Media X goes to Mammoth Pacific's virtual reality short film "A Yosemite Welcome" screens at film festival

The virtual reality film, "A Yosemite Welcome," created by University of the Pacific's Media X faculty and students, made its California debut at the inaugural Mammoth Film Festival, Feb. 8.

The VR short film is one of multiple Muir-inspired projects Media X produced in the fall that celebrates the 150th anniversary of John Muir's first trek into Yosemite Valley.

“We received a really positive response on the film," said Media X program director Kevin Pontuti. "Most of the attendees were from California and familiar with Muir, so that drew people in. Mammoth is an outdoor adventure Mecca on eastern side of the Sierras, directly east of Yosemite so I think it was a good fit for the project, as visitors to the festival were primed for an adventure story."

An early version of the film was first shown as a live multimedia experience in October at the Discover Pacific Showcase during the university's homecoming festivities. It has since been developed 360-degree stereoscopic short film that tells the story of John Muir’s first encounter with a Yosemite bear.

Students Luke Bolle '17 and Jonathan Sosidka '21, who served as sound recordist and editor on the film, accompanied Pontuti to Mammoth Lakes to show the film and to experience a film festival, which allowed the students to make industry connections and learn first-hand how the industry works.

"As a Media X student at UOP, I feel it's so crucial to get out and go experience events like this just so you can see what's it's really like to be in the industry," said Sosidka.

Media X program director Kevin Pontuti attended the festival with students Jonathan Sosidka and Luke Bolle.

"I've been collecting business cards. I've been taking down names so I can apply for work. I’m exploring to see where I fit in the industry." -- Luke Bolles '17

"It's very helpful getting insight from people who have been in the industry for so many years and get in contact with them, share some business cards, get some contact info and perhaps collaborate in the future, post-graduation." -- Jonathan Sosidka '21.

"A Yosemite Welcome" was installed on a new streaming platform hosted by Los Angeles-based company, Amaze VR. The film was available for festival attendees and visitors to Mammoth Ski Lodge to experience along with the other curated films and projects.

Interviews with industry reporters help spread the word about Pacific's Media X program, which started just last fall.

Actor and renowned John Muir interpreter, Lee Stetson, works with Media X to bring the university's vast collection of Muir's drawings, journals and letters to life.

Pacific-Muir connection

Students at University of the Pacific have the unique opportunity to use firsthand accounts of Muir's discoveries thanks to the indefinite loan of his journals, drawings and correspondence to the university by Muir's descendants.

Access to such material has allowed Media X students to create a virtual museum, a website, an e-book and films about Muir and his environmental legacy.

“As an educator, I think it's important to help students connect historic context to contemporary issues. We plan to expand this project with other Muir stories and settings in hopes of connecting the Muir legacy to a new generation of conservationists,” Pontuti said.

Students also had the great advantage of working with renowned John Muir interpreter and actor Lee Stetson, who is known for his presentations in Yosemite National Park and as a historian and voice talent in the Ken Burns documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."

Stetson is featured as Muir in "A Yosemite Welcome."

Many of those projects will be on display when the university's John Muir Center hosts the John Muir Symposium from March 23-24.

About Media X

Media X at University of the Pacific is designed to create storytellers with a point of view who will be able to adapt to new technology and trends throughout their careers.

"What’s unique is how our Media X program re-imagines Pacific’s liberal arts tradition of scholarship and critical thinking," Pontuti said. "Students can leverage Pacific’s archives -- including the papers of musician Dave Brubeck and civic leader George Moscone, as well as John Muir's -- and work with historians to research and create meaningful content."

"A Yosemite Welcome" was produced in collaboration with Jeremy Hanlon, cinematography; William Lowe, editor; Joshua Salyers, historian; Rena Fraden, producer and Jimilynn Dorough, producer.

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