Soderbergh’s latest viewing “experience” lets the viewer tell the story.
Last month, HBO and Steven Soderbergh finally revealed their secret multimedia collaboration, Mosaic. Mosaic is a television series/choose your own adventure-style app hybrid about a murder mystery, where viewers select which branching paths the story will take; the plot points are fixed but the viewer chooses how they want to follow along. The app is now available as a free download and HBO will release Mosaic as a six-part miniseries this January. To mark Mosaic’s launch on iOS, HBO released the show’s second trailer.
Live action choose your own adventure-style multimedia experiences have been around since digital storage jumped to CD-ROM drives. The additional space on CD’s allowed video game makers to take their shot at live action Hollywood-style stories. And more often than not, the results were uninspired. Games like Night Trap gained cult followings for their cheese-tastic-ness, but unlike a movie like Wolf Cop, these games weren’t trying to be schlocky — the results were often more Roger Corman than Roger Deakins. What’s notable about Mosaic, is the pedigree that Soderbergh brings to the table.
Soderbergh is an Oscar-winning director who brings talent, respect, and credibility to every experimental project he tackles. For Mosaic, Soderbergh brought along a solid cast of actors which includes Sharon Stone (Casino), Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound), Paul Reubens (Blow), and Beau Bridges (Bloodline). Details on the show are scarce; IMDb is listing the plot as, “Plot kept under wraps. Described as a show with an interactive element where the audience can determine the outcome of the story.” What we do know is that Mosaic is a murder mystery and features Sharon Stone as an author/illustrator named Olivia Lake. Take a look.
After viewing the trailer it’s clear that Soderbergh had his work cut out for him when he constructed the project. Writing a standard screenplay is already a complex challenge; writing a screenplay with several concurrent plot threads is infinitely harder. I can imagine him standing in front of a corkboard with a handful of pins and red thread tracking plot points like a movie detective tracking a serial killer. Oh…wait…
In a conversation with The Verge, Soderbergh, who loves the editing process, elaborated on how difficult it was editing Mosaic.
Other than The Limey, this was the most labor-intensive edit I’d ever been a part of. We did so much experimenting, rebuilding, and restructuring during the edit. When we started, we had over 40 [decision-making] nodes, and that turned out to just be too much — the runs weren’t long enough to really engage people and lock them into the characters and the narrative. We ended up simplifying it a lot.
I’m curious to see how audiences take to Mosaic, the app and the HBO series. Can Mosaic do for app-based stories what Serial did for podcasts? It depends on how good the experience’s mysterious story is and whether the plot or characters have the potential to go viral. There is a market for Mosaic’s brand of choose your own adventure-style narrative media, but I don’t believe that this story and this app will create the platform’s Pokémon Go moment. I’m looking forward to giving Mosaic a whirl but so far, the experience doesn’t look like it’s crackling with the type of energy that creates buzz and attracts mainstream audiences. I hope that Mosaic proves me wrong.
The Mosaic app is currently available on iOS and you can catch Mosaic, the series, on HBO this January.