Ed Lantz, Mark Laisure, and Kate McCallum from the team at Vortex Immersion Media join Cirina Catania, OWC RADiO host, and share their experiences about working with Dr. Jancy McPhee, and Larry O’Connor of OWC, to help bring the Humans in Space Art Competition to the world.

We also go under the hood with Vortex Immersion Media as Ed, Mark and Kate explain how they have created next-generation immersive entertainment journeys with a focus on a deeper, more meaningful experiences and positive social impact. Their every-popular “Mesmerica” immersive visual musical journey features the music of James Hood and has been playing to sold-out audiences since its inception.

Ed Lantz is the Founder, President and CTO, Vortex Immersion Media, an entertainment technology engineer and immersive experience designer. He designs 360 digital dome venues and produces and directs those experiences. According to Ed, “It is a visual musical journey with poetic narrative.” It most certainly leaves audiences happier when they leave than when they arrived.

Joining him is Mark Laisure, the CEO of Vortex Immersion Media. He is one of the world’s leading designers of transformative 360 immersive entertainment and an inspirational speaker, producer and C0-Host of The Life Changes Radio Show and Live Event Series. Mark focuses on sharing and embracing “change” in order to “do life better.”

Kate McCallum is a Producer, Content Strategist, Writer, supporting Vortex Immersion Media with business and creative development.

James Hood’s Mesmerica 360 experience has been playing to sold-out audiences since its inception. This unique event enables guests to share an immersive experience that is truly out of this world.

In This Episode

  • 00:39 – Cirina introduces Mark Laisure, CEO of Vortex Immersion Media. Ed Lantz, Founder, President and CTO, Vortex Immersion Media, and Kate McCallum, a Producer, Content Strategist, Writer, supporting Vortex Immersion Media with business and creative development.
  • 05:25 – Mark talks about the involvement of Vortex with Humans in Space Art.
  • 09:24 – Ed shares the vision of Vortex Immersion Media and the story of how it began.
  • 13:36 – Kate shares her experiences in being a producer, writer, and consultant, and how she decided to work with Ed.
  • 19:50 – What is Mesmerica?
  • 23:56 – Kate explains how they produce James Hood’s Mesmerica in various domes and planetariums in the country.
  • 28:13 – On a stage director’s standpoint, Ed elaborates on directing a live immersive performance being projected in a dome.
  • 34:17 – Ed points out the challenges of filmmakers in producing stories in a dome format.
  • 39:08 – Kate shares how they researched the science of happiness and positive psychology while making Mesmerica.
  • 43:02 – Visit Mesmerica 360’s website at mesmerica.com to learn more about the show.

Jump to Links and Resources


This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio. I’m back again, and we have been talking in the previous few minutes with Mark Laisure and Ed Lantz about their involvement with this wonderful challenge called Humans in Space Art, and we’re able to get Kate on the phone Kate McCallum, which I’m really excited about. Kate is a writer-producer, and she was on this team. The Vortex team was one of the major sponsors of this event. So, Kate, I want to ask you because you weren’t here earlier. What was your involvement, and how do you feel about this project? 

KM: I work with Vortex in the capacity of creative development kind of business strategy from a more interpersonal level with the artist and the creative community, as well as heading up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that we launched back in 2004, called the c3: Center for Conscious Creativity. So Vortex generously has been a supporter of our nonprofit as well. And we are able to kind of have our headquarters here, and also host events and support artists through our 501(c)(3) nonprofit doing work that is exploratory or more on the social impact spectrum versus a for-profit spectrum, so c3 functions that way. So I kind of stand as a bridge between that work as well as the commercial work that we do through Vortex. And then I have my own company Bridge Arts Media. So my role in this particular endeavor with Vortex was to help support through pre-production coordination, helping produce the show itself, and just working as an interface between Jancy and her team, and the Vortex team, as well as Los Angeles Center Studios, which is where our offices and the Vortex Dome is based in downtown Los Angeles. And kudos to them because they also supported the event. 

They’re wonderful. We were talking earlier. So I got some of this from Mark and Ed. How did you feel when you walked in that room and saw all those young people there? What went through your mind?

KM: Hope for the future is absolute joy. I love young people and inspiring them and helping them creatively express themselves. I think the more we can empower youth with creativity and the arts as a whole system of education-I grew up in a Midwestern town, and we had so much art and support in music, we had a band, we had an orchestra, we had a choir, and everybody had those accessible to them as young people, and I think that even though someone may be tracking into science or medicine or any skill set. If you have music, or if you have art or creativity and exposure to those art forms at a young age, to add to your life experience kit and the way you perceive or feel or experience, it’s so empowering as a young person. So I was just so impressed with what Jancy is doing and what OWC also supported. And it was just amazing. And what the kids generated was so impressive. I mean, when you empower children and young people to have a platform, it’s so exciting because they’re so talented on so many levels when they are given the freedom and the tools. 

When children are exposed to art, creativity, and music at a very young age, they become more empowered and that’s good for their growth. Click To Tweet

I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s really wonderful.

KM: Just knowing what her heart’s behind and also as another woman who’s taken on having a nonprofit as well as a for-profit company and being entrepreneurs. God bless her because that’s a lot of work. And it’s a lot of contribution from a very philanthropic place. To do that and try to run and support nonprofit. So I think that she has a very, very big heart and tremendous compassion for helping bridge science and art. And I think that that’s an incredible juxtaposition to support youth going into these areas that may not be as appealing if they’re just presented from a textbook or intellectual perspectives like with testing and scores. And adding art to science is magical. And I think that she’s really onto something with this organization and even the title of it, Sci-Art Exchange, just catches your eye, catches your ear, it catches your attention. And I believe that it really is progressive and futuristic, and is setting a template for what our schools could also adapt. So yeah, she’s fantastic. 

So Mark, how do you feel about the company’s involvement in things like this challenge that you just supported?

ML: Well, that’s one of the most exciting parts of having this opportunity. When it was brought to us, it’s really in the sweet spot of who we are as a company, what we aspire to bring to the world. The desire to support the youth, the otherworldliness of the format, and the domes, and this environment lend itself so perfectly to the creativity. And everything that Kate just mentioned about Jancy, Sci-Art Exchange, and what they’re about. And obviously, what OWC supports and bringing its technology out to the world. So it was really kind of a perfect combination of tech and inspiration, and betterment for the imagination and empowerment of our youth was really exciting. A lot of fun.

So, do you think you’re going to be doing more of this? 

ML: Absolutely. It’s part of our mission. It’s core to who we are. Not only working with the kids but working with the kids in all of us. In fact, I like to joke around a little bit that I wasn’t really good at being an adult, so I stopped.

When people say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “I’m not grown up yet. Ask me later.”  

ML: Right. Exactly. So I think, that’s part of at least what I’m aspiring to do is try to walk that line of returning us as a company and as a society to that imagination and that wonder and that awe of being excited to be alive, yet being successful at the same time. I don’t believe you have to be one or the other. I don’t believe it has to be work or play. And that means we have to challenge the norms of what we have been. And in some ways, that’s what the dome asks you to do. Every time Ed, Kate, and the team reimagine a new world or a format of experience, they’re asking you to kind of stretch the bubble a little bit. And everyone walks in there, the kids and Larry O’Connor himself, all the people that experienced that, you immediately kind of step back and the eyes get big, and it asks you to rethink things. And I think there’s so much good that can come from that.

I agree. Where do people go to hear more about your involvement in the Sci-Art Challenge?

ML: That’s humansinspaceart.com and also the Sci-Art Exchange website, sciartexchange.com. And then, of course, you can follow us at vorteximmersion.com and vortexdomes.com, which are our main landing page.

Awesome. The Vortex team is an amazing group of very inspiring producers, writers, directors, and they are creating these amazing shows that take place in the Vortex dome, and they go to various locations around the world. I know they’re permanently planted in downtown Los Angeles and I’m probably making mistakes about what I’m telling you about them. But if you have a chance to go online and look up Mesmerica, check that out. We’re going to talk more with Ed Lantz, who is the co-founder and president and CTO of Vortex, and Mark Laisure, who is the CEO. And Kate McCallum, who is the writer, producer, and a dynamic force. So Hello, everyone. Thank you for taking the time to do this. You were introduced to me by Larry O’Connor, who is the owner of OWC, who was one of the sponsors of the recent sci-fi challenge the Humans in Space. And he fell in love with what you were doing. So I’m so grateful for you taking the time to be here today. So can you answer what Vortex is, and when did it start, and why?

EL: Well, I founded Vortex in 2007. And I had previously spent a number of years working in planetariums. So I started out as an aerospace engineer. After seven years of that, the artist in me clawed its way out and left aerospace to work in a planetarium, writing code to make the sun of the moon go, and developing an automation system that we sold 15 of. And rolled half a million-dollar profit back into making laser light shows. And I was just always taken by the immersive nature of the dome screen, of just covering your entire retina. And it occurred to me if we could map pixels to this thing, it would be like virtual reality. So in the mid-90s, I left the planetarium to work for a planetary manufacturer. Now Evans & Sutherland and Spitz on two companies merged. And we started selling these systems, multi-projector edge-blended video displays. And so that has now developed into an entire industry. There are six or eight manufacturers, and there are 1600 digital domes worldwide in planetariums and science centers. IMAX just released a digital dome system, which is rolling out. And that has created a platform basically for the production and distribution of these highly immersive shows. And I think of it as like digital cirque, if you will, Cirque du Soleil show Ka. It’s a $130 million theater with a moving stage to create this massive spectacle. So what we’re able to do now is bring in visual effects artists to create a spectacle in a digital format, because as you know, anything you can imagine in your mind can now be created on the silver screen. So the domes are simply taking that screen and wrapping it completely around your head to create the illusion that you’re not just watching that environment through a window, but that you’re actually in that world. And it triggers different brain states than film or television can ordinarily access in people. And one of those is the sense of awe, what you get from the grand spectacle of a Cirque show. 

When you say wrap around your head, explain to people. It’s not goggles, right? It’s way up there, and it’s all around you? What happens when they walk in the dome? Can you describe it?

EL: People think of a planetarium as a digital sky, if you will. And it really is kind of like that. You look up, and you don’t see air conditioning ducts or anything like that; you’re looking into infinite space. And that’s the idea: the dome lights go down, the theater disappears. We recreate reality for an entire audience of, in some cases, thousands of people. So it’s sort of like putting a VR headset on thousands of people without the need for an individual headset. I think of it as instead of a sports car driving through VR, or gaming and VR, it’s kind of like a tour bus through VR for a group of people.

What an amazing gift that you are to the Vortex, but also the Vortex is for you because of your left-right brain. Isn’t that wonderful? Right, Kate? You’re laughing, but it’s true.

KM: It is true. It’s interesting that you mentioned that and picked up on that because Ed and I often speak together. We will be invited to speak at conferences and panels, and he often speaks on the science and tech side, and I’ll often speak on the story side. But then there’s a crossover between us because we both are definitely trying to balance our brains. I definitely have to work harder on my left brain. 

That reminds me of the writing. How do you work as a producer, writer, and make all this happen? 

KM: Interesting. That’s a really good question. Most of my background, I was 20 years in the studios, and I worked with writers, showrunner producers, so I worked in mainstream television and feature film development and production. Then my aspirations, not knowing really where my skill sets were best used in the industry, because I came from Michigan and moved to LA when I was in my 20s. I didn’t know exactly which track to go down. And so, as I started working in the studios, I realized that I was probably more oriented toward producing, but yet I was very interested in the creative process of breathing a story and then pulling the teams together. So I ended up becoming a development executive, which I loved, which utilizes both skillsets of producer and writing. So while I had written screenplays, a few on the side, I wasn’t really pushing that side of myself into a career track as a writer, but I gained tremendous writing skills because I worked with some of the top writers in the industry. So that was really part of my kind of early-career DNA, the writing and developing of stories, and then how you put them together. And of course, the motto in screenwriting is always, “Show it don’t say it.” So I met Ed at a conference, and he talked about the dome theatres. I was so interested in that. And then I ended up meeting with him in Philadelphia, and he showed me a dome theater, a film on the screen. And at that time, I was working on Law and Order. And when I saw the power of the format, I was so blown away, and I really said, “Ed, I want to work with you. I think this is the future of a new media format that I really think could be extremely successful and powerful.” So I’ve been very fortunate to work alongside Ed and Vortex. Actually, when we put the dome up in 2010, here at the studio, we brought in artists because artists, we’re very drawn to space. So we started in Artists-in-Residence Program and really let the artist explore the space and kind of between Ed helping them technically and kind of my support on the creative side, we created a pretty robust program to allow artists to come in and explore and then supported them in public performances because we can also do that in our little theater. So it’s been really fabulous. And as a musician myself, Ed and Mark.

girl in white long sleeve shirt
When people say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “I’m not grown up yet. Ask me later.”

Oh, you’re a musician, too? Oh my gosh, this is the Vortex Band.

EL: We’re multifaceted, that’s for sure.

I’ll tell you a secret. I wanted to be an opera singer.

KM: That’s my training.

Okay, girlfriend. This is another conversation. 

KM: We gotta meet.

We do. Oh my gosh.

KM: That’s so funny. Did you study? 

Yes, I did. I was living in France studying Conservatory, And when I graduated from high school, I had to make a decision because I was offered a scholarship to go to Paris, or did I want to come to the United States and go to college? And so I decided to go back to my country. 

KM: And you didn’t choose music in the US college?

Yeah, it’s a long story. Not for this. Not for this. That, I think, is one of the reasons why I so resonated with what you guys are doing, because it’s a combination of art and music, and emotion and technology. This got to be a dream come true. And mark for you, you’re the CEO. So you’re watching all of this happening, and you’re thinking about the big picture, and I’m also assuming, the financing and the bottom line, but you’re very creative with the other things that you do in your life you have the show called Life Changes.

ML: Life Changes, a show that actually led me back towards Vortex, and I feel like everything I’ve done for decades now has led to Vortex. So yeah, thank you for bringing that up. We all play unique and overlapping roles. And I think I’m one of the few people on the planet that thinks as broad as Ed does. So we really hit it off. And my aim is to really help build out the infrastructure so that the advocate and the team can do what they do best and really get this imported now so this format can go permanent, interactive, and standardized. And once again, it’s how we started talking to OWC because of the demands of that type of a global interconnected network. So every time that Vortex did one of its hundreds of big brand events, they would have to be a developer, it would have to be a tech company, and it would have to be a studio. So there are very different skill sets. And it was actually a creative project that led me to Vortex, and I do kind of span the bridge of being both creative and having worked in entertainment and production, but also have come from Wall Street and work within the finance world and work with technology commercialization teams. So we all have our roles, and Vortex is really uniquely positioned with pioneering expertise in this format, but the ability now to benefit from that expertise and take it global and scale it.

Who wants to answer the question, what is Mesmerica?

EL: I call it a visual, musical journey with a poetic narrative. It’s like semaphoric storytelling, semaphoric narrative, in other words, using symbols to take you on a journey, and not just dialogue or words. It’s actually the producer of the show. I was executive producer, but we all worked with James Hood, sat down, and said, “What do you want to do?” and James said, “I want to bring happiness to people.”

I love his quote about “happier than when they came in.” He wants to make people happier than when they came in. And I watched the video that’s online, and I saw the look on people’s faces of utter wonder and almost this childlike appreciation for life itself. That is really unusual. Think about all the entertainment that’s out there right now, and how negative some of it is and how violent some of it is and what you guys are doing. So I want to ask you about James, how did you find him? Because he’s pretty awesome.

KM: Very great question, and he is an extraordinary man. After I met Ed, I launched a small arts and music label under my company banner, where I brought visual artists and musicians together. Because Ed had launched a channel called The Harmony Channel, which was a showcase on Comcast VOD for visual music, and so we work together. That was our first kind of collaboration before Vortex. And in that job, I found the power of visual music and really felt compelled to continue working in that space. So the dome was a perfect format for that. So we started having visual music concerts back in 2011 with another artist Noa Winter Lazerus, and Audri Phillips collaborated on our very first concert. And then we had Steve Roach come in and work with Audrey. And Steve is amazing, he’s a Grammy-nominated artist. He did three concerts in our dome, as well as many other visual music combos. And then James came in 2013, and he had an album called Ceremony. And he wanted to do a dome show, so we worked with him to create a dome show that we then presented live on several occasions in the Vortex dome. And then Ed helped James take it to Europe, and it was showcased in Ghana, Germany, and a dome festival, and then it also showcased in Hamburg at the planetarium there. Then James made another album called Mesmerica. And he plays the hang drum, which is a really unique acoustical drum, which looks like two woks that have been melded together. And that’s the primary tonal instrument because he used to be the percussionist for Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. So he’s a percussionist and a composer. But the hang is his primary instrument now under this label called Moodswings. So he brought the album back to us and said, “Let’s do another show.” So we started working on the show in the summer of 2017 and finished it nine months later last year, last summer in July. And we showcased it down in San Diego at the Fleet Planetarium where you live, Cirina. 

My daughter told me she tried to get tickets for it, and couldn’t get tickets.

EL: It’s often sold out.

KM: It sells out a lot. But the beauty of that show is that we licensed animations from animators that work in the full-dome from around the world. So we have artists contributing to this project from Japan, Germany, Russia, Israel, here in America. I can’t remember if I’ve missed any other countries.

So for people who haven’t seen the show, James is on stage performing live, right? 

KM: What we did is we created a one hour film, which then serves as the backdrop for James to play live. So he plays in front of it only in the Vortex Dome. Because what happened is we did do it live in San Diego, and we also did it live up at the Chabot Planetarium in Oakland. And it was just cost-prohibitive for us to tour our tech team because we had to bring a sound person and the lighting person and then everyone up in hotels. And so what we realized is that people really responded to the film as well. And so we said, well, let’s just see if we can show the film. And not have James performing in front of it and see how that goes. And people loved it. And it was perfectly acceptable to them. And so we decided that we would just start to focus on marketing the film itself, but then have James do the live performances in our theater in Los Angeles because he lives here in Altadena, California. So it’s easy for him to come to the studio and perform. But it’s the same film that’s touring as well, that is played on the screen behind him. 

Ah, I really want to see this live. I just really do. So I wanted to ask you actually about how many people are on your crew? Who wants to talk about that? 

KM: Ed, Why don’t you answer that question?

EL: Yeah, we have about a dozen people working with Vortex, primarily in Los Angeles and lots of contractors in the periphery. It’s interesting because it’s a very eclectic mix, like on the live performance Mesmerica, you have a lighting person on lighting sound, of course, you have stagehands, you have somebody running video. And then the show extends into the building and not just the dome. When you arrive, there’s a sort of a beautiful space that’s themed out a bit, and you have a massage in one corner, you have a virtual reality experience, you have a different aroma, an elixir bar. So, it’s like a whole experience that we seek to create, and we’re really doing our best to bring that experience element to the planetarium. And IMAX Domes where we’re performing as well. That’s a process because when you go out to these different domes, we have to hire some local people to do that work locally. So it’s limited what we’re able to do. Some of them have their own gift shop, and they don’t want to sell anything there. So our ultimate vision is to build our own arts and entertainment venues, ultimately around the world. And so every city should have a dome dedicated to arts and entertainment or maybe a small DomePlex, so you have a performing arts theater, you have a stand-up sort of multi-use immersive space like that. So it’s become a sort of a multi-purpose creative placemaking cultural arts entertainment convergence center if you will.

I love it, Mark. How many cities are you guys in? 

ML: From a Vortex perspective, there are two parts to that answer, because there is the distribution of the content and where Mesmerica is, and then there’s also the development plan. And we have a Mou in Phoenix to be building one of our larger DomePlexes, and there are various cities that we’re in discussions with what will become the Primary Vortex Network with the extended network that is being developed and utilized by the Mesmerica distribution. 

Seeing kids today, hope for the future is an absolute joy. Inspire young people to creatively express themselves. Click To Tweet

I’m really encouraging people to learn more about this. Let’s talk about the live aspects of this and directing it. And what does that look like during the show?

EL: Sure. Well, I guess I can speak to that since I’m the stage director.


EL: One of the things that we strive to do, and we just really are just scratching the surface with Mesmerica. But when the show performs live, we want to bring the immersive-like infinite environment being projected on the dome. We want to bring that seamlessly into the room and around the stage. So we have a moment in Mesmerica where James is playing in this cosmic, almost like an avatar of Pandora forest, that’s glowing and little particles arising and a beautiful sky with patterns happening and comets and everything. And there are these plants that are luminous plants. Well, we went out and bought some plants that kind of look like that and painted them with fluorescent paint, and we turn the lights down, and we bring on the black lights, and the whole room lights up, and it looks like what’s wrapping around you on the dome comes actually into the room and around the stage. So that’s just one attempt to create that sort of effect.

So I’m picturing you in a room somewhere switching. I’ve never done a show like this. So you have to explain it to me. How does this work? 

EL: To be honest, the show is quite simple. And we were forced to make it simple, because when we took it on the road, most of the planetariums out there if you try to do a live performance, they really don’t have what you would consider a live performance show control capacity. So you can’t like hit queues, and they don’t even have lighting, so we had to bring our own lights down to San Diego. We had to give them a video file with the music already on that. So we had a sound bed on there. So James is playing live over a pre-recorded sound bed because the theaters do not have the capability to operate the video live like a cue list. So really, what we’re doing in LA now is we push a button, and the lights are programmed, the video is programmed, the background music that James is playing over is programmed. And then the sound drops out at one point in the show, and James takes over and plays live for a while, but everything pretty much runs itself. There’s some live sound mixing that we have to do to balance the microphones because he is playing live. But it’s a very simple show, and it’s made our lives easy. 

Okay. For everybody listening. Here’s a tip. This is a brilliant mind saying it’s easy. It’s not easy, Ed. It’s like Einstein saying no problem. No, it’s true engineers do that, they understate things, and I think that that’s one thing that you do. It took you nine months to put the film together for Mesmerica, right?

EL: Filming the show was another matter. Especially since we didn’t know what we were doing. So we experimented a lot. There were a lot of test screenings. And actually what we’re really anxious to do now is use biometrics, like EEG. So we want to have a small audience hooked up and wire their brains because we want to understand better how this is affecting your mind.

Oh my gosh.

EL: And ultimately, I think we can use AI to watch your brain, control the visuals, and tweak the visuals until we optimize the brain states.

group of people sitting in chairs in a neon room
The goal in every event held is always to make people happier than when they came in.

I love this. I’m in a sci-fi movie at the moment. 

ML: Yeah, I wanted to add to this because this has been the joy of watching this unfold. But it’s really, as this format becomes more and more accepted and standardized and out there. It is not a layup in terms of producing. It’s a new way of storytelling. The industry hasn’t just jumped into the production in this format, because it’s not natural evolution. It’s a different way of storytelling, and there’s a reason it’s not just a bigger screen. Your neurology as an individual is programmed from birth. So when you flip a switch and the sky changes, that is an experience, and it takes you a minute to adjust to that. So understanding how the audience is going to react, when to use it, how it’s going to affect the individual that much more deeply, it’s a process, it’s a shift in consciousness in the way that we’re exchanging information. And it really is a paradigm shift in that exchange. So it’s something that’s been very exciting, but it’s also something that we have a unique experience, because of years of them having produced that, in engaging with audiences, seeing their reactions, knowing how far to go or when to pull back or giving them just the right moment to ground and really kind of get centered, there’s a much deeper conversation around this. This then leads all the way back to what you started to talk about with content like Mesmerica, where we take great responsibility, and how the format is used, and how we are showing up in the community. So if we can get you laughing and dancing and playing and or experiencing a deeper meaning, but doing it from a mindful and intended space, a very profitable endeavor, but it’s a very prosperous endeavor from a human perspective.

EL: Filmmakers come into this format and often are very challenged. There’s a cinematic language that’s used in the film, and it primarily depends on the frame, right? And you think about it, like if a typical storytelling modality would be you have an establishing shot of a fellow businessman walking with a briefcase. And next thing you know, there’s a tight shot of his white knuckles gripping the briefcase and then a tight shot of his sweat on his brow and the micro-expressions of fear. These are how stories are told, right? Now in the dome, you’d see that the establishing shot just fine the fellow walking with the briefcase. But if you wanted to see his hand gripping, you’d fly up close to his hand, but then you’d be looking up way overhead, and then when you do the tight shot of his face, his face would be 30-40 feet tall in the dome, and then people would scream. And what’s very interesting, I’ve been researching this, one of the founders of Pixar, Lauren Carpenter, gave me a book years ago called The Death and Resurrection Show. And he said, “Ed, you have to read this, because what you’re doing this sort of applies to that.” And it’s Rogan Taylor, I believe, is the author. And what he writes about is the shamanic roots of the entertainment industry, he’s saying the entertainment industry came out of shamanic storytelling. And the shaman managed the psyche of the tribe. And they would go deep into these mystical states of consciousness and come out with stories and prophecies and insights and how to heal the tribe and how to help the tribe. And then it would express that through stories, rattles, drums, vocals, drama.

And masks.

EL: Masks and props and all sorts of things. So that has survived today, but Mr. Taylor made a point that a lot of the mystical roots are gone, and what we have is a little bit hollow, because we have the trappings of storytelling, but not the soul and the purpose of storytelling. So what’s interesting with the domes is that you’re going back into a sort of almost like a sacred space. When you’re in the dome, you walk in, and your mind is overwhelmed with “Wow, I’m in the other world,” and we can recreate reality and take people on these journeys but not just journeys into physical reality. The domes before planetariums use video projection was being used in military simulators and flight simulators, right? To simulate reality. We can now simulate the experience of going in the mind. And in cinematic storytelling, if you told the story of a Zen master having a Samadhi experience, you just see some dude sitting there with his eyes closed, right? How do you tell that story? We express our emotions through behavior and expressions, but what about some of these internal states of consciousness? It’s seven years for a Zen master to teach you how to achieve these states of consciousness. I believe that we can now start to model states of consciousness and now learn through observation and even experiences for how to organize our internal state of affairs. So Mark mentioned paradigm shift, that to me is at least one of the areas of immersive media that is a huge paradigm shift for storytellers.

I could talk to you guys all day, but I’m gonna have to let you go at some point. There is an element here where I can honestly say that you can all three be trusted to take good care of the people that come in to see this because you’re putting them in a space that opens up their hearts and their minds and their creativity. And what you’re doing is so positive and so inspiring and beautiful and gives them an opportunity to question the universe. And I haven’t even seen it. All I’ve seen are the videos that you have online. So I know why the people are coming out looking wide-eyed the way they are.

KM: Thank you. I just wanted to give kudos to James Hood, especially, and also Michael Saul, our director, who directed Mesmerica. When we started working on Mesmerica, we looked at the science of happiness, and we also looked at positive psychology. And these are two very strong movements in the psychological area of study. In fact, at Berkeley, there’s a center for the scientific study of happiness, and they offer courses in happiness. We really did some research on some of the hard science that’s going on in this space, as well as neuroscience and looking at Interior states of mind. And James was very, very, deeply committed to that. So the Sci-Art schematics that are underlying the entertainment and the art and the visuals as well is embedded in it very lightly. It’s not pedantic, it’s not preachy or anything like that. But it’s definitely woven into the piece to really honor people in their own inner lives and how to create more sense of peace and happiness in their own self. So I just wanted to add that because there is a really impressive body of work that’s emerging on this science of happiness and positive psychology that we are also excited to expose through this project.

EL: That’s awesome, Kate. And there’s another whole dimension to this Cirina, that you alluded to that I would like Mark to address, and that is the responsibility. Because this extended reality kind of experience and that includes VR, AR, 360 domes, and all of that. The dome is augmented spatial reality, technically speaking, starts to become a very powerful broadband interface to the brain. And you have to take responsibility for how the audience experiences. What are they experiencing, and what are they leaving with? And we’re challenged with advertisers who want access to space, entrepreneurial people who want to milk it for every penny they can with different temptations and pressures to use this format in ways that might not respect people’s nervous systems.

woman wearing 3d sunglasses
Immersive intelligence is quite a paradigm shift. It’s an excitingly unique experience.

ML: Or conversely damage them. There’s big money in the horror movement. So a lot of times, the first question is, oh, we get this new horror franchise. Well, we’re good at what we do, and the better we are at what we do, the more effective it is. And as we said, your neurology pursues when the sky changes, right? Your neurology is adjusting to that, and it perceives it as real. So if someone produces that puts you in a war zone or a terrifying horror space, the more we scare you, the more opportunity for PTSD. For people that are already on the frayed edge, the coming out of their daily lives, we have a choice. What direction do we want to take them? And we want to take them out of that state of anxiety and put them back in a state of balance and harmony. And I think we’ve taught our kids how to shoot each other and blow stuff up enough, and maybe now it’s time to teach them how to play together again and how to feel safe and how to be in awe of life and of the little things. And to do that in a commercially viable, cool hip sort of way, to me, that’s a limit. That’s why I’m here, and I’ve been very blessed to become part of the Vortex team, and we take a great responsibility.

I’m so glad you guys are there. It is timely. It’s wonderful. It’s artistic. It’s successful, and hopefully, it will be worldwide very soon. So, where do people go to learn more about it? 

KM: There’s a website www.mesmerica.com. And then you will get information about all the cities it’s playing in, the artists, tickets link to Eventbrite. And we also have a very active Facebook page and following there too. 

I wish the three of you the best of luck, and really, I’m going to be watching you and rooting for you from the sidelines. We need more people like you in this business. So I’ve been speaking with Ed Lantz, Mark Laisure, and Kate McCallum of the Vortex team. I encourage everyone to check them out on the web and to go see one of their productions. I just fell in love with it. Everybody on this team, you guys are wonderful people doing great work. So for everyone listening, thank you for spending the time with us. Remember what I tell you every day I say get up off that chair and go do something wonderful. Thanks for listening. This is OWC Radio, we’re signing off, and we’ll talk to you again very soon.

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  1. Build a business that reaches on a more interpersonal level. Pursue creative development within your community, and aim to build a strong camaraderie with the people who support you.
  2. Unleash the artist within by finding the inner child that’s curious, playful, and open to trying new things. 
  3. Inspire others to find their own creative gifts as well. Help them find communities that can help them immerse themselves into something remarkable. 
  4. Empower others to share their knowledge with more people. Spread the light and art as far as you can, because art always brings joy and freedom of self-expression.
  5. Create alternative education materials that are more appealing than the traditional classroom and textbook standard. Don’t take the fun out in learning.
  6. Find a mission or cause that you can help grow with the help of your skills and knowledge. There are many organizations out there who are in need of help.
  7. Collaborate with like-minded individuals and utilize resources to produce something worthwhile.
  8. Keep exploring new ideas. Continue to search for what’s out there. Find new perspectives to help improve your perception about life and humanity. 
  9. Check out Mesmerica, a visual, musical journey with a poetic narrative created by James Hood that is out of this world.
  10. Check out Vortex Dome’s website to learn more about their mission.

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