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Film allows audience to choose the story

DavidStrathairn.jpgDavid Strathairn is appearing in a film where the audience can choose how the film develops almost scene by scene. The Onyx Project features almost four hundred scenes, each of a few minutes in length, and throughout the film the viewer is presented with a menu of possible choices which decide which scene to show next. It even features a shuffle option, where you can let random choices decide the movie outcome for you.

The film is about a Special Forces Colonel who takes a rogue mission into Afghanistan which goes terribly wrong. Strathairn stars as the Colonel, and the film features him talking to the camera in a hotel room along with real law enforcement officials playing the Colonel's troops.

From Cnet news. The filmmakers are neighbours of Strathairn's, Larry Atlas, and Douglas K. Smith. They created the DVD with a mere US$200,000, and that included creating the software to handle the interactivity. The DVD plays on a Windows XP Pentium 4, and the site states clearly that it needs a lot of resources to run.

I'm quite interested in this idea of storytelling, that subsequent viewings could be totally different, and that you can choose how the story unfolds. My only concern would be that the ending and the key plot points of the story are all the same and it's only the little details between that change, so however innovative the idea is you're still not going to watch it that much.

It all reminds me of those Fighting Fantasy books when I was younger, Ian Jackson and Steve Livingston - if I remember straight off the top of my head! I loved them. Read a paragraph and decide whether to attack the orc, enter the secret passage, or eat your magic potion...

Would you be interested in a film that allows you to change the outcome, or would this take you out of the film experience too much and interrupt the flow of the story?



Would you be interested in a film that allows you to change the outcome, or would this take you out of the film experience too much and interrupt the flow of the story?

Yeah, but there is no flow of the story in this case.

Sorry, I don't want to be a curmudgeon, but I hate this idea and the others like it we've seen (there was news a while back about a Final Destination DVD that had a feature where you! choose! the ending!). This is a gimmick, a technology gimmick that takes the storytelling out of the hands of the screenwriters and directors and puts you, the viewer, in power of "deciding" the movie.

But it's a shell game. It's not a real choice, because the options are limited and the technology will ultimately "guide" you to the three or four possible endings.

Movies are stories told, from a point of view, to impart a message or emotion or thrill or universal truth of some kind. The ending of the story is earned by the events of the narrative and the actions of the characters. The moment that those actions and narratives are subject to the whims of the audience, it becomes a videogame, not a movie.

I'm not railing against you, Richard, just the idea of this which I think is a cheap, silly piece of sleight-of-hand marketing that does not inherently improve the state of filmmaking.

Will it sell some DVDs? Sure it will. Will someone else take this idea and improve on it? Probably. Will the films truly get any better?

No, no and no, they won't.

I take your point with Final Destination, because that is a movie that was written for complete viewing start to finish and then altered to fit a multiple choice, but films created specifically for this genre?

Why can't the filmmakers create multiple stories and still retain the plot flow, etc and let the choice of which one to watch lie with the audience? We've seen the idea on film before, where we are pulled back to an event and taken on a different path - "What if that had happened?" - so why can't it work with a choice added?

Sure it is different to sitting back and being continually engaged in a film. What if the technology was refined so that while the characters moved between scenes, or the camera took us on a journey to the next scene, the options were displayed? If you didn't select something in time it could continue on a preselected path, that wouldn't interrupt the narrative flow too much.

I think it's an interesting avenue in film creation, but it's definitely not going to impact on filmmaking as we know it, that's for sure. However I do think that when the story is created specifically for this medium then it's quite valid, cutting up an existing film for this just won't work.

Gee, I loved those books when I was a kid. I was avid of them! They were called "Choose your own adventure". I usually ended dead.

Is that the same game as the one from the Tom Hanks film "Big"?


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