British filmmaker, futurist, and media technology author Maxim Jago is working on the first sustainably produced Virtual Reality project, Jolie‘s Garden, which is about an eighteen-year-old girl who has lived her entire life in an artificial underground garden.
„Jolie‘s Garden is a beautiful psychological thriller“, says Writer/Director Jago who adapted the story from a stage play written by his late father, Malcolm Hobbins. „There are two secrets that Jolie must never learn“, says the filmmaker, who has already directed a variety of short films, including the award-winning drama Strong Heart. „The entire garden is artificial: the grass is plastic, the roses velvet, and the waterfall is pieces of glass bonded together. Jolie is blind, but she doesn’t know it. No one has ever told her that people can see. Jolie is happy but she has no idea that she‘s a prisoner.“
One day, a young man stumbles upon the garden. When Jolie‘s father discovers his presence, he has to decide whether to imprison the young man or to kill him. „Every character in the story, except the girl, is at least a little insane“, emphasizes Jago, who actually showed the script to a psychiatrist in New York. „She said every character‘s psychosis was consistent.“
As a one-room film, Jolie‘s Garden will be shot with five characters in a single location. „We don‘t have to move anyone anywhere. The story takes place in real time. There are few costume changes. And no explosions“, says the filmmaker, who will follow best practices during production, which will result in time as well as energy efficiency. Instead of using numerous lights that need to be re-adjusted for each shot, the production will utilize a fixed lighting rig. „The lighting rig is part of the story. And it‘s part of the background of the father who created the garden“, explains Jago. „The environment itself is the sixth character.“
The gigantic garden has seven zones, and each offers a different environment: entwined jungle; underwater seascapes with deep sea fauna; Iceland’s black sand and luminous yellow reeds. Set design and sound design unite to shape the story’s mood and atmosphere. „The sounds of bees and birds come from miniature underground speakers. They don‘t exist but you can hear them.“
Jolie‘s Garden will be shoot in 4K for theatrical release as well as a 360° video for VR headsets. „Now reality itself is our medium. Our relationship as living beings to reality is tenuous. We really don‘t understand the difference between experience, memory, imagination or dream“, stresses Jago, who doesn‘t believe that human consciousness really understands time or space. „Dream is reality for human consciousness, without the physics. You can jump to anywhere you want, you can move forwards or backwards in time and you never notice when you‘re dreaming. I call this The thread of consciousness. My idea is that when you dream, you are led by your curiosity. As filmmakers, we‘re privileged to be able to create audience curiosity. We control what the audience is going to see next“, sums up the director. „And with a virtual reality headset, you‘ll be able to look in any direction.“
In this case, the world is a beautiful green garden. It‘s a perfect illusion but the green production will be real.
Photos: Razaka Firmager/ Edo Brugué