Scene from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch by Netflix.

I found the interactive film “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” extremely fascinating and inspiring. Bandersnatch is a psychological thriller about a programmer who begins questioning reality when developing a novel (titled Bandersnatch) into an interactive video game. The film itself is also an interactive experience, as the viewers have a role in controlling what happens next during “choice points”.

I found this project admirable because it begins to explore and push the boundaries of cinema and technology. Not only do both work in harmony, they are both able to bring the best out of each other; interweaving technology into cinema pushes the producers and writers to tackle new challenges and rethink many pretenses of a TV show. Introducing cinema to technologies, introduces not only viewers to the expansiveness of what technology can do, but editors and producers to the expansiveness of what they can do.

This film was created by Netflix, the team more specifically, involved Annabel Jones, Charlier Brooker, and David Slade. The process of creating this film also involved the actors, Will Poulter and Fionn Whitehad’s collaboration. Tackling a script with such a large amount of variations of outcome required a lot of exploration in the filming and plot writing. With this all in mind, they also had to make sure the variation of endings wasn’t too overbearing overall for the viewers. The process of which the plot began, started on Post-it notes, then progressed to a whiteboard. Following this, they used a programming tool called Twine. The script was both on paper, but also navigatable on Twine. Scrivener, Final Draft, and Microsoft Notepad were utilised during the process of creating as well. A flowchart was initially used during shooting but then thrown out because it ended up complicating things.

To tackle the interactive component for the viewers, Brooker and Jones had to actually develop a special technology with Netflix, so that the film plays seamlessly, instead of pausing when “choice points” came up. The system they used was one in which lighting, sound design, and aspect ratios change while viewers take the time to choose their options. The time constraint, music in the background, adds to the intensity of the film itself as well.

The interactive film was an idea that Netflix approached the producer and director in May 2017 with. Interactive films have existed prior to this, but the targeted audience was typically for children, with much more straight forward plots.

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