Late last year I spoke to Daniel Knauf, the creator of the cult HBO series Carnivále, about his new project, Bxx: HAUNTED. Bxx is a new type of non-linear story-telling employing the new interfaces offered by the advent of the web - instead of 'force-feeding' the plot to the audience from beginning to end, viewers instead can access the story from any point, and follow links wherever they think best in order to experience the content and find things of interest, all while digesting a plotted story.
Knauf believes that the Bxx model offers a fantastic, low-cost way of presenting a detailed and immersive storyline that can be distributed in multiple formats, from an interactive web-based experience to simpler, linear versions edited to fit movie feature or episodic television formats:
For the cost of a single low-budget film, Bxx can deliver an entire 12 hour episodic series. Assuming it commands even the most conservative, "reality show-level" licensing fees on a basic cable network, profits from domestic distribution alone will exceed production costs and generate a profit.
Add foreign distribution, internet advertising and potential subscription revenue from its online component, as well as additional sources of monetization such as merchandizing and software, and the potential ROI of Bxx is self-evident.
Of course, all this is just theory. Which is why we produced our proof-of-concept, Bxx: HAUNTED. But can such an unorthodox production generate content that can be tamed into a traditional media a standard narrative format?
To answer this question, we culled footage captured during the 32-hour production of Bxx: HAUNTED and edited them into a standard feature-length.
You can view the resulting feature-length presentation of Bxx: HAUNTED above, which fits into the paranormal 'found footage' genre which has enjoyed success through movies such as Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity. But this is just the beginning for Knauf: HAUNTED was simply a prototype for the Bxx model, done on a 'shoestring' budget of around $50,000. Knauf's next project is Bxx: MARS, and with a budget of $5.6 million - around 100 times as much as Bxx: HAUNTED - will utilize more than 70 high-def cameras, studio-grade design and production values, and top-of-the-line digital FX. The new shoot will capture some 5000 hours of raw internet content, which will be edited down into twelve one-hour television episodes. Certainly sounds like something to look forward to!