VR Raising Awareness for Devastating Earthquake
A year ago, in April 2015, the world suffered a great tragedy. Kathmandu, Nepal in particular. There was an earthquake that registered 8.1 magnitude on the Richter Scale and there were aftershocks literally every 15 to 20 minutes.
The devastating earthquake killed over 8,000 people and also created an avalanche on Mount Everest which killed another 21 people. Right after the earthquake, the world seemed to come together as one to grove and help the citizens of Nepal. However, like every tragedy, people try to get back to everyday life soon after, if they can. After months of helping, people across the world slowly begin to go away and get back to their everyday life. Nepal’s citizens still need help though.
FS Productions’ production team and a journalist, Christian Stephen, went to Nepal with a non-profit called A World At School to give exposure to how much destruction was caused by Nepal’s earthquake and how it keeps hurting the citizens of Nepal. Christian and the team obtained a true story of hope with kids living in Nepal who are doing anything they can to get to school. They captured footage in virtual reality to really help people feel the situation as much as possible. He said, “I first visited Nepal on the back of a two-month trip to Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Iraq — so, I was ready to collapse and hide from work for a good while when the earthquake hit.”
“In the space of six hours, I went from watching the news with my business partner, Dylan Roberts, and me saying that we ought to be there but we’re looking forward to going home, to having a ticket to Kathmandu a few hours later. The destruction was staggering, and for some capricious reason, there’s always a still small voice in the back of the mind when a story must be covered. So my first visit to Nepal was almost exactly a year ago.”
“Flying into the deluge and seeing the aid planes bludgeoning each other to get the best photo op of who was saint aid worker number one. The following week, there revealed a resilience in the people and a stripping back of the hypocrisy of global, tar-drenched charity organizations. So, without sounding saccharine, Nepal has been on my heart heavily since then. The Nepali people deserve better, and there’s honor in the rubble if you look with the right eyes and leave motive and Western arrogance at the door.”
When Christian was asked about why he thinks virtual reality is an amazing way to tell stories, he said the following.
“I first used VR in Aleppo, Syria. So it was actually an annoyance to me in the thought process of ‘the only thing that will bring fresh attention to this conflict is if I use this gimmicky fad that preys on the part of us all that wants to have the newest toy in fifty flashing colors,’ and I’m still skeptical of the medium. However, as the months pass, I see the VR world shift from its initial knee jerk pandering to the pleasure dosing the market would be assumed to crave and further towards the search for a deeper, immersive understanding of the world we live in.”
“So, as a tool, I see its double-edged blade. But just because it has the ability to dumb us down, is also the exact reason it must be harnessed for the stories in the world that deserve its power. There’s honor in that, I think.”
When Christian was asked how one felt when leaving Nepal after filming, he said, “The crushing internal terror that every director has at the end of a shoot — especially of this sort which consists of crippling self-doubt and guilt that not only did you not get everything you envisioned, but also that you did the story a disservice. Luckily, as with most of these types of shoots, the following weeks tend to strip away the paranoia and give way to the actual important component far above self-analysis and filmmaking vanity: How can we serve the story? So, the post-Nepal atmosphere was far more quietly intense than most shoots, simply because the weight of the story sat heavily on each story. That and the beautifully surgical realization that whatever happened next was irrelevant, save the need to deliver something that executed the message of the film.”
“That all sounds like intellectual bollocks, but it’s the best way I can surmise it. The film isn’t about anyone who created it, it’s all about the kids.” When asked what was most difficult for him while filming in Nepal, he said, “The most difficult part was a woman called Indira, who rescues girls from sex trafficking and brothels. I hate to say that I’m a little jaded with the last five years of reporting, but sometimes, it’s hard to connect. Indira devastated me. Thoroughly. It’s rare to find altruism in any measure, let alone determined and vulnerable forms of it. She’s incredible in every way. Completely sacrifices her life for the sake of girls pulled into the darkness.”
It’s important as people that we don’t forget about those that are effected by disasters or any suffering even long after the original disaster or suffering occurs. Virtual reality at least will be a way to help people remember about things going on around the world and by raising awareness it could potentially create a positive reaction from people all over.