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Scholastique Mukasonga & Maaza Mengiste ONLINE EVENT Brookline Booksmith and City of Asylum Bookstore
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Scholastique Mukasonga & Maaza Mengiste ONLINE EVENT Brookline Booksmith and City of Asylum Bookstore
Sep 30
Talk
Scholastique Mukasonga & Maaza Mengiste ONLINE EVENT Brookline Booksmith and City of Asylum Bookstore

Spotlights on TARGO Studio at the Emmys: Our Interview With Victor Agulhon

"Rebuilding Notre Dame'' and "When We Stayed Home" are two of the four films nominated for Emmy awards in the category of Virtual Reality experiences. Both films were produced by the talented French VR studio TARGO! French Culture interviewed Victor Agulhon, CEO of TARGO, to go behind the scene and learn more about the making of these immersive virtual explorations.

TARGO is one of the most promising and talented French studios. What makes your 360 experiences so special? 

First of all thank you! I believe that what makes our experiences special is our consistent drive to create pieces that speak to everyone. This applies to the content we produce as well as to the technology we rely on.

We have observed that VR is polarized — on one side, you have games targeting primarily gamers, and on the other side, you find artistic creations that can feel very exclusive. Our experiences target the spot in between these extremes. In terms of content, we create for mainstream audiences — we address the topics of our time. We want to offer a VR perspective at things that naturally attracts people’s curiosity: Notre Dame after the fire, empty cities during the lockdown…

On the technology side, we aim to use widely accessible distribution channels, meaning that we create 360° videos that can be watched from almost any VR headset. 

An approach that puts VR users first is not so common among creators today.

"Rebuilding Notre Dame" is a truly impressive exploration of the cathedral. What was the most challenging aspect of making a film on such an iconic historical monument, specifically, after it had been partially destroyed by fire? 

From a very practical standpoint, entering the cathedral after the fire was the most challenging part. The monument was completely closed off during the six months following the fire — especially to anyone not in charge of restoration. Getting entry required months of conversations with authorities to present the project as well as demonstrate the power of VR.

More generally, being truthful to the building itself was the most challenging part. Notre Dame is not only a cathedral — it’s an architectural, historical, and cultural landmark too. 13 million people visited it each year before the fire — believers, non-believers, tourists, Parisians… Finding a good balance to reflect this diversity while creating a moving documentary was very demanding. Our goal was to create a sense of belonging to the cathedral for everyone, without any pre-requisite — as if watching this experience allowed viewers to become part of the history of Notre Dame. 

How were you able to get the support you needed to produce "When We Stayed Home" in so little time? 

I believe the universality of the topic simply resonates with people. We had the intuition that a VR documentary about the empty cities was bound to be created. It was a VR-friendly, historical, and global topic — it simply had to be made. We crafted stories and a series pitch that were to us the most relevant to capture the peculiarity of the moment. Oculus got on board very quickly, as our previous partnership with them on ‘Rebuilding Notre Dame’ made this production very simple to set up.

Our goal was to publish while under lockdown to really be in the heat of the topic — we set up an aggressive timeline that we could meet thanks to fantastic team work. We found great local partners in all of the cities featured that allowed us to get permits and film in a matter of days after we kicked-off the project. It was particularly interesting to take a bird’s eye view on the situation to tell a story that would still resonate after the lockdowns and that will inform the next generations.

Do you want to know more?

- Watch Rebuilding Notre Dame & When We Stayed Home - Paris, Venice, Jerusalem, Tokyo on Oculus Quest! 

- Check out another impressive VR experience nominated for the Emmys: Baba Yaga produced by Baobab Studios and co-directed by Mathias Chelebourg, French author and director 

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