FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A with Kateřina Hanáčková, Creative Director of Czech Brainz Immersive

PRAGUE: FNE spoke with Kateřina Hanáčková, creative director of Czech Brainz Immersive, about their current activities, as well as the state of the Czech game development industry.

Brainz Immersive is an award-winning creative studio providing complex AR & VR services. As one of the leading creative studios in Europe, they combine advanced frameworks and techniques used in the video game and film industry to push the limits of the possible, as well as craft premium VR & AR experiences for brands and businesses. Brainz Immersive is a proud member of the Brainz Studios group.

Central and Eastern Europe is one of the most important locations for global games developers and studios, and artists in the region are increasingly working for both film and games. FNE looks at how these two sectors of the entertainment industry are converging and why this trend is important for the future development of both.

FNE: When was Brainz Immersive founded and what have been your main missions and strategic projects so far?

Kateřina Hanáčková: The founder of our studio, Robin Pultera, started creating virtual and augmented reality projects seven years ago because he felt that although the providers of immersive products were great at developing hi-tech apps, they lacked creativity. That’s why the mission of Brainz Immersive has been to craft engaging, beautifully looking experiences where the development team and the team of creatives would join forces.

FNE: Which projects would you highlight from your company’s portfolio?

Kateřina Hanáčková: One of the best examples of the cooperation between our programmers and creatives is Reaktour VR, which guides the viewer through the Dukovany nuclear power plant by wrapping fun storytelling into a state-of-the-art technological solution and futuristic visuals.

Another great example of our teams’ close cooperation was a collection of AR art installations created for Prague’s Signal Festival or a highly emotional VR experience commemorating Czechoslovakia’s invasion by Soviet troops in 1968.

We are also thrilled that our last artistic endeavour, a VR film called The Darkening, directed by Ondřej Moravec and produced by Czech Frame Films in coproduction with Brainz Immersive and German NowHere Media, premiered at the Venice Film Festival 2022. The development process behind this piece was truly unique. While our 3D artists were working on transforming hand-crafted illustrations into a virtual landscape, the developers were making sure that the hand tracking and voice commands worked properly, which meant that they were wildly gesticulating while making funny noises.

FNE: Film and games convergence is a hot topic now. What can you tell us about the relationship between the gaming industry and film in your experience?

Kateřina Hanáčková: One of the main reasons people like playing games is because it allows them to escape from the mundane reality into a magical one and seek extraordinary adventures. That’s why a strong segment of players seek well-written stories unwinding in unforgettable worlds, stories whose narrative structure resembles that of a film.

This audience was defined in a 2019 Oculus VR Gamer Segmentation Study as the single largest segment identified and the most gender-balanced. It’s interesting that though they don‘t see themselves as the early adopters, these “story seekers” are likely to represent a significant number of virtual reality consumers in the next few years.

To win the hearts of these folks, though, we have to produce mature experiences with robust narratives as well as adventure offerings. And to craft those, we need to merge the filmmaking know-how with the gaming one.

The Czech Film Fund luckily employs several progressive visionaries who recognise the potential of these immersive experiences and don’t look down on interactivity as something reserved for games, which still haven’t earned the same respect as films.

FNE: Are there any Czech films that are being turned into games or Czech games that are being turned into films or TV series?

Kateřina Hanáčková: Two years ago, I heard that former Netflix executive Erik Barmack, who then launched his own production company, started developing a live-action makeover of Kingdom Come: Deliverance created by the Warhorse Studio. This video game set in the medieval Holy Roman Empire has sold over three million copies, making it the internationally most successful Czech game ever. I myself am a big fan of this game, so I’ll be the first to buy film tickets for this.

FNE: How much is the turnover and how much the percentage of expected growth in the Czech Games industry?

Kateřina Hanáčková: According to the numbers provided by the Association of Czech Game Developers, our gaming industry is growing at a record pace. Domestic companies have recorded a total turnover of more than seven billion Czech crowns (approximately 288 m EUR), which is a 30 per cent increase compared to 2021. And virtual reality is a significant factor adding to our games’ success abroad, with Beat Saber being a Czech superstar title.

FNE: How do you see the development of the relationship between the film and gaming industries?

Kateřina Hanáčková: I myself love to play games that heavily gravitate towards a cinematic experience. What would a game be without a stunning cutscene, right? Playing God of War or The Witcher 3 feels like steering an interactive action film. Games like Last of Us and Last of Us 2 are linear adventures with exquisitely written characters and a storyline that now serves as a base for a television show produced by HBO Max.

The Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror was also an interesting experiment on how to gamify a popular TV show. I think we’re about to see more and more hybrids between films and games, and that it could eventually lead to the birth of a whole new entertainment genre.

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