Showing Interfaces to Advance a Film Narrative

Google Earth - Fly To

Over the weekend I finally got around to renting “Catfish.” I liked the movie a lot, despite the controversy about whether or not it’s a really documentary. As I watched it, I was especially fascinated by the way the filmmakers used interactive technologies to advance the narrative — and the degree to which audiences can accept these new references.

For example, rather than showing an airplane flying over a map, an old-fashioned film technique (lovingly copied in the Indiana Jones films), they used Google Earth’s “fly-to” feature. Elsewhere, Google’s Street View was used to show locations; SMS messages and Facebook pages show the evolution of a relationship; and car navigation systems add to suspense when driving down a dark road. They even remade the opening Universal logo using Google Earth.

The close-ups of screens – maybe because they’re light-sources themselves – them look super-crisp and inviting. In an interview, director Ariel Schulman commented on this, saying “You see every pixel off the screen. You just accept that this is the modern canvas, and there’s something beautiful about pixels.”

The awesome “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” similarly used digital elements to help tell its story, except it used cues from gaming conventions rather than web and social media services.

Google Earth - Street View
Car navigation system
iPhone SMS
Facebook - messages