Think virtual reality is for gamers and geeks? What about punk rockers? The animated VR film BattleScar lets audiences step into the heart of New York’s notorious '70s punk music scene—the squats and clubs of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Created by Spanish visual artist Martin Allais and Argentine illustrator Nico Casavecchia, your guide through the story is the teenaged Lupe (voiced by Rosario Dawson), who discovers the underground world when she runs away from home.

BattleScar had its world premiere at Sundance 2018. No Film School caught up with the co-directors for a short conversation before the project’s New York premiere in the Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade to learn about how the project came together.

NFS: Why was VR the right medium for this project as opposed to 2D animation?

Allais & Casavecchia: We think VR gives us the unique opportunity of shuttling people back in time, to late '70s NYC. This is a magical medium for that, and we wanted to embrace its potential.

NFS: How did your collaboration work? What did you each do on the project, and what did you bring to the table from your individual backgrounds?

Allais & Casavecchia: We have pretty similar career paths and we’ve been friends for more than 15 years. We are mixed media directors and have a background working on animation, motion graphics and live action projects. We want to think that all that professional baggage is expressed in BattleScar. We really share all the decisions and negotiate our ideas in the process. 

NFS: Which technologies were used to create BattleScar ?

Allais & Casavecchia: BattleScar is, for the most part, a traditional CGI animation pipeline. When it comes to the final stages, we ditch rendering for real-time processing in a game engine. We are working with the amazing people at Fauns studio to bring our vision to reality. 

"We are busy working on a new narrative language, something that is uncharted territory."

NFS: How did Rosario Dawson get involved? Does she have a particular interest in VR?

Allais & Casavecchia: Rosario has a background of doing V.O. for video games, so she is very tech savvy and has collaborated on a VR project before. From the beginning, the idea of Rosario playing Lupe was a dream we had. Her background growing up in the Lower East Side scene was just perfect for BattleScar, we sent her the screenplay and she decided to come on board. It was a dream come true.

NFS: What advice do you have for filmmakers or animators who may be interested in VR? How would one get started?

Allais & Casavecchia: I would suggest studying what came before, all the amazing pieces out there are great examples on how the medium is evolving. I would also suggest to get creative hints of disciplines that use space, like architecture and immersive theatre.

BattleScarRosario Dawson's character Lupe in 'BattleScar'

NFS: Where would you like to see VR/AR/MR go in the next year or two? What about further down the line?

Allais & Casavecchia: Our belief is that eventually, all those technologies will converge. We are busy working on a new narrative language, something that is uncharted territory. We are mostly excited about the artistic possibilities of immersive entertainment and trying to adapt to the tech advancements without shifting our artistic vision too much, because everything is evolving too fast to keep up.

For more, see our complete coverage of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.