Exposing Homelessness Through Eviction With ‘These Sleepless Nights’ Mixed Reality Mini-Doc
The Magic Leap-powered AR exhibit premiers at the Venice Film Festival.
Homelessness is an epidemic that affects people all around the globe. In the United States alone, it is estimated that approximately 553,000 Americans were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018, this according to data accumulated by a Point-in-Time (PIT) count, also known as a “street counts” or “homeless counts”.
Many of these U.S. cases come from court-ordered evictions that force people and families out of their homes and out into the streets; a process which can envoke a collision between home life, law enforcement, and racial and economic injustice that results in a highly toxic environment for evictees.
To shed a light on this issue, The Next Amendment, an anti-homelessness group dedicated to establishing universal housing for the underprivileged, is looking to spearhead a national conversation on the right to shelter through a 4-part AR-powered mini-documentary entitled These Sleepless Nights. This experience combines the AR power of a Magic Leap One Creator Edition headset with spatial computing technology to immerse you in stories of those who have experienced the hardships of America’s ongoing eviction crisis; whether it be from the perspective of a confused child, or that of a troubled parent.
During the 22-minute experience, you move around a giant illuminated cube while wearing a Magic Leap headset. Each side of the cube opens up an AR scene that puts you face-to-face with specific individuals as they tell you their stories of being evicted, which can be raw, brutally honest, and incredibly emotional.
Its purpose is to give audiences a subtle new perspective on homelessness in a way that will evoke a compassionate response. The end goal of Next Amendment is to add a new amendment to the constitution that would ensure a national right to shelter.
By demonstrating to officials that it’s possible to combat this issue cheaply, humanely, and efficiently, the organization hopes to establish what could potentially be the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Another primary goal of the group is to create awareness and help raise funds for organizations that focus on housing for the homeless in cities like Oakland and New York, such as the Tuff Shed program.
These Sleepless Nights, which was inspired by Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, EVICTED, made its debut during the Venice Film Festival. The project was created and directed by Gabo Arora—an award-winning immersive filmmaker and Founder/Creative Director of LightShed, a company focused on storytelling through AR, AR and AI—and produced by Barry Pousman, who also has a long list of VR experiences attached to his name.
Arora talked about the challenges of AR filmmaking while speaking to Variety, stating, “VR takes you to a different world, with AR, you have to think about choreography a lot more.”
His solution was simple: focus more on storytelling through spatial audio and less on the visual experience. Featuring an artfully written soundtrack composed by Phillip Glass, the combination of Arora’s AR storytelling and Glass’ music builds a tone that sucks you into the experience and refused to let go.
Executive Producer Edward Saatchi, whose company Fable Studio recently took home an Emmy for ‘Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media’ with their most recent project, Wolves in the Walls, told Forbes, “Housing first and a right to shelter just means lifting the lowest level to which we can fall – and it is achievable. The most important element is (through trials in small cities and towns, through policy papers on how this could be done cost-effectively, through fundraising) to build confidence that a solution is possible.”
“I created the-next-amendment.com and commissioned Gabo to direct these sleepless nights to draw attention to the right to shelter movement and to raise $1m for it,” said Saatchi during an interview with VRScout. “The next amendment and these sleepless nights launched last week.”
“The reaction to the piece has been tears and a very long waitlist at Venice! Empathy is a key part of immersive and using this to draw attention to housing first issues and a right to shelter has been really profound. The cube also gives people chills and is beautiful.”
“The driving force was the idea that the next amendment to the US constitution could be a right to,” continued Saatchi. “This piece – based in Milwaukee and for future episodes visiting other cities was made to draw attention to that movement.”
“After Venice the goal is to make this a piece of public art accessible on iPhone ARKit which allows you to donate immediately to a right to shelter project.”
The project is an original commission by The Next Amendment developed in partnership with Magic Leap and co-produced by Montreal-based studio DPT in association with Johns Hopkins University Immersive Storytelling and Emerging (ISET).
After the Venice Film Festival, These Sleepless Nights will be open to the public as an art installation in SF, DC, and Milwaukee to assist in raising funds for a right to shelter, and will be accessible as an app on iPhones.
Feature Image Credit: The Next Amendment