The participants for the UK-Canada Immersive Exchange, a new talent development and co-production programme for UK and Canadian immersive technology creatives and producers, have been selected. Twenty-four participants – 12 from the UK and 12 from Canada – were chosen from nearly 500 applications. They include six creative leads from each country – a mixture of artists, filmmakers, theatre directors and visionaries – as well as six creative producers from each country, who bring with them an impressive and varied range of experiences from across the creative spectrum.

The pioneering programme between the two countries, both recognized as leaders in immersive production, will for the first time provide structured opportunities for international collaboration and knowledge exchange in this important growth area for the arts and creative industries.

“We’re so delighted at the positive response to this call, and to have found such an incredible group of talented individuals from both sides of the Atlantic to take part in our immersive programme,” said Becky Gregory-Clarke, Program Co-Lead, UK-Canada Immersive Exchange and Head of Immersive, StoryFutures Academy. “In an unprecedented year, it’s more encouraging than ever to see such an enthusiastic group of people eager to overcome all the barriers of international working and come together to produce something so creative and exciting. We can’t wait to see what concepts they come up with.”

Throughout the initial Talent Development stage of the programme, which began on 9th November 2020, the 24 participants are brought together in the same virtual spaces to collaborate and engage in weekly creative, content and business-focused sessions. Additionally, all participants receive a fixed development grant of £2,000 (CAD 3,400) to contribute towards their time spent on the talent development stage. In the latter stage, the participants can pitch for co-production financing, with a total fund of up to £300,000 (CAD 510,000) available between the countries. This will fund a mixture of binational co-productions between £25,000 (CAD 42,500) and up to a maximum of £100,000 (CAD 170,000). The co-production stage will begin in March 2021, and the programme will conclude with final projects delivered by November 2021.

Participants gathered online in VR room

“The immersive storytelling industry continues to be pushed forward by creators motivated to build for unforgettable experiences. The diverse mix of talents and imaginations among our cohort will help shape the unique content that will be developed from this programme,” added Laura Mingail, Program Co-Lead, UK-Canada Immersive Exchange, on behalf of the Canadian Film Centre.From day one, we have been able to meet in shared virtual environments. Immersive technologies are as much tools to connect audiences to stories as they are to connect creators across the world to build relationships and collaborate.”

The UK-Canada Immersive Exchange is supported by an international partnership 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. Together, these organizations selected the following creators:

Creative Leads – UK:
AVIN SHAH, playwright and actor; core writer for BBC Radio 4’s acclaimed First World War drama series Tommies
DAVE LYNCH, artist, director, inventor and researcher; creator of large-scale artworks, multisensory stories and performances across art, science, society and technology
FRED DEAKIN, multidisciplinary artist; musician; half of the Mercury/Brit nominated band Lemon Jelly; founder/director of digital design studio Airside
PERSIS JADÉ MARAVALA, artistic director of ZU-UK, working in games, performance and technology; writer and director of Hotel Medea, Binaural Dinner Date, Pick Me Up (& Hold Me Tight); making playable art for the Post Normal 
KAREN PALMER, Storyteller from the Future; award-winning international artist; TED Speaker; creator of RIOT AI & Perception iO
LEONIE RAE GASSON, director of cross reality experiences, 360 film and live performance; Joint Artistic Director, Produced Moon, an interactive digital art company
Creative Leads – Canada:
BRENDA LONGFELLOW, interactive director; award-winning filmmaker; professor, Department of Cinema & Media Arts, York University
CASEY KOYCZAN, interdisciplinary artist, VR/360/XR, musician, composer, filmmaker, producer and actor
DUSTIN HARVEY, theatre maker, creative director and tinkerer; project curator, XOSECRET
FREYA BJÖRG OLAFSON, intermedia artist; assistant professor, Department of Dance, York University
MEAGAN BYRNE, Lead Game Designer and Owner of indie game studio Achimostawinan Games; former Digital + Interactive Coordinator, imagineNATIVE
SANDRA RODRIGUEZ, director, immersive, interactive experiences (VR/AI); visiting scholar and lecturer HackingXR, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Creative Producers – UK:
ANDREA SALAZAR, co-founder and Executive Director, Darkfield, a multi-sensory sonic theme park as well as makers of 3D storytelling at home experiences; specializes in site specific immersive experimental performance
CHI THAI, Founder of Last Conker, a BFI Vision awarded production company working across international film and television, animation and immersive
HANNAH BRADY, Creative Producer for Squidsoup the award winning digital arts collective and the South West Creative Technology Network, Watershed
JON MEGGITT, co-founder, Arcade, a digital practice specializing in immersive technology
KIRSTY JENNINGS, multidisciplinary producer; Company Producer, Anagram, a creative studio specializing in interactive/immersive storytelling and experiences
MATTHEW SHAW, co-founder, ScanLAB Projects, an award-winning creative studio exploring the world through digital replicas of objects, people, places and events
Creative Producers – Canada:
ATHOMAS GOLDBERG, VR creator and producer; co-founder, Shocap Entertainment, an entertainment production company specializing in live XR events and performances
EMILY PAIGE, co-founder, E.D. FILMS, an animation studio and digital tools maker; awarded producer of animated film, VR, and immersive experiences
ERIN RAY, Creative producer, interactive documentaries, augmented reality experiences, and virtual reality projects
RACHAEL HOSEIN, co-founder/CCO, Flipside XR; Vice-Chair, New Media Manitoba Board of Directors; co-founder, Winnipeg Alternate Reality Club
SHABNAM REZAEI, founder, Big Bad Boo Studios and Oznoz SVOD platform
VINCENT MORISSET, Director and founder of studio AATOAA (interactive films, installations, XR)

Through a series of bespoke sessions, these participants will receive mentorship from leading experts from across the UK and North American creative landscapes, including Deepa Mann-Kler (Chief Executive, Neon; Professor, Immersive Futures, Ulster University Northern Ireland); Liz Rosenthal (Curator of Immersive Content, Venice VR, Venice International Film Festival; Executive Producer, CreativeXR; CEO/Founder, Power to the Pixel); Toby Coffey (Head of Digital Development, National Theatre); Marc Boothe (Founder, B3 Media; Producer, Talentlab); Nick DeMartino (President, Nick DeMartino Consulting); Myriam Achard (Chief, New Media Partnerships and Public Relations, PHI Centre); Audrey Pacart (XR Executive Producer & Consultant, Very Story) and Amy LaMeyer (Managing Partner, The WXR Fund).

For more information on the UK-Canada Immersive Exchange, please visit: