Welcome To Grandville
Small town Americana so pristine it borders on perversion—but beneath the surface is a current of longing, sensuality, and suffering.
Set on a single, catalytic summer day, Welcome to Grandville is the story of three generations of women—struggling to gain their footing in the wreckage of tragedy, and the imprint they make on their town.
After the suicide of her husband, an iconic musician, Pam Levy returns to her home town to leave her 15-year-old daughter with her mother, with whom she is estranged. On her trail is relentless rock-and-roll journalist, Beckett Hall, who believes Pam is concealing recordings from a final session that promises to bring focus to the hazy circumstances surrounding her husband’s death.
Welcome To Grandville’s interactive world was born out of Sasha’s fascination with the complexity of the human experience.
After writing most of the film as a traditional short, she imagined her fictitious small American town as a living and breathing organism, and stories simultaneously growing and sometimes intertwining.
The interactivity was a way to give birth to this living town. ‘Grandville’ is streaming from its own website with customized technology developed for the film with Bajibot, a New York City-based web development company. Once on the website, we invite the viewer to enter the story through one of our three main characters. Each main character has a core narrative on a central timeline that can be viewed linearly without the interactivity. However, at any point in the film, with the swipe of the finger on mobile or arrows on a keyboard, the viewer can toggle between characters and see simultaneous moments in other characters’ story and perspective.
Each view of the film could potentially generate a new experience. Welcome To Grandville breaks the mold of the character point-of-view film by handing over a major part of the editorial control to the audience and by allowing them to glimpse into powerful character moments that might be left in the edit room in a traditional film.
If traditional screenplays were art paintings, interactive screenplays would be sculptures.
Experiencing different perspectives or character point-of-view is possible in traditional films. ‘Timecode’ directed by Mike Figgis tells four simultaneous stories using split-screens while Netflix’s episodic series ‘The Affair’ provides the viewer a character POV for a single storyline.
Grandville’s three short films stream at once but the viewer has to choose which one to see. Because the story continues to unfold the story regardless of which character is chosen, the interactive platform gives the viewer the impression they can only be in one place at a time. This experience is closer to the natural way we all witness stories unfolding in our everyday lives.
To achieve this experience, it also meant we had to rethink our role as filmmakers from screenwriting to editing. Relinquishing control over how story beats are seen and felt was simultaneously incredibly intimidating and very exciting. While writing, for example, we knew each main character needed their own mutually independent story arc, without compromising the quality of the overall story. Beat by beat, the story structure had to align to a traditional structure, because after all, we all want to watch a good movie, regardless of how we toggle between characters.
We discovered early on in the development that if traditional screenplays were art paintings, interactive screenplays would be sculptures. Still, on the spectrum of storytelling technology, Grandville sits closer to the traditional linear film than new media films. The relatable tone and setting, combined with a passive interactive approach wrapped in a seamless tech interface, uniquely positions Grandville as a great entry point into interactivity for traditional film enthusiasts.
True to Sasha’s vision for experiencing the small town as a living organism, we imagine building Welcome To Grandville as a TV or web episodic series by expanding the number of characters in the town, and creating a world where we can peer intimately into the lives of an entire community and witness the human experience at ground zero with our feet in the dirt, our hand in the cookie jar and our eyes peering through the window. In that way, ‘Welcome To Grandville’ heralds a new era in episodic storytelling.
We imagine building Welcome To Grandville as an interactive TV or web episodic series by expanding the number of characters in the town, and creating a world where we can peer intimately into the lives of an entire community.