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Interactive film: a new age of viewing

Written By Laurel Hunt

In 2021, Netflix produced 457 original titled films and series globally, reassuring viewers that the franchise shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. The streaming service has seen some of their original motion pictures win big in award season, with ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ winning four Oscars and ‘Ted Lasso’ winning two Golden Globes in 2021 and 2022. It’s evident therefore that the increasing popularity and desire to enjoy well-accoladed screenings from the comfort of one’s own home has paved way for a new approach to viewings. We see Netflix’s success reflecting our preference for blockbuster viewing from the comfort of our own sofas. In recent years, Netflix has seen the success of two series deemed ‘interactive’. Discussing the triumphs of both ‘Black Mirror; Bandersnatch’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’, let’s consider how this concept has shown itself on our televisions.

The success of Black Mirror’s mind twisting series ‘Bandersnatch’ cannot be understated. The concept of this film-like episode commences with the viewer selecting an option and making simple decisions such as what the character in the episode eats for breakfast. The decisions become more serious as the episode progresses, making the viewer decide who lives and who dies. This drastically unique take on a series that received so much credibility for the first four seasons was a risk. So, what was the motive for creating a viewing that challenged the accepted perception of television? As a show with multiple outcomes, completely reliant on the viewer’s selections, this viewing concept is certainly a novelty, and one that’s peaking interest globally. Carla Engelbrecht, Netflix’s director of product innovation, states that “94% of viewers were actively making the decisions”, and therefore succeeding with engaging in controlling the narrative. I have no doubt that many of the viewers were first-time Black Mirror watchers; I mean why wouldn’t you give it a go? This was Netflix’s first attempt at collaborating interactive technology with regular viewing, and inevitably this was going to draw an irregular audience of first time viewers, regardless of the content of the TV show.

*Source: Daily Express

Kaleidoscope follows an experienced thief and his crew who are planning a $7 billion heist from his former ally’s company, yet greed and distrust pose a threat to the plan. The viewer’s decision comes when deciding the episode; with 40,320 combinations to make, they decide in which order they want to view the 8 parts, all of which are colour coordinated. Each episode commences with a different period in relation to the robbery, for example ‘7 years before’, ‘5 days before’, and ‘the morning after’. This series undoubtedly had the feeling of a regular television show with a brilliant story line, yet the true appeal lies in the concept that everyone's understanding of the development and aftermath of the heist differs slightly. As opposed to ‘Bandersnatch’, the viewer has received all the information possible once all eight episodes are seen. There are no secrets nor surprises, and so a sense of closure and content can be reached.

So, what have these two victories in viewing forms proved for the future of television? They have given not only the public a taste of the power that technology can play in screenings. They have also confirmed to creators and producers of series such as these the advantages of collaborating a good story line with the use of something as accessible to many young people as an Xbox or PS controller to decide what they want to see on a screen in front of them. The ability of an audience to do this will no doubt hold great influence over the writing of scripts for future series, unlocking an exciting, endless portal of viewing where viewers can become puppeteers of their own entertainment.

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*Perspectives claims no rights over the photos used in this article.

*Source of cover image: Netflix.


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