Eliza McNitt Grants a Behind the Scenes Look at Her VR Masterpiece

Callan Malone


Each spring as the flowers on Greenwich Street start to bloom and the skies remain sun-soaked a few hours longer, Tribeca Film Festival sprinkles downtown New York with indie premieres, Oscar winning directors and well-heeled events to celebrate the industry’s brightest talents. Tonight, to kick off the two week long film extravaganza, Bulgari, the official jeweler of the festival in partnership with Tribeca Studios will host Daring Women, an event celebrating female artists paving their own way in male dominated fields.

Cultured sat down to chat with writer and director, Eliza McNitt, who will be honored for her work on SPHERES, an experiential VR episodic piece featuring Jessica Chastain, Patti Smith and Millie Bobby Brown as narrators. SPHERES was produced by Darren Aronofksy and Ari Handel and received the Grand Prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival. Bulgari’s Daring Women event will include the debut of Celestial, a short film by Ro Haber about McNitt’s experience creating SPHERES and its poetic ending as McNitt shares her work with her grandparents who inspired her journey as a storyteller.

McNitt’s rocket-fueled career began with an award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her research on Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder. She subsequently directed a documentary about honeybees with the intent of fusing science and art to broaden her audience and integrate the two fields. McNitt told us, “I needed to speak to an audience outside of the science community. I have always seen the connection between science and art and I wanted to use the impact of storytelling to translate science into something emotional and visceral for people to experience. Science is my muse.”

The scientist turned filmmaker’s heart has always been narrative, thus following up her documentary work with SPHERES, a VR experience that embraces storytelling as it flings its viewers through the cosmos. McNitt told Cultured, “The viewer is the protagonist and every beat is tied to the hero’s journey.”

McNitt grew up learning about the world through the voices of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan. She wanted to bring women’s voices into the scientific experience and particularly three generations of influential women whom audiences would recognize and respond to. “I had known forever that I wanted Jessica Chastain to narrate ‘Songs of Spacetime.’ Patti Smith came naturally, too. She’s the mother of the universe. And then there’s Millie Bobby Brown who has captured the hearts of an entire generation and will continue to do so as she narrates a kind of ring around the rosie through the planets.”

McNitt won’t be the only name honored tonight. Bulgari is also feting Italian rapper Priestess. “I am so honored to a part of this experience,” McNitt says of sharing the spotlight. “It’s a truly encouraging step for all of us young artists who are starting out careers. I want to inspire young women to embrace these kinds of stories and create their own.”