Every year, Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of students from around the world. To make the most of their Canadian experience, many opt to live with a host family. Homestay is one family’s story of life with international students—a look at how complete immersion in another culture can create a clash of expectations and change our understanding of family, hospitality, nationality and love.
Homestay is a multi-layered experiment that incorporates the latest in VR technology to create a beautiful folded paper-craft representation of the Nitobe Memorial Garden at the University of British Columbia that narrator Paisley Smith visited while grieving the loss of a friend and “family member.”
The paper garden signifies the failure of cultural symbols to fully represent people in all their complexity. As users move through the botanical world and interact with key elements, the heavily symbolic visuals fold into existence enabling you to literally construct the environment, from a single leaf to a beautiful, immense garden.
Smith’s narration powerfully conveys both the youthful observations of someone who is discovering much of the world for the first time and the mature insights of a person with a more seasoned understanding of universal themes such as family, culture, empathy and tragedy.
TRIGGER WARNING: This VR project contains themes about suicide and loss, which may be upsetting to some people.
Paisley Smith (Co-Creator), Jam3 (Designer and Developer), Rob McLaughlin (Producer)
Paisley Smith (Co-Creator) is a Canadian filmmaker and virtual reality director based in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She is fascinated by technology’s ability to draw audiences in and open them up to difficult conversations. Homestay is her personal story—a reflection on suicide, grief, and cultural understanding.
Smith was named one of the 10 filmmakers to watch in 2016 by The Independent and she was selected as a youth leader at the 2017 Walrus Talks series, presented in partnership with the Order of Canada and Canada 150. She holds an MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Jam3 (Designer and Developer) is one of the world’s top digital production and design agencies. They specialize in creating highly advanced, experiential works in both the advertising and entertainment industries. At Jam3, everything is informed by its three core principles: story, craft and technology. If it is possible, Jam3 can do it.
Jam3 is one of the most awarded interactive design studios in North America, globally recognized by major interactive and design bodies, including Cannes Lions, the Webbys, Awwwards, the Favourite Website Awards (FWAs), the Advertising and Design Club of Canada, and the One Show. Jam3 is the only Canadian company in the FWA Hall of Fame.
Rob McLaughlin (Producer) is a Canadian producer and journalist best known for his work in interactive media. He is currently the Executive Producer of the National Film Board of Canada’s Digital Studio in Vancouver. From 2008 to 2011, he was the Director of Digital Content and Strategy at the NFB, where he led the development of the institution’s digital programming strategy and pioneering interactive documentary work, including Welcome to Pine Point and Bear 71.
Prior to working at the NFB, McLaughlin was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. There he focused on developing new forms of audiovisual content designed to attract new audiences, including the interactive radio service, CBC Radio 3. He also served as the CBC’s Director of Digital Programming.