Christina Perasso found herself locked in a dark room on Monday, unclear about where she was or how she got there. Her only link to the outside world has been a laptop, which she has been using to post requests for help on Twitter and upload photos and videos to Facebook and YouTube. Here’s one of her recent Facebook updates:
I can’t climb up to the windows I’ve tried a couple of times… a bunch of sites are blocked, like Skype, Google Earth etc. but I’m going to keep trying, a lot of other sites seem to work… whoever is doing this seems to be one step ahead of everything I try..
Relax, there’s no reason to call the cops. Perasso is a fictional character, part of a new interactive movie called The Inside Experience that was launched by Intel and Toshiba to promote the laptop used in the film. The 20-something is played by Emmy Rossum, who previously appeared in movies like Phantom of the Opera and The Day After Tomorrow, and the show is directed by D.J. Caruso of Disturbia fame.
Both companies started brainstorming about ways to combine a branded movie with social networks back in Janaury, I was told during a phone conversation with Intel’s OEM partner marketing director Ryan Baker today. The idea really started to take on a life of its own once Caruso got involved, who Baker credited for bringing a lot of Hollywood folks on board. Filming started in early June, and now it’s up to the online community to take the film to its final conclusion.
Perasso has already started to post a bunch of clues on her Facebook page, including various receipts from take-out restaurants and furniture stores. Users have eagerly begun to go over those clues to locate Perasso and help her to find a way out of her captivity. The pace and order in which these pieces of the puzzle are solved directly influence what kind of videos get posted next. “The clues have an impact on how the film plays out,” said Baker.
This also means that we won’t know for some time how long this movie actually is, and when it will end. Baker said that the team estimates viewers to solve the entire puzzle by mid August, but admitted: “We are not exactly sure.”
The Inside Experience is in many ways similar to alternate reality games, which have been used to promote shows like Lost by blurring the line between reality and fiction. However, the movie doesn’t even pretend to be the real deal. Part of this obviously has to do with liability: You don’t even want to pretend for a second that an abduction could be real. However, Baker also said that this was more about exploring new ways of storytelling: “We had always conceived of this as a fictional story line.”
There are a few things that I find interesting about The Inside Experience: First of all, it obviously seems to capture the imagination of its audience. The trailer to the movie was seen 1.75 million times before it even launched, and the publishing of Perasso’s first video even briefly took the movie’s website offline. Also intriguing is that Intel is willing to go rather dark with its old “Intel Inside” tagline. Sure, the laptop is Perasso’s most powerful tool, but she’s also held inside, against her will. Exploring this double meaning is pretty ingenious.
And finally, there’s the promise that we will eventually be able to see The Inside Experience as a complete movie, with edits and story line depending on all the social inputs that are gathered while the mystery unfolds. The movie’s audience also takes part in its completion, or in other words: We’re all inside, even if we don’t know it yet.