Film Director. Virtual Scenographer. Entrepreneur. Festival Organiser. Project Manager. Inclusion Advocate. Freelancer. Chief Operations Officer at VRrOOm. President of the National Council of XR (CNXR) from France.
We are talking about Maud Clavier, and TechvangArt had a short discussion about how she navigated and discovered opportunities in the VR worlds, challenges in VR, the secret projects of CNXR, and who is the Tarantino of VR 🙂
Maud Clavier has a diploma in performing Arts, but then she also started to be interested in the film industry – working with her sister in documentary – and also entrepreneurship – organizing a film festival in Tanzania. In 2014, Maud Clavier decided to create her own production company, to produce short films, but also films for corporations. Then a friend told her about Virtual Reality and 360 film, and the team got really enthusiastic, and organized a first shooting, that was presented at Cannes. And people liked it “it had a lot of success, people were queuing even though we were not on the official VR pavilion. And then we totally fell in love with the medium because we thought it’s filming, and we love it, and it’s staging like, performing art staging”, recalled Maud Clavier. They started to have as clients prestigious companies such as BNP Paribas.
But after four years, as the VR industry started to be more well-rounded, Maud felt the need to be more creative again. As such, she closed the company and began to do freelance work. One successful 360 film she directed is FILAMU.
Synopsis: Two black Americans are asked to share their views on Africa by seeing 360 ° images filmed in Tanzania, as they are juries for a festival. It is the cultural irony that black Americans are primarily descendants of Africa that leads them to be chosen for this role. All this confusion will lead to a long debate full of authenticity and humor through a visually African but vocally American journey.
When the pandemic hit, that doing 360 films was not possible, Maud discovered social VR worlds, and spent quite a lot of time in VR worlds, discovering the magic of 3D and doing tours and events. And all these experiences contributed to starting a position at VRrOOm as a project manager for Venice VR and NewImages Festival, and the first groundbreaking concert of Jean-Michel Jarre, Welcome to the Other Side. And now, she is Chief Operating Officer at VRrOOm. And 2022, brings Maud a new opportunity; as the National Council for XR is established in France – a federation that unites all business that work in the XR space – Maud Clavier is elected president of the organization that will search and represent the XR industry, including in the relation with the government.
TVA: You have a background is in theater and performing art, but you also did films, techniques of theater and film are quite different; when it comes to VR – as VR is a little bit in the middle, or its new -, on which skills you rely more those from theater or those from film/animation . What is taken from film/animation and what from theater or how it was the transition for you?
Maud Clavier: I often say that I’m a bit annoyed by people who think CINEMA is VR or vr is like a kind of cinema – I disagree with that. Because the sense of flat screen is a totally different language.
So to me first of all, visualizing the language is more accurate. That’s why theater performances are more accurate, but more like modern theater, something more performative with the people assisting inside.
The sense of spaces and people around is more related to performing arts, but It’s something different. A place where you need to meet a lot of different knowledge.
Firstly is to think about your space and say: “ Okay, I have this project, what would be the best space for it? -taking also into consideration the constraints of social VR where you can be only 50 in a room. There are also elements of video games – we create minigames in the experience to make it more interactive. Sometimes we create concerts for artists and we need to have knowledge about musical performances, but we need to tweak around and make them relate to spatial and social VR. So, it’s kind of a mix of many different disciplines.
TVA: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about these aspects related to VR. Because if you go back in history, for example in Avant-Garde, we had that discourse from artists- all sorts of artists: musicians, painters, etc -, where they wanted to give up completely the old forms, and they wanted new forms, expressions, etc? VR is a new form of art or a new trend? How do you see it?
Maud Clavier: It’s a bit of both. Most of the revolutions were done in an art that was defined. For example, a painting is a painting but then some people wanted to revolutionize the painting adding some dancers, movements and for example to mix it.
VR already is innovative as a format . So any form of storytelling we put inside for the moment is quite new because we don’t have 10 years of VR history. And the more mixity in the talents we have, the more interesting it gets.
Where I get issues is when people want too much to duplicate the real codes. When an artist wants to duplicate his concert codes, and when they don’t want to change anything. It doesn’t work; the VR project is very poor, it doesn’t work. Sometimes we do it for some clients, even though we insist and tell them it’s not the right way to do it.
We need to work with people who are really open minded and ready to work in a blind environment, where they trust us, but it’s very uncomfortable for them because they cannot really see what we are doing and how we are thinking.
But to give you one example for this one, when we did the Jean Michel Jarre concert in Notre Dame, we worked with Jvan Morandi scenographer and light designer, who never had done VR before, he was the light designer for the real stage. But this time it was interesting to bring one skill from the concert in the VR. We duplicated Notre Dame in VR, but we did a lot of 3d effects and interactions so things that could not happen in the physical-real space.
The lighting was quite credible because it was done as if it was the real place. It gave a sense of truth in an environment that was ‘not true’. So I believe the more talent we bring the better.
What we have at VRrOOm is also a mix of talents, sometimes can come with ‘fights’ between gaming and performing arts, sometimes you have crazy idea that doesn’t exist in our world or it’s the gaming language when we try to force the teams a bit, but finally together we make this mix between performing art and gaming.
TVA: Actually I wanted to touch on this point of conflicting points between performing art, gaming, (interactive) storylines. So thanks for bringing up the topic. But, as if all these would not be enough, and if we add even more to that , as developments in AI are coming, and we have a lot of text-to-image/video, and 2D-to-3D and all these it will help in VR; how do you see all these technical development mixing into VR, with the storylines and with the construction of those scenes, how do you see it will evolve?
Maud Clavier: To me, it’s very important to be a good storyteller today with the technical constraints. I always give the example of Charlie Chaplin – he did silent films in black and white and today we can watch them because he knew how to stage something, he knew the ”codes”.
So in VR today, it’s very important to know how to stage and then when we will have more advanced technologies we will implement in an environment that makes sense. I don’t understand the other way around, of people waiting too much for the technology to be perfect in order to start to think because then they’re just doing very linear thinking like trying to duplicate their environment.
We need to think out of the box. Because of the Quest limitation most of our performing shows that are made in VR Chat for Quest, it needs to be super optimized. It’s always a challenge to balance between the graphic performance and the mini-games because if we put too many games, the graphics become crap and vice versa.
So yes, artificial intelligence (AI) is certainly going to help people to build their own worlds with the vocal features that Facebook is already exploring. But for now, I’m not counting on those technology to think already. ..I’m trying to create a limited environment and see then how we can implement other things.
TVA: I am curious about your opinion about NFTs. Because there are many pros and cons. But for those who are creating VR stories, at least I get the feeling that we did not really catch the NFT-wave. It makes sense, it doesn’t make sense, can we put it into a business model?
Maud Clavier: I’m going to answer it my way. All the virtual platforms that have implemented NFTs were very capitalistic in the way they did it. So the platform like the Sandbox, they are selling some lands – to me, to sell virtual lands is totally crazy, it doesn’t make sense.
Every time NFTs were implemented, they were implemented in a goal that was very capitalistic. So I know we need to pay for NFTs art, but it was not done on platforms that were already having lots of people and lots of entertainment and then we bring the NFT geeks.
On the one hand, people are disgusted by it because it has drained too much money from traders, it was more a speculative bubble. But on the other hand, when I speak with some friends who are living on the African continent, for example, many of them believe NFT is the new model against oppression, against banks, against labels, against someone else having their ownership over the art.
The dream of the NFT is to be completely the owner of your rights and to sell them as you want. Of course, it’s not totally there yet, but I believe maybe the African continent could lead the movement because we have had the banks, African people that did not have banks at all that didn’t care.
Then we implemented smartphones and the capacity to pay with your smartphones and then they all went to the shop to give the cash to have money on their smartphone and pay with the smartphone. So it’s the continents that use the smartphone payments.
Sometimes, I think they just go one level up. And so now all the African friends I’ve been speaking with, they have a sense of how to use an NFTs, they have an urgent need to use it, to be the owner of their rights and to stop being oppressed in the tech world that is very Western.
But us, from the West, we’re already bored of it because we don’t see the interest and we’ve been the speculators. African people that don’t have one million to put on the table for a jpeg, so I believe there is a good pass with NFT but it’s not in our country yet.
With VRrOOm, we are building our platform, actually it will launch on the 10th of January with the first concert. And in our platform we will have different worlds for events and we will match to make it possible to implement NFT but our platform is not going to be obligatory crypto – so you will have the option for it, to connect with a wallet, but you can enter even if you are not into. So I believe it’s a good technology, but it hasn’t reached its final form of goal yet.
TVA: VR has many challenges today, in terms of production, distributions, but, what would you say, from your work and perspective, are the main challenges?
Maud Clavier: One of the main challenges is to make artists who are doing music understand the importance of being an avatar in the performance. Because I still believe that nowadays, it’s the best format to perform virtually, but most of them prefer to be true to their real appearance. They prefer to have screens showcasing themselves or to shoot in front of screens or to do anything to make them more relatable to their appearance.
But to me the magic is to go beyond that. To see what is the energy of the artist? Who are you inside? Maybe you can change appearance? You can do something crazy with an avatar. And not all the artists want to understand this….
TVA: In France, the XR ecosystem it’s so much developed compared to other parts of the world. When you look at companies who are using VR for education or health, but also in the creative industry, you are really on the front line. What are the ingredients or secrets to have such sparkling ecosystems, why are some ecosystems more developed?
Maud Clavier: I would say in France, we have a lot of public subsidies. We have public subsidies for cinematography, for art in the region. So you can access financial support when you are a creative and those creative desks understood the VR shift early – we have been few creatives in 2014 to let them know about VR. So they created a desk for VR experiences.
France is very developed to finance creative projects, but not to finance software or hardware or something bigger. And where we have an issue, to be sustainable in front of America. Because any platform in America has billions and in France, we humbly reach several millions to create a whole platform. Budget is needed if you want to be competitive on the international scene.
So, for other countries, I would say that the first thing is to create a group or an association to gather people together to speak about VR, organize small events, meetups and events to talk to each other, but also to formulate what are the needs toward the government? Would it be money or something else? And if it is not possible, France also has a lot of co-production systems. Together is better 🙂
TVA: Yes, definitely 🙂 But, it was also interesting the issue related to infrastructure for VR, because creators are all developing with Unity, or Unreal or VRChat, which is all American
Maud Clavier: That’s why I believe that the solution would not be French, it would be European, and it would be to finance with big money few companies that can make it. For example for the headset, there is a company the Lynx https://www.lynx-r.com/ , it’s a headset developed by a French company, but if they manage to have funding that they could develop their stores. So we would start to negotiate like hell with Oculus and steam and everyone.
If we finance one virtual platform, it could be VRrOOm or could be someone else, at least we would have also a platform to compete with VR Chat and others, it would be great. So it’s to give enough funding to some already existing initiatives for the infrastructure. Without that we are not going to compete, we’re going to create a lot of great content, but for others on American platforms or Chinese platforms… And Okay, you’re a creative European and you’re cheap, it is great, right?
TVA: It would be great! This is also my opinion, that we would need European infrastructure, but I am not very optimistic about it, the European Union is famous for not moving fast. .
TVA: I wanted to ask you about the National Council of XR, some secret plans that you have that nobody should know about?:)
Maud Clavier: yeees, we have very secret plans 🙂
1. Firstly, we launch a study about the XR companies from France, to have a real picture of our economy : who has funds, investments and from where, what tablets are needed in hiring, what difficulties and challenges XR companies face? That is to have real and detailed information to give to the government to target the funding on the right spots.
2. We are also working on the infrastructure level. There is the Ministry of Economy that wants to create a distribution digital sustainable system with a small group of people such as cloud providers, also also XR distributors, and other people to defend what we talked about previously, to have enough funding for the infrastructure to stop being American.
3. We are also doing a study about the ecological impact of what we do in VR and we are working with researchers. Also have information about the material for the headset, the travel it does when it is purchased, how much energy we use creating an experience Unity in GitHub or the user itself, how much carbon it uses when going to an event? It’s important to have all the data to understand how we should compromise. Maybe we should do only one concert or months without VR headset to be okay. I don’t know, it’s a whole calculation.
As we have become accustomed at the end of the interview, TECHVANGART asked some Crazy Questions
TVA: Story or technology? What is more important: the story or the technology? the technology?
Maud Clavier: The Story, always. To give again, the Charlie Chaplin example, it was the story, it was not the tech. And I want the tech to serve the story and not the story to serve the tech
TVA: A Book that changed your life?
Maud Clavier: ”The Theatre and Its Double”, by Antonin Artaud. And there is a concept that talked about that was complete art. And he was mentioning that complete art was the mix of the most art possible. And at the time, he was seeing musicals as the best complete art because it was mixing dance, music, story, etc And today, to me, with VR it would be the whole list with the computer art.
TVA: Which director would you like to work with? It can be anyone dead or alive.
Maud Clavier: We have a project, but we need more financial support, with Hsin-Chien Huang. He did ”Samsara” and other many key experiences. To me, he is one of the rare VR directors who already has an identity as a VR director. He’s already kind of Tarantino in VR, he has a strong way, and I love how he sees VR and how he tells stories with a more sensitive approach.
TVA: It’s my favorite, too. He now has an exhibition in New York with all the key experiences he did in VR…. and, I am not in New York :(, but would love to see such an exhibition in Europe.
TVA: If you would make a VR festival – lets suppose you have endless money – where would you make it?
Maud Clavier: I would make it in Martinique.
Maud Clavier: It’s French colony Island, I’ve been there twice. And they believe they need more inclusion, because they are feeling very excluded from the French ecosystem, but they’re closer to Latin America and North America. So it would be a nice spot at the same time, put more valorization on their local pieces, plus bringing an international level of curation. And the weather is super cool, so it would be a fun festival 🙂
TVA: VR wishful-thinking- what would you add to VR
Maud Clavier: Inclusion. African people in VR, South American people in VR, Asian people in VR.
if you want to know more about the work of Maud Clavier, please visit her website: http://maudclavier.com/
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