Judges Spotlight October 11, 2016

5 Things You Should Know About Chris Milk

IADAS member and virtual reality auteur Chris Milk is changing the way stories are told and art is made.

Chris Milk at the 15th Webby Awards

You won’t find a more staunch evangelist for virtual reality than Chris. Speaking at an infamous TED Talk last year about VR’s potential for change, he said: “VR is a machine that makes us more human.”

Milk began his career in music videos and traditional filmmaking before becoming a pioneer in immersive art. A natural storyteller, Milk helped push virtual reality technology into popular use by working with Webby-Winning media brands, like The New York Times, VICE Media and Saturday Night Live, to explore new ways to convey a message, express an idea, and share an experience—all with you at the center as an active participant.

As for a mission statement, on the Here Be Dragons (formerly VRSE.WORKS) site, there’s this: “Now, in our time, you can actually walk a mile in another man’s shoes.”

It’s Chris Milk, perhaps, who’s walked the most in the journey to actualize VR.

The Ultimate Empathy Machine

IADAS member and virtual reality auteur Chris Milk is changing the way stories are told and art is made.

MTV Star

Milk honed his moving image talents working on music videos. Watching his remarkable skills on display in Gnarls Barkley’s “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” video showcases his mise en scene and creative aptitude.

And chances are if you were watching MTV during Kanye West’s “College Dropout” phase, you saw Milk’s work on such memorable visuals for “Jesus Walks” and “Touch The Sky.”

In fact, the inspiration for the “Touch The Sky” video was none other than Milk’s childhood hero, Evel Knievel. Milk’s homage went south with the daredevil however, who eventually sued him over image rights (“Evel Kanyevel,” the red, white, and blue attire, etc.).

But Milk counts it as a success, saying: “The man that I worshipped as a child, the man that I wanted to become as an adult, I was finally able to get his autograph” in a TED talk.

Belief In Change

The Wilderness Downtown was a breakthrough project for Milk who, working with Google and the band Arcade Fire, created an interactive multimedia video to showcase the possibilities of HTML5.

The video, while an emphatic digital experience (his 5-Word Acceptance Speech: “There’s no place like home“), likewise demonstrated the potential conscious-bridging elements Milk would explore further in his VR work.

In a similarly stirring and emotive project, Chris Milk was the second unit director of “A Mother’s Promise,” the video that would introduce then Senator Barack Obama to the world stage at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. A historic moment, “A Mother’s Promise” underscores Milk’s unflagging passion for championing social, civic and political causes.

Music Man

Chris Milk loves music and dreamt of becoming a musician when he grew up. At the 15th Webby Awards, Chris’s work on The Johnny Cash Project—a group-sourced music video homage to the late cultural icon—was performed by Norah Jones onstage simultaneously with Chris’s interactive video playing above her.

Recently, he published an essay on Medium, “Foolishly, I became a filmmaker instead of a musician,” explaining how a love of music propelled his career into unlikely places—namely, as the CEO of Within.

In a TED talk delivered around the time the Medium piece was published, Milk describes how music—his first passion—inspired him to make VR the foremost artistic medium. “I’m searching for the same thing, though, to capture that lightning in a bottle.”


The art world’s taken notice of Chris’s innovations, showcasing his work in high-profile gallery exhibitions and installations at some of the most prestigious cultural institutions including: MoMA, Tate Modern, Cent Quarte, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, and the above project “The Treachery of Sanctuary,” which was shown at the Barbican Centre.

Likewise, Chris has created viral hits from “Last Day Dream,” to the amazing Summer Into Dust installation at Coachella, to Beck’s 360 video tribute to David Bowie in “Sound and Vision,” and “Clouds Over Sidra,” a VR film made in partnership with the U.N. tracking one girl’s journey to a refugee camp in the middle east.

See What's Possible

Prepare to get schooled: Within, the rebranded Vrse, is currently making a 5-part documentary series with General Electric dubbed “The Possible.”

It will be the first-ever serialized virtual reality content and will focus on bringing viewers into the world of scientists and inventors—the eureka! sphere, as it were. See it on VR headsets everywhere late 2016.

You can follow Chris Milk on Twitter and Instagram. Check out his work and that of his colleagues on the Within and Here Be Dragons sites too.

Making groundbreaking VR experiences or great Film & Video content? Enter the 21st Annual Webby Awards today and have work judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences who, besides Chris Milk, count Head of Industrial Design at Oculus, Peter Bristol and David Coz, Co-Inventor of Google Cardboard as members.