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Sundance Film Festival 2019: Storytelling, evolved

February 7, 2019 in Industry | 5 min. read

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For the last two weekends in January, creators inspired and dazzled the Sundance Film Festival audience with creative and technical breakthroughs across VR experiences, mobile and wearable AR applications, 360 videos, and interactive films.

These experiences showcased how storytelling has evolved along with the tools to tell them, challenging audiences by presenting heavy issues in a new way. The often wonderful (and sometimes quirky) ways in which visionaries have leveraged Unity to bring groundbreaking experiences to life is a testament to the ingenuity of creators worldwide.

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Forging a New Frontier

Among the many highlights and surprises at the Sundance Film Festival 2019 New Frontier exhibit, several key projects stood out for their unique use of Unity to create experiences that bring together the craft of storytelling, interactivity, and technology.

Gloomy Eyes

Lead Artists: Jorge Tereso, Fernando Maldonado

Key Collaborators: Antoine Cayrol, German Heller, Santiago Amigorena

Gloomy Eyes pushes forward the genre of table-top, near field animation. Characters move through the game world to take viewers on an adventure in a dark city plagued by zombies. Despite its dark themes, Gloomy Eyes leverages a whimsical art style that makes the undead into endearing characters, whose mission becomes more sympathetic for the viewer as they watch their stories unfold.


Lead Artists: Melissa Painter, Thomas Wester, Siân Slawson

Key Collaborators: Joey Verbeke, Jordan Goldfarb, Ben Purdy, Peter Rubin, Eric Adrian Marshall

Created in partnership with lululemon Whitespace and MAP Design Lab, “Embody” is piloted by movement, whole body engagement, and dialogue. The viewer simulates a fusion of yoga, dance, and aikido movements into VR, leveraging sensors placed beneath the player’s feet in a yoga mat. The experience, which takes viewers on a shared journey of trading and transforming avatars, aims to leave players with a deep feeling of physical embodiment and surprise at their bodies’ forgotten potential.

The Dial

Lead Artists: Peter Flaherty, Jesse Garrison, Trey Gilmore

Key Collaborators: Jake Sally, Sal Mannino, Ela Topcuoglu, Julia Bembenek, Brian Chasalow

The Dial is a technical achievement, combining projection mapping with dynamic ambient lighting with handheld AR. This murder mystery is a three-person experience with two roles: a single navigator controlling the pacing of the story, and two "passengers" observing the story. The Dial provides a multiplayer experience, with combined augmented reality and location-based entertainment, with overall beautiful execution.


Lead Artist: Teek Mach

Key Collaborators: Joel Douek, Andrew Sales

One of the most striking uses of Tilt Brush, Grisaille offers users a mind-bending trip through a series of hand-painted portraits from artist Teek Mach, much like walking through an art gallery. This experience combines VR, holograms, sound panels, and projections. The end (spoiler warning!) offers a surprise real-life encounter with the artist, where she traces the user’s outline with Tilt Brush. It then becomes part of the experience forever.

A Jester’s Tale

Lead Artist: Asad J. Malik

Key Collaborators: Jake Sally, Jack Daniel Gerrard, Mariana Irazu, Ela Topcuoglu, Philipp Schaeffer

A psychologically taxing children’s fable merging the physicality of the world as the viewer comes home cold and tired just in time for a bedtime story. In this interactive augmented reality narrative, the characters are hollow meshes and the viewer is left wondering if they are too. The project is created by RYOT and 1RIC, and directed by Asad J. Malik, creator of “Terminal 3,” an augmented reality documentary that premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2018.

Celebrating creators is one of our core values

We brought together AR/VR creators, investors, and industry innovators to celebrate the achievements of all the creators exhibiting Unity experiences in New Frontier.  In the midst of networking, attendees were treated to a sensational live performance from Reggie Watts, who, along with director/writer Kiira Benzing debuted their VR experience at New Frontier called Runnin’. If you want to take a trip to a psychedelic dance club, filled with costumed dancers pulling off gravity-defying moves, check out this experience that leveraged Intel’s volumetric capture technology to capture real life dancers. Congratulations to Reggie Watts, Kiira Benzing, John Tejada, Amy O'Neal, Ani Taj, Adam Rogers on this fun, immersive dance party experience!

Retail takes lessons from storytelling technology

Unity’s own Tony Parisi participated in a panel called The Future of Retail, with panelists from Technicolor, Verizon Media, Brightline Interactive, and Endeavor VR. The panel, hosted at the Fly Lounge on Main Street, explored the impact XR is having on the retail business, from making representations of physical products in 3D, to experiential marketing activations and advertising platforms like Unity's AR ads. The panelists also dove deep into the realities of production and distribution and acknowledged that while XR is still a work in progress, it is going to be at the heart of all retail planning and marketing activities in the near future.


  • Sophia Moshasha: Vice President of DC Chapter at VR AR Association/Director of Brightline Interactive
  • Amy Peck: XR Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Future Tech Evangelist, Board Advisor, CEO at EndeavorVR
  • Abra Potkin: Head of Talent Relations and Strategy at Verizon
  • Nicole Winnaman: Founder of WINNAMAN & ASSOCIATES
  • Tony Parisi: Head of AR/VR Ad Innovation at Unity Technologies
  • Marcie Jastrow: SVP Immersive Media, Head of The Technicolor Experience Center at Technicolor

The future of storytelling

Sundance Film Festival continues to push the boundaries of storytelling, as seen through Made with Unity creators who unveiled unprecedented, immersive experiences this year. Unity hopes to inspire the existing and future storytellers to take risks, be bold, and try new things.  Click here to learn more about Unity’s Sundance presence and the experiences that showcase the evolution of storytelling.

February 7, 2019 in Industry | 5 min. read

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