The ubiquity of the Choose Your Own Adventure series on the childhood bookshelves of generations X and Y is hard to match, but efforts to transfer that interactivity to the world of film have been somewhat less successful (gotta love the music video though). The web clearly has the potential to translate that type of CYA magic from text to video, and Rootclip is finding a way.

It all began one evening when Erik Luchauer and Kevin Antoine were waxing nostalgic about those fanciful CYA books, and it grew into an idea for a site with the ambitious goal of bringing new energy and creativity to the world of film, giving filmmakers, writers, actors, and their audiences a platform for collaboration.

Erik and Kevin’s Rootclip contests drive this hopeful synergy. The pair uploads a video that introduces a setting, characters, and plot (aka the “rootclip,” yeah, now you get it).  For the next 10 days anyone can submit a 60-second clip that advances the story to a second “chapter.” 

After submissions are closed, the clips are made viewable and vote-able on the site. The one with the most votes gets spliced in as the official chapter 2, wins its creators $500, and the cycle continues for chapters 3 through 5. Chapter 6 is open only to submissions from the chapter 2-5 winners (though anyone can vote), with a grand prize trip to Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival on the line!  Cool concept.

###There’s more about the process in this Rootclip blog post, which may sound complex but it’s straightforward in practice.  It does CYA framework one better, allowing for the Rootclip audience to not only democratically choose the next chapter, but to produce those choices themselves in advance. And because the entrants stay conscious of the film’s overall story and aesthetic consistency, the end result can be surprisingly cohesive given that the actors, settings, props, etc. all change every sixty seconds.

Here’s the final, six-chapter version produced during Rootclip’s beta contest, which was won by two 22-year-old video production technology students from Knoxville, TN.

Intense, no? Blackbook’s invocation of Stan Brakhage in its review seems appropriate, though the Tarantino traces aren’t hard to spot either.

The current contest has already gotten a bit campy with the goofy voiceovers of the just selected chapter 2 video, but the quality is sure to improve as the site picks up steam (just be thankful that the obligatory rickroll submission didn’t win). It’s already clear that this is an innovative and exciting use of web technology to build community to create new forms of video art. We’ll be watching (and voting!) closely.

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