Anthony Geffen at Abu Dhabi Ideas Weekend

March 5, 2018

Last weekend our CEO and Creative Director Anthony Geffen, spoke at the Abu Dhabi Ideas Weekend on three occasions. Firstly he spoke on a panel on what tech can do to de-polarize our society, and he spoke on a second panel on how AI could change the way we live our lives. He also had a keynote speaking slot where he presented on overview of Alchemy’s work.

Whilst there he was also interviewed by several media outlets including Abu Dhabi Time Out, you can read the full article here and the article is copied below. He was also featured on Euro News TV – you can watch the full interview here.


Abu Dhabi Ideas weekend returns

Forward-thinking festival of thought in Abu Dhabi

Just where else in the world would you find a digital music pioneer, a virtual-reality virtuoso, a cutting-edge technology boss and a record-smashing astronaut all under the same roof – on the same weekend?

Abu Dhabi is very much a city with one eye on the future, so it is fitting that some of the globe’s greatest innovators are flocking to the emirate for a fantastic festival of thought.

Abu Dhabi Ideas Weekend, a two-day education and entertainment extravaganza, will explore some of the most important ideas and innovations of our time at a prestigious seat of learning, New York University Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island.

The enterprising event, which will take over the city on March 2 and March 3, will feature thought-provoking talks and workshops alongside games, interactive experiences, music, art, food and much more.

Now in its second year, the festival will see the campus’ plazas and walkways transformed into a bustling street festival suitable for all of the family.

Anthony Geffen

The celebrated filmmaker (see our interview) will be opening up on the future of film – virtual reality. The Bafta and Emmy award-winning director will explain how the hi-tech platform will allow directors and film producers to share new storytelling possibilities, accounting for multiple perspectives, plot lines and possibilities to get their audience even closer to the action. Could you be the Steven Spielberg of virtual reality?

A hub for new ideas
The Abu Dhabi Ideas Weekend is being brought to Saadiyat Island by Abu Dhabi government firm, Tamkeen, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organisation based in Washington D.C.

John Tate, CEO of Tamkeen, says: “Abu Dhabi is an international hub for new ideas and opportunities so it is fitting that both the city and NYUAD play host to an event celebrating innovation and creativity. We are delighted to be staging this unique and vibrant event, and look forward to welcoming the community in March.”

The future of film: Anthony Geffen 
Alchemy VR supremo Anthony Geffen shares his hopes for virtual reality storytelling

It was the landmark moment when the pioneering concept of virtual reality became, well, pretty real. Television history was made on April 24, 2017, when the first-ever Bafta was awarded to a virtual-reality experience –and for the pioneering award-winner it is just the start of a glittering new multimedia era.

Internationally renowned filmmaker Anthony Geffen, whose diverse range of works include a series of documentaries with screen giant Sir David Attenborough and a rare sit-down conversation with Queen Elizabeth II for a documentary on her coronation, has been at the ground floor of virtual reality’s rise from flashy gimmick to the mainstream in recent years.

Geffen’s virtual-reality studio, Alchemy VR, scooped the prestigious Bafta in the Digital Creativity category for David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Dive VR at the glitzy awards bash, a dazzling production that has wowed viewers all over the world, from the Natural History Museum in London to the Australian Museum in Sydney.

Geffen’s love of film was sparked by watching the legendary Attenborough as a child – and he is proud that he is now standing shoulder to shoulder with one of his heroes to lead the virtual-reality drive.

Geffen explains: “I was one of those kids who was fascinated by watching things like the Apollo missions and David Attenborough on TV.

“I started out with the BBC and have done a lot of big documentaries, including working on 11 David Attenborough films in all.

“I have been fascinated by technology and felt it could be used to tell better stories. I set up Alchemy VR to look at virtual reality in a different way, using it alongside proper storytelling. It is an immersive experience.

He continues: “One of the first films we did was David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Dive VR, which won a Bafta. He has been very excited about working with VR as it takes him to a new audience, as not everybody watches TV anymore.

“It is great to have his support as I think you need to have figureheads like him and we have also worked with people like Dame Judi Dench and Simon Callow.”

While VR is currently an event experience, with people visiting museums and theatres to see it in action, Geffen expects rapid technological advances to soon bring it into people’s own homes.

He adds: “In the future, it is an experience that we want to deliver into people’s own homes. The technology isn’t quite there yet. It is an incredibly exciting media.

“Seeing is believing. Our films allow people to get up close with the Munduruku tribe or into space with Tim Peake.”

Geffen is looking forward to promoting the media platform in Abu Dhabi, a city where he feels progressive ideas are embraced.

“There is a lot of interest in the UAE,” he says. “They are very interested in new technology. It is a place that is still quite young and is always looking to the future.”

The future is now – and it is becoming a brilliant reality.