Netflix Bandersnatch Black Mirror Fionn Whitehead
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Black Mirror: Netflix had to create an all-new computer program to make Bandersnatch a reality

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Dec 31, 2018

Much like the central character of Bandersnatch, Netflix had to program something no one had ever seen before in order to make its first interactive Black Mirror episode a reality.

According to a lengthy feature on the film by The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming giant ended up creating a complex (and proprietary) choose-your-own-adventure software, cheekily named "Branch Manager," which the company now intends to use for all of its upcoming interactive episodes. The tech not only maps out all of the possibilities via a root-like system of flowcharts, it also keeps track of viewer choices as the story progresses.

“You couldn’t do this in a flowchart because it’s dynamic and tracking what state you are in and doing things accordingly,” said Black Mirror creator, executive producer, writer, and Bandersnatch scribe Charlie Brooker.

The world of entertainment is marked by technological innovations to move the concept of storytelling forward. For example, George Lucas founded ILM for the sheer amount of visual effects needed for the first Star Wars film, while Pixar's RenderMan software — developed in the early '90s — is now an industry standard in the field of animation.

Set in 1984 (Orwellian comparisons don't stop there), Bandersnatch follows Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), a young programmer who begins to question his reality and free will during an attempt to adapt a massive fantasy novel into a video game. Given the fact that the writer of the book went nuts and chopped his wife's head off doesn't bode well for poor Stefan, who sort of becomes the creative property of the viewer as the audience gets to decide his fate.

"For the writer, your characters are defined by their actions. But in this story, you are deciding the actions. So, who is that character?” Brooker explained. “That was partly why we landed on the story that we’ve got because part of our narrative is this tussle of: Why is that happening and who is controlling it? That aspect is baked into the story because that was one of the biggest struggles I had. One of the other challenges is slightly letting go. Normally we make the decisions but with this, it’s both liberating and terrifying to not have to do that."

While some hoped the arrival of Bandersnatch meant that Season 5 was just over the horizon, they will be a tad disappointed. Per THR, Netflix is eyeing a 2019 release for the new batch of episodes, but hasn't chosen an exact date just yet.


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