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Event Innovators 2015: Félix Lajeunesse & Paul Raphaël

The co-founders of Felix & Paul Studios aim to push the limitations of convention cinema and virtual reality.

Photos: Joseph Ghaleb

Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël aren’t trying to escape reality, but rather bring their audience closer to it (including 66-million-year-old dinosaurs) with their unique style of storytelling.

Trained in traditional filmmaking, the co-founders of Montreal-based Felix & Paul Studios, an ideation and production agency, wanted to push the limitations of conventional cinema, experimenting with video installation and projection mapping, then eventually moving into the world of virtual reality exclusively. Lajeunesse and Raphaël want viewers to experience the story, not as a spectator, but as a part of it. “It felt like a window that was open onto another world. … Traditional cinema can’t give you that feeling,” Lajeunesse explains.

And more and more companies are making that quantum leap too. The pair’s 20-person team uses a proprietary platform for 3-D 360-degree live-action virtual reality filming and post-production to create one-of-a-kind experiences for brands like Fox Searchlight, Dos Equis, and Cirque du Soleil.

At International C.E.S. in Las Vegas and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, both held in January, Lajeunesse, 34, and Raphaël, 33, debuted “Wild—The Experience” starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed from the Fox Searchlight film. Guests could virtually plod alongside the actress as she trekked the Pacific Crest Trail. It was the first time the directors had developed a complex narrative, which adjusted to the users’ reactions. “It’s completely unconscious; it feels you,” Lajeunesse says.

Similarly, Lajeunesse and Raphaël are currently working on a companion film for Jurassic World, which was released in June in conjunction with the movie. Lajeunesse explains that viewers will be able to feel the awe-inspiring presence and proximity of a dinosaur—minus the fear factor.

For Dos Equis, the studio needed to create an interactive online experience that fit the brand’s long-running larger narrative of the “Most Interesting Man in the World.” Felix & Paul’s piece allowed users to enter into a virtual masquerade (with flirtatious women and a leopard in attendance) as the guest of honor, thanks to Oculus Rift; the experience was available for viewing at bars and sponsored parties across the United States.

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