INGRID KOPP: VIRTUAL REALITY CAN BUILD AN INDUSTRY IN AFRICA

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March 2, 2017

INGRID KOPP: VIRTUAL REALITY CAN BUILD AN INDUSTRY IN AFRICA

ACPCultures+ had the opportunity to sit down with Ingrid Kopp at the Berlinale, where she was present at the Africa Hub, a platform for innovative projects and ideas from the African film industry, created this year by the European Film Market, the second largest audiovisual market in the world. Ingrid is the founder of Electric South

Can you tell me more about Electric South?

Electric South is a non-profit company that I founded with Steven Markovitz, in Cape Town, South Africa, where I just moved back to from New York City. I was working with Steven to curate some interactive mostly virtual reality works for the African features, exhibitions, and festivals. In Goethe Institut in Johannesburg back in 2015, we couldn’t find many projects coming from Africa, so we were designing a workshop around VR, and bringing some professionals for it. But I was quite frustrated with the lack of content I was founding, so out of that workshop and that whole experience we decided to start funding and supporting VR and interactive work from Africa.

What is your background?

My original background was in TV, I was in TV commissioned editor in London. I worked for Channel 4 Television, and mainly in documentaries from the US when I moved to New York, where most recently I’ve been working as Senior Consultant in the Interactive Department at the Tribeca Film Institute. Mainly documentaries and incubation.

What was the main motivation to move to Cape Town and launch Electric South?

I was born in South Africa and I wanted to go back. I was really interested in working on African projects, that was part of it. I didn’t move to Cape Town to do Electric South, I was moving there anyway. A lot of the things that I was used to from my work in New York, with interactive content, film and technology coming together, wasn’t in Cape Town nor in South Africa, so I thought why not curate it, make it happen, found it.

Where does funding come from?

The most important part comes from the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg, they really allowed us to do almost everything: African features, conferences… We also get a little bit of money from Bertha Foundation and Blue Ice Docs, from Canada.

Is this a long-term project then?

The way I’m looking at this project is that it will be sustainable, and will continue raising money, funding and incubating work. This is not a one goal thing, we need to keep doing this work so we can build a real industry here. So we’re going to do one more round, we’re going to open new submissions during the next month across Africa, do another workshop in July, and another set of production. We are also interested in doing work which is not about virtual reality, mostly mobile phone based. So, yes this is going to continue. The fact that this is a non-profit project is great, as it creates a space for experimentation.

How does this work? Do you select and support the process?

The first round we selected the people we thought are great and would do good work, there was no calls for proposals. The second round will be an open call from across the continent, we’re going to ask for proposals, for non-fiction virtual reality. Selected participants will be brought to Cape Town, where we’re going to prepare a workshop with mentors and some of the filmmakers from the first round, with some interactive pieces which the participants will work with in production after the workshop.

What are the main differences between linear storytelling and virtual reality storytelling?

We’re still trying to figure out what that looks like in terms of craft, narrative and kinds of stories you can tell. There’s something about using 360º which is really interesting, I think there’s something about perspective which lets you be a participant character in the film, which is very different to traditional film. Virtual reality creates the space for a different type of stories than traditional approach, that’s for sure.

Is there commercial potential for these projects?

I think there’s a potential though I don’t think it’s there right now, I’m very clear about that. We’re just creating the conditions and space for this market to be successful, even though it has no business model yet. But there are app stores online where you can sell your content, which can be distributed easily. The issue right now is that many people don’t have the headsets, it’s not as an immersive experience if you’re only using a very basic equipment, which is a common fact in Africa, as it’s way too expensive in the continent. Still I think there’s a huge potential, based on the use of mobile in Africa as well. We’ll just be working here to see where it goes.

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