In the tech industry in 2014, women accounted for roughly 30% of available positions. In the film industry of last year, women only made up 9% of directors and just 6% of cinematographers. Virtual reality is hoping to be a bit different. Camp Reel Stories, founded in 2012 by Esther Pearl, is attempting to tackle these discrepancies by empowering those who will be greatly influential on the future of the industries: Young women.
Camp Reel Stories’ workshops and camps teach women and girls how to bring their perspective to the digital media era and a new initiative from the Camp Reel Stories team will be bringing this same empowerment to virtual reality. We spoke with Esther via Skype about Camp Reel Stories and the upcoming Virtual Reality 101 workshop.
After moving into a permanent space in San Leandro, California, just south of where the summer programs are held in Oakland, the Camp Reel Stories staff started discussing new ideas. Instructor Azine Davoudzadeh approached Esther with the idea for a VR workshop, but that wasn’t the first time VR influenced the Camp Reel crew.
“We have two VR companies that have helped Camp Real Stories in the past as either sponsoring girls who couldn’t afford to come to camp or as consultants in other ways,” Esther recalls. “And both of them have expressed interest to really help me on the ground floor of this emerging technology and set it up for success in a way that other technology and other media organizations haven’t been able to be set up for success around diversity.”
Various companies and organizations have attempted to retroactively instill a degree of diversity in already established mediums, but the VR workshop is a means to bring it to a young medium and make it an important part of its growth. With young women 13-18 years of age, Esther recognizes that they’re already digital natives and they tend to show excitement when they approach Camp Reel Stories with new ideas on not only how to tell stories, but how to market them as well.
The VR workshop is aiming to be as accessible as possible and that goes from the gear on hand to joining the event itself. The program is $400 but there’s financial assistance available. Young women will have access to Ricoh 360° cameras and the tutelage of professionals that have volunteered for the program. The staff has other collaborators as well, such as Entropic Studios out of San Francisco, and is open to others that want to be involved. With time, Camp Reel Stories and programs like the VR workshop will bring their mission to other places around the country.
“Our hope is that everything that we’re piloting in the Bay Area we’ll be able to package and bring to any other area,” Esther says. “So anywhere where there’s professionals that are excited about mentoring the next generation of filmmakers and media creators and V.R. creators we can make that happen.”
Virtual Reality 101 takes place October 22nd-23rd from 10am to 4pm at The Factory 510 in San Leandro and you can sign up here. Camp Reel Stories will be opening an L.A. campus in the Summer of 2017.