Why Verse? (and the Future of Story)

The elevator pitch. It is that arcane art that all in the media industry scramble and toil to master. Always ready to launch their spell on an unsuspecting individual of influence. When well-crafted and executed, it’ll leave the recipient feeling they’ve discovered magic and ready to gobble whatever the sorcerer is pitching them; however, poorly executed and the recipient leaves befuddled, confused and wondering where his or her last few minutes went. And so when I think about the how and why of Verse… I think of it not as something I am pitching, but rather, the tool that’ll help many tell the story they really want to tell rather than trying to cram it into a neat, archaic pitch.

Verse was founded by Antonio Bolfo and Michael Lanza, multimedia journalists, who saw the limitations in how filmmakers, photographers and artists could share their stories. Traditional online formats felt incomplete and underdeveloped and they knew there had to be a better way. And so they set off to create Verse, an online platform that would allow a media creator to tell an expansive interactive story and not be bound by traditional narrative limits.

Audience members have precious little attention space and it’s why so much is sacrificed in traditional narrative. Too much subplot, too much exposition, too much anything not related to the main plot and it will leave audiences confused and bored. There is something refreshing in how Verse slows things down by presenting a user with a cover image to the story that they’re about to experience. That in and of itself is a novel approach to media. In many ways, Verse is one of the only platforms that can truly emulate the experience of a book.

The idea of emulating a book is not completely new. Quentin Tarantino and other film-makers, most recently Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, have tried to craft films that have the immersive quality of books, but they fall short. In both Tarantino’s films and Jenkin’s Moonlight they employ a chapter structure, and yet they still feel and move like one never-stopping narrative. Unlike Verse, which asks for the user’s engagement. There’s real distinction in the movement between chapters and sub-chapters.

When we begin a Verse story, we start in on chapter one and below in the timeline we can see the neatly arranged chapters and sub-chapters. Buttons pop on and off the screen to take us to tangential content that is part of the story, but at the viewer’s discretion. And even beyond that, the viewer is treated to different types of chapters. In the main narrative, a viewer might be listening to a character talking and feel the need to know more and so they can then click on a Q&A sub-chapter. There they are greeted to a neatly organized list of questions that they can choose from and they can listen to one answer or all of them before popping back in the main narrative.

Often times I see so many creators that are flummoxed by the oppressive nature of narrative structure in traditional linear and non-interactive media. They may have great images, great sound, characters, you name it, but the act of trying to assemble that into a traditional movie robs their content of its flavor. The uniqueness that they painstakingly know they are leaving on the editing floor because there is no place in the narrative for those moment. The great thing about Verse and stories of the future is that they allow for experiences that are unique to each viewer because the viewer is curating their own experience. No longer do you have to masterfully chop an interview down to fit into a narrative, rather it can be a separate Q&A chapter. No longer do great photographs whiz on and off the screen without being appreciated because now users can appreciate them in a slide-show. And those are just two common examples. The future of story-telling is in allowing users access to greater material by giving them interactivity.

So when I think of “Why Verse?” I think of all those elevator pitches that lose so much trying to streamline down into some perfect idea and losing so much of what made them special in the first place. Finally, there’s a platform that allows you to neatly package all of it without scaring or confusing users away. So please give it a try at www.verse.com and if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out through our social media or you can reach me Eric Emma, Associate Producer, at eric.emma@verse.com.