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Choose your own adventure, the film?

CitadelofChaos.jpgCan you imagine a film where you can choose your own storyline as it evolves? Where at key points in the film you can decide what actions characters take, how events are shaped, and experience different storylines and endings to another audience member?

Well that would seem to be the intention as news comes that the original Choose Your Own Adventure novels have finally sold their rights to a film production company.

Firstly I was surprised that the choose your own adventure books that I remember in the UK such as Citadel of Chaos and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain weren't the first around, in fact the first appear to be from the early seventies.

Edward Packard is the man who started trying to get the concept published and it was only in 1975 when he teamed with R. A. Montgomery that they managed to get their first novel released. It wasn't a hit and it took a few years until a larger publisher, Bantam Books, took on the novels and the craze hit. They went onto deliver over a hundred and eighty titles with two hundred and fifty million books selling worldwide.

Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter a deal obtain the rights for the Choose Your Own Adventure novels has almost been completed. The studio involved is 20th Century Fox and they, along with the producers involved, plan to turn the novels into a multimedia, cross-platform franchise, utilising as many buzzwords as possible and creating a new one with the four-quadrant action-adventure franchise…whatever that means.

Actually we do get a hint of what that means, and perhaps what that could mean for a film. Packard and Montgomery eventually parted ways and Packard kept the rights to the books as well as moving the idea into the world of apps. You can see where the multimedia idea comes in, especially when it appears that Fox will have all the rights.

However it's still not clear what this will mean in film. In other areas they could create choose your own adventure novels, graphic novels, apps and videogames to compliment a film, but what about the film itself? You surely can't create a film where you choose what you see?

Well perhaps you can.

It isn't a new idea to be able to view scenes, be presented with options of what should happen next and then see what happens based on your choice, it happens in games all the time and I remember watching an animated story on Laserdisc which allowed you to select what happened next.

In October 2006 I wrote about a film called The Onyx Project which would feature almost four hundred scenes, each just a few minutes in length. Throughout the film the viewer was fed a menu of possible choices which would feed into what they saw next, it even featured a shuffle option allowing you to experience a different tale each time. The film was being released on DVD but I never really heard anything more about it.

In February of this year I wrote about two new film technologies that had been developed. One was from a company called Many Worlds who had developed a system that could monitor the reactions of an audience through selected members brain waves, heart rate, perspiration levels and muscle reactions. Depending on how these audience members reacted different scenes could be played at key points in the film.

Another technology came from JumpView Entertainment which was based around the idea of Second Screen and would feed additional content to the viewer as well as offering them alternate views and options to select options to keep viewing.

Let me just point out that Second Screen is not the same as Social apps, i.e. it isn't a Twitter or Facebook feed of messages containing the same hashtag or links to similar material but content that is relevant to the programme you are watching, content that adds an extra dimension, tells you something interesting about what you are watching right now, or expands the story.

App was a film released this year which encouraged the use of Second Screen within the cinema itself. Audience members downloaded the app to accompany the film which listened to hidden markers in the soundtrack and reacted by offering additional information over and above what was on screen. The main character in the film was receiving strange messages on her phone, messages that would also appear on yours at the same time. The app offered to broaden the experience of the film and with the technology is transferrable to DVD, Blu-ray and digital, allowing it to be more than just a cinema experience. You can read more about it on the official site, although it is in Dutch.

If you think of all these innovations then you can clearly see how Choose Your Own Adventure could be brought to a film. While it might not make it in the cinema, the idea of a group of twenty plus people trying to control a single film would be a nightmare even if it was done on consensus opinion, it could easily make it on DVD, Blu-ray and digital.

Download a serialised story and select how it moves forward meaning you would download a different episode from your friend, imagine a series of 24 with different options available at the end of every episode - will Jack shoot the terrorist, interrogate him, or do his bidding to see where it leads? The branching does however increase costs and timescales.

It will be interesting to see how the studio take and develop this project, but more importantly how the audience will accept it.

The idea of developing a film from a choose your own adventure novel isn't new, in April 2010 (no, not a joke) Steve Jackson, of Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy book fame, sold the rights to his choose your own adventure book House of Hell and the production planned to bring it to life. As far as I know it never happened, will this make it?



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