The future is closer than it appears in Chilmark where a group of film visionaries recently tested out new technology to begin work on a virtual reality web series. Like a television show, this series will follow a narrative, but will be viewed with virtual reality glasses, like Oculus Rift, or on a phone mounted in a holder such as Google Cardboard. It will be a viewer directed experience like none other in current visual narratives.

Director Doug Liman (Swingers, Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) worked with writer Melissa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club) on the idea of the story. Then Mr. Liman and producer/interactive storyteller Julina Tatlock developed the story for virtual reality.

Doug Liman and Ella Dershowitz work out a tight scene. — Maria Thibodeau

Virtual reality allows viewers to turn their heads and change what they are seeing. It is a dynamic rather than static viewing experience, guided by the viewer. Independent of film techniques such as jump cuts, viewers choose freely what to focus on in a scene.

Ms. Tatlock described it as, “truly an immersive experience.”

The technique has been used for video games, flight simulators and urban planning, but a cohesive narrative has not been attempted to a large degree.

“We’re developing some web series in virtual reality and the only way I know to approach a medium as new and untested is to just jump in and start shooting,” said Mr. Liman. “That’s how I learn, even with conventional media.”

Takes idea of a green screen to a whole new level. — Maria Thibodeau

The team is mostly experimenting during the test shoot. Avrim Ludwig, who has worked with Mr. Liman on several projects, said that everybody involved in the test shoot had come together from different companies to explore telling a narrative in virtual reality. The group shoots a single scene over and over again from various vantage points with different camera rigs and different blocking. At one point, a radio flyer wagon gets hitched to a length of rope with a camera rig placed inside so they can create a moving shot. Mr. Liman said when he shot Swingers, they used a wheelchair borrowed from a nearby nursing home for the same purpose.

“I work really hard to make movies really immersive, emotionally and action wise,” Mr. Liman said. “VR by definition puts you fully in the scene. You’re in the middle of the scene.”

Watching the production it becomes clear just how big each scene can be, as collaborators who are not in the shot constantly had to tuck into corners and hide behind walls to avoid being seen by the 355 degree cameras. The test is utilizing three different cameras — the Ladybug, provided by Tom Scott of Nantucket Nectars, and two custom rigs that use GoPros attached to the top of a tripod.

Ms. Wallack said writing for virtual reality is in the same experimental phase as shooting it.

The crew gathers at Chilmark-based headquarters. — Maria Thibodeau

“I think we’re just learning how to tell the story. You are transported in a way that you can’t be in traditional film,” she said. “It completely changes your relationship with the story and characters and it prompts different biological responses. Your mind is experiencing one thing while your body experiences something different.”

The actors are in an experimental phase as well. Ella Dershowitz who grew up visiting the Island and is involved with the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, said she didn’t know much about virtual reality coming into this experience. She said she mostly just follows directions.

“They said run, and I ran,” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Tatlock explained that the test shoot is done in the spirit of learning, and mainly for the benefit of those in the virtual reality community. The scenes filmed during the test period will not be shown outside of collaborators. The general public will have to wait for the television series to get its 350 degree look.