When Instagram added video to its social network, it allowed people to share their moving images in 15-second bursts. But limitations like time constraints always yield creative hacks, and to promote the Toronto Short Film Festival agency Red Lion found a way to turn the photo sharing platform into a choose-your-own-adventure silent film.
By using clips from the seven silent films included in the festival, users can string together a short film based on a series of decisions. Opening with a street fight scene, viewers are given the choice to call the cops or run away. Clicking the hashtag of your choice, you’re taken to the next video. From there you can hide in a department store or a hospital, then go on a date, only to fake sick to get out of a horrible dining experience. At least, that’s one of the many films that can come from the experience.
Naturally, the goal of the campaign is to create awareness for the festival, but Matt Litzinger, president and chief creative officer of Red Lion says the idea was to do so "in a way that is as innovative as silent films were in their heyday."
"Instagram represents the right platform for this campaign because it is an inherently social and visual application," says Litzenger. "Silent films, and all films in general, are both of these things. In a lot of ways, the unifying cultural impact film has is now also occurring through social applications like Instagram."
While creating a choose-your-own-adventure film on Instagram didn’t require any unique development, there was a great deal of complexity in putting it together, says Litzinger. "It required an almost obsessive compulsion in order to organize and populate the account in the correct order. The ability to have complete user control throughout the experience required a very specific and accurate sequencing in the uploading of the content. If one video was uploaded out of order, the whole system would fail."
The painstaking planning resulted in a campaign where the chance of someone having the same experience as anyone else is "literally in the hundreds of thousands," says Litzinger.
This is the third year the TSFF has used Instagram to spread the word about the festival. In 2013, the mobile app was turned into an old-timey film trailer using the platform’s slideshow function, and in 2014—to celebrate Charlie Chaplin’s centenary—Instrgram was morphed into a multimedia time machine. Both of those campaigns were created at Cossette before the account followed Litzinger to Red Lion.