pompei gedeon

ON THE BLOG: Q&A with Gedeon Programmes

We caught up with Gedeon Programmes in France, one year after they received €175,000 for their immersive exhibition and VR experience about Pompeii at the Grand Palais in Paris. See our Q&A with them below, where we learned about how the project came about, how the partnership was formed, and their tips on how to apply to the Bridging Culture and Audiovisual Content through Digital call.

Tell us about the origins of the project. Did Gedeon Programmes come up with the original idea for this exhibition and VR experience?
Stéphane Millière, President of Gedeon Programmes obtained exclusive access to film excavations of the Pompeii site between 2017 to 2019 from the Pompeii Archaeological Park. We produced a documentary, which was distributed globally, that included many 3D computer generated images to reconstruct monuments, re-enact Vesuvius’ eruption, and model of the excavation site. From all of this incredible material, we came up with the idea of producing an immersive exhibition and virtual reality experience. We then proposed this project to the Grand Palais, which was welcomed with great interest.

How did the consortium of the three partners come together for the Creative Europe application? Was the plan for this to always be a cross-border project?
In essence, this is a European project. With Pompeii as the subject matter, Italy of course was going to be a partner in the project, then the consortium was completed with the introduction of a Belgian post-production studio that designed many of the 3D images, including the volcano Vesuvius itself. Thus three European countries were intimately linked in the production of this exhibition and VR experience.

How did you approach the Creative Europe application? Are there any tips you could offer to future applicants on how to tackle the application, or in how you went about assembling  the right partners to work with?
When we discovered the cross-sector bridging call, specifically aimed at projects on the border between heritage, new technologies and audiovisual, it seemed obvious that we should submit our project. Our partnership with the Pompeii Archaeological Park and the Belgian company Nozon was an easy decision again, as we’d already collaborated in the production of the documentary together. From our experience, tips to applicants would be:

  • Imagine and conceive a project on a broad, European scale with the potential for international resonance and appeal
  • Chose partners who are complementary to the project and your work. For us, we had the Pompeii Archaeological Park to provide scientific advice and photogrammetry of the latest excavations, and also the 3D studio and audiovisual producer who coordinated operations and the consortium.
  • Ensure the feasibility of the operation is clear in your application. In ours, we added a letter of agreement in principle from the Grand Palais to host the event.
  • The project must be economically viable, with solid partners.

How has the partnership worked in practice across the three organisations and countries? Were there particular challenges or successes?
One of the challenges was communication, obviously more so with our Italian partners, with whom we do not share a language. Also the mobilisation of the teams due to the distance: As the VR exhibition and experience was always planned for Paris, it was sometimes a challenge to convey the immediate benefits of the project to our partners outside of France. In terms of successes, it was seeing the complementary work between the partners, with each bringing their know-how and expertise to the project. In addition the travelling to meet the teams, including several trips to Belgium and Italy to initiate the project, and during production were a great succes. We'd also say the use of English or translators for contracts, which was both a challenge, but also a success, because we managed to set these contracts up between the different partners from our three respective countries.

What were the overall aims for the project from the beginning? And do you think you have met them now the project is complete?
The general objectives were initially to offer the public another type of experience, to make knowledge accessible in the context of an immersive exhibition and a virtual reality experience. The project is not yet finished, as Covid-19 prevented us finalising the mounting of the exhibition and the virtual reality space. Hopefully we can open after the crisis, and the project will be finally accomplished. We have also started to sell this cultural proposal internationally, yet until we can open at the Grand Palais, we still lack the communication tool of a 3D exhibition tour, which we would produce to market the event.

What did Creative Europe funding and support add to the project?
Creative Europe funding allowed us to be a little more daring in our proposal for the immersive exhibition and virtual reality experience. The support has also enabled us to specify our cultural offer, complete it, and set up a method to collect qualitative and quantitative data around the attendance and reception of the public to this project.

Ahead of getting feedback from visitors of the exhibition itself, were you able to test the success of the project in its aims?
We know that this exhibition will be of a new kind, truly immersive and interactive, offering an innovative approach to learning. The proposed scenography offers real added value and an authentic, cultural experience.

Given your experience on Pompeii, would you look to apply for this same cross-sector funding again with Creative Europe to help fund and produce another VR-led immersive exhibition?
Of course, European aid has been of great financial support, but also brought a methodological approach, therefore adding to the very ambition of the project, which initially may not have been thought of in such a broad and international way. We would happily apply again when a suitable project arises.

What’s next for Gedeon Programmes?
The idea is to offer Pompeii to other cultural institutions in France and internationally, but also to develop other cultural experiences combining all these new modes of transmission of content and knowledge through public events. We are already working on another immersive exhibition on Japan. It’s an immersive audiovisual show to be held at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris. We are also designing an immersive exhibition and memory site on the restoration of Notre-Dame following the 2019 fire. Gedeon Programs is well placed since we have just produced a documentary which has followed with a year of work that we are developing with the EPIC and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, the cultural organisation responsible for 34 museums in France.