As a screenwriter, I’ll frequently find myself at a meeting with a Hollywood executive who keenly lets me in on a secret: Virtual reality is “the future” of scripted entertainment. While there is little doubt that the old ways for television and movies are changing — shows are getting shorter for YouTube or longer for Netflix — I wonder if the executives extolling the virtues of VR have actually strapped on a pair of goggles and taken a good, hard look at this future they champion. Because from what I see, quality scripted VR entertainment is still science fiction.
There’s been no shortage of attempts from very talented people to create quality scripted entertainment for virtual reality headsets. Sundance’s New Frontier program has been a major cheerleader. In the past two years, it has debuted VR content that ranges from whimsical comedy to date-rape drama to wacky ’80s-inspired sci-fi. This year’s most polished piece of “scripted entertainment” as we might traditionally know it, Defrost, starring Carl Weathers, tells the story of a patient awakening from a 30-year cryogenic freeze. I watched as my friends took turns behind the eyes of this character, craning their necks around the room trying to make sure they weren’t missing any content hidden in their 360-degree virtual space.