After seeing a virtual reality film for the first time, Oxfam Australia’s Head of Content Strategy and Brand Victoria Sichler, knew that creating a film using virtual reality technology would connect supporters and the public to Oxfam’s work in a way that was simply not possible before; allowing people to walk in the shoes of people living in poverty and demonstrating the remarkable impact we can have, tackling poverty together.

Victoria and her team joined forces with Australian production company Filmgraphics and creative studio Alt.vfx to make an emotional 360-degree docu-drama short film, highlighting the courage and resilience of the people of Turkana, Kenya.

Directed by Dave Denneen from Filmgraphics, this powerful film shows the plight of the Turkana community through the eyes of 11-year-old Evelyn, who acts as the story’s narrator.

The film breaks new ground in the way it marries film language with the relatively new medium of 360-degree storytelling. Designed to highlight Oxfam’s work in bringing clean water to remote communities, the team made a film that would translate to the viewer as more than just a sequence of shots, but as an emotionally resonating story; one that hopefully moves people to donate to Oxfam. A stirring soundtrack from sound specialists We Love Jam added the final touches to this wonderful film.

Anna Fawcett, Executive Producer at Filmgraphics, said: “When Oxfam came to us, we knew we had to find the right creative partners to develop this project to its full potential. Alt not only had the right people and creative approach, but also the drive to push new technologies. We Love Jam also brought a really inventive creative solution that helps add drama to Evelyn’s Story. I’m very proud of all our team for producing such a beautiful piece of VR filmmaking.”

A custom-built VR camera rig

Alt.vfx developed a stereoscopic 360 camera specifically for the project that would resist the harsh terrain, and 45 degree temperatures. This proprietary camera rig – The Don – offers live view, ambiosonic audio capture, stereo 360 at 4K, synchronised cameras with micro 4/3’rds sensors allowing for excellent low light performance, and all packed up in a custom-designed carbon fibre lightweight casing for ease of use on location.

Tyrone Estephan, Senior Producer at Alt, commented: “The exciting part of this project was right from the start the teams at Filmgraphics and Alt had one passionate goal, to break new ground in the VR world in the way it marries film language with the exciting and new medium of VR storytelling. Evelyn’s Story is a touching, emotional story that will help change lives.”

A custom-designed VR editing and grading suite

In addition to the ground-breaking story approach and stereo camera, Alt developed a fully streamlined post-production VR pipeline. Editor Matt Bennett and VFX Supervisor Raymond Leung developed programming language that allowed for a fully immersive 360 headset live interactive experience in editorial. The new system allows the viewer – be it director or in this case Oxfam – to see the edit being worked on live in 360. The same experience has been developed for the grade suite, where live streaming of the footage in 360 allows for colourist and client to grade the film in 360, allowing for instant understanding of results.

Director David Denneen commented: “Editing in a streamlined way such as this allowed us to experiment with different cutting techniques, camera angles and play in real time with the new film language that is VR. It’s been a great experience to work with such a talented and technical team to tell this powerfully emotive story.”

Alt’s Creative Director Scott Hignett, who was part of the on-set crew, added, “Allowing the director and Oxfam to see the end result as the edit is being cut meant we were able to gauge the reactions of the viewer accurately. This helped us craft a film that optimises the user experience and draws out the maximum emotion required for memorable filmmaking that hopefully moves people to support these communities and their quest for life. Bringing the story of Oxfam’s work to screen has been a wonderful experience for us all, and I’m very thankful to have been part of this amazing team.”

Oxfam is proud to have collaborated with Filmgraphics, Alt.vfx and We Love Jam Studios to produce this world-class VR film.

For press and PR enquiries, please contact Mark Millar at Alt.vfx mark@altvfx.com or +61 2 9199 8008, or Renee Thompson at Oxfam Australia, reneet@oxfam.org.au on +61 3 9289 9304.