Academic journal article Nebula

Crossed Lines: The Creation of a Multiform, Multiscreen Interactive Film

Academic journal article Nebula

Crossed Lines: The Creation of a Multiform, Multiscreen Interactive Film

Article excerpt


This article investigates the multiform, multiscreen interactive film installation, Crossed Lines (2002-2007, Dir: Sarah Atkinson). Crossed Lines amalgamates multiform plots, multiscreen viewing environments, interactive interfaces and interactive story navigation forms into one storytelling paradigm. My research probes the challenges of designing, authoring and scripting such an ambitious piece, drawing comparisons to traditional approaches to screenplay, authoring and traditional modes of fictional production. Various theories and paradigmatic perspectives are referenced whilst reflecting on the extensive creative developmental and production process of the filmic installation.


Crossed Lines is a multiform (or multiplot) film telling the stories of nine characters in a way that the viewer can constantly explore and switch between all nine forms, and can simultaneously witness all sides of the characters' exchanges which are taking place between the nine remote locations. The starting point of the piece was to conceive a series of narratives that could be viewed as individual stories, but would also reference and link to the other stories, as is the case of the multiplot film genre. As McKee has noted 'multiplot films never develop a central plot; rather they weave together a number of stories of subplot size'. (1998:227) The difference with Crossed Lines is that it is delivered through an interactive interface paradigm, meaning that the viewer has the power to navigate and order the stories themselves, and to create a story of varying complexity depending on the number of different characters which are selected through the interface. Multiform plots have already been explored extensively in the commercial cinematic realm. For example, Shortcuts (1993, Dir: Robert Altman) traces the actions of twenty-two principal characters, both in parallel and at occasional points of connection. In Magnolia (1999, Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson), nine separate yet connected storylines are investigated. Run Lola Run (1999, Dir: Tom Tykwer) depicts three alternate realities triggered by the same event. Other influences to Crossed Lines have been non-linear films such as Memento (2001, Dir: Christopher Nolan), which is told in two separate narratives. One as a series of black and white scenes shown in chronological order which is intercut with a series of colour scenes which are presented in reverse chronological order; the two narratives converge at the film's climax. Influences also stem from multiscreen presentations such as Timecode (2000, Dir: Mike Figgis), which incorporates four simultaneous ninety minute takes shot by four different cameras and is presented to the viewer in a screen divided into quarters. This type of approach is not usual within feature film production. As Boyd Davis has theorised;

   Polyptychal approaches survive, indeed flourish, in some kinds of
   factual television, where the agenda is a quite different one from
   that of fictional narrative ... In the classical film, only
   temporal, not spatial, juxtaposition of separate views is generally
   permitted. (76:2002)

Interactive film presentations have also been created through cinematic, DVD and computer interfaces. The viewer of such content 'is thus no longer merely an observer but a user of the film.' (Himmelsbach, in Shaw, J and Weibel, P. 2003:236) The first known interactive cinematic system is cited by Hales (2005) as being Kinoautomat premiering at Expo '67 in Montreal:

   In a specially constructed voting cinema, the 124 audience members
   at each screening could vote on how Mr Novak should act at five key
   moments in the film by pressing red or green buttons on their seats.

Interactive interfaces have become commonplace within the DVD mode of delivery. Films such as My Little Eye (2002: Mark Evans) have been presented in an alternative screen interface on DVD, in this case through a web browser to enhance the narrative, which is centred on a reality web cast. …

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