Call for UK and Canadian artists, filmmakers and creators to become future leaders in immersive storytelling backed by funding support

Application Deadline: Thursday September 17, 2020 via immersive-exchange.com

A new immersive talent development and co-production fund for UK and Canadian artists, filmmakers and creators is set to launch with its first cohort in November 2020. It is the first exchange programme dedicated to immersive storytelling between the UK and Canada, and will have a total co-production fund of £300,000 (CAD $510,000) on offer. The programme, which is now open for applications until 17 September, will establish international collaborations to pioneer new forms of immersive storytelling by bringing together a wealth of backgrounds and experiences from theatre, performing and visual arts, games, TV, film, and other forms of digital and interactive media.

Person using VR headset

The year-long programme is supported by a newly formed international collaboration between StoryFutures Academy (run by the National Film and Television School and Royal Holloway, University of London), Arts Council England, the Canada Media Fund, The Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab (CFC Media Lab) and the Canada Council for the Arts.

The UK-Canada Immersive Exchange, which commences in November, will support and champion an international cohort of artists, filmmakers and creators from Canada and the UK, aiming to be future leaders of immersive storytelling. They will work with emerging technologies, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). Mentors and experts from across the UK and Canadian creative landscape will support the programme, including those highly skilled in brokering international co-productions. 

A total of 24 creatives will be selected to participate, comprising six ‘Creative Leads’ and six ‘Creative Producers’ from each country. Creative Leads will be a mixture of artists, filmmakers, theatre directors and visionaries who can drive the creative direction of a project, while Producers, who will be representing creative companies with a track record in immersive production, will bring the business skills and immersive production experience needed to make these projects a reality. The programme will then provide the cohort with creative development opportunities, business and sector specific knowledge, understanding of a new international market, key industry contacts, and an opportunity to apply for a dedicated fund to support the collaborative international co-productions. All participants will receive a fixed Development Grant of £2,000 (CAD $3,400) to contribute towards their time spent on the initial ‘talent development’ stage of the programme. In the latter stage, the participants can pitch for co-production financing, with a total fund of £300,000 (CAD $510,000) available between the countries. This will fund a mixture of projects between £25,000 (CAD $ 42,500) and £100,000 (CAD $ 170,000).  The programme will conclude with final projects delivered by 1 November, 2021.

people with VR headset

Rebecca Gregory-Clarke, Head of Immersive, StoryFutures Academy: the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling said:

“We are thrilled to launch this programme with such a fantastic group of international partners. It’s crucially important to ensure the UK works internationally and builds cross-cultural collaborations that will benefit both Canada and the UK, enabling us to stay at the forefront of immersive innovation. The UK-Canada Immersive Exchange has been created to lower the barrier to entry for exciting creative partnerships across borders. We know from our experience at StoryFutures Academy that immersive storytelling projects have brilliant creative visionaries, as well as savvy producers who can adapt their approach to work with partners from all corners of the creative landscape. We can’t wait to convene this wealth of outstanding talent from both countries and see what they create together.”

Francis Runacres, Executive Director, Enterprise and Innovation, Arts Council England said: “The lockdowns taking place across the globe have shown the power of technology to create new artistic experiences outside traditional cultural spaces.  International collaboration ensures that the best ideas from the worlds of art and technology can be spread as widely as possible, and is essential to driving progress in this emerging field, so we’re delighted to be investing in this programme with our UK and Canadian partners.”

Person using VR headset

Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, Canada Media Fund said:

“We’re delighted to come together with such a strong group of Canadian and UK partners. The wealth of talent and innovative approaches to storytelling by creators on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the cultural ties that bind our two countries, will no doubt lead to the creation of new immersive experiences and narrative forms that push the limits of art and technology. We look forward to seeing stimulating talent exchanges develop, followed by the coproduction of content that will continue to blur the geographic and creative boundaries of immersive storytelling.”

CFC Media Lab said: 

"This international partnership between the UK and Canada marks an important first step in the further development of original, groundbreaking immersive media work in both countries," said Nataly De Monte, Associate Director of CFC Media Lab. "As we move towards smart, embedded virtualisation layers on top of our world, it is the creative process of experimenting and prototyping narrative forms, along with human interaction with mixed reality, that will lead the way forward for other industries. That's why creative programs like this are so vital and best when shared with international perspectives.” 

Carolyn Warren, Director General, Arts Granting, Canada Council for the Arts said: “The Canada Council for the Arts is excited to partner on this digital initiative that will bring together creators with diverse backgrounds and practices from Canada and the United Kingdom at such a critical time. By collaborating on new forms of immersive storytelling, these creators will have the power to unite and inspire audiences around the world—making a vital contribution in these unprecedented times.”

Applicants are encouraged to apply now for the UK-Canadian Immersive Exchange at immersive-exchange.com. The deadline for applications is Thursday September 17, 2020 at 12 pm EDT / 5pm BST. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme will run sessions remotely. Pending the lifting of travel and working restrictions in 2021, opportunities for in-person workshops and exchanges to Canada or the UK will be explored.

The programme was founded following an international immersive research and innovation symposium and cultural exchange organised by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Canada Media Fund’s CFC Media Lab (CMF). The programme marks the first international co-production for StoryFutures Academy, a UKRI Audience of the Future funded initiative. Arts Council England has previously developed the accelerator programme CreativeXR, for the creation of immersive experiences, in partnership with Digital Catapult, currently in its third consecutive year with 20 new projects recently announced.

About StoryFutures Academy

StoryFutures Academy is the UK's National Centre for Immersive Storytelling run by the National Film and Television School and Royal Holloway, University of London. Funded as part of UK Research and Innovation’s Audience of the Future industrial strategy challenge fund, the Academy develops cutting-edge creative training and research programmes, to ensure the UK creative workforce is the most skilled in the world in the use of VR, AR and MR for immersive storytelling.

Alumni of StoryFutures Academy labs have so far included Oscar and BAFTA winning Director Asif Kapadia, Oscar Winning VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin, Turner Prize winning conceptual artist Gillian Wearing OBE, and Channel 4 Documentaries Commissioning Editor Fozia Khan. 

Over £500,000 (CAD $850,000) has been invested in UK immersive production, across co-productions with BBC3, and Production Booster and Kickstart development funding. The award-winning VR Documentary 'Common Ground' was the first ever funded co-production, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in early 2019. 'Violence’, an artistic collaboration between film director Shola Amoo (The Last Tree) and producer Eleanor Whitley (Marshmallow Laser Feast), had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, as part of the Cannes XR Virtual at the Marché du film de Cannes, held online and in virtual reality, in June 2020.