Felix & Paul Studios, the happening Montreal-based virtual-reality producer, premieres the second episode of Space Explorers on Thursday.
“Space Explorers is probably (Felix & Paul’s) most ambitious endeavour in terms of the complexity of the production and the scope of the production,” said Félix Lajeunesse, the studio’s co-founder and creative director as well as one of the directors of Space Explorers. The show is also directed by the studio’s other founder and co-creative director, Paul Raphaël.
Created in conjunction with NASA, the Russian space agency and leading private space transportation companies, this show about space travel is narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Brie Larson. The first episode of the big-budget series was launched at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Each episode is about 20 minutes long. The second episode will be launched in the online Oculus store on July 12.
“We shot it over two years,” said Lajeunesse, who compared the complexity of producing Space Explorers with the studio’s previous projects involving former U.S. President Barack Obama. “There are lots of trade secrets, there are lots of levels of security, and so you need to be very methodical, very organized, very patient and clear on what you want to accomplish when you work with NASA.
“We filmed in different places in the United States with NASA, but we also traveled to Russia to explore the reality of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, and to work with cosmonauts. As a studio, it was a very big, ambitious production.”
Lajeunesse said space travel is uniquely well-suited to virtual-reality filmmaking.
“Not that many people get to go to space; it’s a very exclusive experience that is not available to many human beings,” he said. “But when you actually talk to astronauts about their journey and what they experienced in space, 100 per cent of the time they talk about how transformative and profound that experience is for them, and how it gives them this very unique perspective on humanity. It’s almost like a spiritual experience.
“There’s this dichotomy between the power of the experience and the amount of people who can actually experience it. (With Space Explorers), you get to feel like you’re a participant in this journey. You get to be a space explorer yourself — that was the original desire and feeling.”
The second episode of Space Explorers, titled Taking Flight, looks at how space travel is evolving through international space programs and private partnerships. Using the studio’s state-of-the-art cameras and post-production facilities, the episode brings viewers up close and personal with astronauts, cosmonauts and rocket launches in immersive fashion.
Founded in 2013 by Lajeunesse, Raphaël and producer Stéphane Rituit, Felix & Paul now has 65 employees in its Montreal and Santa Monica offices. The studio is profiting from a boom in the virtual reality industry, which is expected to generate $15 billion in revenue this year, doubling last year’s revenue.
In addition to its two projects with Obama — The People’s House and Through the Ages — the Montreal company previously worked with former U.S. President Bill Clinton on the film Inside Impact: East Africa. The studio also produced LeBron James: Striving for Greatness, made in collaboration with the NBA superstar.
Among the company’s recent projects is Jurassic Park: Blue, a companion piece to the film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as well as Isle of Dogs: Behind the Scenes, a project created in collaboration with Isle of Dogs director Wes Anderson. Felix & Paul is also developing a VR series about the International Space Station.