IN PROTEST: Grassroots Stories from the Front Lines is the latest project from GRX Immersive Labs, produced by a core team of Black immersive storytellers and creative professionals led by Alton Glass and Adam Davis-McGee. This four-part 360° film series delivers a visceral account of recent protests and marches from the viewpoint of activists braving the front lines.
Each volume is devoted to a particular region: Minneapolis; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; and Atlanta. Through VR, 360° video, spatial audio, and other emerging technologies, IN PROTEST filmmakers draw the audience into an immersive experience that lets them feel the energy of the grassroots movement and examine citizen activism at this pivotal moment in history. Volume 2, IN PROTEST: Washington, D.C., is now available in four episodes, for free on Oculus TV:
Following the launch of Volume 1, IN PROTEST: Minneapolis and St. Paul, IN PROTEST Executive Producer Alton Glass and Director and Producer Adam Davis-McGee shared their thoughts on the inspiration behind their series and the importance of providing an in-depth and immersive look at the Black Lives Matter movement. They joined us again today to share their thoughts and developer process behind Volume 2: Washington, D.C.
Congrats on the launch of Volume 2 of IN PROTEST: Grassroots Stories from the Front Lines! What can your audience expect to see in Volume 2?
Adam: In Volume 2, we are taking you to Washington D.C. to hear from some of the vanguard activists that have been doing the work on the hill and in the streets. Policy and Protests go hand in hand, and one of the most well known peaceful protests—The March on Washington in ‘68—rings more true in 2020 than ever before as it pertains to demanding accountability. So we captured this year's commemorative March held on the National Mall, and we dive into themes around broadcast media, artificial intelligence, data, weaponizing the vote, and creating long-term policy impact.
Did you run into any technical challenges while filming this volume of IN PROTEST? If so, how did you overcome those challenges?
Adam: Our biggest challenge was thinking about how to safely capture the March. We had a small crew totalling 3 people—BIG shouts out to Paris McCoy, our DP and Creative Producer, and Jonathan Williams, our Associate Producer and Camera Op. Those two are incredible shooters with really fresh, creative eyes when it comes to capturing 360. We brought in additional support from Michaela Holland and Edwin Rogers; both have 360 filming experience. We arrived at the March at 7am and wrapped around 6pm. We had (x2) Insta 360 Pro 2’s, (x1) Insta 360 Pro 1, (x2) Kandao 8K Quoo Cams, a Red Helium, a pair of Snap Chat spectacles 3, and (x2) Apogee Ambeo 360 headphones. Everyone had backpacks full of extra cards, batteries, water and snacks, you name it. It was an all day, on your feet affair.
Alton: We were fortunate to have a Creative Producer who had a background in Cinematography (Paris McCoy) and a fellow Oculus Launch Pad Alum (Jonathan Williams) who was a Camera Operator and Associate Producer that was on the frontlines initially in Minnesota capturing the height of the George Floyd protest in Volume 1. Adam and Paris wanted to keep the momentum and stepped up to tackle Washington D.C; eventually we added some additional creatives referred by Oculus that really helped us seize the moment at the March on Washington 2020.
Why did you choose to share your story through VR? How did that decision impact your creative process and the final product?
Adam: Being IN PROTEST looks like a lot of different things to different people. VR is an incredible medium for channeling a conversation around protest because of the raw and unfiltered experience one can share that amplifies their cause. But sharing this does come with a lot of ethical and moral questions when putting people into certain environments, particularly frontline footage against the state. Maybe VR can help with holding the state and news media outlets more accountable. Lastly, being a Black immersive storyteller, it’s important to me to facilitate dialogue around our own lived experiences as Black people, especially in VR.
Alton: Adam and Paris were really focused on capturing the momentum, spirit and energy of the March on Washington so they focused on being lean and agile in the field. Adam also shared some great examples of capturing a docs-style look with our subjects who were on the frontlines so we were fortunate to capture them in isolated environments to get a clean and intimate look so you could really focus on their journey and let the immersive journalistic shots in the field carry you in and out of these historic moments.
You were involved in Oculus Launch Pad, a program designed to support promising VR content creators. What was your experience like and how has your involvement made an impact on your career? Are there any specific moments, experiences or encounters that were particularly memorable or meaningful?
Alton: I remember not winning the Oculus Launch Pad award, but they called me to speak to the 2019 Launch Padders at OC6 and I gave a talk about earning the Reward vs. The Award. Launch Pad was a very rewarding experience, and even though I did not win the award, it excelled my career in immersive storytelling. Three years later I am still working with various Oculus Launch Pad Alums, including our current creative team member Jonathan Williams, who shot IN PROTEST and actually won the grant during my cohort in 2017. Overall, Launch Pad created a community for me and a support system. I still work with fellow developers, storytellers, and even Oculus and Facebook, who supported GRX Immersive Labs’ HBCU Virtual Reality program with historically black colleges leveraging immersive storytelling and creative entrepreneurship.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our developer audience?
Alton: GRX Immersive Labs is always looking to grow, learn and build community with creators and developers and assist others in crafting their skills and voice in XR; our door is open. Thanks for the support.