IVG Producer Corey Ross
Founder of Starvox Entertainment & co-founder of Lighthouse Immersive
WORDS BY MILES FORRESTER | TORONTO | VISUAL ARTS
NOV 11, 2022 | ISSUE 8
Corey Ross by Kalya Ramu
Immersive Van Gogh Minneapolis, Photo by Lucas Wells
Immersive Van Gogh Minneapolis, Photo by Lucas Wells
The once-tentative tiptoe towards the re-emergence of the arts is gaining speed, and Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit C0-Producer, Corey Ross, has been at the forefront of the race to return. As founder of Starvox Entertainment and co-founder of Lighthouse Immersive, Ross strives to reinvent theatre, art, magic, music, and the performing arts in ways never before seen. Navigating the wild waters of the entertainment world, he has found freedom and fun in blurring the lines between performer and viewer to present something truly unique. When the pandemic storm pressed in, that wide ocean of possibilities became turbulent and unpredictable, forcing entertainment companies across the globe to moor up and take stock of what was indeed
possible, and where they stood. In conversation with smART Magazine, Ross describes how Starvox Entertainment and Lighthouse Immersive weathered the changes in circumstance to make Immersive Van Gogh even greater than they had thought possible.
sM | When you started on IVG, did you foresee it getting this big? How has the success of the exhibit surprised you personally?
CR — I think this has absolutely exceeded what we’d dreamed of. I mean, I didn't get here by not being ambitious! But there have been a set of circumstances that have driven us to push further, and faster than we ever would have otherwise, and maybe we're lucky that those circumstances presented themselves. One of these was COVID, which allowed us to shift focus away from our other live theatrical events. My entire team was able to focus strictly on the Immersive show because it was the only kind of show that we could put on.
Because it’s the only thing that was working, we've had several parties attempting to knock off what we're doing. So, we've had competitors, and those competitors forced us to make a choice; do we want them to get into all these cities, or do we want to get there first? Maybe it's my competitive nature, but I chose all the cities that I thought were good bets, and we moved quickly to put the shows on sale. It was a high level of “blitz-scaling”, as I call it.
We never anticipated that our focus would be exclusively on this, that we would have the great partners that we have in the different cities, like Maria Shclover, Irina Shabshis and the rest of the Lighthouse troop. But moreover, we certainly never anticipated that we would wake up one morning and find some guy down in Florida advertising with our graphics for his own exhibit! Or that the day after we announced New York, someone else would announce New York, and that all of a sudden there would be an explosion of people running to put on some version of what we do. All of this really is part of what drove the growth to be this fast.
sM | Speaking of these “Immersive” Van Gogh exhibits that seem to be copying IVG—how is IVG maintaining its creative ownership of the concept?
CR — The core of this really goes back to Massimiliano and his work in Europe, because the copycat shows started from there. They already existed in the market, and we were aware of them at a certain level before we jumped into North America. So why is this possible? It’s possible because van Gogh's been dead for 130 years and his works are public domain, so there's no copyright on his works or on the concept. The idea of using a projector to display a piece of van Gogh’s art on the wall is not something that's easily protected.
However, there is copyright on the way in which Massimiliano executes this concept, and certainly on our images of Massimiliano's work, so we immediately got the party that was using our images to cease. When asked what we have that sets us apart, we can say we have the best guy in the world doing this show. We haven't seen a single competitor who, in our own opinion and from a qualitative perspective, comes anywhere near what we're doing.
We also have a very different approach to our installations because most of what we're rolling out is permanent. We're not doing pop-ups, so it's very expensive for us but it also delivers a higher quality experience for the customers because we are investing in the venues. The competition forced us to up our game, which is why David Korins has joined us to design the physical spaces that we're projecting into. Now, it's not only Massimiliano's art; we have started reflecting on the physical space of the exhibit too. It has increased our investment, but it has also increased what the public gets to see when they come into these shows.
At the end of the day, this is an artistic endeavor and so it's really about how these three artists (Massimiliano, Korins, and van Gogh) refract off each other, and what that creates. I think that's the reason why we have the most interesting project.
sM | Are there any genres of entertainment that you haven’t yet explored that you are interested in?
CR — There are tons I haven't done yet! It's been a while since I was in the concert business, and I've never done anything in sports entertainment. I was eyeing a Mexican wrestling project for a while that looked like great fun. I really like to chase new ideas, I like to try different things and that's part of what drives me as a Producer.