MovieMaze: A movie app game Starring Darcy Donavan as
The Internet is making the world much more connected while enhancing one’s ability to cater to specific wants and needs. As people become increasingly adapted to having multiple options via customizable features in a variety of consumer-centric marketplaces, they seek engaging ways to amuse and entertain themselves. The “MovieMaze” app is a prime example of such interactive entertainment.
“MovieMaze” is an app that requires users to watch a movie and then, at certain intervals, choose how the movie will play out. Basically, every so often the movie will stop and will give you two or three options. Tap the screen to select one of the options and then a new scene will begin. Depending on the option you chose, the scene will be different. Hence, you can go back and play the movie over and over again with different results each time. According to the description in the official press release:
Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books – how you could essentially dictate the direction the story goes? Well, this is the film equivalent! MovieMaze is the world’s first interactive movie app for mobile devices. An application (App) for smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices, it acts as both a library and a platform for interactive content. It’s a lot of fun choosing how a film ends! A MovieMaze™ movie shows menus of choices at turning points in the story. The viewer’s choices determine what happens next. Simply put, the viewer creates his or her own movie by touching the screen. Best of all, the app is available right around the world!
Currently, there are only two movies available: “The Mechanic” and “The Plumber.” Each story follows a bumbling protagonist through a strange odyssey of outlandish happenings. For example, in “The Mechanic” the hero is forced to fix a damaged vehicle and then drive it back to its owner’s home. In the course of this endeavor, the mechanic might encounter beautiful women, thieves, police, or even terrifying creatures (depending on whichever the options the viewer chooses). In total, there are three possible endings in “The Mechanic.”
“The Plumber” works in the same comedic and zany format as the first film but there are many more plot options due, in part, to a much larger cast. “The Plumber” chronicles the adventures of a plumber who, upon arriving at a building to fix a pipe, might encounter a kidnapped hostage, a giant spider, a mermaid, an evil alien, a pirate, or two demonic vixens (all depending on the options the viewer chooses throughout the play-out). There are four possible endings to “The Plumber” in total.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to sample the app and—although it is much more “movie” than classic game—I absolutely loved the experience. Both “The Mechanic” and “The Plumber” were funny and unpredictable. The zany plots were inspiringly imaginative and the all-around-talented cast acted their roles convincingly, which is truly remarkable given that the films are meant to be quite silly. I got so involved in both “The Mechanic” and “The Plumber” that I spent over three hours exploring the app and making sure that I watched each segment (even the “dead end” ones) and found every ending to each film. I have never enjoyed reviewing an app so thoroughly and I eagerly anticipate the next installment (a horror movie slated for a 2016 release). I give this app game 5/5 stars and highly recommend it to anyone who likes quirky comedy, interactive technology, or values a truly unique and creative piece of work.
After reviewing the app, I had the honor of speaking to two of its inventors, Maria Collis and Erik Lundmark. Maria and Erik are film production and sales company heads of Leomark Studios in Los Angeles, California. Leomark Studios is responsible for the distribution of a large number of cult and current hits including “Hillybilly Horror Show,” “The Cabining,” and “Star Leaf.”
Maria and Erik decided to create the MovieMaze app after speaking with British-born filmmaker Rishi Thaker at the 2012 American Film Market (AFM). Rishi and his production partner Daniel Tee had a stellar idea for an interactive movie app and had produced a web-based prototype. The concept instantly appealed to both Maria and Erik but they felt that, in order to be successful, the app needed a stronger (and funnier) movie at its core. Thus, in early 2013, they updated the content (based on a brand new script written by Rishi and Dan) and started filming “The Mechanic” in April 2013. “Erik was on camera, Rishi directed, and I handled the wardrobe and the off-camera care of the actors,” Maria explained. “It took us four days to shoot, and we released it in October 2013.”
The success of “The Mechanic”—especially at conventions such as comic cons—prompted the team to start working on a second, more ambitious, project titled “The Plumber.” This movie is longer, has many more options, and a larger cast. “The Plumber” was filmed in April 2014 over a span of five days. It is set to be released to the public in March 2015.
It is worth noting that many of the same actors and actresses that appeared in “The Mechanic” also star in the second feature. “We did a casting call for ‘The Mechanic’ and ended up loving working with some of the actors so much that we decided to write parts specifically for them in the second film,” Maria stated.
Despite the low-to-moderate budget of the project, all the actors involved are trained professionals and handle even the strangest roles with gleeful exuberance. In “The Mechanic,” Jake Mathews plays the Indian mechanic “Indeep Sheet” (a humorous play on words) with a basically mild-mannered believability. Darcy Donavan plays “Tulula Grace,” a gangster’s girlfriend, as if parodying Marilyn Monroe. Matthew Vera plays “BooBoo,” the very short and very angry gangster, with comedic outrage and considerable physical comedy. Although these characters are not written to be deep or detailed, the performances of the actors and actress somehow make them quite memorable.
In “The Plumber” Darcy Donavan returns as a mermaid and the title character is played by Brian Prisco who also had a small role as a robber in “The Mechanic.” Yet “The Plumber” also introduces two notable new cast members: Steven Molony as the wicked alien villain, Evil Cho, and comedian Taurean Cavins-Flores as “The Translator,” an oddly deranged role that Taurean handled perfectly with exaggerated facial expressions and humorous physicality. Anibal Silveyra was equally entertaining as the wicked pirate known as Juan Toothee. Kelli Breslin, Sarah Phillips, and Cathleen Cole clearly enjoyed themselves playing devious demons in human form. Also look out for appearances by Derek Lux—who plays a deranged and amorous Scotsman whose character appears briefly in both films—and Lexi Baxter Meinen who also has cameos in both films, specifically as a blonde in a sports car and a pirate’s wrench.
According to Maria and Erik, future films will hopefully involve the recurrence of these actors and actresses. “We like the idea of having a sort of ensemble cast like Saturday Night Live,” Maria said. “We will try to re-cast whoever is available when we are filming our next film. In fact, Brian Prisco—the actor who portrayed the plumber—actually wrote the script for our next movie.”
Currently, the third project is already underway and is titled “The Babysitter.” This film will follow the same “chose-your-own-path” format as the initial two but it will be a horror film, not a comedy. “After we screened ‘The Mechanic’ we asked audiences what they would like to see more of,” Erik said. “A lot of people asked to see a horror movie so that’s what we are going to do next. We know some great Special Effects artists so we are hoping to make a really impressive horror film with multiple scary endings.” To date, the script for “The Babysitter” is near completion and the movie will be shot later this year. Its anticipated release date is sometime in 2016. “Brian is multi-talented and has a degree in screenwriting,” Maria commented. “He already has a horror-themed book published and was onboard with the MovieMaze cast from the start, so it was perfectly fitting for him to write the script.”
“We have a lot of plans for MovieMaze, including expanding the two movies that are already available,” Erik disclosed. “For instance, we are planning to add ‘story branches,’ additional endings, to both movies so users can play the game longer. We also want to have more titles by 2016.” Part of the expansion of the app will also include a large library of films in various genres for varying age groups. For instance, at present both “The Mechanic” and “The Plumber” feature mild sexual innuendo and some cartoony violence that make them most ideal for teenage and adult audiences. As the movie library expands, some films will be entirely suitable for children (and might eventually include animated offerings) since, in early screenings, youngsters reacted very positively to the capability of controlling how the movie ends. “Our ultimate goal is to be the next Facebook or Rovio,” said Maria. “We want to be the brand that is synonymous with interactive entertainment.”
Considering how expertly MovieMaze blends passive entertainment—like watching movies—with participatory entertainment—like playing a game—there is little doubt that this app has an extremely bright future.