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‘Mosaic’ Maps and Mysteries: Steven Soderbergh’s Storytelling Experiment

"We weren't reverse engineering the story to fit an existing piece of technology; the story was being created in lockstep with the technical team."

In a conversation with film critic and radio host Elvis Mitchell as part of the Future of StoryTelling Festival, Steven Soderbergh debuted a first look at


, a groundbreaking app that allows viewers to choose how they experience the story.

Soderbergh explains, “Mosaic is a branching narrative piece. While branching narratives have been around forever, technology now allows, I hope, for a more elegant, intuitive form of engagement than used to be possible.

“We weren’t reverse engineering the story to fit an existing piece of technology; the story was being created in lockstep with the technical team. The fluidity of that relationship made me feel comfortable because I wanted it to be a simple, intuitive experience. I didn’t want moments where you are making a decision to feel like interruptions.”

Presented by PodOp and developed for HBO by Soderbergh and Casey Silver, in conjunction with writer Ed Solomon, the Mosaic app is an interactive storytelling experience, available as a free download in November, and will be followed by a six-part limited series of the same name that will air on HBO in January 2018.

The Mosaic app allows viewers to choose what point of view from which to follow the story and, in effect, build their own experience from the material created by Soderbergh and Solomon. The choices one makes build upon one another, enabling multiple tellings of the story from different perspectives and, sometimes, with different conclusions. Viewers will be able to see how their own versions of the story on the app ultimately compare to Soderbergh’s six-part linear narrative in January.

“Soderbergh demonstrated how viewers will interact with the story on their mobile or OTT streaming device,” explains Chris O’Falt. “The story is split up into 14 ‘nodes,’ which are similar to episodes. On the main page is the story map in which you can see the various paths the narrative can take through the different nodes. Click one of the nodes and you start watching it, much like you would like any other episode of television.

“At the end of the node, you are presented with two choices of which node you want to watch next–a choice Soderbergh indicated viewers are intended to make based on which character they are most interested in following.

“Inside most of the nodes are ‘discoveries’–these are the equivalent of a scene that supplies a key piece of backstory, character reveal, or other insight. When you come across a discovery, a small screen appears that you can click on if you chose to watch the cut-away scene. After you are done watching the discovery, you are returned to where you left off in the node.” To read O’Falt’s article, click here

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