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"Back

don't play movies. Until very recently. \Welcome to the world of interactive filmand of Interfilm Technologies, the New York City company pioneering this hybrid medium in which audiences, making pistol-grip pushbutton choices, dictate many of the twists and

two-is

its hon-

est-to- gosh-movie credentials. Its writer-director,

Bob Cale, is the Oscar-nominated co-screenwriter of Back to the Future, and the scripter of
that film's two sequels. The stars include Christopher Lloyd as a villain, and Bqtwatdr t Billy Varlock as the wisecracking, cyborg-vigilante hero. Cale concocted the $ 1.7 million Mr. Payback at the behest of Sony, ro which he'd pitched a separate, still unproduced interactive project. So is Mr. Payltack merely the return of Tlrc Tin-

turns of the plot.

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interafiiue film,

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Movie-style interactive fiction has been done before, on TV and videodisc, going back at least as far as 1981's groundbreaking MysteryDisc: Murder, Artyone?,in which you chose which people a 1930s detective would talk to as he tried to crack a case. But with Interfilm's I'm Your Mart (1992) and Mr. Payback (1995), interactive movies have finally come to movie theaters. At roughly 20;minutes, X,Ir, Pqback is indeed
an ingenious technical marvel, with four laserdisc

g/er-that
seats were

classic cinematic hokum where theater

wired to give the titular villain power

to (harmlessly) shock an audience? Or is it the
harbinger of a new visual experience, like virtual reality? Ve spoke with Cale to get a better pistol-grip on'this whole new phenomenon.

Payhack"

players and a 486 computer providing absolutely
seamless transitions from one

the next. Vhat distinguishes

plot "branch" to it-aside from play-

Auoto Vtoro INtsnIons: Tlrc well-known
direttor Jcart-Jacrlues Arrnaud

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the ar-rdience cor-rld choose who to get revenge on and what to do to him? That was the one-line pitch, and he said, "Creat. Vrite something r-rp." I did a three-page outline, he sent it to Interfilm, and Bob Be;an flnterfilm s CEOI read it and called

rurittt'rr artd dircctt'd ortt' o_l' tltc -first irttt'ractivt' rttttrtics. Whdt girtL,s? Isrr't tlris tht kind o_l'tltirt,q
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Bob Gale: I was pitching a different type of interactive project, and my agent sent me to Sony, because they have their Interactive New
Technologies Department. The guy running the store at the time wasJim Bloom, who used to work for Ceorge Lr-rcas; he's one of the producers on
Rctrrnr o-l'tlrc Jcdi, and I'd met him when he was

"At lnterfilm, we have two classifications of people' Cet it, and don't get it. Yor-r
me up and said, are definitely at the top of the Cet

it list."

I like compr-rters, I like video games, I think there's a great untapped entertainment medium here that I'd like to see bloom. Certainly, the fact
the llnrft ttt thL' Frrtrrre movies have been so slrccessfr-rl and have given me a very nice nest egg allows me to do something even thor-rgh there's probably no chance of any payoff here. And part of it has to do with my own frustration with what passes for interactive entertainment. There are CD-ROM products called "interactive movies" Isr-rch as 1992's Suut'r S/rarI and NL,q/rt lzp] that are not m6yis5-ghsy're computer software. You

l'd like tn see
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second assistant director on C/,r-rc Ertcttruttt't's tll tlu: Third Kirrd. So I was surprised to see him, and he told me [Sony] was in business with a company called Interfilm and was looking for people who they thought would understand this medir-rm and could come up with some projects. And on the spot I said okay, what if we had a story where

don't play movies on yollr compLltef, yoLl pLlt software on your compLlter. Yor-r go to the theater, yoLl see movies. If a movie can be interactive in the theater, that's an interactive movie. AYI; Arcrt't rt,( t:onfitsin.q.fbrrrr ruitlr ctvttt'nf? I
)tot pldy o t()nrput('t' "rrtttuit"' ,gdtrr( ()n a 27-irrclt TIl strtL'rt artd rtot on a c(trtrlttt(r tr&'n, isrt't if ,trt irtttrartiur' nt()r,i(, ot' dt lcast d Tl/-trtouic?
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Itcro tuitts. Artd tlrnt cur'rr rcrttairrs tnrt tltrott.qlt all tltc brarrthct ttrtrl r,(rsittn-s rrf'Mr. Payback. Do

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)/otr tltirrk attdit'rrct's rt,ottl(l rutolt 1f, spcakirt,q nt(fdpltorirall)r, tlrtir tltoircs lcd to thc Shcriff-ttl'
Nirrrir{\'/rarrr bcati rr.q Robi n Hood?

Gale: So far there's nothing yoLl can play at honre that has full-motion video or the kind of Ifilm] resolution we give you with ,{.1i'. Pqtln,k. And ICD ROM games] are real slow, the access time to get from one chapter to the next takes a long time, and most of it is l6 frames a second las opposed to the standard 24 frames a second of movie filml, so the images are kind oi lerky.
And if they make the motion a trade-off with resolution.
less

Gale: I don't know. It'd be interesting to find out. I'd thor-rght abor-rt it, actually-in some of the sitr-rations in At[r. Paybarfr, there are places where if yor-r don't find the really hard evidence on the [various] bad guys, Mr. Payback resorts to a blLrff. ln the script, I had written some scenes where the villain worlld call Mr. Payback on the
blLrff Ithereby coming close to beating him], and

jerky, they have

Payback then resorted to crude intintidation to make the bad gLry see it his way. I actually shot one of those endings, br-rt it wasn't very good. It

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wasn't clever. It was like making a movie build

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something and then not paying

it off. I

decided not to use it, because I didn't think the audience would be satisfied with it. Now, had I set out to tell a story where the bad guys could win, and to deal with some morally ambiguous stuff, I think that'd be a

We're

nrl dmling

very interesting interactive movie to do. Or, let's say, we were to do an interactive soap
opera, where there's not necessarily good guys and bad guys per se, but you kind of get to see

wift petple wht
haue a gtod,

how the scenarios would play out if you let the good girl go out with the bad guy or the nice guy go out with the Ifloozy].

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AVI: So when can we see an

interactiue
is

flm in our neighborhood
your distribution?

multiplex? How

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Gale: It's very frustrating, because the Sony guys are real, real corporate-we're not dealing with people who have a good, solid rock 'n' roll mentality who wanna go out there and kick some ass. They're all just looking at ways of making sure their own corporate asses are covered. So when we get film critics-who are

certainly not the target audience for this m6yis-ds61ying the fact we encourage audiences to make noise in the theater, and poohpoohing the whole idea that there should even be such a thing as an interactive movie, lSony] startfs] to worry about, "Vhoa, gee, I don't know if we wanna be associated with this, it looks bad in the press."

I'm beating up Sony as hard as I can, trying to get them to come out of their suits, and to say to them, "C'mon guys, this is the start of a
business here, you can't expect overnight success!" Ve're only on 37 screens right now, we

can't make money on only 37 screens. But in order to get onto 1 50, 200 screens so that we can, you gotta be out there telling the theater owners, "Hey, we're here and we're committed to this, and.we think there's a business here, and we're behind it. And if we're behind it, you can safely jump into this new business and know we're all gonna be in it together."

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