Israeli Technology Lets You Choose a Film's Plot

Published: December 1st 2010
in Culture » Movies

Turbulence Poster

The world's first fully interactive feature film has been created at the Film and Television Department at Tel Aviv University.


Israeli Professor Niztan Ben-Shaul teaches classes in cinema studies at the university and has written several books including Mythical Expressions of Siege in Israeli Films and Hyper-Narrative Interactive Cinema: Problems and Solution. He is not a technologist, as "creating" technology might suggest, but he did feel that "all filmmaking is based on a lie," and that something could be done about that.


"In the narrative structure of a movie, it appears that there is only one possible ending - that the way it's presented is the way it has to be," Ben-Shaul told ISRAEL21c. "But in life there are always options."


In order to bring this belief to life, Ben-Shaul partnered with Guy Avneyon and built a sophisticated patent-pending movie editor and standalone player.


The name of Ben-Shaul's company and the feature film are called Turbulence and the technology is still be worked at. Turbulence is just now being incorporated and seeking angel investment.


The film runs 83 minutes in length and is a suspense/thriller about three friends who meet by chance in New York, 20 years after they participated in a demonstration in Israel and were arrested. In the story's past, the police cause accusations of betrayal between the three of them by pitting them against one another. A love story is also intermingled in the suspense.


The part where the viewer's input comes in: at certain points "hot spots" will glow when the viewer can make a choice. For example, one of the Israelis has written a message to his lover on his mobile phone. The interactive viewer can click "Send" or "Cancel". If the he or she hesitates too long, the action continues according to a pre-determined narrative path.


Due to the intimate nature of sitting in front of a screen with a controller, interactive movies are primarily seen as practical for a singer viewer. However, Ben-Shaul said he would like to see a system evolve where everyone in the theatre has a controller, and the plot would continue in terms of "majority vote."


Turbulence premiered at the Berkeley Film Festival this year where it won "best experimental feature." For the time being though, those interested in experiencing some Turbulence will have to visit Ben-Shaul at his office in Tel Aviv.

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