Tanna Frederick hopes audiences will warm to ‘Defrost’
How would it be to wake up from a 30-year cryogenic freeze, unable to talk? How would you react to your family, who have become nearly unrecognizable?
Viewers will get a glimpse of that feeling when they see "Defrost" at Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier VR Experiences.
In this science-fiction virtual reality narrative experience, the viewer, using individual VR goggles, experiences the world through the eyes of Joan Garrison, played by Kelly DeSarla.
Tanna Frederick is the producer of "Defrost" and she spoke to The Park Record about this ground-breaking project.
"This isn’t just a project with a ‘wow’ factor to it," Frederick said "Sure it was virtual reality and is an eye-candy experience, but it isn’t all about a seat to a Lakers game or a behind-the-scene of a rock concert, which are all great. It is a narrative experience that takes the viewer into another life."
Frederick joined forces with film director, Randal Kleiser, who has experimented with technology since he first used digital morphing in the 1986 film "Flight of the Navigator."
"Randal came to me with the pilot he had written in 1968, while he was at USC, and it still held up," Frederick said "We had wanted to work together forever and I told him that I’d produce it."
The creative team also included John Pattyson, executive producer of Immersive Media (IM 360), the company that provided the filming equipment for "Defrost" and handled the post production.
"We used 360 technology and we would strap the camera onto a wheelchair and Randal would go through with the blocking," Frederick said. "We knew that we needed to get the viewers to pay attention to the activities in the film."
"The 360 allowed one take with Randal pushing the wheelchair all over the place, while we all acted around it," she said. "It was like reverse theatre in the round. Instead of having the audience around you, you were acting around a camera that was set on a wheelchair and adorned with a dummy’s head. It was pretty fun."
The catch is the first-person perspective, which has already made an impact on Frederick and Kleiser’s close friends and family members who have seen the pilot in the 12-episode series.
"They empathized with Joan, who can’t talk and is literally meeting her family, who is completely unrecognizable to her," Frederick said. "Randal wrote the rest of the episodes and they all had a hook at the end that made the viewers want to binge."
Not only is Frederick the producer, she also portrays Garrison’s daughter, Beverly Perez.
"When I talk to Joan, it’s set up in a way that I appear to be talking right at the viewers," she said. "I’ll say, ‘Hey Mommy, I want to tell you I love you,’ or ‘Can I still call you Mommy because it’s been so long since I’ve lost you,’ and we’ve had some great responses to that, because it brings out the viewers’ emotions."
When Frederick and Kleiser showed the episode to Kelsey’s mother, the reaction was immediate.
"She is 84 or something like that and has all of her faculties, but watched it while in her hospital bed," Frederick said. "As she watched, she began speaking back to my character. When I said, ‘Can I call you mother,’ she said, ‘Oh, yes. I would like that very much.’
"I love that this experience gives the elderly or those who are sedentary a way to feel they are actually taking part of an event," she said. "It’s been exciting and thrilling to watch, because it’s all about the power of telling the story."
Adding to the power of the script are the actors, including Bruce Davidson, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Hamlin and Chris Atkins.
"People feel a familiarity with the cast, because they grew up with these actors in one way or another," Frederick said. "They see these familiar faces and go on this journey."
Although Frederick was worried at first at the way the VR goggles isolated the viewer, she also realized how unifying the experience could be with a group of people.
"This is a great tool to have because you can get a mass population to take a second and immerse themselves in a situation where they all feel this emotion together as they gain more information about this character in each episode," she said. "I feel so fortunate to have produced it and we’re excited to make it into Sundance. That is the ultimate gold star and I’m a fifth grader."
"Defrost" is at New Frontier during the Sundance Film Festival. For more information, visit http://www.sundance.org .
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The film captures a transparent self-portrait of the American wilderness, emphasizing the importance of communication that goes beyond listening for the sake of responding.