Toronto-based interactive agency Secret Location has created an ambitious interactive online film and game called The Sevens.
The Sevens, launched on Secret Location’s website, is a multi-layered narrative experience will also live online at www.whatarethesevens.com and can be enjoyed on a number of levels: as a short film, an interactive game or a fully immersive mystery in which users can participate.
“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.”
For the past four years, Secret Location has produced several experimental interactive experiences, including Rookie Blue: Interrogation Room, Stanfield’s Guy At Home and Endgame Interactive, which won an International Digital Emmy® in 2012.
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.
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.”
“This is really not the end,” adds Milward. “It’s just the beginning of a growing story eco-system and mythology that we’re creating around The Sevens.”
Secret Location is an Emmy® Award-winning interactive agency that launches products and solves problems through storytelling for brands, broadcasters and producers. Just four years old, the company is a three-time Webby Awards honoree, was shortlisted for a 2011 Cannes Lion and is a Gemini, AToMiC, Creativity International, CASSIES and Marketing Awards winner. Secret Location is based in Toronto, Canada, and is led by President/Executive Producer James Milward.
Executive Producer: James Milward
Creative Director & Lead Designer: Pietro Gagliano
Technical Director: Ryan Andal
Project Manager: Ashlee Lougheed
Art Director: Stefan Grambart
Graphic Designer: Kai Salminen
Editing & Motion Graphics: Steve Miller
Assistant Editor: Michael Kazanowski
Web Developers: Gino Fazari, Michael Phan, Paul Stodolak
Music & Sound Design: Lodewijk Vos & Joseph Murray
Cast– In Order of Appearance
Dad: David Straus
Julie: Elle McFeeters
Mom: Jennifer Fullerton
Written By: José Avelino Gilles Corbett Lourenço & Secret Location
Directed By: José Avelino Gilles Corbett Lourenço
Director of Photography: Henry Less
Assistant Director: Billy Shand
Line Producer: Luke Bryant
Assistant Camera: Nick Giordano
Gaffer: Dave Lewis
Art Director: Michael Leach
Set DResser: Dylan Jackson
Sound Recordist: Edward Senkowski
Hair & Makeup: Margot Keith
Wardrobe Stylist: Sarah Millman
Production Assistant: Derek Modesto
Ann Marie Donnelly
Noora Abu Eitah
Special Thanks to HLP + Partners for production support.