Interview with Alton Glass
Alton Glass is an award-winning filmmaker and Co-Founder of GlassRock Entertainment, a creative studio dedicated to storytelling and emerging technologies. Alongside GlassRock Entertainment, Glass consults and educates those who are interested in immersive storytelling mediums through programs and his personal brand, Alton Glass VR. Accenture presented Glass with the 2017 "Breakout Star of The Year" Award for Tech Innovation at Black Enterprise’s annual Tech ConneXt Summit.
Could you please introduce Alton Glass VR and what led to your founding your own VR production company?
Alton Glass VR is my own personal brand, where I consult and educate those who are interested in the medium. I also have a programme where I teach immersive storytelling. Then there is my production company, GlassRock Entertainment, which is an extension of GlassRock Experiential which is about activations and being able to create content for brands and help filmmakers to create and produce their own content, whether they are a production company or an individual. Alton Glass VR is me connecting with others, sharing my insights, and saving people time as well because the more we collaborate the faster this medium will grow. If you look to film, it's been growing for over 100 years now.
When did you first become interested in VR and how did you start producing VR films yourself?
I was first interested in VR when I was prepping some cameras for a shoot at Blacklist Digital in LA, and it was the first time with VR. When I experienced using it, it touched the soul of my childhood when I first decided I wanted to be a filmmaker in middle school. It really showed me the infinite possibilities in VR, and that attracted me to go down this rabbit hole of discovery. There were no rules in VR with the grammar and language, and I thought that this was a new opportunity to push myself, and challenge myself with my storytelling. Its been a journey ever since, constantly learning, constantly growing and that’s what I really love with VR. I then took it upon myself to really study and learn about the technology and to experiment. I’ve been doing it for around three years now and I’m going to continue pushing it and encouraging others to try it out. It may not be for you, but I think it really helps me on both sides, how I look at traditional storytelling and immersive storytelling, and it gives perspective each time.
What are recent technical innovations in VR that affect your work?
In terms of technical innovations in VR that affect my work, the computing power is definitely a big one. You can step away and come back then there are tools that can help you out. Companies like Adobe, their tools are getting more robust with VR, Unity is constantly adding new things with VR. Now you have Oculus Go and I’m looking forward to seeing how this product performs with the high resolutions and the price. These are things that affect our work, not only in adoption rate but also the technical aspect to get things better faster and easier to use for certain people in your audience. As technology moves along it helps us makes more content, better content and create higher adoption rates.
How do you find clients and partners to make your films?
A lot of times I will create something, go out and shop it whilst looking for partners, and really see what their vision is. At the end of the day, it's really about how do you fit into someone else’s vision and that also aligns with yours, and when you can do that you can save a lot of time. A lot of the time, we as filmmakers get very excited about a certain idea but it doesn’t necessarily fit in alignment with the objectives of certain companies or certain partners. I think that’s the most important thing. I like to seek out my partners by what’s in their vision, and see what their objectives are, and what they would like to get out of doing particular projects. It’s the same with investors too, you ask them “what is it that you want?", and that’s something I do with my partners too.
Is there a large community of VR production companies in Los Angeles? Who are your main clients?
There’s a very large community of VR production companies out here and a lot of companies that make hardware as well. My clients have primarily focused on advertising and in brands. I’ve had the chance to work with Interactive One, Toyota, American Black Film Festival, Turner and Verizon etc. There are a lot of great companies out there that you can work with. There’s a very long list of great companies that you can partner with to create content. I also work in educational sector too, I work with non-profits, called Steam: Coders. There are a lot of good places to leverage VR skills and opportunities.
What advice do you have for filmmakers looking to start producing their own VR films/projects?
The advice I have for filmmakers who are transitioning into virtual reality is to really look at it as a new way to create a new reality in a sense. If you look at traditional cinema, don’t quote me on this, but you have 15% of the creators creating content for 85% of the world. I think now as VR filmmakers we have a chance to paint a new canvas and share lots of different voices and perspectives. I think a good entry point is to un-learn a lot of the things you’ve been doing and really experiment, jump into VR and see how it makes you feel, and start telling new stories in new ways. Make sure you get out there, go for it, do it and you’ll learn as you go.
What's next for Alton Glass VR, as well as your own career? Any other projects you're working on?
What’s next for me is continuing to do VR experiences, also some AR storytelling and some location-based experiences. Primarily my focus is going to be on education. Being able to educate creative immersive story learning curriculums and continue to build ecosystems in emerging media and technologies.
What is the difference between Alton Glass VR and GlassRock Entertainment?
The difference is that GlassRock Entertainment is my production company that is primarily 2D, like traditional television and film production and a lot of digital marketing content. Alton Glass VR is my personal brand and my philosophy behind how I apply myself as a storytelling within immersive technologies. So that’s really my personal brand, whether I’m consulting or directing a project that might be VR. I give my knowledge and share my insights in the immersive storytelling space as an individual.