On Films interactive, non-linear and modular experiences

Recurring concepts | Interactive film & stories

What are we showcasing here?

O r i g i n a l work created for the purpose of interacting with the story and perhaps further, for trans-media cross-platform development, is characteristic of Web-browser interactive films.

Visitors of the interactive website take part physically—by the remote, mouse click or keyboard use—and cognitively in the interaction—by cues, choices, curiosity. Interactive film invites users into a sticky Web environment – not unlike the world of gaming. There, Website users, the film’s audience, must make small Web choices—lighter than gaming logic—to follow and advance the story and the journey.

Users play at becoming amateur film directors. Entering an interactive website and making directorial choices can turn into an immersive journey: Users may wish to explore the choices not taken in round one and dig deeper into the story in round two of their visit.

What we are not showcasing here?

Work lacking its own interface, e.g. a Youtube hosted video offering interactive choices. The cinematic interface creates a more immersive experience.

What do we consider interactive story-telling?

1) Interactive stories made of several media, letting the user choose which part and aspect of the story to drill into. Non-linear story-telling.

2) Interactive video with clickable and actionable areas inside the video, giving the user a range of options: clicking on story background, adding metadata or perhaps sourcing and buying aspects featured in a brand film. Actionable non-linear story-telling.

How to and what to consider in the making of?

See related MODULAR CINEMA entries: How to make an interactive film?

What comes first in the development decision-making chain: developing the content or its interactive technical requirements?

It is advisable to decide early on in the process if it is better to make an interactive, rather than a linear video. But the format can be adjusted pragmatically in the process, as the University of Paris’ Department of Hypermedia advises in its Crossmédias discussion.

To ‘keep interactivity simple’ and user-friendly is another piece of advice given on i-Docs.  

Why make film interactive?

Film continues exploring an active and closer relationship with its audience. Digital interactive stories turn users into semi-directorial collaborators and increasingly open their project up to worldwide participation. Compared with mass media traditional linear story-telling, an obvious advantage of using digital interactive video  includes that which the mass media are craving: a direct relationship with the audience. ‘Direct’ could become ever more tactile and sensory in an interactive future. In fact, we have come to live in that near future, as the technology to measure reactions or to trigger interaction with a screen exists today. Simon Staffans points to the sensory and cognitive reactions that can be researched with the right technology at hand and analytical research. Keep an eye on MODULAR CINEMA’s Platforms/tools updates.

Marketing and promotion are reasons that commercial organisations will increasingly adopt an interactive film and transmedia content strategy. The MODULAR CINEMA site is focusing on interactive film of any genre and media mix (text, photography, graphics, etc.) but rarely on brand-owned interactive film. The reasons for choosing interactive are simple: you increase the quality of relationship with the audience and with the tracking of digital user data, you can now quantify it.

Trans-media narratives |  interactive film as one piece in the story context

An interactive story can be one component in the larger trans-media narrative.

‘transmedia takes [interactivity] a step further and we move from interactive to truly participatory storytelling. What that means is we enable the audience to step into the shoes of a protagonist and actually become storytellers themselves’ (Anita Ondine)

Transmedia doesn’t really mean you create stories and games that are expanded across media. No. Transmedia means you work in any damn medium you want. It means your work is not defined by a medium. It means you can be a painter one day, a novelist another, and a game designer on the next. But this is heresy in creative industries, and difficult to do. (Christy Dena)

Trans-media envelops diverse elements, as per Steve Peters’ overview of definitions and authorities on the subject:

  • integrated story approach across multiple media platforms
  • the story can be scripted by decentralised authors but shares and informs a common universe across media platforms

Trans-media stories take place on media and in ‘reality’ or role play, a mix that the participatory ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) use to deepen audience engagement. Martin Elricsson broke story-telling conventions in Sweden by inviting to co-create the story of Sverige Television’s The truth about Marika.

Audience participation does not contradict creative licence and creators’ voices. Trans-media is not confined to ushering a story that can cross different media, it is about the work and the story’s experience. The anchoring point is the creative force. The producers of transmedia are the driving force defining the experience, not the media that flavour the producers’ story.

exploring your creative practice in any area you damn well please means your body of work becomes you. You become the common factor that binds the works together, you being the ultimate work of art. (Christy Dena)

Case studies of trans-media projects, including Showtime’s Dexter, are analysed at, news and showcases at Siobhan O’Flynn‘s or Fiona Milburn‘s ScoopIt and interviews at MIP blog

And the debate goes on.

Starter kit | the making of interactive film projects

For newcomers

Six key success factors to consider in the process when entering the digital publishing market.

For film/project directors of transmedia

How to direct across platforms? By Christy Dena

For producers and writers

How to create more immersive and creative interactive logic, akin to the more evolved gaming paths logic (in French)? By Louis Pacini

For producers and directors

What is the vantage point of using panoramic 360° photography and filming for immersive story-telling?

On the entire interactive film-making process

How to organise interactive path architecture designing, story writing, music composing, editing, audio mixing, post-production? By Tim Warner

Where is the audience?

Audience mapping tools are emerging, in beta phase Crowd |

On ethics, anyone?

By Andrea Phillips at SXSWi 2011

On the nature, use and future of web documentaries

By Yves Jeanneau, a founder of doc festival Sunny side of the doc (in French) and production company Films d’ici. And by Le blog documentaire

For funders, promoters and producers

The big question: What is the business model? Is it the same as in film-making? How does the free web release affect the model?

For mixed funding and co-production advice, see Simon Staffans on cash cows, ARTE France’s boss Michel ReilhacPauline Augrain for France’s CNC in 2010.



See the Interview category.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s