Him, Her and Them isn’t just a short film—it’s an interactive, multi-scene social experience that immerses you in the world of the protagonist, lets you add your own twists and comments to the plot line, and even brings your friends into the picture. Is social the future of filmmaking? Read on to find out more, including an interview with Mike Knowlton, one of the founding partners of Murmur, the company behind Him, Her and Them.
Before we get to my interview with Mike, let’s take a look at the film. Him, Her and Them is available for viewing via a Facebook app. It is the story of a young man who is in love with a girl at his office and is also dealing with some deeper issues, and is divided into seven different parts, or scenes. Some are straight videos, while others let you take part. These scenes are made up of photos, rather than videos, some that are captioned and some that are not. You are invited to add your own captions to the photos that haven’t been captioned by the production team and share your ideas with friends that you can select to join you. Check out the trailer below for a glimpse of what the experience is like, or check it out on Facebook. Then read on to find out more from Mike Knowlton.
I asked Mike how Murmer was inspired to put Him, Her and Them together. He told me that they were inspired and influenced by a mix of other interactive film projects like Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown, The Johnny Cash Project and Collapsus, and companies like Zynga that have entered the social casual gaming market. He said, “We wanted to develop a film that had both a linear narrative and interactive elements. We also wanted to incorporate some of the social mechanics that are found in social games. The intersection of these two ideas (interactive storytelling and social functionality) formed the foundation for the idea. We saw Facebook as a great platform for this project. It is an existing marketplace and a logical distribution platform. Releasing the film on Facebook also allowed us to implement Facebook’s social functionality into the film itself.”
Mike tells me, “We also wanted to explore the idea of telling a “Grown up” story on Facebook. So many of the more popular casual games feel simplistic or one-dimensional when you play them. We wanted to tell a darker, more complex and layered story in the context of a Facebook application.”
I was curious about how this whole thing was put together—how it was shot, edited and programmed. Mike told me that Him, Her and Them was created using a blend of traditional filmmaking and software application development. “We shot the film here in NYC with a local crew over the course of a few days. We used Final Cut to edit all the linear video, audio, and narration. We then used Flash (and an open-source Actionscript framework called Frontal) to build the Social Film application.”
So far, the film has exceeded all expectations. Mike says, “The concept is getting great traction and viewers of our film are very enthusiastic about the experience and the vision of Social Films. During the first week of our soft launch we had approximately 2,700 active viewers.” Murmur plans to share usage data on the film’s blog at a later date, but Mike says that, “so far the number of people viewing it, the number of people contributing to the film, and the percentage of people viewing the entire piece are well beyond the initial targets we had set.”
So can we expect any other cool projects from Murmer in the future? According to Mike, we definitely can. “We have developed a treatment for our next project and are talking with potential partners now. Our next project will be episodic/serial in nature. Our goal is to more fully integrate social game mechanics without it ever quite feeling like a “game”. The business model will follow a free/premium content approach, drawing upon the monetization techniques developed by leading social game companies.”
What do you think about the idea of social filmmaking on Facebook and Him, Her & Them? Is social the future of movies?
Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times. Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.