Storytelling with Augmented & Virtual Reality on April 26

We hope you will be able to attend a ground-breaking event sponsored by the Department of Cinema Studies that is free and open to the public: Immersive Storytelling: Creating Narratives with Virtual and Augmented Reality.

On Friday, April 26 from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, you’re invited to drop in and learn about a variety of inspiring projects described by their artists, filmmakers, producers, and authors.

More info:   |    Facebook
Friday, April 26, 2019 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion
6th Floor Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center

PennID or Photo ID required for library entry


8:30 AM – 9:00 AM: Coffee & Pastries


9:00 AM – 9:45 AM: Angel Manuel Soto

Angel Manuel Soto, an L.A. based Puerto Rican local, studied advertising and architecture. At an early age, he began his career as a TV producer and later focused on Art Direction at a local advertising agency. In 2010 Angel directed La Carta, a moving short film that won awards in several festivals, exhibiting at Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Forward, La Havana Film Festival and Ridley Scott’s Your Film Festival. Angel’s involvement in the directing aspect of the advertising industry has garnered relations with clients such as NHTS, AT&T, DIRECTV, Apple, Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Susan G. Komen, Medalla, and Gatorade. His campaign for Gatorade in 2013 won the prestigious Cannes Lion. In 2015 he completed his first feature film, La Granja, which is currently on the festival circuit. It premiered at Fantastic Fest and competed in over 20 film festivals around the world, nabbing the award for Best Opera Prima at the Guadalajara International Film Festival and Grand Jury Award for Best World cinema at the Urbanworld Film Festival in NYC. His inspiring short documentary El Púgil, had its world premiere at the 12th edition of the TRIBECA Film Festival, 2016. In 2017 Angel created his VR film Dinner Party to much critical acclaim and success, being winning multiple awards for Best Cinematic Experience all around the world and screening at the most coveted festivals like Tribeca, Sundance and SXSW Film Festivals. He is currently in post-production on his second feature film (first studio film) Twelve, produced by Jada Pinkett and Will Smith, written by Barry Jenkins, starring Jahi Winston, Teyonah Parris, Will Catlett and introducing Meek Mill to his acting debut Twelve is distributed by Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures.

9:45 AM – 10:30 AM: Kiira Benzing

Kiira Benzing is a multi-dimensional director crossing the mediums of theater, film, virtual reality and augmented reality. Runnin’ written and directed by Kiira, is an interactive VR dance experience starring Reggie Watts. Featuring a cast of volumetric dancers Runnin’ was filmed on the largest volumetric stage in the world where Kiira was the first VR director. Currently on the festival circuit, Runnin’ made its world premiere at Sundance 2019 and received the Jury Award for Interactive at SXSW 2019. Prior to Runnin’ Kiira’s work crossed between cinema and VR. Cardboard City her first venture in Virtual Reality won Samsung’s first VR contest (2016). Interactive VR/AR installation: Cardboard City (NYFF 2016). Select Films: Hilda (Tribeca Film Festival 2017, Amazon), Diptych (Dance on Camera 2018). VR Workshops: SXSW 2018, 2019. Blog: Alive in Plasticland.

10:30 AM – 11:15 AM: Anrick Bregman


Anrick Bregman is an award winning New Realities Director, exploring spatial and immersive storytelling through volumetric technology, VR & AR, and cinematic game experiences. His work explores how narrative and technology can complement each other to create a new kind of story. He founded Studio ANRK, an immersive content studio, in order to collaborate with the worlds best talent, and push the boundaries of what we call storytelling. He is an Official Snapchat Lens Creator. And has collaborated with and consulted for companies like Google, Microsoft, Nike and Sony, and organizations such as The Guardian, UNHCR, the V&A, and PBS

11:15 AM – 12:00 PM: Sarah Stevenson

Sarah Stevenson is a technologist and creative director in the emerging immersive technologies and artificial intelligence space. She directs music business development for Live Planet, an end-to-end virtual reality distribution system created by the founder of Salesforce and Google Voice, and facilitates AI research for KurzweilAI Network owned by Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google. Previously, she co-founded a full-service 360 video production company, REVRIE Immersive; led strategic partnerships for VRLA, the world’s largest virtual and augmented reality expo; was a Fellow at Oculus; served as AES Session Chair for the first Audio for VR conference; and has consulted on the subject of emerging technologies to clients such as Spotify, The Economist, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, the US State Department and NYU.

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM: Jean Lee and Peter Decherney


Jean Lee is a writer/director who loves world cinema. She and her works have been selected by Berlinale, Film Independent, AFI Directing Workshop for Women, Ryan Murphy’s HALF TV Directors Mentorship, and Fox Filmmakers Lab. Her first feature film, Original Sin (Pecado Original) won “Best Foreign Film” at Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival and “Best Comedy” at Milan International Film Festival. Recently, Jean’s YA Sci Fi short film “Strong” won the Google Grant and Sundance Institute Knight Foundation Grant and is in post-production. Currently, Jean is co-directing a virtual reality documentary series with University of Pennsylvania Prof. Peter Decherney about Puerto Rican artists’ response to Hurricane Maria. The film is in post-production. 

Peter Decherney is Professor of Cinema & Media Studies and English at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a secondary appointment at the Annenberg School for Communication and an affiliation with the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition at Penn Law School. He is the Faculty Director of Penn’s campus-wide Online Learning Initiative and Director of the Cinema & Media Studies Program. He is the author or editor of six books including Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet and Hollywood: A Very Short Introduction. He has directed two short documentary films: Filmmaking for Democracy in Myanmar and the virtual reality film Kalobeyei, about a refugee settlement in Kenya. Prof. Decherney is also a regular contributor to Forbes. Prof. Decherney has been an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scholar, a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, and a U.S. State Department Arts Envoy to Myanmar. He is an award-winning teacher, whose free online course (a MOOC) on the history of Hollywood is available through the edX platform.

12:45 PM – 2:00 PM: Lunch & Demos

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM: Veda Shastri


Veda Shastri is a documentary filmmaker and immersive journalist, and was most recently an Immersive Storytelling producer at The New York Times. At the NYTimes, she produced both short form 360 video news stories as well as NYTVR (New York Times Virtual Reality) documentaries. She recently produced the NYTVR documentaries “Remembering Emmett Till: The Legacy of a Lynching,” “Dark Island: Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s Power Grid,” and a travelogue from a road trip, “52 Places to Go: Iceland.” She was previously the International producer of The Daily 360 at the Times, producing over 100 stories from around the world, including the series “Genocide’s Legacy,” coverage of the Rohingya refugees, and an interactive from inside Fukushima, Japan. She won an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2017 for her work on The Daily 360. Prior to joining the Times, Veda co-produced the VR documentary, “Return to Chernobyl” for PBS Frontline, which was nominated for an Online Journalism Award. She worked as a news producer at CNN-IBN, a television news channel headquartered in New Delhi, for 5 years, producing live news bulletins and special programming. Veda is the director of the 2017 documentary short, “Ladies Only.” Originally from Boston, she has an MA from New York University’s Journalism and Documentary Film program, and a BA in Anthropology from Tufts University.

2:45 PM – 3:30 PM: Courtney McCarthy

Courtney McCarthy leads YouTube AR/VR’s Business Strategy, as well as manages Content Partnerships across the platform to promote the long-term adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality. Additionally, Courtney oversees Google’s Women’s Media Strategy on the CS in Media team, with the goal of diversifying the perception of computer science in media, so as to inspire more women and underrepresented groups to become creators of technology. Courtney grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA and graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelors in Advertising and Public Relations. Previously, Courtney worked at Fox Broadcasting Company, Lionsgate and NBCUniversal’s Focus Features.

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM: Break & Demos

4:30 PM – 6:00 PM: Nonny de la Peña

Nonny de la Peña is CEO & Founder of award-winning innovation company Emblematic Group. Often acknowledged as “The Godmother of Virtual Reality,” she is a pioneer of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality who is widely credited with inventing the genre of immersive journalism. In 2012, her piece “Hunger in Los Angeles” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, marking it’s place in history as the first VR experience to be shown at the festival, and since then her work has continued to elicit global recognition at institutions and events such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, Brooklyn Museum, World Economic Forum and Venice International Film Festival. In 2017, Nonny was named one of CNET’s 20 Most Influential Latinos in Tech and most recently she received the 2018 WSJ Magazine Technology Innovator of the Year award. Under her leadership, Emblematic has built a critically acclaimed body of work that includes tracking the chaos of the Syrian civil war to working with AT&T on projects that leverage the future of 5G technologies. Her newest breakthrough is Emblematic’s WebVR platform REACH which creates scalable distribution in the medium, democratizes content authorship and empowers new voices to share their stories.

6:00 PM: Public reception


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