Give credit to Steven Soderbergh for living out on the cutting edge. I remember back when I was in college and he announced he would release Bubble straight to video-on-demand. There weren’t a lot of VOD platforms, and direct-to-DVD was seen as an admission of failure. But Soderbergh read the landscape correctly, and while Bubble itself may not have been a hit, the movie was at the forefront of a VOD revolution where now studios regularly release movies to VOD, and while they may not be the cream of the crop, it’s a legitimate distribution strategy.
Now Soderbergh is branching out again, this time with branching narrative. His new film is Mosaic, and while Soderbergh has acknowledged that these kind of choose-your-own-adventure stories have been around forever, new technology makes it more immersive than ever before:
“It’s a branching narrative piece. Branching narratives have been around forever, but technology now allows, I hope, for a more elegant, intuitive form of engagement than used to be possible. We spent a lot of time on how you touch this thing. I wanted to make sure that it was beautiful and simple, so that when the opportunity arises for you to decide whose perspective you want to follow, it feels organic and not like an interruption—like the thing is just stopping cold. So there was just a lot trial and error about how that would work. I’m really happy with it now. The question now is if a million people log on at the same time, will it crash? It’s supposed to come out in November.”
HBO has released a trailer for Mosaic, and the trailer does a solid job of explaining what exactly Soderbergh is going for. In one way, it’s the very familiar choose-your-own-adventure structure where tapping on a particular segment will guide the story in a different direction. However, Soderbergh notes that “choose your own adventure” may not be the right term since the viewer isn’t changing character behavior as much as they’re changing perspective.
So is Mosaic at the cutting edge, or is it just an experiment? We’ll find out soon. Check out the Mosaic trailer below. The interactive storytelling experience will be available on the Mosaic app, which hits in November. For those looking for a more traditional experience, a six-part limited series will air on HBO in January 2018. Mosaic stars Sharon Stone, Garrett Hedlund, Frederick Weller, Beau Bridges, Paul Reubens, Jennifer Ferrin, Devin Ratray, Michael Cerveris, James Ransone, Jeremy Bobb, and Maya Kazan.
Here’s the official synopsis for Mosaic:
Three years in the making, the MOSAIC app allows viewers to choose what point-of-view from which to follow the story and to, in effect, build their own experience from the material Soderbergh and Solomon created. The choices one makes build upon one another, enabling multiple tellings of the story from different perspectives and, sometimes, with different conclusions. Viewers will be able to see how their own versions of the story on the app ultimately compare to Soderbergh’s six-part linear narrative in January.