Behind the Scenes at an Interactive Video Shoot

Twice as Complicated, But 1000 Times as Cool

First things first: you should probably watch the video…

“It was a lot of fun to direct. Tons of planning and lots of attention to detail. I’m excited about where the future of the interactive is headed. The project we finished is a pretty basic example. I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into something more complex next time around.” -Matt Helbig, CCO The Mission

If you’re looking for a way to impact your viewers on a deeper level through your marketing, nothing makes as powerful of an impression as storytelling. As one of the oldest forms of sharing information, storytelling works so well because it creates an emotional connection between the prospect and the brand. Storytelling is one of the quickest ways to build up a brand’s likeability and trust. According to research giant Nielsen, people are becoming more skeptical of advertising methods in general, and they are well aware of when they are being sold to. Consumers want to do business with brands they like and trust.

Drone crew on the set of the interactive video shoot

One way to build rapport with would be customers is by earning their trust with storytelling. This storytelling can come in the form of brand stories, but it can also come in the form of fictional stories that support the brand’s marketing efforts. Yes, trust and likability can be built as much through fiction as it can from true stories. Why? Because storytelling is all about having a conversation with the viewer. It brings the prospect into a scenario where they are a welcome guest, rather than shouting a marketing message at them through a megaphone. When interactivity is added to the storytelling effort, it can make a strong impression. Now, thanks to this interactivity, the conversation is no longer one sided, which means it can have a much wider impact.

Why storytelling connects with consumers

It has been reported that we daydream about one third of the time. While your personal percentage of daily daydreaming may be more or less, the fact remains: our brains are always looking for an escape route from reality. Whether through daydreaming, or through storytelling videos and other marketing methods, we as human beings love to be distracted. But, here’s where it gets really interesting: we stop daydreaming when we are presented with a good story. Imagine if your interactive video was a story that not only stopped people in their tracks, but also stopped their daydreams and got them one hundred percent focused on what you were saying. Now you see the power that storytelling can bring to your marketing efforts.

Behind the Scenes photo from the “frame in a frame” shot in Mexico

Storytelling in video marketing

Storytelling in video marketing will typically follow traditional storytelling techniques such as creating strong character personas, using character development techniques, maintaining a traditional storytelling arc, and use techniques like lighting, score, art direction, framing and composition to set moods.

When you add interactivity to video marketing, that’s when things can get really interesting. Interactive video is similar to taking all the aspects of a fiction film and combining them with the popular “Choose your own adventure” books from the 1980s (sorry if those were before your time, Millennials). When interactivity is added, we can employ some pretty rad new ways of connecting with an audience.

Interactive video boasts engagement rates over 70% and retention times of 200% — 300%. -Eko Interactive
Ultra talented DoP Nico Mengin framing the shot on the steps
“We measured the shots from the camera to the talent to ensure they would be the same size in the frame in the finished piece. During the edit, we stacked the footage in the sequence and reduced the opacity of the top video by 50% to match action.”

How interactive storytelling differs from traditional storytelling

Traditional storytelling was done in a linear fashion — meaning you take the user through the beginning, middle, and end of the story. With the introduction of interactive video, there is now a library of new ways in which the user can experience your story. By putting the viewer in charge of how the story will play out, you create a unique experience that can vary over time.

Four methods of interactive video storytelling

When it comes to interactive video, while there is no limit to the creative ways you can structure your story, there are four primary techniques that are often used in compelling and effective interactive video campaigns.

Garlic String

The garlic string interactive story allows the viewer to make decisions for a character, but all options will lead to the same ending. For example, you could have a character choose to walk to work or ride a bike, but that character will end up at the same destination by the end of the video. While the viewer is watching and interacting, he or she will not realize that the story ends in the same way no matter what selection is made unless the video is watched several times.

The benefit to creating this type of story is that you can have one very brand specific conclusion your viewers will arrive at when the video is complete, but you can allow them to have some fun along the way.

Parallel Paths

The next type of storytelling scenario that works well in interactive video is the idea of parallel paths. In this type of story the viewer will have the option of changing perspectives and watching the story from the eyes of one character or another. This can be a useful technique when trying to elicit an emotional response from the viewer who may identify more with one character than another.

When choosing the parallel path story, the outcome and storyline will be the same, no matter which path the viewer chooses. What will vary is the way in which the viewer will see the world you’ve created. When creating a parallel path story you can opt to allow the viewer to change viewpoints at any time, or only at certain points in the story. Creatively, it is completely up to you.


In the destiny storytelling technique, the viewer is presented with several options to choose for their character. Similar to the garlic string method, the destiny method will end with the same result, no matter which path is chosen. The main difference between the two is that in the destiny model, there are many twists and turns that can be added into a video, allowing the viewer more leeway in creating a unique story.

A fun technique used in creating destiny method stories is to have the ending of the video be the same as the beginning, which allows for a creative loop that can be effective for getting a viewer to participate with the video more than once.

Possible Futures

Of all the interactive video styles, the possible futures model is the most complex. In this model, the viewer has a multitude of options available, and since the ending is not the same for each choice, there are several different storylines that can be created.

This type of interactive video production, although it will take longer to produce, will create a more personalized experience for the viewer, and is likely to merit several views from one individual as they come back to see what other endings are possible.

“Location scouting was a challenge as well; especially since we were doing it in two countries. We needed the locations to match as best as possible so we spent double the time looking for spots to shoot than usual.”
Ahhh, Mexico :) We desperately tried to work this car into the shoot but couldn’t find one like it in the USA.

Examples of Storytelling done right

So, how do you take these different storytelling techniques and add them to your interactive video? We found some great examples of storytelling done right in interactive videos that we’d like to share.

The Trip — NOTE: The interactive version has been taken down :(

The Trip is an interactive film by the Kissinger Twins, and won a Webby award in 2013. It features the story of a traveler, Jack Torrance, as he makes a trip through Tutuila Island. Allowing viewers to select a route on the map of Tutuila Island, each location offers a new adventure for the reader to enjoy. The viewer can start at the beginning of the map and move through the entire journey or select any point along the way, but there is just one ending for the story.


A great example of the garlic string method at work can be found in an interactive ad for Madewell. In this video, the viewer gets to make decisions throughout the story, beginning with choosing coffee or tea (which also selects one of two characters). From there, the viewer gets to select a clothing style, accessories, and then fun elements. No matter what choices the viewer makes, the video ends with a holiday message from Madewell.


A great example of a parallel paths story can be found in an interactive video by Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola released a Mother’s Day ad called “Inseparable” in 2015 that encouraged sons and daughters to call their moms for the holiday. The interactive video switched views from the mother’s viewpoint as she was looking at her baby, and then to the baby’s viewpoint as she looked at her mother. The sounds, storytelling, and scene were identical, no matter which viewpoint was selected. It was as if the viewer were simply switching camera angles within the same story to get a fuller picture of what was happening. The use of face-to-face filming, along with the ability to switch angles, made the message to call your mother an emotional ad, and a great piece of content for Coca-cola.


One unique example of interactive video that creates several different story options is IKEA’s interactive catalogue “Where Good Days Start.” What starts out as a family of four waking up in their apartment for a new day, quickly turns into a “choose your own adventure” situation where the viewer can travel down several “rabbit holes” to explore items in the house such as furniture, and pillows, and can even play with lighting. While the idea behind this interactive video was that it would lead the viewer back to items in the IKEA catalogue, it doesn’t feel like a strict advertisement, which is what kept views coming back for more. While the viewer learns more about the family, and plays with all the video elements, they are also being shown a variety of products from IKEA. This interactive video was an Honoree in Best Use of Video or Moving Image at the Webbys in 2015.

“Directing an interactive video has it’s own challenges. You have to be meticulous in your pre production planning.”
Nico & I location scouting a couple days before the shoot on the Mexico side.
Nico is French so he looks cool even in a Mexican sewer.

Ready to add interactive video to YOUR marketing?

While these methods are some of the most popular forms of interactive video, they are by no means the only options available. The great thing about this new medium is that it is ever evolving and allows for creativity to take centerstage. If you are interested in learning about how adding interactive video can help boost your business presence online and start bringing in more leads and sales, we’d like to help!

Here at The Mission we specialize in helping brands create videos that bring attention to their story. We invite you to get in touch with us to find out more. Who knows; maybe your video will get featured in a future article as one of the best of the best. To learn more about our creative team, you can connect with us here.