You can tell that writer/director Steven Soderbergh is one of those people that when they say they're going to "take a break," what that usually means is that they're "only" going to work on 12 projects at the same time instead of the usual 18-24 projects. So when Soderbergh came out of "retirement," the filmmaker moved from Lucky Logan into directing a mysterious project called Mosaic for HBO with Sharon Stone and Garrett Hedlund.
But what exactly is Mosaic anyway? Little information has been given-out so far, with Soderbergh keeping the mysteries of the series close to his vest…at least until now. Sitting down for an interview with Film Comment, Soderbergh opened-up about Mosaic and why it's definitely not your typical "choose-your-own-adventure" set-up; and offered some additional insights as to how the series serves as a "branching narrative" exercise:
● Mosaic having a "branching narrative" will allow viewers to see what's happening from a number of different personal perspectives:
"It's a branching narrative piece. Branching narratives have been around forever, but technology now allows, I hope, for a more elegant, intuitive form of engagement than used to be possible. We spent a lot of time on how you touch this thing. I wanted to make sure that it was beautiful and simple, so that when the opportunity arises for you to decide whose perspective you want to follow, it feels organic and not like an interruption—like the thing is just stopping cold. So there was just a lot trial and error about how that would work. I'm really happy with it now. The question now is if a million people log on at the same time, will it crash? It's supposed to come out in November."
● Mosaic will premiere as a free app before it moves to HBO, but you'll be able to watch it a number of different ways. Which is good when you consider how long the experience could actually take:
"For your phone, iPad, desktop, Apple TV. Anything. We started thinking we'll just do iOS. But after long series of conversations, we said it makes no sense while we're building this thing not to include Android and desktop. While we have the hood open, don't we want as many eyeballs on this thing as possible? And it's a free app. So set aside your time, because if you watch all the various nodes, it's like seven and a half hours. I was very aware while we were making it that this is the cave painting of this format—that somebody else is going to take this thing and push it way further. I was just trying to get a working story. Ed Solomon, who wrote Mosaic, has another piece that's built on what we did and is going to be much more complex."
● The Mosaic app will be broken-up into chapters; and when a chapter ends, the viewer has the option where they want to go from there and from which perspective. But unlike a "choose-your-own-adventure" narrative, Mosaic has one story from beginning-to-end but there are a number of perspectives to watch the action unfold through.
● So what's the story about? Murder…but maybe not such a mystery:
"It's a murder. Not a murder mystery so much. There are two different time frames, one contemporary and one four years ago. This case that everyone thought was solved gets reexamined with interesting results. So you get to go back and forth depending on who you want to follow at what point. It seemed to be a kind of story that benefited from this multiverse perspective. The writing and the editing of it was tricky. The giant board that Ed and I had was a real head-scratcher."
● Soderbergh needed more money for the technology he was using/creating; so in turn, HBO gets a linear episodic version of Mosaic that will air on HBO in early 2018:
"There will be a linear episodic version that's set to air on HBO in January, but ideally going forward, it would just be an app. I offered HBO the possibility of doing a linear cut because I needed more money to develop the technology. I called them and said I have a lot of material that's not in the app; 'I can cut a six-hour episodic version of this that will be its own thing.' And they said, absolutely."