Thursday, May 24, 2018
  • Friday, Jun. 3, 2016
ContagiousLA Signs VR Writer/Director Benjamin Arfmann
Benjamin Arfmann
Director of NBCUniversal’s Syfy series “Halcyon” to helm virtual reality marketing projects
  • SANTA MONICA, Calif.
  • --

Writer/director Benjamin Arfmann, BAFTA-nominated for his POV UCLA thesis film, Random Stop, and currently in postproduction on NBCUniversal’s 2D/VR hybrid Syfy series Halcyon, has joined ContagiousLA (CLA) for spots and branded content. 

“VR is a weird space to be in. It’s ubiquitous on the one hand, yet it’s all an exploration,” said Arfmann whose self-described focus “is to create awesome content, and the branded world has always been at the forefront of technological advancement.”

Of the paths VR may take, Arfmann observed, “the technologies that really take hold will be the ones that enable storytelling leaps so effortless they seem like magic.” Having recently worked on a doc for GE and short form commercials for FB360, he noted that is impossible to overestimate the significance of editorial in VR. “Control over the flow of time, audience attention and perspective is the key to transitioning from a gimmick to a storytelling medium,” he said.

Arfmann, who holds an MFA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television and now teaches film directing at the University, recalled that “VR took hold of me in my last year at school. I was excited by the mystery of the medium; you can fail miserably but also be one of the first people to succeed.”

Arfmann has found success through experimentation. His UCLA thesis Random Stop premiered at SXSW, was a Vimeo Staff Pick, and was nominated for a BAFTA Student Award. His all-POV half-hour pilot, Dead or Alive: Stranded in the Alaskan Wilderness, premiered on the History Channel in the fall of 2015. He is the director of Halcyon, a trans-media project commissioned by NBCUniversal and produced for SyFy with Secret Location. Striking a balance between a linear police procedural and an interactive experience, Halcyon includes episodes specially designed for VR platform Oculus Rift. Arfmann is currently in postproduction on his feature debut, Dismissed, the first film to come out of Making Horror, the entity formed by Boulderlight and Making Film Limited. Dismissed stars Kent Osborne, Dylan Sprouse, Alycia Delmore, Chris Bauer, and Randall Park.    

“Ben is a new breed of director, a mix between inventor and storyteller in a new medium that few understand,” said CLA partner/executive producer Natalie Sakai. “His curiosity and innovation are inspiring.”

“It’s worth noting that Ben is coming into his own during this huge transitional period in the medium. His relationships with VR powerhouses like Secret Location (Cannes Lions honorees and winners of the first-ever Emmy for VR content) will serve as a real force multiplier on higher level branded projects,” observed CLA associate producer Jordan Flack, “allowing for some really incredible dreams to take flight.” Flack, who is working closely with Arfmann on CLA’s VR department, added that Arfmann “brings an energy to VR development that cuts through the surface-level excitement you see in this recent VR buzz, because it’s grounded in experience and realistic expectations. He can quickly discern what is possible now and what isn’t there yet.”

Arfmann joins a CLA roster comprised of directors Andrew Laurich, Jeff Jenkins, Ben Ketai and Andrew Renzi, and photographer Diana King. 

CLA’s work includes campaigns for Carhartt, City of Hope, Farmer’s Insurance and Mercedes-Benz as well as the short film Art & Corny (starring advertising luminaries Lee Clow, Gerry Graf and Jeff Goodby) and the lauded comedy short A Reasonable Request, which recently screened at SXSW and Sundance.