Possibilia and The Gleam, two interactive films made by digital media company Interlude and directing duo DANIELS, aim to fill the space between the passive viewing of movies and the interactiveness of video games, according to Interlude CEO Yoni Bloch.
Speaking to Polygon today after the films' screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, Bloch said the interactive storytelling of video games was a source of inspiration for the two films, and what Interlude hopes to do is to make the interactivity in film storytelling seamless.
"One of the biggest criticisms for games like The Stanley Parable and Gone Home is that they're not games. This is where we fit in," Bloch told Polygon. "It's between a movie, where you can lie back and watch, and a game, where you just want to have the action. There's a place in between where you want to intervene, but you want to be inside an immersive film experience."
"It's between a movie, where you can lie back and watch, and a game, where you just want to have the action."
Bloch said in the 90s, there were lots of games like the full motion video games Voyeur and Phantasmagoria, which tried to merge film and video games, but didn't quite hit the mark. "What we hope to do is to do it seamlessly," he said.
The Gleam is a documentary film about the town of Guntersville, Ala. It explores the town and its people through the local paper. When the documentary begins, viewers are shown a screen full of vignettes that they can choose.Throughout the film viewers can tap on a different vignette to watch interviews and get a closer look at what the people of Guntersville are doing. Depending on which interviews the viewer chooses to focus on, the documentary's ending is a synthesis of those choices.
Possibilia is a different take on the interactive film. It begins with a couple sitting at a kitchen table as they are about to break up. As their conversation unfolds, small vignettes pop up at the bottom of the screen allowing viewers to choose how they want the break-up to play out. The script is the same in every scenario, and the timing of the dialogue is consistent throughout (this was achieved through the actors wearing earpieces that played pre-recorded dialogue back to them), however, viewers can choose the way in which the words are delivered. In one scenario, the couple, Rick and Polly, have their entire conversation on the sofa. In another, they smash vases and furniture and are hostile toward each other. In another, they take their conversation outside as Polly tries to get in a car and drive away.
Viewers can switch back and forth through up to 30 different scenarios, and the switches are seamless. The dialogue from one scene smoothly transitions into another scene, allowing viewers to play out the "what ifs" at any point during the movie. The film was also directed to loop, so the couple are in a kind of break-up purgatory. This allows viewers to try all the possibilities.
During the Tribeca screening of both films, the directors made the choices on the audience's behalf. When we later watched both films on the Microsoft Surface tablets provided by the event organizers, we were able to make those selections ourselves using the touchscreen interface. In the case of The Gleam, tapping on a vignette allowed us to dive into a person's story, and if we chose to do nothing, the film would continue along a certain path.
In Possibilia, we could switch between scenarios by tapping on the vignette thumbnails at the bottom of the screen. If we did nothing, one scenario would play from start to finish. We could switch scenarios as often as we liked.
Both The Gleam and Possibilia were made using Interlude's Treehouse technology, the same tech behind the interactive Bob Dylan music video. The projects were funded by Xbox Live Entertainment and will be coming to Microsoft devices.
"It is exciting to see the DANIELS put a new tech-infused spin on rich narrative storytelling," Bloch said.