Recently The Choice had its North American premiere at SXSW – and it was an absolutely amazing experience for us! We are incredibly thankful for this wonderful opportunity and to the audience for a great reception. It was very touching to observe how the experience of hearing Kristen's story profoundly affects and impacts people and challenges so many stereotypes about abortion.
WE WON THE AUDIENCE AWARD!
The whole SXSW was truly memorable and special. It was incredibly powerful to have the audience at our booth reacting so emotionally to what happened to Kristen and how we portrayed it through the immersive power of VR.
It was also very special for Kristen: seeing people reacting to her story and connecting with it from their own experiences. Both women and men, and not only those who experienced abortion. It's a story about motherhood. Patient care. Being a human and not a number in a healthcare system.
And thank you to the SXSW attendees for honouring us with the most important award that one can receive: the Audience Award! We are truly grateful.
Let us tell you a little more about our experience at SXSW – it was remarkable!
We decided to build an installation that would feel welcoming & private, and this resulted in attendees being able to open themselves emotionally to the film. When attendees entered the booth, they were greeted by one of us and then guided into the back area. A separated and quiet section where they would sit, wearing a headset and noise-cancelling headphones that completely immersed them in the film.
Many people had profoundly emotional reactions; some took their headsets off in tears. Immediately after finishing their session, we invited them to a separate quiet "decompression" area with seating. Here they could sit and reflect on what they just experienced. Most incredible was that Kristen herself was able to attend and speak to people directly after they'd met her virtually.
Kristen said it was incredible to meet these people right after they'd seen the film. She would often speak to people who would share their own personal testimonies about abortion, maternal health or failures of the healthcare system. Many people said afterwards that our documentary was the most emotionally powerful piece of VR media they'd ever experienced.
Going to SXSW would be impossible without our amazing partners and sponsors: Abortion Conversation Projects, Ms. Foundation for Women, Pandia Health, Picture Motion & Plan C. Their financial support allowed us to create an environment where the audience had a private, quiet, intimate space to experience this emotional project. Thank you for making it possible for us to create this place for them! And a huge thank you to Samuel Mateosian from Driftspace, who provided us with extra Oculus Quests and allowed us to have nearly no downtime recharging devices. And Matthew Neutra, formerly of Bose, helped us get excellent noise-cancelling headphones for each headset station.
We also hosted a "Making Virtual Storytelling and Activism Personal" panel. We had an excellent discussion with guests Texas State Rep. Donna Howard, Activist & Executive Director of AVOW Texas Aimee Arrambide and Kristen Herring, Activist and subject of The Choice documentary.
SXSW has graciously made the discussion freely available on their Youtube Channel, and you can watch it here.
We also took part in a beautiful Night of Impact And Storytelling hosted by our sponsor and partner, Picture Motion. We are currently designing an impact campaign to get this project in front of as many influential people as possible.
While at the festival, we were also interviewed by Voices of VR Podcast host Kent Bye, where we discussed both the technology and the narrative process of creating the film. You can listen here:
Another great piece of coverage was the Austin Chronicle, a major sponsor of SXSW, who covered our project and even included it in their print edition given to each attendee of the festival! You can read their article here.
Overall, SXSW was an incredible opportunity. We had our booth and headsets running at nearly full capacity the entire expo. On the last day, we even set up two extra stations using our backup devices just to meet the numbers of people who, through word of mouth, wanted a chance to see it.
Thank you so much for a truly wonderful experience, making it memorable with all the conversations and sharing your thoughts. We'll have some exciting news which we hope to share soon!
Joanne & The Team