'Daddy, What Are They Sevens'?
Toronto-based agency Secret Location has created an interactive online film and game called The Sevens. Launched today, The Sevens is a creation that can be enjoyed on a number of levels: as a short film, an interactive game or an immersive mystery in which users can participate.
The Sevens begins with a phone call and contains three puzzles for viewers to solve. In a suburban home, a young girl named Julie is confronted with a series of mysterious symbols that, once arranged in a particular order, unlock a phone number and passcode. If users solve the puzzles and dial the number, they are taken deeper into the story's narrative by being given a chance to solve one final puzzle in order to reveal an alternative ending.
"The nature of the story is that it keeps drawing you in further and further, making you more vulnerable. It's the classic Alice In Wonderland rabbit hole scenario," says Pietro Gagliano, creative director and partner at Secret Location. "We want people to feel shaken up by how deeply immersive the experience feels at the end."
The idea evolved from Secret Location's portfolio launch four years ago. Set up as a Choose Your Own Adventure-type narrative, the site drove 120,000 people through the portfolio in the first three months. Incidentally, the designers posted a phone number on the bottom of the site for potential clients to call but visitors assumed it was part of the game.
"We received nearly 100,000 phone calls in the first six months," says Gagliano. "Suffice it to say, it was annoying but it did give us an idea and proved that people would call if we asked them to - or even if we didn't ask them to."
The team began brainstorming and writing The Sevens in November 2011 with writer/filmmaker José Avelino Gilles Corbett Lourenço and production began in February 2012. Now that it's live, the creative team intends to grow the story, add new characters and create related content that can live on other sites, such as YouTube.
"The interactive film is the start of a larger narrative that we'll continue to build on over the next year and beyond," explains company founder James Milward. "A lot of the time the most experimental ideas we have aren't appropriate or are too risky to hinge the success of our clients on. As a result, we built this experience as a sandbox for us to play in and experiment with ideas, techniques and technology in a way that will prove concept with real users."
Secret Location has already rolled out several real world elements connected to The Sevens. In tandem with the site launch, cryptic posters featuring characters from the film and chalk stencils of the mysterious symbols and the URL have begun appearing in select cities across North America, including Toronto, New York and Los Angeles.
"We'd love to keep adding elements to this narrative," says Gagliano. "That's why we created an open invitation at the end of the experience for the user to contribute ideas."