Developing The Courage to Follow Your Creative Voice

Originally published on October 23, 2017 at carolliufilms.tumblr.com.


My summer of creativity started as an experiment: what if I unwaveringly pursued a flash of creative inspiration? Where would it take me?

At 2 am one morning, I was seized by an idea: What if I took viewers back in time, to Marie Antoinette’s 18th century France, in virtual reality? I must admit, at the time, I was rather dismissive of the idea. I had a perfectly reasonable, low budget VR documentary I had been developing. It made no sense to follow this crazy, expensive idea.

Well, shame on me. I had recently lectured to hundreds of students about protecting and respecting one’s creative voice at Shanghai American School.

I need to be accountable to the students who attended my presentation on creativity

There were other barriers though. My tenuous creative muse had been silent for a long time. Years of caregiving for a beloved family member and trying to battle off the heavy metal and bacterial pollutants in my body from a long stint of living in China meant I was gripped by an unrelenting brain fog and fatigue. I would often search for words and draw mental blanks, where I once had a rich vocabulary at my disposal. Worse, I was chronically exhausted, experiencing nervous system disorders and had developed intolerances to a host of foods. Some days, it was enough to accomplish only one thing the whole day. I avoided meeting friends and professional contacts–I felt like a shadow of my former self, even tactless with inappropriate word choices in my conversations. Not to mention the depressive physical toll.

So, this summer when I arrived in Paris with access to a VR camera from Google, I didn’t expect to accomplish much. Maybe a few tests, write up a research proposal by the end of my stay. I was finally on the right course of treatment and the adverse bacteria was leaving my system. As I got up to do my daily meditation, I noticed a new clarity dawning upon me. Inspiration, long gone, was returning. And with it, my inner voice came rearing back.

And oh, the audacious things she’d dictate to me! Cold contact the chief makeup designer of a prominent Netflix series. Walk into a government bureau and secure, with your poor French, a national monument for shooting. Haven’t heard back yet? Be patient, X will contact you. I obliged and waited patiently to receive the right contact which came at exactly the right moment. Partner with a leading French VR studio, DVMobile, to co-produce a demo. Did I mention, this was the first time I had ever worked in France professionally?

When a project needs to manifest itself, it will find a way, something Elizabeth Gilbert spoke to in her book on inspiration, Big Magic. I am in awe of this process.

Today, I have something to show for that summer experiment. The “I” has budded into a team of “we.” Advised by a team of art historians from the Ecole du Louvre, we completed a 4 minute demo, shot with authentic period costumes, makeup and wigs designed by leading artisans. A VFX mastermind behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy is exploring positional interactivity for our feature project. VR sound pioneer, Headspace Studio, is leading our spatial audio design. And we shot at a historic chateau frequented by Louis XIV and Napoleon. I presented the demo for the first time at the Oculus Connect 4 conference recently, at which someone told me this was the best VR cinematic film they had ever seen. We are now finding ways to work together.

Presenting Marie Antoinette VR at OC4

I start the day by meditating, which helps me to see the bigger picture of what my purpose is as a creator and push it forward just a little. For example, I never knew when I began this project that –

Marie Antoinette was a victim of fake news. In fact, most of what we know about her is entirely fabricated. If this reminds you of our current political and media landscape, it should. This is why we are traveling back in time, to show you how history is written by the victors, and what groundless media stories can contribute to–human divisiveness, even revolution and war.

The journey of ten thousand miles starts with the first step. I am thankful I took that step to follow my creative voice, but now there are more:

VR filmmaking is a collaborative effort: If you are interested in getting involved as a business partner, investing in our episodic series (1 hr runtime, 6 episodes of 10 minutes each), or joining us with your sales, marketing, and financing expertise, please get in touch at carol[at]uma-studios[dot]com or visit marieantoinettevr.com.