Steven Soderbergh’s New ‘Mosaic’ App May Revolutionize TV Storytelling

Smartphone-based mini-series lets viewers watch out of sequence, follow different characters.

November 11, 2017 5:00 am
Director and Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for HBO)

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is moving from the big-screen to much smaller screens—and could reinvent storytelling along the way.

The Oscar-winner is the force behind the new app Mosaic—launched this week for iOS devices—which is a seven-hour mystery mini-series that allows viewers to watch in different sequences and follow different characters. That means the real intrigue is just how much the fluid story-telling model will rewrite the rules for the TV and film industries.

Soderbergh teamed up with former Universal Pictures chief Casey Silver five years ago, after the release of Magic Mike, to figure out how to use smartphone technology to tell stories.

“It very quickly evolved into something that went beyond what the original concept of what this thing was, and more into the territory where we ended up,” Soderbergh told Wired.

The resulting story follows the mystery surrounding the murder of a children’s book author, played by Sharon Stone, in Park City, Utah. Because all the storyline possibilities had to be mapped out, Soderbergh and writer Ed Solomon set up shop in a Manhattan loft to work on the branching narrative, which was plotted out on colored note cards lining the walls. The final script ended up being more than 500 pages, nearly five times as long a typical movie screenplay.

To help with funding, Soderbergh convinced HBO to invest $20 million into Mosaic, in exchange for a six-part, more traditional version that will air on the network as a mini-series in January 2018.

During the 49-day shoot, Soderbergh was careful to hide the full script from the individual actors, so they could focus only on their individual storylines.

“The cliché that every actor thinks the movie is all about them, in this case they really did get to feel that,” Soderbergh told Wired. “I encouraged them to indulge in that narcissistic, I’m-the-center-of-this-universe thinking because that helped.”

See the trailer below:

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