Case Study: This is Progress

A whole new experience which allows you to get immersed in the action-packed atmosphere of wrestling shows.

Peter Collis and Jessica Driscoll, the director of this VR documentary, take the viewer not only to the audience spaces of a wrestling show but right to the centre of action, the ring. This project, which they describe as a “labour of love” shows the pleasure of exploring and trying out new things with advanced technologies, resulting in a documentary which will not only thrill wrestling fans.

“Desk research wasn’t particularly useful for this film as reading about wrestling and even watching it didn’t give us the sense of community or the feel of a show.”

A new world in front of you

“As 360 film-makers, we are always looking for exciting and interesting topics to document, explore and immerse ourselves in. After making films in Kenya and Delhi we stumbled across something a little closer to home with This is Progress. Through wrestling fan and social media aficionado Adam Libonatti-Roche, we were inducted into the weird and wonderful world of British independent wrestling. Wrestling was pretty big when we were growing up, from the homegrown old school comedic Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks to the slick American WWE. So it really did surprise us to find out about Progress, an independent wrestling promotion set up by 3 friends who still run the company, putting on sell out events in London.”

Watching from a different perspective

“We’d seen trials in VR sports before, like tennis and football. As the viewer you are quite far away from the action and although seeing it from a different perspective is interesting, it doesn’t really replace or augment watching it live or via traditional TV. However, after the first wrestling shoot we realised that watching wrestling in VR was a huge pleasure! And it really captured the experience with all it’s gore and up close and personal style. When we showed some of the regular Progress fans the film they were thrilled, they could watch from the balcony, from ring side seats and actually be inside the ring, things they couldn’t do at a live show.”

Capturing the fan experience

“A feature documentary was in production at the same time focusing on the wrestlers and their backstories. We decided to centre our narrative around the fan experience, what was it like to be at a show? Why did people attend the shows? And to explore themes like female wrestlers and the fans relationships to the wrestlers. We were delighted to discover that men and women had equal billing and respect at Progress. The female wrestlers were not overly sexualised and inter-gender teams and matches were a common occurrence.”

Getting into the community

“The production process was quite organic, Adam, our guide found us great access to both wrestlers and fans. On a show day the wrestlers are fully focused on getting into the character. For the fans the wrestlers’ character backstory and rivalries can be just as important to the fan experience as the extreme athleticism the wrestlers display.”

“Talking to the fans we began to get a sense of what the indie wrestling scene was about. Desk research wasn’t particularly useful for this film as reading about wrestling and even watching it didn’t give us the sense of community or the feel of a show. Although there are 600 people watching many of the fans know each other as they are regulars and they were really welcoming to our crew answering all our questions and agreeing to being filmed.”

 

Using the right technologies

“We had two 360/3D camera units to cover the action, Go-pro based rigs in 3D printed housings and captured full 3D binaural sound. We made the best use of the amazing space at the Electric Ballroom and shot from inside the ring, up on the balcony, ringside, outside the venue and interviewed some of the wrestlers and fans too. We built a hand-held rig to get the camera right inside the ring. We couldn’t clamp it to the posts or the ropes, it would have been smashed up or been too much vibration.”

Too much amazing footage

“The variety of wrestlers, male and female, their great characters and after the 3 shoot days, we had more than enough amazing footage to use. In fact, one of the hardest things was to get the film down to 24 minutes. Everyone had their favourite wrestlers or moments but there were some stand out scenes and sequences that shone in the edit and they definitely provided the foundations to the piece. We also decided to have a ‘presenter’ or guide lead you through the experience as it would be a friendly face throughout the film and we also found that talking to the fans and wrestlers about their biggest passion in their environment provided us with great quality interviews and insight into the sub culture.”

A labour of love

“The script for the voice over took about 4-5 drafts to get it right, and this was based on what we saw, heard and experienced on the shoots. We wanted it to be minimal and augment the live action and the fans and wrestlers testimonies.”

“We received support in kind from London based Immersive studio Inition, they provided additional crew and kit. The remainder of the project was self funded. It really was a labour of love, with so many rushes to review and decisions to make about what stayed in and what went out. We didn’t have a client or a brief to hit & this allowed us to be creative, take risks, take our time and focus on the fans. The purpose of the piece was fundamentally about exploration and not promotion.”

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