“The Most Interesting Couple in Britain” opens like a typical British sitcom: A husband and wife sitting opposite each other at their kitchen table, enjoying a spot of tea, discussing the news of the day. But after the scene ends, the viewer has the ability to play it again with new information, for example, checking out what each character–including a dog–is actually thinking. The layered performances feel like a neverending comedy sketch, almost Monty Python-esque. It somehow gets funnier and funnier every time.
Adding those diverging storylines, and the ability to control them, creates a more engaged audience, says Geordie Stephens, director for Tool of North America who worked for 12 years as an advertising creative at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. In this Touching Stories film, the viewer becomes active in retelling the story according to their mood or sense of humor, he says.
“There’s a whole notion of storytelling becoming more pliable and something that you can actually interact with and alter and change and be a part of so that it’s more entertaining,” he says.
Working closely with technology partner Domani Studios, Stephens had to create “story trees” for each diverging plotline, along with all the elements which created moments of departure. So at certain points while viewing the film, the viewer can change the characters’ physical positions, or start a new conversation, or even choose from a happy, sad or random ending. There are even Wikipedia pages that pop up, aiding with some of the more esoteric dialogue.
Being able to jump so easily between full-screen video and other applications was thanks to the new multi-tasking feature that the iPad delivered on. “Now you have the ability to take videos and put them inside your app,” says Micah Acinapura, a developer with Domani Studios. “Now I can programmatically interact with the video in the way that I can respond to user’s inputs and make it affect the video.”
For Stephens, being able to provide links to websites or videos was more important than utilizing the iPad’s physical effects (shaking or turning). He thinks of it like Facebook for film–a way to get to know the characters better, says Stephens. “You can stop the film and learn more about what’s going on in this guy’s head and what the motivation is. I find that interesting.”
Additional reporting by Christine Clarke