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Watch: Behind-the-Scenes Clip Showing Tribeca Premiere Life Rendered‘s Use of Unreal Engine

Premiering at Tribeca, Emma Needell’s short film Life Rendered tells the story of a closeted gay Colorado man who lives on a ranch, where he takes care of his aging cowboy father while seeking romance in the virtual world. Set in the near future, the short draws inspiration from the director’s own childhood.

“I explored the depths of the internet long before I ever saw a major city,” Needell says. “When I turned seven, my parents built a solar-powered cattle ranch in Colorado. The county was as rural as it gets, where everyone participated in the rodeo on Saturday and church on Sunday. As a nerdy Jew who’s allergic to horses, I didn’t fit in. But then our family got the internet — and suddenly it didn’t matter that I had only a few connections in real life, because I was connected to the entire world through my computer screen.

Life Rendered is about loneliness and love, born from my experience — and my writing partner’s experience as a gay man in Arizona — as outsiders in places where conformity feels like law. In such scenarios, technology becomes a lifeline. Ultimately, Life Rendered reveals how connected life can be when people are free to be themselves.”

“I am proud of the themes we tackle in this project and it was wonderful to work with the disabled advocacy nonprofit Respect Ability for script consultation and casting help, as well as best practices on set, as well as script consultation with GLAAD, the leading LGBTQIA+ nonprofit in Hollywood.”

Life Rendered was the recipient of an Epic Megagrant, which gave the filmmaking team resources to use Epic Games’s 3D creation software Unreal Engine to build the film’s virtual worlds. The filmmakers shared with Filmmaker a behind-the-scenes video showing the production process at work, which can be viewed above.

Comments Needell, “The film is set in the near future, when virtual reality is as common as a video game, and follows a young gay man in rural Colorado who uses virtual reality to find romance. The technology in this film brings people together – and so we wanted to evoke a human feel to the virtual scenes. The behind-the-scenes video shows the creative process we went through to ground the production in reality, even as we constructed epic worlds that were anything but. I have been blown away by the response to the film so far at TriBeCa, including at the world premiere screening this week.”

Life Rendered is currently playing on the Tribeca home viewing platform.

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