Lucas Rizzotto: “Push the Boundaries of VR/AR Storytelling”
Lucas Rizzotto, an award-winning Brazilian director who is continually searching for the boundaries between storytelling and technology. As a pioneer in storytelling Lucas is a creative tech-guy also specialized in programming, UI/UX, Graphical Design, Interaction Design, Video Editing, Songwriting & Event Production. Lucas debuted at Tribeca with his latest cinematic VR experience called ‘Where Thoughts Go,’ a social network that takes the form of an ethereal virtual reality world. Visitors leave anonymous voice logs that appear in the dreamy environment as little creatures that flit around in the air. In this podcast, Lucas explains why traveling contributed so much to his career path and gives us a sneak peek about the story of his upcoming comedy experience.
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Justine: Hi, welcome again to another podcast here at Cannes XR, I’m Justine Harcourt de Tourville and this time I am introducing a VR Wunderkind as we might say, Lucas Rizzotto. Thank you for joining us.
Lucas: It’s a pleasure to be here. Hi everyone.
Justine: And so what brings you to XR? Are you trying to showcase something or find some money? Want to see cool stuff? What’s the main driver for joining us this year?
Lucas: Oh, the main driver is really just making friends or making this kind of stuff, seeing what they’re all about and walking away with learning things and creating friendships. That’s my main driver, although you know, sometimes some monetary opportunities surface and… Yeah, it’s, I like to not to necessarily look for them but just to respond to them when they appear and focus more on creating friendships. And I’m also showcasing where thoughts go at the Springboard arcade that they have here, Cannes XR. And so people here can play it.
Justine: I actually have to say I enjoyed this Springboard arcade simply because it made it very easy to find a lot of content and simplified it for, at least for me it was like point and click point and click point and click. And I could see like a bunch of great pieces all at once and it’s cool. That’s yours is included.
Lucas: Yeah. Springboard has these panels with a touch screen interface, and you can choose one out of 20 titles to play. And there’s, there’s not like pieces don’t have their own installations here, but it also means that you can just see any piece that you want immediately. And there’s not a lot of lines. Everything is very well organized. So it’s, and it’s cool to see Springboard, which is a very large, very large VR platform embracing storytelling in this way.
Justine: Thumbs up to storytelling. Yeah. So speaking of storytelling, why didn’t you tell us a little bit what your thoughts were behind or thoughts go?
Lucas: So where my thoughts go is a social narrative set in a universe where human thoughts are sleeping creatures. Each one of them is a voice message left by another player who was there before you or so you entered these worlds and you can wake up little creatures to listen to the voice messages left by others and to progress in a narrative, you need to answer increasingly personal questions and leave your own answers behind in a form of creatures for others to find. So it’s very intimate. You get to listen to the lives of other people and people opening up and you also have to open up yourself to see what,
Justine: I thought that was very actually a really clever way of not just being a voyeur or just someone who listens in on a conversation, but forcing the viewer to participate. I was very clever and if I’m not mistaken, was this not what you last year in Tribeca? Is this the piece?
Lucas: The one that’s showcasing here is also from Tribeca last year
Justine: Was it your directorial debut?
Lucas: Correct, yes.
Justine: That’s pretty phenomenal to just say, Hey, I think I’m going to direct a film and boom, smack is at Tribeca.
Lucas: Yeah, it was, I didn’t know there was spaces and festivals for things like that or that people were looking for weird new ways of doing narrative. So when I heard about Tribeca and Sundance, I would go, I was really off guard and I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker. So I tried to use the skills that I was building up over the past couple of years in VR and ar and apply it to storytelling, which is something that I love and worked out. I showed it to them in person, I really chased after it and they said yes. So that worked out.
Justine: That’s really impressive. But you’re a young guy. You grew up in Brazil. Yes. But now I understand you’re living all over the world. You have this new plan. So tell me a little bit about what you, what you did in Brazil and what led you on your journey outside of Brazil and now while you’re traveling the globe.
Lucas: So I grew up in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, which is a beautiful, beautiful city, full of problems as well worth visiting. Living there is a little bit complicated, but I did a number of things throughout my life. I was a teen, I was like a songwriter for universal music when I was a teenager. Then I worked with my dad on his company since I was eight for like 10 years.
Justine: So was what was that?
Lucas: He’s just an intrepreneur he just made, started businesses, all sorts of weird, um, companies to, you know, to keep,
Justine: that’s cool. I mean that, that probably gave you. Got you do trying a lot of new things. Maybe that was helping establish that pattern.
Lucas: Oh yeah. He gave me lots to do. Like I started doing just spreadsheet work, but then he started like just asking me things and I had to figure out how to make them and I think this created, um, this taught me that with any skill really, you just have to go online, get some learning resources and learn it yourself. You don’t need anyone to teach you anything unless you’re doing something technical. Like being a surgeon. Don’t, don’t try to teach yourself how to be a surgeon. So yeah, don’t do that on Youtube. But if it’s like game development, you can do that on youtube. And like most of the skills that I have, I built over the Internet.
Justine: So that was three years dad. And then what did you do after where you worked a lot of years for your dad?
Lucas: I dropped out of college twice because I was undecisive and then I started doing parties for a living for three years. And then I got bored with that. And then I came to New York City and I press the reset button on my life. And I learned a little bit of graphic design from the party business that I had because I did all the visual assets. And then I saw that UI, UX design paid really well. So I started doing that and then I started having my own ideas and I was like, maybe I should learn programming as well. And then I learned about VR and AR and it all mashed together. So it’s really VR is, it’s a very multidisciplinary space, which means that all of these weird experiences I’ve had in the past, they all come together now.
Justine: Isn’t that nice that there’s this, there’s a space having random things that don’t seemingly go together and yet it works out beautifully when in VR. Yeah. And another thing you said earlier about friendships, you know, this kind of, you’re with your fellow pirates or your, your, your fellow, you know, Omni doers or whatever they are. So that’s, it’s a, it’s an exciting terrain in space. So after, after school and wait, wait, wait, you were in, in New York you were doing your parties and then you went to school, right? Correct.
Lucas: Uh, yes. Uh, I did, I did until college, a third time in New York. I did a computer science degree in two years, but I barely ever went to class. I was there for the visa, so don’t, don’t let this be a contradiction to, I learned it all on Youtube. I did learn it all on youtube, but I also have a diploma because it was the only way I could enter it and stay in the States. This is so you’re very entrepreneurial and even figuring out your visa. Yeah, it was like the most expensive and slow immigration process ever. That’s how I look at my college education.
Justine: But you did, and now after that, did you move around? Is that where you decided you were going to be a global citizen?
Lucas: Oh, right, yes. Now I moved, um, I stayed a year in San Francisco last year and then I decided I was going to move to la, but I saw how expensive it was and that I was gonna kind of like isolate myself a little bit in San Francisco. Um, so I was living for free in San Francisco. I had an arrangement. Yes. But once I had like, I was like, ah, it’s cheaper to live around the world than it is to live in LA right now. And I think there’s, I have more to gain.
Justine: I think it’s cheaper to live anywhere in the planet. Just about…
Lucas: Yeah. So I’ve been moving countries every month or so and um, I second work from my home cause I do most of my work on my laptop and I’ve been just trying to use this opportunity right now while VR is a little bit slow and I don’t have money for large teams anyway to see the world, learn a little bit about how, you know, our current reality function. So I can then create virtual realities with a big, like a larger set of knowledge and how the real world works.
Justine: So what countries have you been in and how have they informed your creative thought?
Lucas: So mostly, mostly Europe right now it’s, um, I’ve been doing this for five months, so I’ve been in Germany and Italy and Spain and Latvia. And Turkey is where I’m at right now in Istanbul, which has been really, really phenomenal. I’m going to Asia in the next couple of months. So it’d be in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and I’m going to be going actually with other independent artists starting July. So I created something called the Reality Caravan. So starting July of every month, I’m gonna be renting out like a five, six bedroom space and me and five other independent artists are gonna move in, switch countries every month and make stuff together while on the road. And how does that affect creativity? Um, I don’t, it’s impossible to get creatively stuck on anything when you’re traveling this much. I feel it’s,
Justine: do you see nice new colors or do you see new patterns or, yeah, all of that. Um, things that like, oh, I want to include this.
Lucas: Yeah. New, new, just new sounds, new smells, new patterns, new visuals, colors, aesthetics. People interact differently.
Justine: Yeah spatial, the way people maintain their space is different across all these countries. Yeah.
Lucas: And little things like the shape of bathrooms in different countries and what says that says about people and it’s, I think it gives you a lot of, um, a lot of different options to pull ideas from. And I don’t think it affects the work like directly, but it affects it in all, all these little things. If like, Huh, maybe I can use this or maybe have a like a, a weird interaction with this stranger and see you got a little nugget out of it. They’re like, maybe I can get this bit out of this interaction and create something around it. Or if you’re uninspired when it comes to environmental design, you can just find some beautiful exotic location that’s like 15 minutes away. And just to try to replicate it in VR, it’s a never ending source of inspiration and multisensory of inspiration. Not only visual but sounds and smells and taste and touch. Which three of these are not covered in VR right now, but I think they will be and they’re on their way. Yeah. One day. So it’s been really inspiring. It’s cheaper and it’s, I think it’s providing a lot of personal growth.
Justine: And so the other people that you’re trapping with, they’re also in VR as well. Did you say an ar, VR, VR and Ar. And Are you creating like bouncing ideas off each other? Are you trying to collaborate and how does that
Lucas: or I’m setting no rules cause I just want things to come up organically. So I’m hoping that by putting a bunch of talented independent artists in the house, they will figure out what they want to do and if they want to do anything at all. That being said, I’d probably be doing like six hour hackathons on the weekends. Okay. So throughout the week we just try to think of fun, really easy to build ideas and get together for six hours and build them and post them on social media and tried to um, at least collaborate in the most basic way. But I would love to, you know, if people like each other and they want to work on something, I hope that happens naturally, but I don’t want to force anything.
Justine: Well that’s great. I liked the new no rules that could be exciting. You know, freedom can lead to a lot of new ideas and new concepts to pursue. Yeah. And plus you get the feedback instantaneously, which is always valuable and you’re not working in a bubble, which I think for a lot of VR makers and doers, sometimes you’re forced into that route.
Lucas: Yeah. Um, especially with independent artists, which are a little bit more isolated having, I think there’s a lot of strengths in getting everyone to come together.
Justine: So what do you think are, what kind of stories are you working on next, Lucas?
Lucas: Oh my God. So there’s a lots of words that’s go spin offs that are happening. I don’t, I’m not going to say too much about it cause everything’s in the works right now, but I do have a sequel for it that I’m currently developing that I think would be an improvement in pretty much every single way. And I’m really excited for, and I’m working on an interactive comedy. Ah Ha. Yes. Which haven’t announced it yet. I’m finishing the first five minutes of it in June so I can start showing it to people about it. Feature. It’s a, it’s a heist comedy in a world or in the world, in the future where all animals are made intelligent for a very dumb reason. And it’s, well, it’s actually, um, I hope to have more to talk about it this year, but okay. I think comedy hasn’t been done what I’ve done in well in VR yet, and especially comedy that’s not just funny scenes, but it’s comedy being used as a way to talk about a very difficult topic, comedy being used as misdirection to talk about something complicated and you only realize that the comedy is about something complicated once your way into it. Then you re examine all the things you’ve done earlier in the story and I’m just probably going to have a pilot of it and I’m available this year. I like 15 minutes long, but I’m running it to be a three episode arc and it would all make sense soon, but it’s ridiculous. And I think VR needs more ridiculous things.
Justine: So you’re not going into the Zombie world or the, um, the alien features that we, we so often see.
Lucas: No, not, I mean it’s, it’s, it’s scifi, it’s little scifi obviously. Um, all of these animals are intelligent because of technology, but, um, I’m mainly using this story as in the fake futuristic world as a way to examine human animal relationships by bringing them to the same level of intelligence or arguably stupidity because everyone in this story is stupid, I think similarly to the real world.
Justine: Tell me about your workflow when you’re dreaming up new ideas. Um, we’ve established that you can get them from a variety of sources and that traveling really helps. But how do you, how do you start your day? Is there any, any patterns?
Lucas: I’m not structured at all. It’s, I wake up and I just see what I feel like working on and that’s the thing that I do. Um, usually I want to work a couple of days in a row on the same project so I can build some sort of rhythm cause jumping between projects too quickly. Um, I think slows me down a great lot. And, but yeah, I do, they say some day, it’s unfortunate. I can’t just like work on projects every single day cause I have to do a lot of stuff on doing a lot of stuff on youtube now. And I have some other work that I have to do on the background and lots of things competing for time, which is actually one of the big challenges of doing stuff independently as a one man team, which is mostly what would I am and hoping that that can change as the projects get more budgets and like higher budgets and I can work with other people. But right now it’s like what is the most important thing you have to do right now versus what is the thing I’m most excited to do right now? And I keep bouncing between them.
Justine: Okay. So like you try and give yourself like you do the less fun and less sexy stuff maybe at one moment and then Kinda reward yourself with a little more fun stuff that you’re excited about.
Lucas: Do this stuff. I have to, when deadlines are looming and I’m panicking and I do the stuff that I love otherwise. But yeah,
Justine: That’s pretty standard for a lot of people.
Lucas: Yeah. And understand that I’m going to pretend that I’m disciplined. Um, I am a little bit not to discipline.
Justine: Would you say your driven, it seems to be you’re driven?
Lucas: I suppose I don’t feel driven and I feel like I procrastinated a lot, but also I, you know, talked to a lot of people and I realize that almost everyone seems to procrastinate a great deal. So I guess that the matter is like when you’re working, how efficient are you
Justine: Or how in love with the process.
Lucas: Yeah. That’s important. That’s the only way I can work on stuff. Well, actually,
Justine: so that, that to me embodies a little bit of drive. I mean, yeah, we’re all struggling and have to get through the drudgery stuff that we don’t want to do. The time consuming tedious parts.
Lucas: Yeah. Which there are a lot of, there’s, there’s a lot of really, really awful. Um, I didn’t like coding. Yep. Um, I’m starting to enjoy it now, but for the most part it’s the thing that I least enjoy doing, but it’s one of the most fundamental aspects of making this kind of content set. D that means, is that the part you procrastinate the most on? Yeah, I mean I knew nothing, uh, three years ago and now you know, I can build a full thing and release it on stores and there’s a, don’t underestimate the power of releasing something. Releasing something is so, so hard. Cause the last 10% takes like 80% of the work.
Justine: That’s true. All right. So what’s next for Lucas?
Lucas: So I’m working on a couple of where thoughts go, spin offs that I’m gonna announce in the next couple of weeks.
Justine: Those are the ones that are coming, or at least one of them is coming at the end of the year. Do you think you’ll have something?
Lucas: There’s a full blown sequel that I’m working on and a not coming out, but I’ll be submitting it to festivals, probably is here. So it should be coming out next year and I’m working on a very attractive comedy that I’m really excited for and those are like the two projects that I’m doing right now that I’m focusing most of my time on. But there’s a lot of things that are appearing and there’s lots of, it’s really hard to do something new once you’ve done something that has done well at any level because then the whole world starts to start pulling in one direction and be like, Hey, can you do more of this thing? And I’m like, but I want to do this stupid comedies. No, no, no, but we really want need you to do this thing. And I’m trying to learn how to navigate that of people trying to make me use my time on old things when I was to work on a certain way. Yeah, I guess
Justine: it’s hard for them to imagine doing other things. Kind of like you create your own boundaries by accident.
Lucas: Yeah. It’s doing something that does well, makes people define you by that piece of work. And there’s some immediate challenges and challenges to say like, Oh, I don’t want to be defined by just piece of work. I want to do more. So I’m trying to learn how to manage my time and making a comedy, which is complete opposite of what were thoughts go is, so I don’t get myself boxed in early, but also to explore my relationship with animals, which is, I used to be a Vegan for four years and now I’m not. And actually I feel like that’s a huge character flaw of mine and that’s one of the main flaws of the characters. Okay.
Justine: Do you feel guilty about it? Is that it or do you feel yeah. Gained or do you feel relieved?
Lucas: No, I a few horribly guilty. I think eating meat is more early on. Justifiable. I do it, but I think it’s evil and I think I’m weak and it’s like, yeah, I think it’s an interesting topic to explore.
Justine: I do to! And this is, but this is what is leading to this whole concept of animals, um, having greater intelligence. Is this kind of the thought behind it?
Lucas: Yeah. You’re putting them on the same level as humans so you can look at things in a, in a particular different way. And I don’t want to, this is not going to be like on the nose, I don’t want the story to have any kind of message or this is what you should do.
Justine: You could say this is your inspiration or let’s say it’s something that’s, that’s in your thought and your working out. Maybe in a different context. Maybe it doesn’t have to have a lecture or a sermon, but it could certainly have an origin.
Lucas: Yeah, I just want something that raises questions and, but doesn’t provide answers or clear calls to action or anything. I don’t want to sit here. Yeah. I don’t want this to be like a morality piece. If anything I just want to mock all sides of the issue and just get people to think about things. Um, and of, yeah, like you asked about like where do, how do these projects usually go at a, like a larger scale? Um, I tried to borrow a lot from who I am as a person, obviously to be one of the main drivers. So this is a conflict that’s personal and you know, if I feel guilty every day about it, I should probably do something around it. And it’s an idea how that has been sitting in my head for a year and now it has matured enough that I can make it. Then the same as with where thoughts go. Um, I always struggle to get the sorts of intimate connections is that I wanted to in real life. So I thought about it for a year and I created something in which everyone interacts on a super intimate level and like my problem is solved. They’ve examined the issue.
Justine: Attention is a great source of storytelling. I mean adds to great storytelling. Just having that conflict in there. Yeah. So you mind it. So very good. Lucas, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. Anything you want to leave for all the up and coming filmmakers or VR filmmakers in the world?
Lucas: Yeah. Do things that are just on a topical, what I said, do things that are personal to you, borrow from your own conflicts and experiences and borrow on the things you’re not particularly proud of. Those are usually the most interesting stories. I’m late and the interesting sources of conflict, I’m like, think about the most embarrassing moments you’ve been through. Those are probably interesting to write about and make stories about more than your successes. So yeah, this just connecting with the things I’ve said, but you can get where I thoughts going, oculus in steam and when is this podcast going to be up?
Justine: It could be up tomorrow if we work on it.
Lucas: And other future platforms that I can talk about but are coming out very soon. Um, where thoughts go. It’s, I recommend you try it and you can follow me on Twitter underscoring Lucas Rizzotto and youtube. Yes. Lucas Rizzotto just google.
Lucas: Yes, exactly. You can find me on the social medias and I do videos now.
Justine: Thanks so much for talking with us.
Lucas: Yes, bye everyone.
WHERE THOUGHTS GO
“I like to build realities around the story, and the premise of Where Thoughts Go is that there is an alternative reality where all human thoughts exist as tiny creatures,” said Rizzotto in an email to GamesBeat. “Like our memories, these creatures are asleep most of the time, waiting to be ‘awakened’ and remembered by the visitors who roam Where Thoughts Go, only to return to their slumber after you’re done.”