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'Broken Night' Creators: VR Interactivity Should Be More About Empathy Than Surprises

"We know how have difficult it is to tell one good story, so try telling 16 or 32 good stories with different endings that will be emotionally impactful. What you want to do, and this is something we 4/26/2017 2:00 PM Eastern
Emily Mortimer in Broken Night. Photo by Omri Anghel/Eko.

Tense VR thriller Broken Night is about a woman (Emily Mortimer) trying to reconstruct the events of a harrowing night involving her husband, an intruder, and a handgun. As the viewer goes through the 11-minute piece, they are allowed to make choices that affect how the woman's memories are pieced together. However, ultimately, the piece has one concrete ending for all viewers, a deliberate choice on the part of creators Alon Benari, Tal Zubalsky and Alex Vlack of digital studio Eko.

"I think that’s part of our agenda, to shift how you think about interactivity," Benari tells Filmmaker Magazine. "The go-to state of mind for many filmmakers when they think interactive is 'choose your own adventure.' You can go to the moon, or Paris, but besides being very difficult on production, the bigger challenge you have [with that approach] is that it becomes gimmicky very fast because every choice needs to be crazy and different. We know how have difficult it is to tell one good story, so try telling 16 or 32 good stories with different endings that will be emotionally impactful. What you want to do, and this is something we took from the world of narrative videogames, is to use interactivity to create a higher level of immersion, involvement and emotional attachment to the characters. Interactivity isn’t about surprises — it’s another tool for the filmmaker to get the viewer to feel empathetic to the character, or to feel complicit in what’s going on, or to feel engaged in the story. What we tried to do here is plant you in her mind. There are first-person scenes happening in her mind, and you’re trying to construct her memories. And she herself is not sure about her memories. Interactivity is not so much about the construction of the story — it’s about getting the emotional impact of the story."

Read the full story here.

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