set up submissions for Virtual Reality projects on - an Amazon company used by content creators to submit their  work to major festivals. FIVARS finds many of its key titles through this engine, but  also through a network of global content partners from Asia to South America.   

3. No Line Ups  While some festivals can have you standing in line for longer than it takes to watch a  catalogue of Virtual Reality pieces, FIVARS has mastered the art of user experience.  By underselling their two-hour blocks and assigning an additional paper ticket to a  finite block of time, they can assess the total number of available minutes per  station, like inventory. “While we are always learning and stumbling, our years of
trial and error always benefit the end user.”   

4. Hygiene & Care  The question of hygiene has always been a sticky one to plague the VR industry.  From waste-producing disposable face masks to strong-smelling alcoholic sanitizing  wipes, the solutions are few and far between. Dedicated to ensuring the health and  safety of their attendees, FIVARS has partnered with CLEANBOX, a modular UV  solution for VR and AR headsets that eradicates 99% of contaminants. They also  outfit their HMDs with vinyl liners that prevent soaking up sweat like a sponge, along  with many ergonomic and personal privacy considerations.   

5. Proprietary Player  Delivering the content to attendees in a seamless manner has been a struggle for  many Virtual Reality events and festivals. FIVARS has worked with a variety of  partners and has recently joined forces with CONTRAVERSE to develop a player that  is better able to manage the festival’s content. In addition to minimizing turnover,  the content creators benefit from the app’s back-end metrics. Providing insights like  heat maps, number of views, and notes from attendees, creators are able to  incorporate this feedback into their next productions.  

The fourth annual Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories (FIVARS) is  set for Sept. 14-16 (the final weekend of TIFF) and will mark the launch of the newly  renovated and rescued historic Matador Ballroom where everyone from Johnny Cash to  Leonard Cohen has performed over its hundred-year history. 

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