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Documentary by Film Production graduate Joe makes world premiere at Sundance Festival

An extraordinary documentary produced, directed and edited by University of Gloucestershire graduate Joe Hunting will make its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival – the largest independent film festival in the United States.

Joe (pictured), who graduated from the University with a degree in Film Production in 2020, is now a successful filmmaker and documentary photographer working inside social Virtual Reality (VR), directing artistic films that blend reality and fiction through joyful immersive worlds.

His latest work We Met In Virtual Reality, which was filmed entirely inside the world of VR, will make its world premier at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah today (21 January), followed by a second screening at the showpiece event on Sunday.

Since 1985, hundreds of films launched at the Festival have gone on to gain critical acclaim and reach new audiences worldwide, including Saw, The Blair Witch Project, Reservoir Dogs and Manchester By The Sea.

The official poster for Joe Hunting’s documentary ‘We Met In Virtual Reality’

In We Met In Virtual Reality, Joe captures an intimate collage of stories exploring the burgeoning cultural landscape of VRChat – a social VR app – while the physical world faced isolation in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The documentary follows two long-distance couples growing their relationships as they prepare to meet physically for the first and second time, alongside a sign language teacher dedicated to building a welcoming community for deaf and hard of hearing VRChat users.

“It really is a dream come true to be premiering my first feature at Sundance. I feel very proud, and lucky to have found such strong subjects to film with,” he said.

“There is a wealth of gratitude and inspiration wrapped up in the film’s success, especially as a young director. The inspiration to shoot a cinematic feature inside VRChat had been sitting with me since the start of 2019, after discovering what a unique cultural landscape it was during the production of A Wider Screen, my first short film.

“The context of COVID was what pushed the concept into action. During 2020 to the present day, social VR has been an anchor for so many people around the world, including myself.

“We’ve all faced physical isolation during the pandemic, which set a relatable groundwork to explore stories of online connection in an entirely new immersive world.”

Joe began his journey capturing heartfelt portraits from VR in 2018, releasing his first award-winning short film A Wider Screen in early 2019, at the age of 19.

While completing his Film Production degree in 2020, he shot and directed another award-winning short documentary and a comedy series titled Virtually Speaking filmed entirely inside VRChat, which both screened at festivals internationally.

After graduating from the University, he has been shooting works in VR full time, alongside the year-long production of We Met in Virtual Reality.

“I also graduated from university in 2020, so by fortunate timing I had the capacity to work on the project full time,” said Joe.

“Through intimate character portraits, We Met In Virtual Reality opens diverse conversations about love, identity, grief and mental health, offering a hyper real journey into the human experience of an online world that will soon shape the future.

“This is the first feature documentary filmed inside social VR, which most people have no idea exists. Immersive technology is growing exponentially, and in a very similar fashion to the early stages of the internet, those at the forefront are progressive indie communities creating the spaces and cultures that will shape the future.”

The University’s School of Creative Industries and School of Arts offer a wide range of courses, with students gaining real-world experience through placement and internship opportunities and benefiting from our local and global industry links.