Interview: Creator & director Anthony Wilcox opens up about Shield 5

The 28-episode thriller is set to kick off today on Instagram.

From 1st February, Instagram will be hosting a cinematic series which marks the start of what is dubbed ‘Social Cinema’.

Created and directed by Anthony Wilcox (Hello Carter) and co-created and written by Adam Dewar, Shield 5 is a thriller starring Christian Cooke (Love, Rosie), Elliot Gleave AKA Example, Wallis Day and Kieran O’Brien that will launch on Instagram on 1st February at 5pm. Each 15 second episode will air daily on the social networking service and will run for the entire month of February totalling 28 episodes.

DIY spoke with Wilcox about the ground-breaking idea to launch a series on Instagram and the logistics behind creating entertaining, episodic content in 15 seconds.

Did Instagram come to you or did you bring the idea to them?
No, we’ve only told Instagram about it in the last couple of weeks. I came up with the concept. I knew it was a mad idea, the level of madness involved. I looked around at a lot of film trailers, some advertisements and things like that and worked out that there’s quite a lot of story you could fit into 15 seconds if it was carefully thought-through and planned. In terms of how someone enters a room or what they’re wearing, music… there’s a lot of stuff that you can load in. I sat down with Adam Dewar who wrote the script and was sort of co-director and gave him a very rough pitch of the type of genre I was interested in and the way I wanted to tell the story. What was great was that he got very excited about it and we worked hard on the script which he wrote. A lot of the work in terms of time restrictions - the 15 second time limit - was done in the writing.

Did you have to construct each 15 second episode in a way that ends on a cliff hanger?
A little bit. There are elements of that. We wanted to be as ambitious as possible with the story telling as well as visually, so we layered it with as many characters as we could and sub-plots we thought were conceivable within this medium. When we worked out the overall story we wanted to tell, we broke that down into segments. You’re never going to be able to have the cliff hanger that you would at the end of Homeland or something like that, but you could kind of go some way to sort of mimic it a little bit.

What’s interesting about Instagram is that the videos play on a loop so you can’t pause or scroll through a video, it just constantly plays. We tried to make sure that the last frame at the end of the 15 seconds cut with the first frame so there’s not a jarring thing with the sound and the picture. If we’ve done that cleverly in a few places it actually makes the whole thing feel longer because you can’t quite see where the join is.

There’s no certificate for this so what restrictions are in place on what you can show?
Instagram have their own rules and regulations about the kind of things you’re allowed to show on there and we knew that and have been responsible with the concept we’ve got. It is a thriller, there is gunfire and a tiny bit of blood but there’s nothing gratuitous in it, it’s a fun action-thriller. If it was in the cinema it would be a low PG.

Does it run as a 7 minute short?
No, it doesn’t at all. What was written into the script was after each 15 second episode we have a photograph and these photographs are absolutely critical to the story telling, it doesn’t make sense without them. That’s why it’s a totally new way of telling a story. There was never any intention to run it as a 7 minute thing.

This is being tagged as ‘Social Cinema’, if it takes off you guys are going to be heralded as pioneers…
[Laughs] I am very prepared to be a pioneer! My background and what I primarily do is make feature films and when you’re trying to make them, you spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for people to make decisions. It struck me that there’s this hugely powerful tool that we have in our pockets of social media and there’s very little dramatic content contained in that so the idea of coining [the phrase] ‘Social Cinema’ was just maybe that there are ways of utilising and harnessing social media in order to tell a cinematic story. If that catches on I’d be delighted.

Shield 5 begins on 1st February 2016 at 5pm on @shieldfive’s Instagram.

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