It takes a minute to realize what’s happening in the opening scene of “All Ends, Ends All.” It’s dark, it’s quiet…wait, you’re in a trunk? Yes, you’re trapped in the trunk of a car. A few minutes pass and the whole thing seems pretty hopeless until you see a small hint at the bottom of the screen instructing how to bust your way out. But that’s only the beginning. In this film, you’re in control of the character: You get to dial a pay phone, retrieve keys from a woman lounging in a pool, even shake the iPad back and forth as you’re running in order to put some serious distance between you and your would-be attackers.
The only Touching Stories film to be shot in first-person, “All Ends, Ends All” relies on the viewer to be able to make very specific decisions that affect their fate. Directors Jason Zada and Erich Joiner of Tool of North America really wanted to put the viewer into this hapless victim’s shoes, with all of the panic that goes along with it, says Zada. “When you run, you really have to shake the iPad because you are running more or less when the character has to run, and if you don’t–game over. You get caught and shot.”
The film is also different from the others in that it relies on subtitle-like text to hint to the viewer what they should do next, since sometimes the actions required are a bit more complicated. Each decision takes the story into a different realm, which can result in completely different storyline–even a seriously truncated one. “In its entirety, it’s 12 minutes’ worth of content back-to-back,” says Zada. “But if you interact with it and make the right choices, you can get through it in four minutes.”
The iPad as a medium was the most inspiring part of making the film, says Zada, who has worked on similar interactive experiences for the computer. Namely, replacing actions like mouse-clicks with the ability to actually use your fingers to, say, dial a pay phone, creates an intimate, emotional bond with the experience, says Zada. “When you’re holding something in your hand and you’re interacting with it, I think the relationship between you and the entertainment is really personal, much more personal than a computer that’s sitting on your desktop.”
One trick they wanted to attempt, but they weren’t able to pull off due to the iPad’s lack of a camera, was to put more of the viewer’s actual identity into the film. This would have been especially cool toward the end of the film, when the face of the character is revealed, says Tool digital executive producer Dustin Callif. “I think it would have been interesting if we could have made that the viewer–and we could have done that if there was a webcam.”
iPad limitations aside, this project got Zada, a huge video game fan, really excited about where this interactive video format would go next. “I felt that we used maybe 1% of what you could do if you really pushed it but I still think it’s a cool step forward as far as interactive storytelling,” he says. “I think in the future people are going to have a lot of fun being able to go more in the direction of what video games have done, which is create a compelling, emotional experience for the end viewer where they get to control it.”
Additional reporting by Christine Clarke