Sabya Clarke’s VR Start-Up Brings “Cinemagick” Through Stories Helping Women, Minorities, and Autism

Yitzi Weiner
Dec 22, 2017 · 5 min read
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What will you do differently in life, in business, or in the world after this experience? That’s the power of telling stories using virtual reality.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sabya Clarke, a virtual reality director, writer and producer based in Los Angeles. Her production company, Cinemagick, is a B Corporation with a social objective to help women, minorities and persons with autism gain access to virtual reality, augmented reality and other immersive and emergent technologies to tell great stories.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

My backstory begins with my mother, a Liberian immigrant who escaped the first civil war in her country. She learned from an early age that creativity is the number one key to success in life and business. I utilize creativity for every aspect of running Cinemagick, from writing stories and experiences for VR and AR, to working with my developers and convincing investors to back a project.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I attended a technology expo in Burbank on all things virtual reality and augmented reality. Much to my surprise, Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman, was one of the panelist speakers. The movie had just been released. I sat right in front of her, inspired and taking in every word. I learned that day to just show up in life and in business. You never know what surprises are waiting for you.

So what does your company do?
I want to bring stories to life in a vibrant and interactive way. Virtual reality is perfect for that. I direct, write and producer cinematic and non-cinematic experiences for immersive technologies, such as virtual reality. For example, To Patch A Broken Star, which ran a successful KickStarter campaign and is now in pre-production is a virtual reality film that explores the question: What happens when we die? Imagine experiencing one perspective of the Afterlife in VR. All of your five senses are fully engaged as you journey with a young boy, Eshi, who meets several guides that help him piece back his soul on route to the Nation of the Gods. What will you do differently in life, in business, or in the world after this experience? That’s the power of telling stories using virtual reality.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Organizing Cinemagick as a B corporation holds me accountable in this area. I have to bring goodness to the world as part of my bottom-line. For example, my next virtual reality project, The Autism Experience, will explore the inner world of a child on the autism spectrum.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.

1. Money in, Money Out

You need to be ready to invest your own money. To build a virtual world for To Patch A Broken Star, I have to invest and raise money. I’m so grateful to backers who supported my successful Kickstarter campaign. In addition to them, I was my first investor.

2.People Are Everything

Finding good people to work with is crucial. I have an amazing team that consist of a world builder, voice talent, storyboard, producers, marketers and more. It really does take a village to make VR.

3. Educating The Market is Key

Do you own a VR headset? How many of your friends have had a virtual reality experience? Probably not many. However, it’s the near future. And once viewers experience movies in virtual reality, I believe there’s no turning back. Until then, my work as the founder of Cinemagick is to educate the market about this platform. I had an investor ask me, “Why not just make the movie and show it on a screen somewhere?” The answer is: nothing beats being fully immersed in a world, where you can look to your left and see one aspect of a story, look up and see another one, look down and see another one…and so on. My movies will eventually incorporate using vests that simulate what you see in the story, such as feeling an earthquake. There’s technology to release smells into the environment that corresponds to what you’re viewing. The possibilities are endless.

4. Sleep Is A Luxury

I had the pleasure of working with a team of women producers and a director recently on a film. I arrived on set at 4PM and ended at 4AM. When I got home I slept about three hours, woke up and submitted a script to a screenwriting competition, and then met with an advisor who helped me test a virtual reality environment. When I returned home, I slept another two hours and then it was back to back communications with my production partner.

5. Do What You Love

My mother warned me (yes, that’s the right verb) to only do what makes my soul sing. For example, most of the advice I received about the movie business in Hollywood would set me on a path that is so different from what I do today as a VR storyteller. Making virtual reality stories and experiences is sometimes more of a tech or game business. It takes a different approach than filming live-action. Even writing the script is different. I love movies, old and new. But what I LOVE to do, is tell them in an interactive way, where all of the senses are engaged and viewers can explore the worlds I create.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
I would love to have a private breakfast with Ava DuVernay. She epitomizes beauty, strength, and awareness. I also admire her for launching ARRAY, which like Cinemagick, was formed for a social purpose.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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