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Charlie Brooker: Branching Narratives and ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’

"There were points where in working stuff out, it got like trying to do a Rubik's Cube in your head."

Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” explains Jackie Strause, “is an immersive, nonlinear film that uses the ‘branching narrative’ storytelling format and allows viewers—through touch screen or their remotes, depending on the device—to pick between a series of two choices as they go along, giving them control over how the plot unfolds.”

“At the heart of the episode are two-and-a-half hours of footage divided into 250 segments, hidden behind an elaborate series of decisions,” says Matt Reynolds. “Starting as a seven-page outline, ‘Bandersnatch’ quickly grew into a 170-page script—hand-coded at first—that required Netflix to build its own choose-your-own software to bring it to life. 

“To stream the episode, the company had to work out a way of simultaneously loading multiple versions of each scene so viewers could follow different narrative paths without encountering the dreaded buffering circle.” To read the full article, click here.

The initial script by “Black Mirror” co-creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones “was essentially a vast, sprawling outline written in the videogame programming language Twine,” recounts Peter Rubin, “which Brooker had taught himself because it was the only way to capture the intra-linked complexity of all the various tributaries and recursions of the ‘Bandersnatch’ story. ‘Every time I had an idea I put it in a box, and you can move them around. It’s a bit like making a giant patchwork quilt,’ he says. Not that it was without its hiccups. ‘It’s the only thing I’ve ever worked on where the story treatment crashed,’ Brooker says.” To read the full article, click here.

“There were points where in working stuff out, it got like trying to do a Rubik’s Cube in your head,” says Brooker, “and I literally had to get up from my desk and kind of walk around the house holding my head.” 

“I kept saying to Annabel, “This is… hurting my head, this is going a bit mental,” Brooker tells Scott Bryan. “There were points where I was supposed to be simplifying it, I would accidentally end up adding whole chunks of stuff. And then when you get beyond that point and then when more people are getting involved — there was a point when everyone had a moment of vertigo.”

“There’s a complexity that just needs really skilled people at every level to execute this well,” director David Slade tells Strause of the filmmaking process. 

“I don’t think this is going to be something that people quickly go and do,” Slade continues. “People may and try. It was not easy to do.” To read the full article, click here.

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