Coming up with immersive experiences is not just a question of figuring out what the market is in demand for, even though that does play a big part. Our ideas are also built from our personal lives, our previous adventures, our hopes, and our dreams. Such is what happened when we decided to create an immersive experience around the Wild West, and in particular around a little-known side of the Wild West: the big urban cities.
In 1998, long before I came to France, I was living in San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University, where I studied Motion Pictures and Television. I wanted to create the next big series, something infused with a unique vision and, already back then, something focused on amazing women. And San Francisco itself was all the inspiration I needed.
When thinking of San Francisco, known at one time as the Paris of the West, most people think about big tech, cable cars and cannabis. But its history is much more intriguing and much more complex.
In the mid-19th century, the San Francisco population abruptly grew from a few hundred people to over 25,000 almost overnight, thanks to the Gold Rush. This rush of people, combined with poor law enforcement, created the deadly mix that is often represented in Wild West movies: a city where you could shoot down a man where he stood and face no consequences, a place where women were vastly overnumbered and overpowered and had little choice but to sell their own bodies in their bid for survival. The red-light district was called The Barbary Coast, and it was filled to the brim with music halls, cabarets, saloons… and, of course, brothels.
Back in 1998, I decided to show this vibrant, fascinating history in the form of a TV series. It was to center around five women trying to build back their lives after the devastating earthquake of 1906 through the creation of their own cabaret. I saw it as a bold mix between Hell on Wheels and Cabaret, and wanted to make it a musical.
The pitch deck was very warmly received, but alas, it was also way ahead of its time and the series was never greenlighted. A few years later, I had the idea of turning it into a stage production. But it wasn’t until I created my own immersive experience company, Eat The Cake Studio, that I felt I could finally bring my vision to life.
The Barbary Coast has everything we as a company want to showcase in our immersive productions: bold, strong women rising up against male domination, a mix of danger and glamour, and a sulphurous exterior that hides a deep complexity. Just like Marie-Antoinette’s story is so much richer than the infamous (and wrongly attributed) “Let them eat cake”, the Wild West has a lot more to tell besides its infamous saloons and duels at high noon. Which is exactly why we decided to call it “Le Far West Re-inventé”, because while we aim to drop you into the Wild West you love and expect, we also fully intend to make you discover an entirely new world full of unique stories, strong characters, and our usual mix of music, drinks, and fun.