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From Immersive Theater to VR Innovation: Deirdre V. Lyons' Journey
Episode 812th December 2023 • Creative Innovators with Gigi Johnson • Maremel Institute
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Today's guest is a true pioneer in the burgeoning field of virtual reality theater: Deirdre V. Lyons.  She'll share her groundbreaking work in VR at the Ferryman Collective, such as her innovative productions like "Welcome to Respite" and "Gumball Dreams," and discuss the intricacies of producing entertainment ranging from films to webisodes.  Deirdre shares the challenges of onboarding audiences to VR experiences and the quest for viable business models in the VR space. 

Deirdre also delves into her collaborative efforts with universities to demonstrate the potential of VR in theater and discusses her participation in festival circuits.

Guest: Deidre V. Lyons, Co-Founder, Producer, Director, Writer, Performer, Ferryman Collective

Deirdre Lyons has been in over 75 Film and Theatrical productions throughout the West Coast. In L.A., she formed T.H. Espian Productions with her partner Stephen Butchko. Their first production was the Los Angeles premiere of Escher's Hands, a dramatic work by Dawson Nichols that played for a six-week run at the Lillian Theater. The two went on to produce and perform in the award-winning short film Katrina; a web series called The Fantasy State; a documentary; and the critically acclaimed short film Good Behavior, which won Best Short Film at the Temecula Film Festival.

In 2016 she began working with immersive theater productions, she was part of the original cast of JFI Productions’ The Willows, which enjoyed three remounts due to its popularity. Other immersive projects include the JFI Productions’ Creep LA shows Entry, Lore, Awake, Haus of Creep, and Creep (2021). She was the “Lost Princess” in the final chapter of Speakeasy Societies Kansas Collection, and with a Spy Brunch weekend event entitled Cold War Lounge: the asset. Deirdre has participated in multiple activations, including one-night launch events for the movies Ma, Birds of Prey, and The Conjuring 3. She appeared at Comic-Con promoting Sacred Lies and AHS 1984. And was cast in Tyra Banks’ immersive world Model Land.  

Her Virtual Reality work began when The Willows was filmed and released as a 180 VR film on the Amaze app available through Steam, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR, Windows Mixed Reality (WMR), Viveport, and Google Daydream. She also appeared in Freakin’ Weekend, another 180 VR film from Amaze Productions. In 2019 she joined the ensemble cast of The Under Presents, a time and mind-bending immersive theater experience in VR that was selected as a finalist for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media, and won the VR Awards Experience of the Year. She was Prospera in a Shakespearean production from the same studio, Tender Claws, called The Under Presents: Tempest, a theatrical and technological first: a live, part scripted/part improvised, immersive theatrical experience that audiences attend from home, using a virtual reality headset that is experienced as a one-person show to small intimate audiences.

She then started producing live VR immersive theater experiences with a group of creatives that formed Ferryman Collective, including her husband Stephen Butchko, starting PARA and Krampusnacht, the latter a finalist for the PGA Innovation Award, and The Severance Theory: Welcome to Respite which premiered at Tribeca, went on to be an Official Selection of the 78th Venice International Film Festival, the Kaohsiung Film Festival, Anny Fest, Church of VR and is the winner of ‘Best Narrative Experience’ at London’s Raindance Film Festival, winner of XR Must ‘Best Live Experience,’ winner of 'Best ixi Experience' from Giioii as well as an ‘Immie’ for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Live Virtual Reality Production’ and a finalist for the 2022 PGA Innovation Award. It is currently in production for shows in Korea with Korean actors.

She is a teaching artist, speaker, and occasional lecturer at Chapman University. Gumball Dreams is Ferryman Collective’s fourth production, winning the audience award at SXSW for XR Exhibition Competition, it will have its international premiere at the 79th International Venice Film Festival and is her directorial debut.

Links of Note:

Deirdre: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deirdrevlyons and https://www.deirdrevlyons.com

Ferryman Collective: https://www.ferrymancollective.com

Instagram - ferrymanvr

Facebook - @FerrymanVR

Twitter - @Ferryman_VR

Transcripts

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Am catless. I have to enjoy them virtually. And we're kind

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of talking about virtual adventures today. So, Deirdre, thanks for joining us

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today. And we've been talking about doing

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this for a bit that I've been a fangirl of what you

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guys are doing. Can you maybe start us out and talk

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about what the company is doing and then what you're

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doing? Yeah. Yeah. Woof. So

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this has been kind of a

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long and short three years, right? So we sort

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of started out in 2020, and all of a sudden, we went

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from not doing much, it's a pandemic

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to creating some of the top VR

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experiences in live VR theater and showing

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them at some of the top festivals in the world. And we're like, wow, how

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did we get here? So right now, mostly,

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I put a lot of time into that, as well

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as meeting and hanging out and

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talking to different XR people, either in real

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life or over

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a video call of some sort, talking to people

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who are interested in it, who are either in education

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or wanting to produce themselves or just

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wanting to learn how to do it. So I end up talking to a lot

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of people about that kind of stuff, which I really enjoy. Tonight I'm going to

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the west side digital mixer, and I usually go to XR women,

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which is a really great group, on Wednesday mornings. And I just try to stay

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involved in the community and chat because it's such a great collaborative community.

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So that's what I'm doing personally and the company, while we're working

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on so many things. So

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we just finished doing PXR, which is a great conference in

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Canada, because Canada pays artists to do things, which is

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lovely. And so they have this beautiful conference that they started in, I

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think, 2020 about performance in XR. It's held in virtual

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reality. Yeah, all of it's in virtual reality. But this

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year, they brought in a couple of places where people could put headsets on

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and experience it that way. And we did two things.

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We brought our show, find Willie, to that, which was directed by Witten Frank

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and I helped produce it and assisted her with that.

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But it's actually kind of a cool show because it came from

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Korea. It was a Korean show developed by the

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Gyoi Immersive Studio. They had this VR show

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that they wanted to take to south by Southwest, and they're like, we need an

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English version. So we ended up doing that for them

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and taking it to south by Southwest. And so we were doing performances

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of Find Wheelie with some Canadian actors. So it

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was this really great collaboration of the US, Canada and

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Korea. And then we were also doing a navigating the

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festival circuit. So if you have a project and you wanted to

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know how to navigate that. We did a sort of crazy

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VR experience where people came into

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VR, or you can watch on a zoom or a

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YouTube, they were streaming it as well. But people all came in

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and we got them into a space, and then we brought up the slides, and

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then after every slide, we blew them up with macaroni and

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cheese. I know it sounds crazy, but,

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yeah, so each slide would get blown up with macaroni and cheese. And we did

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this thing where the festivals and the conferences, you could only talk 1

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minute each. And we had like different team members from the team

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doing one slide to talking about south by Southwest or

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Tribeca or Venice, and then blowing it up after a minute like, oh, sorry, I

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didn't quite get there all the way. So we did that. And I've also

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been part of the jury, along with my husband, Stephen

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Butchko, who also does this crazy VR thing with

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me and helped, started and co founded the

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company with the other team members, Braden Roy,

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Brian Tull, Christopher Lane, Davis, Whiton Frank. We're

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all the ferryman collective, because there's a collective,

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this group of us, and so we're during the Raindance

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festival, which we will announce the winners coming

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this weekend for Best VR

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Short Film. Best VR Music Video, and best immersive

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experience is the one I'm doing. I'm doing all three of those,

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and Steve's doing two of them anyway, so that's crazy.

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So many things. And you've hit on some of the interesting

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issues of VR, both in terms of how do you find

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audience, language, the festival circuits. I'd

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love to come back to all that stuff, but I'd like you to walk

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us through your history. A

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was what was Deirdre's excitement when she was in high

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school? Wow, you're going far

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back. I am. So were you a tech person, a

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visual person, deals person?

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None of that? No, I was not. I was a performer. And we

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can go back even further. I've been a performer since I was, like Teeny

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Tiny, since I was very, very young. Started dance classes when

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I was three, and then started doing shows in

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my grade school. I think my mother heard from a teacher

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that, oh, she really likes this. She has

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a spark, which now,

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knowing what I know, the talent

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versus the idea of

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growth is a little bit of more of an

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interesting topic to me, because I always felt like I was told I was

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talented, which was great, except for the fact that

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within that, it's harder to

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process failure. Right. And it's harder to process growth

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and having a growth mindset, as per

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the author of Mindset, Carolyn Dweck,

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I believe.

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Yes, that woman, she's fabulous. I learned

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so much reading her book, but a side,

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so she has a spark. So then my mother started taking me not only

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to dance classes, but to plays. And I did stuff in school. And so I've

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been performing since I was super duper Young, and that's kind of always what I

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want. Let me ask you a related question. Was your mom

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a performer? Was your dad a performer? Were they

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closet performers that didn't let it out? Because for some

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people, part of the journey step is that their parents were

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already creatives or already performers, so they kind of got the

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journey. And for some people, they

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were aspiring performers. And so we're living through some of their

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kids journey. Yeah, for sure. My

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dad was not came from a farming background,

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and then he worked for Mabel and then

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onto at T and then onto Lucent Technologies. So

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he mostly ran phones and started out climbing the phone

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poles and moving up through the ranks

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of a tech in that space. And

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my mother was always a bit.

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Like. She

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gave me all of these amazing things, but she could have be distracted quite

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easily. So for a very long

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time, I was the focus of

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her life. And I think that maybe she thought she

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was a good singer and that she would have liked to pursue that, but

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it was never anything that she actually did. So I

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appreciated all of the support that my family

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gave me growing up, which is not always the

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case. So I'm very lucky. So you didn't face the, you

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must be a lawyer, engineer, teacher, the

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defined narrative channel. No. Gosh,

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no. I was always on the path of

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performance and such.

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There was a moment where I was like, is this really what I want,

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or is this what my mother wanted? And it was just something I always came

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back to. So I continued pursuing it. Moved

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from Seattle, Washington, to Los Angeles,

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continued pursuing it here. Got here in 98. So I've been here a

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long time and just knocking on doors, and none of them

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are opening right. People are like, well, it's hard to get the part.

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No, it's hard to get the audition. There

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are thousands and thousands

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of people who look just like you. And just to have the. You actually

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need the right agent. You can't just have any agent. You've got to

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have CAA for anybody to look at you because

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there's so many. There's so many

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know, people said, you got to produce your own stuff. So we started producing stuff.

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We did a play, we did a short film, we did webisodes, we did documentary,

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we did another short film. We did lots of different things,

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and those went well, but never really opened in the way that

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we were kind of hoping they would. And then I started

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doing live immersive theater in Los Angeles with some of the

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top companies in LA. So

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JFI, just fix it Productions, speakeasy Society,

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these are just theater that's taken off the

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proscenium stage and put in any kind of a

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location, laundromat, house, apartment,

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school, warehouse, whatever location,

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restaurant. It's a little like a murder mystery without the dinner

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theater aspect to it. Right. I was going to say this is

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an aspect of live performance that I would suggest most

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people don't know exists. Yes, It's a niche. The

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niche, but they know. So fun. Tony and Tina's wedding, if they were

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in Los Angeles for a long time, that had taken over

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not the Friars Club, but had taken over a facility in LA, and it was

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a big tourist attraction. But even longtime LA people may

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not be aware of the entities that you just commented on.

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So what did you learn from that part of the adventure?

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Oh, it was so fun. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. Tony and

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Tina's wedding was big. Some people may have heard of sleep no

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more in New York. Tamar was a big, long running,

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immersive theater piece in Los Angeles that was in

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the believe. There was a big movement in immersive and

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sight specific theater back in the 70s where people were

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pulling things out of the theater and making a performance out

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of different spaces. And

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it's just so much more intimate. You

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are actually talking to an audience member oftentimes having

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a scene with an audience member, even though they don't know

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what's going on or the line. So it's incumbent upon the actor

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to inform them of that and guide them while you're

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interacting with them. But I would suggest sleep no more. Didn't do

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that all that well. Only went once, and it was like I got pulled

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into a scene and I'm going, what the heck's going on?

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And I'm not the only one. I had to go sit in a corner for

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a while and put my head in my hands because it was just so

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dynamically overwhelming.

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It can be overwhelming. I have heard that before, although I haven't seen sleep

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no more. So I don't know much about it

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other than what I've read. I wish I could. It's

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closing, so try to see it. Well, it was interesting also because I

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know I was standing in line to go in and people behind me. It was

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$100 ticket per person. Yes. And the people behind me had been

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doing it five times already. So there is a bit of

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the bring other people and repetitive factor

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that some people are willing to do these interactions more than

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once. Yes. Because most of the time there's different tracks

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that you can go and experience. It's not usually just you've

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seen the plaY, but did you follow Macbeth? Did you follow Lady Macbeth? Did

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you follow the Rosencranst and Gildenstern?

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Oops, sorry, wrong play.

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It's just a niche of theater

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that people, if they find it, often get hooked and

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will and love it and will come back more and more. But it is

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definitely a different experience because you are

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interacting and immersed in a different environment than what you're used to and what your

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brain says, oh, I know what I'm supposed to do here. I'm supposed to sit

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in a seat and be quiet now. All right, I watch a play face. Forward

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and then not have things happening around you.

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And also often,

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I would say hard to scale so that you

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have a troop doing a show in New York, Los Angeles, San

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Diego, wherever it is, and people know of it. But

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there isn't a history for a lot of these, of scaling,

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of having a scalable business model. Yes, they are much

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more intimate in general. They are built that way because

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people are looking for something different than being in the nosebleed section of the

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Amundsen. People are looking for something different than seeing a gazillion

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pre recorded things on TV and streaming. So having this

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experience that feels intimate and profound and

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different than what's generally out

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there has got people excited and seeking it out. And I do

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think it is a special experience. And I think as

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we continue on with all of the pre recorded content

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that keeps bombarding us, because I remember the days

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when it was just network television, and then we got cable and oh my God,

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look at all these channels. But now we got cabing and streaming and all of

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these different streaming services that you can sign up for,

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as well as TikTok and all the YouTube. It's

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a lot. And sports, right,

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which also looks at some of the similar issues, but not the repeatability.

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So when was this timeframe?

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So I was doing all of this stuff, and

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I saw some of my colleagues working at a you

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in a photo on Facebook, at a Facebook group. And I was like, I know

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those friends. Those are friends of mine. What are they doing? BecAuse it said,

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noah Nelson from no persinion says, if you don't know what they're doing at Tinderclaws,

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you should check it out because it's really cool. I'm like, what are they doing?

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So I emailed Samantha, or I actually emailed the company. I didn't know Samantha

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at the time saying, do you need more performers? And she's like, yeah, it's the

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holidays. Come work for us. So this is like November of 2019. I

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was working on a couple of other projects, and

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then, of course, March of 2020. I've

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been working on this VR

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game, for lack of a better word, which was going really well. The

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concept is sort of like these players go into this

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world that looks like a vaudeville stage and they can

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see and see and interact with each other, but they can't speak.

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And then all of a sudden, they run into what they think is an NPC.

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And then the NPC turns to them and says, hello, do you want a

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martini? Or something to that effect? Because there's. I'm going to

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pause this a second, because we're saying, I always like

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to back up and go, not everybody understands what we're talking about. So, Tenderclause. Yeah.

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Which I fangirl Samantha's work. I just love, love, love.

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Tenderclause is a virtual

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reality game and environment

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and building space, I guess, for lack of a better

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delineation, where you go into something that looks like an orange and

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brown tone shifting desert, and then you're going into.

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You could either go into an environment where you just hang out or that you

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could buy a ticket and be watching people be characters

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in the space. So it was sort of taking that

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idea that you would see non player

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characters be player characters. So that NPC non player

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character. It's not

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assuming that I've got this automated thing person that

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is just giving me lines, that it's actually sitting

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through an experience with actors. So for a lot of people, Tenderclause is the

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first time they saw something like that. Yes. I like to call them

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the Cadillac of experiences. Yes. They were brilliant in what they

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created. And the live actor portion

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of the underpresents was only supposed to go three months. And

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then because of the pandemic, it ended up extending to over a

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year. And within that, they developed the Tempest, which was

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a Shakespearean experience because you never knew

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when the actors were going to show up in the underpresents. It was just very

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random, but this, you could actually go to the theater, buy the ticket, and

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see the show and interact with an actor, you and up

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to six people. So that won a bunch of awards.

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The underpresent won a bunch of awards. It was a

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brilliant concept and executed beautifully that

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ended up having to close. They're off doing stranger things now, which is

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super awesome and Bravo for them for getting such great

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IP. And that was my first foray

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into VR theater as a performer. But when that shut down, it

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was still the pandemic, and I was like, whoa, what are we going to do

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now? And Brian Tull, who

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is one of the reviewers

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and fans of immersive theater and of the

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underpresents, was like, well, I know enough about unity to

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build something in VR chat. I hate that Halloween has been

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canceled. Maybe we could do that. And Braden Roy was

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like, I'll write it and perform in it. And I was like, okay,

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well, I'll come in and I'll help you with the actors and the scheduling. And

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I got my husband Steve to help as well. So the four

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of us started pair, which was sort of a 20 minutes proof of concept,

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went brilliantly. And then we moved into

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Krampus Knock, which was like a month and a half later, which was like a

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Christmas themed version of a VR theater production.

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And that went well. And we submitted it for the PGA

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Innovation Award. Thinking, okay, so we're going to set up this

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for later. Sorry,

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your cat is thinking about now. Well, and

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Charleston was trying to take down your calendar back there. Yeah, she wants down.

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She's going to jump. There she goes. All right.

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This is an interactive conversation for those watching on YouTube. You

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can watch the Cat. It's an incentive for those of you who listen to go

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to YouTube and watch the cat. That's right, the cat getting down,

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because it was time to get down now in Cat World. So that's what

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cats do. That's what cats do. They have no sense of time. It's cat

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time. So PGA is Producers Guild,

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and so it's a finalist. Oh, very

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cool. Thank you. We're like, so it's working.

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Wow. All right, so this is

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Peach. It was the Innovation Award. We didn't think we'd even get

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considered, but we did. And then we're like, this is working, so let's move

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on to something else. And I wanted to do something that sort of

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highlighted intimacy. I wanted to take all of our lessons from the previous productions and

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put them into a new production, take some time. And I talked to

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a friend of mine whose show I had done in real life, in the immersive

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theater realm, and I'd done the voice of the Shadow. I was like, I think

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this would work really well in VR. Do you want to do it? And she's

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like, it's a pandemic. Okay, let me buy

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a headset. And off we go. So she came on board. We

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did. Welcome to Respite, which was

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about an hour VR piece. It was about an

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adult going back into the memory of childhood. It deals with

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dissociative identity disorder and what that would

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have been like had you had symptoms of that as a child but not knowing

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what it is. And there's this sort of beautiful

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love from the parents that you feel, even though they're having issues.

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And then there's also this sort of shadow monster in there

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that's pretty scary. And I have to say, I think our VR version was a

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little scarier than the real version because we were able to do some really fun

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stuff with VR and take advantage of the fordances of VR. We were able

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to shrink our audience member down to a child size avatar

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who's, like, seven years old looking up at their parents, and over the countertop, which

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you haven't done since you were that age. Like, it's weird because

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your mind's like, I'm an adult. I'm an adult. And your body's going, but I

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feel like a child again, and all these chemicals and emotions are

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happening at the same time. So that was really successful. We went

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around all over the festival circuit. It was really

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well received. We were like, oh, my God. It worked way beyond

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our imagination, and we were just so

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grateful. And we're going to continue on with this story to the chapter

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two and three and four is going to be about a three or four chapter

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series. And Lindsay got pregnant. So happy

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for her, but not so good for continuing with our plan of the

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art theater along this storyline. So we

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pivoted to a new show called Gumball Dreams, which I had this

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idea for a show that was

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built around worlds that already existed from one of our team members, Christopher

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Lane Davis. He'd built these over the pandemic, and before I'd even met him, he'd

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had these done, and they're just amazing and stunning, and I wanted more people to

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see them. So I said, hey, what do you think of the script? He's like,

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I love let's. And then we worked on it together to make sure it fit

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his lore. He put the world together around the show, and then

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all of a sudden, we had another show going around the festival circuit. It was

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just, like, also really well received, and people loved

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and deals with issues of death and

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dying. Dignity. Death and

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dignity. And then also acceptance and

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gratefulness and joy and love and the

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journeys that we are all on in this lifetime.

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So that was really good. But to

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sort of round this story up, because it does

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continue on a little bit with. Then we went to find Willie, and now we're

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doing him in Cany Alley. But to sort of round out sort of

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more of the history of how we got to where we are now

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is that I feel like I was set up perfectly for this, right?

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I feel like both Steve and I moved to LA. We were both set

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up perfectly because we'd both been working

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in immersive theater, and we'd both been doing. Just took those

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skills and moved them right into VR. And immersive theater,

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in my opinion, just fits VR so

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well as a platform, as a storytelling mechanism, and all of the

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different sort of ways you can do immersive theater

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fit in this magical and mystical

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environment that you can create and do things that you can't do anywhere else in

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the world. So that's sort of the origin story

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to wrap it up. Very cool. I'm going to back you up on a few.

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I just got back from a trip to Europe, and while I was gone, my

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husband goes, I borrowed your Oculus Rift, and I

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stuck it in my computer out in his man cave. And I'm going, you know,

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I've got newer gear, right? I could let him use

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my oculus two with my pink edging thing, because I've got my three

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I'm working with now. But for a lot of people, they don't have any

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of this stuff. So trying to help them envision what they're doing

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for VR chat. So VR chat

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is shockingly large in its many ways, and you don't need a

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headset. You can just use your PC and wander

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around just using the keys on your computer, but it's not the same

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experience. But you've got lots of people hanging out,

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doing lots of interesting, weird things,

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creating lots of weird spaces, including things

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I won't talk about on the podcast, but include

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sleeping in the platform and doing all sorts of stuff. So you've got an experimental

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space already that people don't need a headset.

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So as a pilot space where there are

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parts. So I guess part of it, my surgeon general's warning is

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listeners do not go to VR chat without somebody

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else with you who knows VR chat, because you could very quickly end up

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with green scrub brushes chasing you around and all sorts of things going on.

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So do go with an escort, but this would be an escort that someone would

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be signing up to. I want this experience. So it's

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an open space. It doesn't cost you money, really to produce

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in it other than what you upload into it. So as a play space

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for creatives wanting to do something like this, it's not that

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you've got to find $100,000 spending for building out a tech

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space, et cetera. You sort of expand on VR.

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Chat is an early development space. Yeah. It's not made for

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theater. So I can tell you that onboarding is

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so challenging and difficult because it is like teaching people to

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drive a car to get to theater. You're like, come to theater. See it? ThEy're

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like, yes, okay. I'm like, okay, so now you're going to have to put on

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a headset and download an app. And there's like, all these different steps. I mean,

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in a lot of ways, it's not so different than how we learned to use

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our phones because those are all apps as well, but

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it feels different, and people are still learning about

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it. And yes, not everybody has a headset, but maybe their

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nephew does, maybe their kid

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does. And they're like, I can actually see theater in this. I'm like, yeah,

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you can. And so we're basically

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teaching people how to experience this form of

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theater, and that's difficult. Onboarding is always a

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challenge, so we try to incorporate that into the storyline. We

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try to incorporate that into make patient with them, helping them with

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different ways of accessing it. We try to be

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available on, like, a Zoom or a video call. So if somebody's like, I can't

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figure this out, they can actually speak to a human. So

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it's been a very challenging platform, but also an amazing

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platform because unlike some of the other social VR platforms,

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of which some of your audience may have heard of. So Verizon's

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Mozilla hubs, what used to be Alt space rec

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room, you can actually upload any avatar

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and any world as long as it fits in within the parameters

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of quest. If you're going for a quest world or

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PCVR, and

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they are great, they have

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an incredible community. And

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it's true, you shouldn't go into a public space because you will run into a

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bunch of six year olds who are not supervised, and their parents probably shouldn't

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have let them go in there in the first place, and they're running around being

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like, so silly and as annoying as you can

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imagine. So going in and finding they have now the groups feature

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where you can find a group that would be of interest to you. Like there's

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trip is doing a meditation group in there, and

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that's really cool. And there's like

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a beautiful sign language group in there that teaches

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people sign languages. There's different people doing

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Japan culture and language

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classes and all kinds of amazing communities. If anybody has

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a chance to watch the movie called we met in virtual

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reality, a friend of mine was the director of that.

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And that is shot entirely in VR chat. And it is

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about, I mean, it doesn't say that in the film, but it is, and it

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is about people and their relationships they had

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mostly during the pandemic and

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how beautiful this space can be when it's

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at its best. So, yeah, it is a very challenging

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platform. It's a bit like

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Facebook, but in VR maybe kind

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of like that, if you think of it as a social space.

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And yeah, I'm happy to take anybody on a tour if they

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want to see it. Well, I was going to say. So part of the opportunity

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and challenge is VR chats. Very busy, lots

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of things going on. How would people. I

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take a look at some of the challenges with doing any type of content in

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VR. That's discovery. So people not only have to get a

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headset on, but again, VR chat you could go to on

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your screen. It's just not going to be as engaging.

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And you can hook up an old headset to your computer and use it. You

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don't have to have the most current things, but

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Discovery and then payment was two other folds of it that you

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wouldn't walk in and big sign saying, come to your

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stuff.

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How are you dealing with discovery, ticketing,

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community building? And then what are you building in now?

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Are you still doing VR chat as a space? Are you using any of the

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other platforms or building into the

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new sort of spatial computing ish new tools?

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I find that we'll start there because I want to also talk

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about the same thing with the festival circuit, because I get the festival

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circuit as an expensive

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dance where you want to get

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noticed, but your average VR user never finds you there

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either. You get discovered and talked around. So can

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you talk about Discovery and maybe the nerdy way to say and

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business models? Right. So how does this work?

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Because I know a lot of people who create stuff into VR, and then they're

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going, oh, yeah, it was fun. So where's the people

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and how do I create a business model, other than having to go

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through quest and paying them 30%

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of everything I get. Yeah. So right

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now, we're just so small

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and we're not making any money

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that is. Well, we make a little bit. It's like latte money, right? Like a

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little bit. And we are able to make sure our actors are taken care of

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and all that. But it's not like we're not like we

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have any sort of big

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plans as of yet. We're kind of like

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exploring this space. I feel like I accidentally stumbled in. Into

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something that people got excited about and the timing was right,

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and so now I'm just walking through doors that are open and seeing where

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it leads. Right. Because I have that ability in my life, because

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of the circumstances that are surrounding me to be able

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to explore this platform. But it's still not my full

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time anything. It's just this thing that we're growing in that we

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hope will and expect to grow into something else. So the business

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model, for the most part, is the same as theater, right. It's the

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same sort of idea about

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building your community. You could maybe do a subscription base if you

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wanted to, if you had that many productions to do.

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You can go the sort of nonprofit route and

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get funds for your arts and things like that.

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Some of theater companies I work with is they will do things

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like pop ups for different movies and commercials

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and stuff, and that will pay them a big chunk of money, and then they

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can do the arts version of the stuff. We wouldn't be able to

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do this right now if it was expensive.

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So most of our team is just. We're just working it away with the

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belief that it will grow into something because it's not there yet. The audience

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isn't there yet. People who love our stuff will then go

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off and look for other people's stuff and see their stuff. They become very

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much fans of the genre, but there's not a lot of people out there doing

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it. So the idea is to bring more. That

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builds up the audience, that creates more interest. And that's

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part of the festival circuit, too, is to get the visibility out

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there so people can understand and get excited about and

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find what it is that we do. And

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we're so busy doing shows, doing

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runs, doing things for universities that we actually don't have a lot of

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time to even do, like, sort of a public offering

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grabbed by this university and that conference to

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do internal stuff. So that's kind of where we're at.

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We're a little under the radar. We're still developing. It's not a

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viable business model yet. We're still building

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the audience, and I do think it'll get there,

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but it's just creating right

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now. Can you share what you're doing with universities?

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Because I'm aware of educators in

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XR and other groups that are trying to help

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universities get up to speed in XR. Are you

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working with people who are building programs or doing demos or what's the university

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side? Usually universities will come to us and they'll want

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to have us either talk or do a performance

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or do a backstage tour or some combination of those

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things. And we've worked with Aaron

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Riley in Texas. We actually taught with Charlie

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Fink at Chapman University doing a show

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on XR performance. We've

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done stuff for the University of know, different

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cohorts from Canada who reach out to us and ask us

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to know, can you do a show? And then a talk back?

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So that's mostly what it has been thus far. Not

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really building a show with a university, but showing them

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what we've done, what's possible, and talking to them

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about

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how we got here, and why we're doing what we

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do. Very cool.

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I'll put in the show notes that there's actually a whole bunch of university

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organizations that are all trying to find their way in this space. So it's

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interesting that that's kind of a leading edge space. And Aaron's doing

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cool things at UT Austin and other stuff, so

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there's lots of cool things afoot, but a lot of

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universities are getting their feet wet, so it's an interesting time to be doing

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that. Yeah. You talked about scalability as well

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and asked about scalability. And I would say that scalability in this

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space is the same way you would scale in an immersive theater space.

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So you've been to sleep no more. So you know how many people were there,

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but you also know how many actors they had and how big this space

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was. So we're not there tech wise,

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so it doesn't matter if we had that many people who wanted

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to come, we just couldn't do it. So it's actually a great

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time to explore the more intimate immersive theater experiences

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that only have 3510 audience

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members and one or two or three actors. And

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that's where we're at right now, is just sort of honoring the tech and

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its ability and then teaching people how to experience

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it and waiting for the

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platform to grow interesting.

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And it's at a time where in real life, immersive

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experiences there's people playing with scale. So

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fever and doing all of the fever things. I didn't realize

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until I was just in Barcelona that they're from Spain,

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that they've got all sorts of immersive stuff that they've got built

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out and are scaling out, that are getting people thinking this is

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immersive, which is going to potentially cause some interesting

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issues that are very scalable concepts. Once you land it in

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one city, then I can take that and duplicate it everywhere

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with generic IP. So we

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are changing the space a little bit about expectations.

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And not everyone's done a nice, intimate, immersive theater piece

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to know what that is in real life. So it's kind of an interesting bridge.

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And then during the pandemic, before the pandemic,

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people were larping. So live action role playing, so they

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were being the characters and then having their friends

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be the non player characters, too. So creating a narrative in a

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physical space. So you do have a lot of people who are still kind of

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playing in that space. And if you haven't larped from our

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wonderful audience here, go play with LARPing. It is fun

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and somewhat strange. And there's people who

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LARP, you would never know LARP that go do that, who are actually

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members of the Screen Actors Guild, so they won't let their LARPing be

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photographed. That

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could be a whole nother show, I'm sure, on weird things with

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LARPing. So what are you then

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doing for your living side of the equation? This

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is a building experience. Are you acting

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and doing other things? Yes, I'm part of the Willows, which

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is an immersive

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theater experience here in Los Angeles

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that's come back like five times

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now because people love it so much. And they've spent

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the time building the company and building their reputation and building their audience and

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the community. And so it's just very popular.

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So I do those shows. I also

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am assistant to a gentleman, and I help

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him for sort of logistics with his company.

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So I do that as well, which I do from home, which helps

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to be able to have a more flexible schedule.

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So those are the types of things that I do

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to not only keep creative, but to make sure that

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I pay the rent every month. Because being an artist

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in America is very hard. It's a capitalistic based

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society. We value

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so much money, but not

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necessarily artists. What we tend

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to reward are celebrities

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and their viewership that they can bring to

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any product, whether that product be a nonprofit or

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an item or a show. You know, that

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is what generally people are after

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when they move to Los Angeles to become an actor

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is the celebrity, because that's really where you can actually make a

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living, whereas most actor artists that I know

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are having a very hard time making a living and

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often have many side gigs that

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help support their artistry. Hyphenates. You're a

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hyphenate? Yeah. And a lot

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of our guests have had multiple tiers of jobs that all kind of fold

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into each other, both over time, but also at the same

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time, to be able to pay for being a creative and to make that all

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work. We're heading into a world

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of

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immersive imaging, new tools, and tech

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that is letting the content be in a

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real space. With the new quest three and

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the Vision Pro coming out next year, does

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that change you guys'imaginings on where you can take

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narrative? Sure. One of our team members, Witten

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Frank, has this really great idea and

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script that she's working on for the idea of doing, like, a Seder

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in a pass through kind of environment,

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and she's working on fleshing that out and

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seeing if she can get that to a point

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where it's ready to get produced. But, yeah, that would be something

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that would use, like, the pass through technology and, yeah, that

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opens up so much more options in

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storytelling and fun and for artists and creatives

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around the world, being able to play with the idea of

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bringing something into your space, bringing

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the art, the play, the event into your personal

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space, as opposed to us taking you and putting you on an alien

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planet or something like that, you'd actually bring and

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welcome all these things into your house and, like, how cool is

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that? Or out in the world, as people have been taking the new quest three

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headset and going to Disneyland and going to bars and

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going to restaurants and taking the world in and seeing

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overlays on the world, which, yes, keep reading the ask me

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anything from the quest team going. We did not anticipate that. We did

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not anticipate that pass through would go out into the world. So kind of an

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interesting question. It's a little challenging for, like I had said,

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they don't work great in the sunlight, so it can

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be better inside,

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but that's where we're going.

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The idea that it'll be the sunglasses that Meta's

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already put out, which just have, like, you can listen to music, you can take

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a photo, but eventually the tech will get

Speaker:

fast enough, small enough that those glasses will be able to

Speaker:

do the overlays that you want to see, and you'll be able to

Speaker:

say, hey, I want to know what apartments are for rent in this

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area. And all of a sudden you'll see all of the apartments for rent and

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you're like, I really want to live in this area. I'm going to call these

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guys. Right? Like the idea of being able to do that, or looking into a

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car engine and saying, okay, what does that do? And. And how do I change

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the oil? Because my dad never taught me that. Right? Being able to put

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on some glasses and do that. But also potentially taking

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theater with you, right? Taking theater into a forest, taking

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theater into a different space, or people being. Choosing different

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space overlays to be engaged in the theaters, which,

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wouldn't that be. So cool, going in the forest and having some sort of

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Arthur and the sword and the stone, or like

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some sort of fairy play. Wouldn't that be fun? It would be totally

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fabulous. So what have

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we not talked about? You've covered a gamut of the great adventures

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that you've been on and that the collective has been on. Anything

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else that you'd like to mention before we wrap up?

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I've learned so much in this

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space. I've learned about visibility.

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It's very important to bring

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up what it is that you're doing and your projects in a space

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where they get visibility, which is one of the reasons why we

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do the festival circuits. Even though it is rather expensive to

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travel to these places.

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I say rather expensive. Yes, it's expensive. Let me just say that it's

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expensive. They don't pay you to come. It's the other way around that

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you're travel and bring everything with you and everything else. But

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with our stuff, we actually often

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have our actors working from home.

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We don't go to all of the festivals that we've been in. Some of them

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we can do completely, virtually. It just depends on the festival. Sometimes

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they actually will pay a show running fee. Sometimes there's an award

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that is associated with winning, and that's

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something as well. And then eventually you start doing stuff and

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people start noticing you. Then they'll ask you to come and

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speak, and maybe now there'll be a fee with it. Not

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at the beginning, but as time goes on.

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So there is a great value to visibility

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that I think is underestimated. And I

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would encourage everyone to, whatever it is that you're

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doing, try to get out there somehow,

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go to places to network, talk to people,

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write an article, get on the

Speaker:

podcast with our lovely Gigi here and hang out.

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Do all of the things that you can think of doing to raise your visibility,

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because that will help people find you. People who are looking for you want

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to find you, and that's how it will help. Also, tech has

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been a great gift for me because it's really hard.

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It's so hard that you have to accept when things go wrong and you

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have to go, oh, what do I do if my fellow actor falls off a

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wiFi? And how do we pivot when, you know,

Speaker:

when things crash, you have to

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start going, okay, I have to let go of this perfectionism or

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this wanting to make everything right because you're holding on to some

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fear that if it goes wrong, then you're a

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failure or the project's a failure, or allowing

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yourself to give yourself the gift of imperfection and trusting yourself to

Speaker:

pivot when things go

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haywire and be like this

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happens is the best gift I could have given myself

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because it's allowed me to explore

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and enjoy the

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exploration along with the creativity and the work that we've done.

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Very cool. So would you like to reach out to you? And

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how should they reach out? You guys can be found at your website,

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which is ferrimancollective.com.

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Yes. Who would you like to reach out and

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how would you like that to come in? So, yeah,

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either through the website. You can also follow us on all the socials

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because we do try to post fairly regularly. DM

Speaker:

us on those because I'm very bad at following comments.

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We love to talk to anybody in this space because most anybody

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in some way can help us. If it's somebody who's looking to create their own

Speaker:

project and just want to know what it's like, then maybe they

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will create a project and that will get an audience and that will help build

Speaker:

the audience. If it's somebody who wants to

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build a world or wants to do

Speaker:

development and stuff like that, reach out to us and

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chat with us and see if it's a good fit.

Speaker:

Happy to chat with most anyone about what it is

Speaker:

that they're doing or to talk about

Speaker:

their passions and excitements. Right now we're so new.

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It's all an experiment and we're all collaborating on this

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together. Well, thank you for joining us. We'll put

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ways to find you in the show notes and hopefully you guys in

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the audience will go enjoy one of your shows in

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your headset or computer near you. So thanks for joining

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us. Thank you, Gigi. Have a beautiful day.