We asked these top writers, producers and heads of interactive to share their insights about writing and producing interactive TV.

“Whenever I say I work in interactive storytelling, people say, ‘Oh, is that the thing where you get to decide the ending?’ – that’s what people think it is – and I say, ‘Well… sort of…’ ”
Tim Wright, acting head of immersive, National Film and Television School

Interactive storytelling comes in many forms. But what is this new wave of interactive tv on streaming platforms? How can you make an interactive tv show? Who else is making them and where can you watch them? Is it tv or is it a game?

For the Children’s Media Conference this month, we interviewed 8 writers, producers and heads of interactive about the new type of interactive tv shows being pioneered by Netflix.

We spoke to them about the future of interactive storytelling and asked them to give us some tips when writing and producing interactive film and tv stories. Delegates can see our video panel at the CMC site.

Now CMC’s first week is over, we thought we’d post the first in a series of posts asking “What is interactive tv”, by sharing 6 of their top tips with you:

1. Don’t hesitate, just jump in!

Matt Brandon, a producer for Plimsoll Productions is currently developing an interactive format for a streaming platform, using Stornaway.  He told us about using the new tools for interactive storytelling :  

‘It was a constant learning curve and a really fun one to go on – and something I hope to do more and more again. My advice would be roll your sleeves up and jump in and have a go at it. Have a play, it feels like playing a game, it’s really fun.’

 

2. You don’t need to know how to code anymore

Tim Wright, acting head of immersive at NFTS has worked with interactive storytelling for a long time.

‘I think people feel it’s a real high bar to get into interactive stuff because you’ve got to learn how to sort of program – or at least not be sniggered at by people who know how to program, but I think that’s completely the wrong approach. I think you’ve just got to go out there with whatever skills or tools you’ve got and try it.’

 

3. Test a lot, and create opportunities for exploration and discovery

Amy Grossberg, series producer for 9 Story Media Group and Emmy nominee this year for Blues Clues and You Interactive, talked about their rigorous iterative and collaborative creative process

 ‘There’s a lot of testing that needs to be done and you need to be building that into your process. It’s not just taking a regular linear schedule, duplicating it and making that for interactive. You need to leave beats and the opportunity for exploration and discovery’

 

4. Make choices have real consequence

We asked games industry grandmaster and co-creator of the legendary 1980s Fighting Fantasy game books, Ian Livingstone, about what makes a good branching narrative:

‘The most important thing when writing a branching narrative on whatever medium it is, is that choice has to have real consequence, otherwise it’s pointless. I’ve seen some offerings where it doesn’t matter if you choose A or B, you end up at the same point. People think, “That’s pretty boring” – you have to have consequence for your actions.’

 

5. Tell a story that’s enjoyable to watch and replay

It’s not enough to just add on interactivity to linear stories. As Dan Efergan, head of interactive at Aardman Animations told us :

‘I think the best creative outputs (which is why I believe things like Bandersnatch have shone through) relate to each other linearly – so your experience at the end is related to your experience at the beginning – but also ‘across’ : so if you play it once and you play it again and go for another choice, those both relate to each other as well.’

 

6.  And finally: pick a genre – any genre

Don’t let your imagination be limited by what you’ve seen already. It’s still very early days, and Amy Grossberg is really excited about the future of interactive shows :

‘This is really just the beginning of interactivity, in the way that we’re exploring it now because there’s more devices out there, there’s more creators who are curious. Just thinking about how things could evolve with horror, drama, theatre… I think that there’s just still so much potential out there.’

– – –

Do you make interactive tv and video stories, or are you thinking about starting? What are some things you think beginners should know?

Our panel of experts had much more insight and experience to share, and we’ll post more in this series in the coming weeks, so follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep reading.

If you’re interested in making your own interactive tv or other interactive content, Stornaway is the new drag and drop story editor which lets you create and deliver interactive stories without coding.

Please get in touch with us at hello@stornaway.io for an extended demo – or just sign up for a free demo on our site today. As Matt said, “Have a play, it feels like playing a game, it’s really fun.”

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