(L-R) Leo Faber, Shaun Gladwell.

Leo Faber has worked in TV for almost twenty years as a producer and director, predominantly in the factual space.

Now he’s getting into virtual reality as one of the eight members of content collective Badfaith, made up of video artists Shaun Gladwell and Daniel Crooks, biomedical engineer Dr. Jordan Nguyen and directors Natasha Pincus, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Samantha Matthews and Luci Schroder.

Faber was introduced to VR two years ago by SBS’s then-head of digital content, Jean-Paul Marin.

“I wasn’t sure what VR really was,” says Faber, “but I tried it and was blown away at how cool it was. Even just a really simple 360° video through Google Cardboard I could see the potential.”

Faber went straight out and bought a headset off eBay – “that was pretty much the only way you could get them at that stage” – and reached out to Pixelcase, a VR studio with headquarters in Perth and Melbourne.

Faber began helping Pixelcase engage ad agencies and brands at the same time as landing his “dream job” as commissioning editor for Red Bull TV across Australia. 

Dissatisfied with the content he was making for clients, Faber reached out to video artist Gladwell. The pair met in Sydney, with Faber bringing along a Samsung Gear VR, his go-to headset, to demonstrate the tech.

“We went down this alley down the back of a Surry Hills café to try VR for the first time, because he was a bit apprehensive about trying it in front of loads of people at this busy café (laughs). It felt quite illicit. It’s kind of a like drug-taking, in that you’ve got to put things together, you’ve got to set it up and show people how to do it, you’ve got to tell them what to expect, there’s all this anticipation.”

After making their first work together, the duo decided to form a shingle to make the collaboration official.

“He reached out to the art world people he loves, and I reached out to the film world people I love and the documentary space, and we curated this collection of mad scientists,” says Faber. “We’ve got a diverse range of people from a number of different fields.”

Faber and Gladwell travelled to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival in January, where their latest work, Orbital Vanitas, was exhibited in the festival’s New Frontier sidebar.

“It’s basically a six-minute meditation on art, life and death,” says Faber. “It’s a skull floating in space.”

The work is currently available to download on the VR app of The New York Times – NYTVR – and will likely tour galleries as well, according to the producer.

Asked what the business model is for Badfaith, Faber laughs.

“We’re certainly not rich on this at the moment. Our strategy has always been to create interesting work first and then try and work out what happens at the end. I have a day job, Shaun has a day job.”

Next for the duo is Storm Rider, which will document Gladwell's collaboration with a British Muslim woman.

Storm Rider is the first VR work to receive production funding from Screen Australia, with SBS taking the pre-sale.

The shoot will take place in London and Sydney across two weeks, and Faber hopes to have it finished in August. The work will be available on SBS’s VR app, and Faber hopes to show it a major festival.

* For a longer version of this article, check out IF Magazine #176.

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