The Future of Films Goes Beyond Virtual Reality

Posted in Screening Room by - July 17, 2016

The idea of creating alternative worlds was first envisioned in 1935. Since then, many technologists have tried to turn the concept of VR from fiction to reality. Progress in the field, however, remained halted for decades, as the computational power to render immersive experiences did not exist in the last century. Nowadays, on the other hand, we hold the processing power to make VR possible and the entertainment industry is adopting it. While applied mostly in gaming, filmmakers are starting to make use of VR, in order to strengthen the immersion of the audience, by putting it “in the middle of the action”. Novel ideas shall be stimulated, but the future of movies is not solely found in immersion, but in interaction as well.

What may be perceived as a play of words with little significance has, in fact, significant meaning. Most film enthusiasts long for an era when they will be able to have agency on how their experience watching a movie unfolds, through the immersion allowed by VR. The industry, however, shall not forget that going to a movie theater is a social experience. With that said, there should also be emphasis on how to use technology to improve the interaction among those who love cinematography. The industry must acknowledge the fact that humanity is going through a paradoxical time in its history, and it can take advantage of this period.

We tend to stay online for most of the day, isolated in our own universes, but we all crave for social features therein, so we may voice our opinions and debate certain topics. Social media is perhaps the best example of this scenario. This status quo cannot go unnoticed. The cinematographic industry must use this trend to its favor and turn their productions into experiences that are more socially engaging. While Filmmakers develop methods to allow the audience to be “inside” their work, the future should also strengthen the social experience thereof. The following paragraphs describe a suggestion on how to improve the social aspect of movies.

Every story depends on a set of choices the main character has to make, in order to proceed with his/her quest. We have all seen movies that leave us thinking we know better than the protagonist when it comes down to the right thing to be done, but would other people agree with us? In order to nourish a greater interaction between film enthusiasts, I would suggest the development of an app that lists all of the major films being screened in the country. The user would pick the one he/she has just watched. Then, the user would be taken to a screen in which he/she is presented with a list of the dilemmas the main character faced throughout the story. The next step for the app is asking the user what she/he would have done if in the shoes of the protagonist, through a set of binary alternatives (would you leave the wounded Character “X” behind? Yes or No?).  Upon answering every question, the app will calculate the statistics of how the choices picked by the user compare with those of other film enthusiasts, who also use the software. The final step of the experience is taking the user to a forum, in order to comment and discuss the results.

You may have recognized the premise behind this app. Its concept is based on the social feature contained in video games developed by Telltale (above). Considering that the gaming industry has been adopting concepts originated from cinematography since the late 90’s. It may be time for filmmakers to implement a gaming element in the medium of theirs. This is the type of innovation in which little thought is required, for the solution already exists, but in another form of entertainment. This app can benefit not only the audience but also the writers. Comedy is regarded as the most difficult genre for a writer, but every type of movie can offer a great challenge when writing, especially if the writer needs to develop a compelling narrative for a target audience he is not found within. Consider, for instance, an adult who has been given the task of writing a script for a children’s movie. The dissonance between his mentality and the one from his target audience requires the writer to have empathy, which means the ability to see himself in the shoes of another individual. He needs to write a story that his audience enjoys, but he himself may not be fond of.

Developing a narrative that suits the taste of others, but not necessarily the taste of the writer, as seen in the previous example, is a task of great difficulty; for empathy is an interpersonal skill most people lack. With that said, the aforementioned app can be used as a research tool for writers who are found in the scenario described herein. It may be used to analyze the choices, and therefore the preferences, of the core audience. Based on the data gathered on the alternatives the viewers would pick, if, on the shoes of the protagonist, the screenwriter can use this information to develop a narrative arc that is engineered specifically to suit the tastes of a particular group of people, thus having a greater impact on it.

Film studios already allow its fans to interact with one another through their presence on Social Medias, but the industry cannot allow the progress in this field to become stagnant. It should move forward, always. The app suggested herein is just an example among many others on how films can be more social than they currently are. While VR is a natural revolution that is soon to become a reality, this industry cannot have a tunneled vision and believe that this is the lone sector worth investing in. It is not. Many aspects of the art we all love still have room left for improvement. Social experience is one of them.

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