Can you introduce yourself for those who don’t know you? (Who you are, job title, company/project, a super brief bio if you have one)
Michaela Holland is an Emmy, Webby, and Sheffield Doc/Fest award-winning experiental storyteller. She is a creative director and producer, who combines experimental content with traditional mediums.
What are you up to today? What projects are you working?
I am currently working on a few multi-faceted projects. The first works with interviews and artificial intelligence that will debut at the start of 2019. The second is in the midst of being pitched to multiple grants and incubation programs and would be a traveling anthology of immersive stories. I have also been dabbling in immersive and site-specific theater as well as thinking about my next interactive and immersive documentary project. Whether for publication, pop-up event, or permanent museum installation, I am also in the midst of seeking opportunities to collaborate on innovative and thoughtful activations.
To help inspire other women to work with immersive tech, could you share your journey to how got to where you are?
I am a creative thinker and am constantly teaching myself new technology and testing new ways to tell stories. My previous employment with the Walt Disney Company during my time studying Literary Journalism and Digital Filmmaking at UC Irvine sparked my interests in building worlds, and my central vision is to find the perfect marriage between the integrity of the narrative and a guest’s interaction with emerging technology.
From the end of 2016 to the beginning of 2018, I worked closely with Mia Tramz to grow the content and reach of LIFE VR. I worked in the production and creative sectors of TIME’S original volumetric experiences Remembering Pearl Harbor, Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars with Buzz Aldrin, and Lumen.
I also crafted my skills in 360 documentary work with quick online pieces of the 2017 inauguration, women’s march, and NYC pride parade in 360. In the genre of long-form 360 narratives, I am credited as an editor of Sports Illustrated’s Emmy and Webby award-winning “Capturing Everest”, an episodic documentary featuring the first bottom to top Everest climb documentary in 360. The documentary was also featured as Sports Illustrated’s first AR-activated magazine. I also filmed, edited, and published “Murder on the Orient Express VR” in partnership with 21st Century Fox and People Magazine.
I was on the ground directing a small team of 360 live stream experts in Csaper, Wyoming for TIME’s 360° Livestream of the Great American Solar Eclipse, which garnered over 5 million views on Facebook and Youtube.
I continued my work in immersive mediums after LIFE VR, by filming and editing a 360 piece for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, as well as crafting an 8-foot tall augmented reality experience with 65 different trigger images for the Education Above All Gala in the New York Public Library.
My current project titled FACE TO FACE is a three-act installation that allows the audience an intimate look at gun injury and human resilience began in January 2018, when Michelle Gabel and I were introduced via a mutual mentor Lynn Johnson.
Gabel and I worked with a small all-female team to film the VR documentary in February of 2018 using our own funds and working around full-time commitments.
At the beginning of March, we submitted to the Alternate Realities Programme’s Annual Commission. We found out that we received the commission at the end of March, due to the “project’s ability to push the boundaries of what is possible within factual storytelling, and its strong commitment to innovation in the realm of non-fiction” (Sheffield Doc/Fest).
From April until the world premiere of FACE TO FACE at Sheffield Doc/Fest at the beginning of June, Michelle and I did the following.
Pull selects 360 and 2D shots from February
Transcribe and curate sound from years of interviews
Oversee prosthesis scan for headsets
Work on social and marketing plan for FACE TO FACE
Oversee design and production of VR Headsets
Draft 360 and 2D Video and VO into a piece
Oversee Stereoscopic stitching and comping of ground patches
Oversee Original Music composed and sound designed
Oversee Google Tiltbrush Artist and Unity Developer for the original animations and special fx within the VR documentary
Work on set design with assistance
Works to create a 3D model of the set design with assistance
Curates, sizes, re-sizes years of photojournalism
Curates Maya + Malana + Michelle F’s artwork
Oversee optimization of VR experience for hearing impaired, visual impairment, children, and previous trauma
Curate artifacts – police report // personal photos from Michelle F.//Michelle F’s poem
Create a photo album for living room from years of photojournalism and personal photos
Produce item videos with Michelle Fox
Curate set decorations in NY
Purchase and find donations for larger props in the UK
This was no small feat to accomplish over the course of two and half months, especially working to craft an installation for an international venue in a different country with different currency rate and large time zone difference.
The success and quality of the work accomplished in two and half months is plain by the recognition FACE TO FACE received. At Sheffield Doc/Fest FACE TO FACE was awarded the Alternate Realities: Virtual Reality Award out of a pool of over 14 nominations. Read More Here
This award celebrates virtual reality documentary as a flourishing creative genre awarding the project that displays excellence in factual storytelling as well as technical ingenuity.
Who influenced you or mentored you during this journey?
Hmm good question…
Through it all it would be my OG mentor and father-figure Jacob Rosenberg.
I would identify three factors, my dance background, my employment at various amusement parks in southern California, and my Literary Journalism program at UC Irvine as helping me begin to think about immersive stories. Barry Siegel, Erika Hayasaki, and Jenn Duong, and Catherine Day were a huge part of my start in XR. After moving to New York, it would definitely be Mia Tramz at LIFE VR as well as Jonathan Woods and Josh Oshinsky, the executive producers of TIME and Sports Illustrated respectively. In the recent months, it has been Mike Woods, Lance Weiler, Ari Palitz, Asad Malik’s Terminal 3, Inarritu’s Carne Y Arena, The Void, and Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More.
What advice would you have to other women who want to get into the industry?
Sometimes being the biggest fan will create real opportunity for yourself, being respectfully active and knowledgeably vocal on social media pages, meetup events, and within meetings will take you far. Know what you want to do and start doing it– if it’s creating, have your ideas/projects ready, if it’s producing, reach out to fellow producers to see how you can support, if it’s developing begin researching online for ways to learn how and ways to get discounts for software and tools. Opportunity may not be abundant, but always be prepared for any project, company, and/or collaborations to ask you for your strengths, ideas, and what you bring to the team. Enthusiasm, positivity, reliability, and professional behavior are valued in any position, project, and company. Apply to any and all financial opportunities, programs, and positions that interest you.
What did you study? Did this have any influence on you working in the industry?
Literary Journalism and Digital Filmmaking — gave me a solid base in long form storytelling as well as knowledge of cameras and high quality on-set protocol.
What are you most excited about in the world of XR?
I think beyond XR, I am excited for the new era of experiential and all of the creative, ingenious, and technologically inclined minds that will begin to work with individual industries–like fashion, travel, events, and entertainment. The new desire of people to step away from the screens for a truly multi-sensory experience will be a key to unlocking a new movement that has only begun to sizzle.
What skills or courses would your recommend following?
I think as a creative you should know general deck building to share your vision with others, as well as base line 3D modeling to build rough ideas into understandable structures. Understanding any sort of production pipeline is useful, whether standard on-set workflows, developer workflows, post-production etc. Lynda.com is a great resource to learn Adobe Suite. Also, a skilled knowledge of Google Drive doesn’t hurt either.
I have coined the term “compassionate storytelling” The first pillar of compassionate storytelling is for journalists/performers to work with individuals/directors that have lived or have written powerful stories in a deeply collaborative manner. The second pillar of compassionate storytelling is to not only take special care of the story/performance, but also to the guests/audience members experiencing the story. My goal as an artist is blend and balance the traditional mediums of singing, dancing, acting, video, photos, and written storytelling with the experimental ones of projection mapping, motion capture, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.
As a female, Filipina, I strive to make compassionate storytelling and the hyper fusion of old and emerging storytelling techniques not only available to well-known storytellers, but also to inspire and equip the emerging and diverse narratives to be seen and accepted in the mainstream. I have spent the past year and half in NYC actively pursuing my journalism and non-fiction storytelling career.
I love hippos and down to dance to any sort of groovy music.
Not only do I want to be a part of productions as a performer to vocalize and educate about diversity in storytelling—whether through the mediums, casting, and actual narrative—but I also want to be a part of the creative and production teams to ideate and open up opportunities of sustainable employment to minorities in all aspects—physical disabilities, mental health, ethnicities, sexuality, age to name a few. This thought and mission also extends to residencies, scholarships, and educational programs I am apart of.