At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, two Free The Bid directors—
Ro Haber and
Savanah Leaf—were given the opportunity to premiere stunning short films as part of BVLGARI’s multi-year partnership with Tribeca Studios.
Ro Haber’s “Celestial” follows the journey of Eliza McNitt (who is a Free The Bid director as well!) in her work on the groundbreaking VR project Spheres, which, in 2018, became the first VR experience to be acquired in a seven-figure deal at Sundance Film Festival. “Celestial,” takes a look at Eliza and how the teachings of her grandfather, a scientist, inspired her work on Spheres.
We spoke with Ro about representing new technologies onscreen to shape a more expansive future, the aesthetic influences behind “Celestial,” and working with an inclusive crew for the shoot.
Ro Haber: “Celestial" was born out of my recent interest in futurity, new media, and the world of Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality and AI, alongside my desire to tell cinematic emotional stories. I am a Tribeca alum, and Tribeca Studios reached out and asked if I would like to pitch on a collab that they were doing with Bulgari to highlight women who were transcending boundaries in their field. Because of my background and interest in new media (I was a Sundance New Frontier Lab Fellow in 2017 for a VR project), I immediately thought of who was killing it in that particular field. AI, VR, AR—in all of this new media, it is hugely important to think about representation (who is telling these stories), because these are the folks who are literally designing our future. We don’t want the future to look exactly like the past—cis, white, hetero and male.
I decided to profile Eliza McNitt, because she has been one of the most successful VR creators today and she is a woman. Her VR series—Spheres—has to do with the cosmos. I find space imagery to be endlessly beautiful, and it was a great match for Bulgari because stars evoke diamonds. My inspirations for the project were the work of James Turrell, old NASA photographs, and a bit of Tree of Life/Terrence Malick vibes. I also had been watching tons of Chef’s Table (which I adore) and really loving the macro shots of nature and the ingredients that really told the story of the places the chefs draw inspiration from. I applied this to the film. We really aimed to show things on a macro and micro level at once, and to bring humanity and an organic quality to space (which is what Eliza does in her work). I could really envision a sort of liquid, neon, celestial evocative film. I pitched it to Tribeca and they were into it.
"We really aimed to show things on a macro and micro level at once, and to bring humanity and an organic quality to space."
We shot in Miami during Art Basel. I try to hire crews that are as female-centric, queer/trans, and/or POC as possible. My DP, Mego Lin, is wonderful at beautiful floaty handheld work—and has a great sense of light. We used the Panasonic Varicam, because it works well in very low light because of having dual native ISOs, and used vintage Kowa lenses. We shot over 4 days, and then hopped into the edit with the very talented Lindsey Nadolski. The film premiered at Tribeca last month. The event was very glitzy and fun. They decked us out in Bulgari bling (my reference to them was Migos, lol), and we showed the film along with folks from Vanity Fair and Paula Weinstein. It was a lovely experience—I want to continue doing fashion work because of the ability to do stylized abstracted high concept imagery.