Interactive storytelling is about to forever change mainstream entertainment. We speak to the innovative start-up leading the way…

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The way audiences consume content is changing. With the arrival of streaming, viewers can control exactly how, when and where they access their media – and with the pandemic deepening our dependency on quality storytelling, we’ve quickly come to expect more from our viewing experiences. It’s within this rapidly changing market that a new immersive production company aims to add further disruption. Founded by siblings Grace and Harry Chadwick, Interflix’s service is two-fold. By working closely with brands, it provides them with interactive movies that directly engage their audience. Then, by creating bespoke two-way features of their own, Grace and Harry work with similar organisations to secure product placement and boost revenue. It’s a two-handed process with each section of the business complimenting the other – and both offering huge benefits for advertisers.

“Brands are starting to understand the power of interactive content,” Harry tells us, discussing the raw potential of user-led media. “It provides ever-changing advertising opportunities and unobtrusive data collection to inform product preferences and brand engagement.” It’s a topic the duo know well thanks to years spent in the production industry. Grace started her career on Broadway, while Harry studied scriptwriting. In 2015 they created their first short film and earned a place on 2017’s Academy Awards long-list before shifting their talents into virtual reality storytelling and creating 360 degree, narrative-driven content.

Before long, they were commissioned to create four interactive features for American distributor Amaze VR, and as 2021 arrived, they were preparing to pivot their offering yet again. “We’re coming out of VR headsets and looking to focus full-time on bringing interactive content to the mainstream market,” explains Grace who, alongside Harry, is part of the new Creative Enterprise Evolve cohort. “We’ll be providing branded, interactive content – alongside the interactive films we’re known for – on smartphones, computers and streaming services.”

Wondering what this new interactive media might look like? You needn’t. In fact, it’s likely something you’ve already crossed paths with. “We’ll be making content like Bandersnatch,” reveals Harry, referencing the multi-narrative episode of Charlie Brooker’s popular Netflix hit Black Mirror, which aired back in 2018. “It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure: a film that allows you to decide where the story goes,” he adds. “Imagine you’re a thief and you steal three keys from a valet service – BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes. We offer audiences the choice of getaway vehicle, customising their experience for the best ride while selling this data back to all three brands. This allows for large growth and return opportunities. It’s like product placement on a different level.”

According to the Interflix team, this new type of interactive content, which places users in the driver’s seat, is on course to completely reshape the entertainment industry. It’s something viewers are crying out for, thanks to our pandemic-led dependence on fun tweaks to traditional media, and for advertisers it’s a crucial tool for grabbing a user’s attention and keeping it.  “Digital video marketing is the current trend within this sector,” says Grace. “Interactive content provides engaging, ever-changing advertising to consumers whilst having a far better engagement rate. Traditional advertising is in decline but interactive content is proven to provide greater retention, click and conversion rates,” she tells us. “It also provides empathy and control for the audience whilst combining both the film and gaming markets.” Harry cuts to the core of Interflix’s primary appeal: “People like to be engaged,” he smiles. “Rather than watching the skip timer on a video advert, interactive content is just more fun.”

It’s also a form of entertainment that’s becoming more readily recognized and adopted by the giants of the sector – proving its growth potential. “Interactive is nothing new but Bandersnatch and Black Mirror really opened things up for smaller companies like us,” continues Harry. “With mainstream distributors like Netflix creating interactive shows, and companies like Nike, Disney and Sky making interactive ads, awareness is on the rise.” Grace echoes the statement: “Things are really growing in this sector. It all comes back to how we’re able to provide personalised data to these brands as opposed to generic data,” she reasons. “Marketers are already saying they prefer interactive because it gives them a bespoke insight into their customer base. Due to the pandemic, society has become more accustomed to virtual interaction – and those who have never tried it are easily converted after giving it a go. It’s not just a niche.”

With the help of Evolve – Creative England’s annual scheme designed to help innovative screen-sector businesses become investor-ready – Interflix is set to continue pushing the boundaries of what audiences expect from their digital content while offering brands unrivalled advertising opportunities and data in the process. “We believe this joint brand and original IP venture will drive large revenue but for us, it’s all about pushing the creative opportunities of the interactive sector,” says Harry, discussing the company’s main passion. “We have our eye on the prize and hope to make groundbreaking shows that are also interactive. By the end of year three, we hope to be able to create interactive feature films for companies like Netflix and create our own interactive software. This will allow us to expand our creativity and bring the bespoke data collection in house.”

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