This week I came across a piece of marketing for HBO that just had me hooked for hours. And it wasn’t because of anything slick from the PR department, it was all about the storytelling.
“Art Heist” is an interactive website which invites you to explore a story in a non liner narrative. Each of the short films is told from four different camera angles and you can choose to flip back and forth and go back and replay portions.
Parallel story structure isn’t anything new. The idea that many stories are taking place at once and only once you have gone back to see all of them will you come away with a better understanding of the whole story, has been toyed with in the arts since forever.
The entire story structure of one of our oldest surviving stories, Oedipus Rex, is built upon the device. Shakespeare knew of the emotional punch it could carry and devised the climax of Romeo and Juliet around it. The film Pulp Fiction hings on it as a device. It’s the basis of pretty much every french screwball comedy ever made. In sci-fi aspects of Back to the Future 2 touched on it. I can make a list a mile long of other works that have used it: Magnolia, Timecode, 24, Rashomon, and NBC’s criminally short-lived Boomtown all toyed with the idea.
I can’t say for certain how this could translate into journalism, but it’s all very inspiring and a nice alternative story form to play with.