Maitry Rao’s VR-Inspired Short Film Reflects On The Power Of Imagination & Escapism

Maitry Rao’s VR-Inspired Short Film Reflects On The Power Of Imagination & Escapism

Every once in a while, we are all confronted with days when we feel like we’re stuck in a rut. Like we’re caught in a badly-written film where every day feels like a repeat of the last. Especially for a generation growing up in the pandemic, no matter how many banana breads you bake, hobby passion projects you pick up, books you read and Netflix binges you go through, these feelings and emotions of wanting to escape feel inescapable.

So was the case for, London-based Indian digital artist Maitry Rao, for whom the many lockdowns presented filmmaking as a form of respite; a sort of therapy. In an interview with It’s Nice That she said, “The only thing I had control over was my escapist dreaming.”

The manifestations of this imaginative escapism were her short film ‘Anywhere But Here’. With crisp writing that offers an insight into the young creative’s mind, an interesting and interactive storyboard and a design style that seems rather novel, the spectacular short film is a meditative exploration of the potential of one’s imagination and where it can take us.

Working with VR and 3D animation, Rao has been able to establish a niche with her filmmaking, one that lies at the intersection of monologue style poem that offers a look into the inner ramblings of the mind and a surreal movement that she is able to establish with each frame.

Made in a metacommentary format, the film is an honest exploration of human desire, of wanting to escape the quotidian and a need to encounter new places, people, faces and possibilities, a need to connect.

Talking in-depth about the film, Rao said to Girls In Film, Anywhere But Here shows a reasonable desire to escape the loop of being confined in the same space over a duration of an unreasonable amount of time. Even though I was not able to visit Scotland, I made a dreamscape in my room with my VR headset and controllers. I really enjoyed performing in VR for the Scottish Highlands and Waterloo graffiti tunnel scenes. This explains why those scenes are the most evocative and playfully visualised where I am borrowing a lighter from a smoking cow, making friends by duplicating sheep into infinity and seeing sheep paint ‘Go vegan’ on the Waterloo tunnel walls.”

Jumping from one frame to another in this dreamscape, the progressive movement of the film seems like a reflection of how imagination and our thoughts run wild. The free-flowing nature of the film that taps into a stream of consciousness sensibility seems like the best fit for the thematics of this film.

Talking about the style of the short film, in the same interview Rao said, “To show the fact that I am in complete control of this world, my world, I exposed my process by showing wireframe of 3D models and cursors on the screen. It becomes a metacommentary format when I shed the layers and show the code of how I interacted with and within my imagined world. I started writing poems at The Royal College of Art when we were introduced to the free writing process. This stream-of-consciousness writing style was overwhelming because I have never before seen my ten-minute-long chain of gibberish thoughts typed down on my notes app with autocorrect turned off. I abstracted words and phrases from the long text and condensed it into a short poem.”

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