Netflix is planning more interactive content after the success of Black Mirror movie Bandersnatch. The streaming giant has been busy as of late basking in the glow of their four Oscar wins at this year’s Academy Awards. But having already stated they intend to spend $15 billion on original content in 2019, Netflix is now preparing to capitalize on the success of Bandersnatch.
Created by Charlie Brooker and released exclusively to Netflix at the very tail end of 2018, Bandersnatch initially drew interest from fans of the Black Mirror sci-fi/horror anthology series, which was also created by Brooker and is available exclusively to Netflix subscribers. As word spread about the fragmented, Choose Your Own Adventure style of Bandersnatch - in which a young computer programmer attempts to adapt a tome of a novel into a video game in the mid 1980s – the film gained traction and received substantial critical praise for its inventive use of cinema and interactive decision-making.
Given the ongoing popularity of Black Mirror, the success of Bandersnatch isn’t especially surprising, though the interactive component was a risk that paid off. Now that the streaming platform knows audiences are paying attention, however, Variety reports that Netflix Vice President Todd Yellin has stated that Netflix will be “doubling down” on the interactive concept in some of its upcoming original programming. Said Yellin at the recent FICCI-Frames entertainment conference in India:
“It’s a huge hit here in India, it’s a huge hit around the world, and we realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on. We’re doubling down on that. So expect over the next year or two to see more interactive storytelling. And it won’t necessarily be science fiction, or it won’t necessarily be dark. It could be a wacky comedy. It could be a romance, where the audience gets to choose – should she go out with him or him.”
With its dark storylines, intense characters and creepy subject matter, Bandersnatch was possibly one of the best choices for such an interactive experience. And while the film did have its flaws, its re-watchability remains very high, which is clearly an advantage for Netflix, as well as being a pleasure for audiences. Fans of Black Mirror will also agree that one of the series’ key strengths is its writing and that reliable asset was thankfully passed on to Bandersnatch. In fact, it was arguably the series’ past experience with snaking plotlines - such as its memorable 2014 White Christmas special - that permitted Bandersnatch to work so well.
When it comes to the idea of creating more interactive content, there are both positives and negatives to consider. On one hand, the idea of more films or TV shows in which viewers can have their say on how the story unfolds is great fun and quite possibly, the future of streaming platforms. On the other hand, though, in order for the concept to work well, the writing has to be excellent. If Netflix plans to rush into production on a large number of interactive projects simply to push the novelty of an interactive experience, they could risk killing the concept before it really has a chance to soar. Interactive filmmaking is filled with possibilities, so here’s hoping that both the quality and success of Bandersnatch can be replicated.