Writer/director Benjamin Arfmann, BAFTA-nominated for his POV UCLA thesis film, Random Stop, and currently in post-production on NBCUniversal’s high-profile 2D/VR hybrid Syfy series Halcyon, has joined ContagiousLA (CLA) for spot and branded content projects.
“Ben is a new breed of director, a mix between inventor and storyteller in a new medium that few understand,” said CLA Partner/Executive Producer Natalie Sakai. “His curiosity and innovation are inspiring. We are lucky to add him to our family of artists.”
"It’s worth noting that Ben is coming into his own during this huge transitional period in the medium. His relationships with VR powerhouses like Secret Location (Cannes Lions honorees and winners of the first-ever Emmy for VR content) will serve as a real force multiplier on higher level branded projects," observed CLA Associate Producer Jordan Flack, “allowing for some really incredible dreams to take flight.” Flack, who is working closely with Arfmann on CLA’s burgeoning VR department, added that Arfmann “brings an energy to VR development that cuts through the surface-level excitement you see in this recent VR buzz, because it's grounded in experience and realistic expectations. He can quickly discern what is possible now and what isn't there yet.”
“VR is a weird space to be in. It’s ubiquitous on the one hand, yet it’s all an exploration,” Arfmann concurred. “I’m so excited about working with CLA, because Natalie and Jordan are actively embracing how challenging this is. My focus is to create awesome content, and the branded world has always been at the forefront of technological advancement.”
Of the paths VR may take, Arfmann observed, “the technologies that really take hold will be the ones that enable storytelling leaps so effortless they seem like magic.” Having recently worked on a doc for GE and short form commercials for FB360, he noted that is impossible to overestimate the significance of editorial in VR. “Control over the flow of time, audience attention and perspective is the key to transitioning from a gimmick to a storytelling medium,” he said.
Arfmann, who holds an MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television and now teaches film directing at the University, recalled that “VR took hold of me in my last year at school. I was excited by the mystery of the medium; you can fail miserably but also be one of the first people to succeed.”
By all accounts, Arfmann has found success through experimentation. His UCLA thesis Random Stop premiered at SXSW, was a Vimeo Staff Pick, and was nominated for a BAFTA Student Award. His all- POV half-hour pilot, Dead or Alive: Stranded in the Alaskan Wilderness, premiered on the HistoryChannel in the Fall of 2015. Arfmann’s work has been written up by Fast Company, IndieWire, American Cinematographer, and HuffPo, among others. He is the director of Halcyon, a trans-media project commissioned by NBCUniversal and produced for SyFy with Secret Location. Striking a balance between a linear police procedural and an interactive experience, Halcyon includes episodes specially designed for VR platform Oculus Rift. Arfmann is currently in postproduction on his feature debut, Dismissed, the first film to come out of Making Horror, the entity formed by Boulderlight and Making Film Limited. Dismissed stars Kent Osborne, Dylan Sprouse, Alycia Delmore, Chris Bauer, and Randall Park.
“Given how new the tech is and how fast VR is moving, there are always going to be risks associated with developing these expensive projects, yet somehow having Ben Arfmann on your team brings a level of confidence I have yet to find elsewhere in this industry,” Flack concluded. “We expect amazing things from him and are honored to have him on the ContagiousLA roster.”