Ask an Alum: Virtual Reality Architect Jason Drakeford

Before Virtual Reality (VR) was a Sundance submission category or upcoming Playstation edition, it was on display at the Atlanta Film Festival. The World Premiere of INTERRUPTURE, a short VR film co-directed by Thomas Nybo and Jason Drakeford, was a highlight at our biggest party of the festival week—a multimedia film and music event called Sound + Vision. Attendees waited their turn to be transported into the true story escape of two 11-year-old girls from Syria.

Since building a seasoned track record of art direction and video production for the likes of Showtime, Adult Swim, New York Times, MTV and MailChimp, Jason works freelance for the American Museum of Natural History (read on for a peek at his upcoming video!), speaks on VR filmmaking, and continues to produce his own independent work. We talked with Jason on how he fell into ATLFF, the innovation behind his other favorite genre, and what Atlanta means to him as a creative.



Q: How did you first hear about the Atlanta Film Festival?
A: Videodrome! The best place for a filmmaker to hang out and devour great cinema in Atlanta. 

Q: What did your ATLFF screening accomplish for you as a filmmaker, if anything?
A: It opened up more opportunities in meeting fellow filmmakers and established me further as a VR director. It also opened my eyes to see how people reacted to our film - one woman was crying after she took the headset off. 

Q: Why did you submit your film to ATLFF? 
A: I've been to previous ATLFF events, watching incredible curated films and meeting people I look up to and have established collaborations with, so it was a no-brainer. 

Q: Since our community met you as a VR guy, clue us in on your other favorite genres to work with.
A: I absolutely love to create physical manifestations of my films, specifically in projection-mapping. While in New York I worked under Tony Oursler, a projection-artist and shot a music video with him and David Bowie, and ever since then I've been itching to create more in that medium. I think there is a natural connection to virtual reality and projection-mapping that no one has really explored yet. 

Q: Okay, everyone's favorite question—what are you working on now?
A: Currently I'm directing a new VR film series with The American Museum of Natural History. Also continuing to create the space series "Out There" with The New York Times (we just wrapped our 17th episode) as well as independently producing a documentary on the life of Shigeko Kubota, as a followup from my previous film profiling Ken Jacobs. I'll also be at the Adobe MAX conference this fall talking about VR filmmaking, behind-the-scenes making-of and best practices while producing immersive stories. 

Q: What part of Atlanta (or place in Atlanta) serves as your most reliable arts incubator?
A: Grant Park, mainly because of the combination of the Elevator Factory and Octane Coffee. Great people and random encounters for collaboration. 

Q: If you were an Atlanta neighborhood. Which would you be?
A: Cabbagetown... during Chomp and Stomp.

Q: What sets Atlanta apart for you as a creative home?
A: After 5 years in New York, coming back to Atlanta (my hometown), creating work here has had a much more relaxed, meditative process than being in NYC. I think projects have the space to breathe, and other "backburner" film ideas have time to marinate into solid ideas instead of forcing them into a specific outlet. There's a great talent base that's growing with the film industry as well down here that's very exciting. 

Our 2017 festival will expand our VR program, and we're always looking for compelling, boundary-pushing intergenre work. Sound familiar? Send us your stuff and join the family.