Netflix is pursuing more interactive content, including, maybe, a rom-com
On the heels of its groundbreaking foray into interactive storytelling with the choose-your-own-adventure style “Black Mirror” episode, Bandersnatch, Netflix will look to produce much more interactive entertainment, according to vice president of content, Todd Yellin.
Speaking at the FICCI-Frames conference for Indian media and entertainment in Mumbai, Yellin said in a keynote that audiences could expect many more interactive stories to come from the streaming media service, according to a report in Variety.
“We realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on,” Yellin reportedly said. “We’re doubling down on that. So expect over the next year or two to see more interactive storytelling.”
One of the things Yellin floated was the idea of a romantic comedy where the audience would choose “will-they or won’t-they”? It sets up the potential for a world where viewers could determine that Ross and Rachel never go on a break.
The initiative would likely require a lot of heavy lifting from writers, editors and actors. Black Mirror took two years to get from concept to screen and involved a lot of heavy lifting from Netflix .
In Bandersnatch, Netflix collaborated with the writers and directors of Black Mirror to develop the technology to support streaming a film that relied on the “branching narrative” storytelling structure that required viewers to pick between choices to advance the story.
Filmed over a seven-week shoot, the filmmaking process took 250 distinct video segments that were stitched together to cover all possible endings, according to a lengthy description of the making of the episode in The Hollywood Reporter.
Bandersnatch doesn’t have an official run time, and viewers can spend anywhere from an hour and a half to two and a half hours to make it until the credits roll.
Netflix’s investment included new technology that the company calls “state tracking” which logs the choices viewers make as they watch the Bandersnatch episode. The company also engineered a new technology that would load the episode without any lags. And Netflix created a new internal writing tool called Branch Manager so that Brooker could write his script and deliver it directly to the company, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
After all of that internal investment, it’s little wonder that Netflix is planning to roll the new narrative framework out in other storylines, or across different titles.
Netflix had previously applied the choose-your-own-adventure style narratives to children’s animated programming, but since the success of Bandersnatch, that is definitely going to be expanding.
“We do want to take a number of gos at this and see what works for different audiences,” Netflix’s director of product innovation, Carla Engelbrecht Fisher told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s what we’re engaged in now: What are the other kinds of stories that we can tell and that folks are excited to tell? And continuing to unearth this iceberg of opportunity and see what’s there.”