“[C]inema replaced all other modes of narration with sequential narrative, an assembly line of shots that appear on the screen one at a time. For centuries, a spatialized narrative in which all images appear simultaneously dominated European visual culture; in the twentieth century it was relegated to ‘minor’ cultural forms such as comics or technical illustrations. ‘Real’ culture of the twentieth century came to speak in linear chains, aligning itself with the assembly line of the industrial society […]. New media continue this mode, giving the user information one screen at a time. At least this is the case when it tries to become ‘real’ culture (interactive narratives, games); when it simply functions as an interface to information, it is not ashamed to present much more information on the screen at once, whether in the form of tables, normal or pull-down menus, or lists.” (232)
Film scholar David Bordwell posts a terrific summary of multiplatform/transmedia storytelling, covering everything from key precedents in cinema and theory to the hope many of us have for the form to reach higher and do more:
…creating a first-rate feature-length movie takes tremendous talent, sweat, and resourcefulness. It is immensely harder to create a story universe that sustains the same intensity and quality across platforms. True, you can sprinkle clues and cryptic references among websites and YouTube shorts. The formulas of genre (horror, mystery) help you generate shock effects and mystification in teaser trailers. Appeal to stock characterization helps you mount a “realistic” Second Life life. But building a vast, sturdy world teeming with distinctive characters, unpredictable plotting, and human resonance is an immense task. (davidbordwell.net)
Daryl Cloran, Anita Doron and Mateo Guez’s interactive feature film, Late Fragment, is being featured at the Future of Cinema Salon at the Cannes Film Festival before it gets its DVD release on July 10th. You can check out a brief live demo of the work online at the NFB.
The future of cinema will not be defined by a single direction. Old genres will live alongside new genres. But it is increasingly becoming clear that at least one of these directions will take the form of cinema as some kind of participatory experience, where the audience of one or many may impact how a narrative unfolds itself over space or time. These new forms should not be reduced as simply “choose your own adventure” models but instead should be seen as the coming to life of post-modern preoccupations with multiplicity, diversity, open-endedness, spatial conceptions of self, and story puzzles explicitly expressed through interactive technology.
Late Fragment is an interactive film that lets audiences piece together, both literally and figuratively, the cinematic narrative in front of them. The physical experience is not unlike channel surfing in front of the television, except imagine that each channel presents different scenes from the same story. Sitting on the couch, remote control in hand, audiences can click “enter” on their remote control, and impact the way the story unfolds, sequencing the events of the story depending on when and how often they click “enter.” Late Fragment is like many of the non-linear movies we have come to love including Crash, Short Cuts, and Amores Perros. But with Late Fragment audiences now impact what scene they may get next. (nfb.ca)