The New Paranormal Activity Director’s Next Move? VR
After spending years as an editor and co-producer on the Paranormal Activity films, Gregory Plotkin finally stepped into the director’s chair for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. But now that he’s done, he’s found another kind of footage he wants to use: virtual reality.
The director has had an interest in the medium for a while, and last year even made a short experience with VR studio Jaunt called Black Mass Experience. But in the time that he’s been working on Ghost Dimension, VR filmmaking equipment has gotten much more advanced. So now that his movie has been released, Plotkin says, his next endeavor is to double down on a bigger VR project.
“I really want to open this up, just like I did with found footage. If found footage just stays in horror, it’s going to peter out,” Plotkin says. “I feel like it’s dying a little bit right now, but it will come back when people reinvent it with other genres. I think the same thing with VR.”
So what’s he looking to do? Maybe some horror, yes. But also a sports drama. (He was associate editor on the Friday Night Lights movie.) Maybe some “experimental short-form” thing. Definitely a sci-fi adventure experience. “Something like Avatar,” he says. But reinventing VR in new genres is a lofty goal, even if Plotkin is willing to try a lot of things to hit it. Here’s the director’s Do’s and Don’ts for how he wants to change the game.
Do Screw Up
Like with any new storytelling technology, people learning how to use VR are going to fail. That’s good for the medium. “I’m equally as excited about the mistakes—about the things that don’t work—as about the things that do work,” Plotkin says. “There may be things where I think ‘If I move the camera here and tell it this way, it’s going to look great.’ But then you can get the serendipitous shot that’s like ‘Hey, I never thought that this could happen,’ and boom! It’s going to influence how I tell the story.”
Don’t Hold the Audience’s Hand
One of the big challenges with VR right now is, essentially, teaching people how to use it. Some folks enter an experience and don’t know they can look/move around. Some folks feel like they can’t move enough. Plotkin thinks it’s imperative we let people find their own way. “I don’t want to guide the audience too much, I want them to really explore and find the space themselves,” he says. “But I think with a little bit of movement it will really force them to be proactive and explore the space.”
Do Make VR Funnier
So far, VR has done animation, action, documentary, a little bit of sci-fi, and even some music. It’s been harder, however, to find ways to make VR funny. He may not be the one to do it, but Plotkin would like to see more LOLs in the goggles. “I think comedy is the one I haven’t seen,” he says. “Yet, I don’t know that I have an answer for how to do comedy in a virtual reality space.”
Don’t Stick to What You Know
As someone who got his first big directing gig with a Paranormal Activity flick, you might think Plotkin would stay in his lane. But he thinks it’s important for directors to work in as many genres as possible to find out what really works in VR. “Horror has been the most open door right now, so it’s something I can handle really well on a storytelling level,” he says. “But I do want to take it in other directions.”
Do Bring in the Big Guns
Right now, the biggest hurdle is getting people to try VR. The bigger the names attached to the medium, the better it will do. “It’s just getting people to look at it,” Plotkin says. “You get a camera in the hands of a [Martin] Scorsese or a [Steven Spielberg] or a David Fincher or whomever to put their stamp on something, I think that’s what VR needs right now. It needs that catalyst and then you’re going to have the floodgates open and people are going to be jazzed about it.”