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Clarkston Nonprofit Gets An Influx Of Cash For Virtual Reality

A charitable organisation in Clarkston has bagged a cash prize award of $10,000 for its participation in a virtual reality (VR) film project. The Key, a new movie based in virtual reality, has been awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the recently concluded 2019 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, under the category of Best Virtual Reality Immersive Story. Friends of Refugees, the nonprofit from Clarkston made its contribution to the project by aiding filmmakers with script editing and content development.

The VR film experience is the brainchild of Celine Tricart, a director associated with Lucid Dreams Productions, and has Gloria Bradbury as its producer. It is a film that utilises virtual reality and memory-related concepts to empathetically explore the significant losses, shattered confidence, isolated lifestyles and decisions of refugees. It captures the journeys of refugees from their homelands to more strange and unfamiliar locations.


Tricart and Bradbury, donated the amount received through the award to Friends of Refugees. Established in the year 1995, the nonprofit currently serves upwards of 40 thousand Clarkston refugees. The organisation extends its support to initiatives including after school programmes, English language training, job assistance, summer camp, doula training, business assistance and community gardens.

Brian Bollinger, Executive Director, Friends of Refugees, stated that even as a tech savvy person, he was unable to contemplate that virtual reality could be utilised to share refugee experiences with audiences.


According to Bollinger, the money received by the nonprofit will enable it to find living wage jobs for the wage earners of as many as 20 families. The jobs will contribute to yearly household income of more than $400,000.

The nonprofit entered the film project after being chosen as a participant in the Oculus VR for Good Creators Lab. It is a platform that brings up-and-coming content creators with valuable causes together. The objective is to create virtual reality encounters that exhibit the significance of social change.

Lauren Brockett, Director of Employment Services, Friends of Refugees, was the project’s local correspondent and initiated much of the action for carrying it forward.

At the recent Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, the creators generated two room-sized interactive features that let viewers exercise control over various forms of impact. Each of the viewers were equipped with handheld controllers and VR headsets, in addition to around-the-neck devices for sound output. The Key concluded with the viewers being told that they had passed through the journey of a refugee. Following the immersive experience, representatives from Friends of Refugees were present at the venue to answer viewer queries and share resources regarding the worldwide refugee crisis.

According to Bollinger, the The Key was experienced by about 700 viewers at the Tribeca Film Festival. He stated that the film will go across different film festivals, and expressed his hope for the film reaching a broader audience by 2020.

Bollinger also hinted at museums being likely venues for showcasing the film in the future. VR device users might also get to buy and download the experience.

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