Experiencing Interruptions?

Walking With Reality

Evan W. Gadda is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Musical Theatre. The team at @One Digital Media within the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center was able to bring a virtual reality experience to him with the hopes to bring this to more people.

  • Michelle Rebaleati
  • Evan Gadda
    Key Cast
  • Harry Thomas
    Key Cast
  • Eelke Folmer
    Key Cast
  • Kyle Weerheim
    Director of Photography
  • Mark Gandolfo
    Executive Producer
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Virtual Reality
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 9 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 14, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    0 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
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  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Michelle Rebaleati

Michelle Rebaleati is a Multimedia Production Specialist who graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2014 with a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering. In addition to recording and mixing audio for film and music, Michelle produces 360-degree video content from Burning Man and all over Nevada.

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Director Statement

Director’s StatementEvan Gadda is never short of inspiration and hope. He’s a student at the University of Nevada, recognized first by his trademark loud uncontrolled laughter and second by his bulky power wheelchair. Evan lives with Cerebral Palsy, but has never let his disability stand in his way of expressing himself as an academic or an artist. The best parts of “Walking With Reality” were capturing his genuine expressions.

I met Evan in the atrium of our library when I was showcasing a short 360 video I produced of the Burning Man festival. He was elated. He had always dreamed of attending the Burning Man festival, but the playa dust would be tough on his asthma and on his wheelchair. We left those aspects out of our virtual experience.

Evan watched that video five times in a row. His joy of being able to experience the festival echoed through the library, and that sparked an idea. If this one VR experience could bring him this much happiness, could we give him a whole day to experiment? I planned a day with my team to bring Evan back to the virtual playa and beyond. I asked Evan if he was interested in participating with the idea, and in his words, “My whole life changed with one word, and that word was ‘yes.’” We thought it was a good idea to film his joyous reaction. That’s how this documentary began.

This time was even more exuberant. I had no idea that the skiing experience Shawn Saritihad produced was the exact same mountain and ski run that Evan had skied when he was fifteen-years-old. Watching Evan’s physical and emotional reaction to VR I realized that virtual reality has powerful potential beyond the simple ‘wow’ factor and entertainment value.

Fortunately at the University of Nevada we have experts studying the impact that VR is having on individuals and in society. It was fantastic to have an interview with Eelke Folmer, an associate professor for Computer Science Engineering for this voice.

Our other interview, Harry Thomas, manager of the @One Digital Media Technologies, has developed a great relationship with Evan over the years helping him with his studies in the library.

For both Kyle Weerheim (Director of Photography) and I, the most rewarding part of filming was to attend Evan’s dance performance. To see Evan’s passion on stage was magical, followed by a standing ovation like I’ve never seen.

While editing the film, I was moved to tears multiple times. I kept thinking, I need to make Evan proud with this. My primary intention was to make sure that people watching “Walking With Reality” would feel empathy over pity for Evan. Empathy is the shared emotion of walking in another person’s shoes, so to speak. Virtual reality is the shared experience of seeing with the same eyes. It was a joy and an honor to tell a story that illustrates that parallel.

-Michelle Rebaleati