When Steven Soderbergh came out of retirement to direct Logan Lucky, fans were excited enough, but in true Soderbergh fashion he started lining up intriguing project after intriguing project. The notoriously fast-paced filmmaker moved from Logan Lucky right into directing a mysterious project called Mosaic for HBO with Sharon Stone and Garrett Hedlund. Rumors swirled that it was going to be some sort of “choose your own adventure”-style narrative, but Soderbergh quickly squashed that as untrue. But the fact remains we know pretty much nothing about what Mosaic is or how it will work. Until now.
In a fantastic wide-ranging interview with Film Comment, Soderbergh reveals that Mosaic is a “branching narrative” piece in which viewers will be able to follow the story from whatever perspective they choose:
“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.”
Mosaic will roll out as an app before it goes on HBO, and you can watch it a variety of different ways:
“For your phone, iPad, desktop, Apple TV. Anything. We started thinking we’ll just do iOS. But after long series of conversations, we said it makes no sense while we’re building this thing not to include Android and desktop. While we have the hood open, don’t we want as many eyeballs on this thing as possible? And it’s a free app. So set aside your time, because if you watch all the various nodes, it’s like seven and a half hours. I was very aware while we were making it that this is the cave painting of this format—that somebody else is going to take this thing and push it way further. I was just trying to get a working story. Ed Solomon, who wrote Mosaic, has another piece that’s built on what we did and is going to be much more complex.”
Once you download the app, the first chapter begins. But when that chapter ends, the viewer has the possibility of going “right or left” and they go from there. But Soderbergh is quick to point out this is not a choose-your-own-adventure narrative—the story is the story, but in the app the viewer gets to choose from whose perspective they watch the tale unfold.
As for what that story entails, it has to do with a murder:
“It’s a murder. Not a murder mystery so much. There are two different time frames, one contemporary and one four years ago. This case that everyone thought was solved gets reexamined with interesting results. So you get to go back and forth depending on who you want to follow at what point. It seemed to be a kind of story that benefited from this multiverse perspective. The writing and the editing of it was tricky. The giant board that Ed and I had was a real head-scratcher.”
Soderbergh reveals he also cut a linear episodic version that will air on HBO early next year:
“There will be a linear episodic version that’s set to air on HBO in January, but ideally going forward, it would just be an app. I offered HBO the possibility of doing a linear cut because I needed more money to develop the technology. I called them and said I have a lot of material that’s not in the app; ‘I can cut a six-hour episodic version of this that will be its own thing.’ And they said, absolutely.”