Verity Drew-Firth is a 12-year-old actress and director. Her directorial debut Loading Life looks at virtual reality and its ability to unlock someone’s potential; both in game play and in the real world.
Lyle (Milo Ghiandai) slumps on his sofa. The floor and side table are littered with take away boxes, used napkins and crisp packets, but in amongst the detritus of his slacker lifestyle is evidence of the young boy’s former interests. Light sabers lie on the floor, robot figurines have toppled over on the table and a discarded console handset sits among the rubbish. The mise-en-scene screams of lethargy. Lyle answers a call from a friend and says he doesn’t want to do anything; he’s too tired. But on discovering a pair of VR goggles under his seat he finds the key to a whole new dimension.
It’s in the virtual reality sequence that we really see Firth’s creative flair. Shot with no budget, it’s the inventive use of visual post effects that help create the virtual reality in which Lyle finds himself. As he shifts into the world of VR, his surroundings appear like rough and colourful sketches of a real world. We see Lyle’s hands in a point of view shot as he looks down at himself in this new dimension; his hands look as though they are sketched in place too. He looks very different, and he’s behaving differently too. Rattling, metallic-sounding sound effects put you in mind of the ‘levelling up’ sound in a video game as Lyle runs through a virtual playground and hangs upside down from a climbing frame. He’s exploring, he’s energetic; his found the adventurous side he seemed to have lost in the real world.
As the upbeat music of his excited exploration of this new world makes way for a more contemplative piece, we see Lyle take stock of the virtual world. He sits on a swing in the VR park and seems to be noticing the difference in himself. He also, thanks to some choppy editing, seems to be able to switch onto the swing next to him without dismounting. The rules may be different in this dimension, but something says it won’t be long before he returns.
The game buffers and Lyle finds himself thrown back into reality with a swift close-up. His eyes open and he adjusts to the bright room. Suddenly, our angle has changed. We’re no longer staring into his messy room, but rather out of his window onto a sunny new day. Firth quite literally has given Lyle a new perspective and we see that he has a new lease of life. His friend calls and he eagerly invites him over. And people say the modern obsession with new technology is a bad thing…