By Simon Lewis.
What’s it all about?
In Late Shift, a student called Matt gets drawn into a crime against his will. Each audience will start off watching the same film but what happens next is up to the audience: there are 180 decision points which combine to drive the story to one of seven endings. “There is a quite traditional happy ending, and a very dramatic one too,” says Late Shift director Tobias Weber, “and various shades in between. We had to write and shoot all the various possibilities – the script was like a mind-boggling flow chart, but the actors totally got into it.”
What can I expect?
The audience downloads an app, which syncs to the film and springs to life each time there’s a decision to be made. For example, should Matt run when there’s a gun pointed at him? Every decisions must be made in short windows of a few seconds. And since they’re all very emotional choices, we will get to find out something about the emotions of the people watching.
Will Birmingham’s audience create a happier ending than London’s? Will the main character run in Bristol, but stand and fight in Cardiff? “We may see varying tendencies towards violence or trust in certain demographics,” says Weber. “This could be interesting”.
Time pressure results in very intuitive reactions. It makes the audience feel personally responsible for what’s happening on the screen.
Is it like a choose-your-own-adventure book?
It’s similar. But what’s new about Late Shift is that the action doesn’t stop at any point. You make your decisions in split-seconds while the characters are mulling their choices, and the action continues seamlessly based on what the majority decided. There’s a reason for this. “We knew time pressure results in very intuitive reactions,” Weber says. “Psychologists do this to get past the social mask to our true selves. It makes the audience feel personally responsible for what’s happening on the screen.”
Has this ever been done before?
No, and that’s what makes it so exciting. It might even teach us something new about collective decision-making, according to behavioural scientist Dr Bahador Bahrami of University College London.
“When groups of people make decisions, if they can talk to each other they manage very well. The ‘wisdom of crowds’ means that, if you ask enough people to guess, say, the height of the Eiffel Tower, the average is correct. However, without talking, joint decisions are driven by emotion rather than logic. In a cinema, collective decisions are not likely to be very ‘smart’ – so by the end of the movie, everyone may be shouting at everyone else to persuade them.”
Without talking, joint decisions are driven by emotion rather than logic – so by the end of the movie, everyone may be shouting at everyone else to persuade them.
“In Moscow, the worst ending was reached way more often than in Zurich,” director Weber says. “The Swiss audiences tended to act more diplomatically. We’ve seen all variations. The room tends to develop its own mood – which is why it feels magical to be part of the audience at one of these screenings.”
Late Shift promises to be a truly groundbreaking experience. To book your place in history, head here.