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How to teach better and save lives with interactive film

How to teach better and save lives with interactive film
Interactive film director Martin Percy reveals his tips on production in the wake of his wins for Lifesaver at the IPA Best of Health Awards.

Let’s say that you had a cardiac arrest - right now. Would the people around you know what to do to save your life?

Think not? Chances are, you’re right.

About 1,000 people will die today in Europe from cardiac arrest. Many of those victims could have been saved if the people around them had known basic emergency skills.

So, wouldn’t it be great if we had a better way to teach those skills?

Lifesaver tries to do exactly that. It’s three films, each of which simulates a crisis. In two of the films, the victim’s had a cardiac arrest and, in one, the victim’s choking.

Watch the intro film to Lifesaver and check out the live site with links to download the app for iOS and Android.

In Lifesaver you learn by doing. You have to make choices to save someone’s life. We don’t teach you first and then test you: instead, we throw you straight into the crisis and force you to sort things out.

Get it wrong, and the victim will die. (But you can still try again.)

Get it right and feel some of the thrill of saving a life.

Lifesaver is available as an app for smartphones and tablets along with a website for regular computers. In the mobile version you give CPR to the victim by shaking your device up and down two times a second. It was launched in March last year. How’s it done?

A highlight was winning Best of Show for Consumer and Gold for Digital Media at the recent IPA Best of Health Awards. Apart from that, it’s won a grand Clio, Best in Book from the Creative Review Annual, a Webby and a BAFTA nomination amongst other awards.

Which is fine, but can we PROVE that it works? Lifesaver was funded by a charity called the Resuscitation Council (UK). They’re doing formal medical research on its effectiveness compared to other training. This paper should be out in a year or so.

But here’s something interesting in the meantime. A doctor recently tested the heart rate of someone watching two regular CPR training films. The viewer’s heart rate never went over 87 beats per minute. The doctor then tested the same user playing Lifesaver – and the viewer’s heart rate went to 105 beats per minute.

Meanwhile, the South Bristol Community Hospital in England has done tests on it. They found that for people who played Lifesaver, confidence in doing CPR rose from 37% before playing it to 74% after. All who played said it made them “more likely”, or “much more likely”, to attempt CPR in a real emergency.

Great. But Lifesaver is an idea for a way to use interactive film to teach people what to do in a crisis. But that doesn’t have to just be CPR – it could be other things.

We want to do a series of Lifesaver-type films on common life-threatening emergencies: car crash, drowning, bleeding and so on. We want to do versions of Lifesaver for Germany, China and the USA. We want to do one about what to do in an earthquake.

But how many new projects using this approach have we been able to start?

Zero. Not one single new project based on Lifesaver is under way. Why? Well, I leave that to you to guess. But suffice to say there’s a wealth of opportunities out there. Who could do something with them? YOU COULD.

Making an interactive film like Lifesaver is like making a normal film or video – but with a few simple differences. Here are six secrets:

1) MAKE IT SOMETHING YOU DO - Lifesaver is not a story about someone having a cardiac arrest. It’s a film where YOU save a cardiac arrest victim.

2) IT’S NOT A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE STORY - Lifesaver doesn’t have lots of different endings. It’s got one happy ending if you succeed – and lots of battles to win to get to that ending.

3) YOU NEED AN INTERACTIVE FILM DIRECTOR - Many ad agencies try to make interactive films. The most common cause of failure is that they get a linear TVC director to shoot the video clips. And then get someone else to do the coding. So there’s no unifying vision and the film fails.

You need one interactive film director to work with who does what I did with Lifesaver: look after every stage – from concept to script to shoot to coding to launch. Agencies know they need specialist directors for everything from beauty to cars to shampoo – because otherwise there’s a big risk the film will fail. For the same reason, you also need a specialist director for interactive film.

4) YOU NEED AN INTERACTIVE PRODUCTION HOUSE - Lifesaver was produced by UNIT9, who did a great job. Piero Frescobaldi, creative director and Yates Buckley, technical partner, had a huge effect on the final piece.

5) REAL PEOPLE = REAL EMOTIONS - You could have done Lifesaver like a normal videogame with computer generated imagery. But then you wouldn’t have the emotional connection that comes from footage of real people in real places.

6) DON’T MAKE IT INTERACTIVE... UNLESS YOU MUST - If you just want to tell a story, or give a talk, then linear is great. But if it’s fundamental to your project that your viewers should do something, then interactive film can be dynamite. But only use it when necessary. And handle with care.

Overall, Lifesaver is an idea about how to use film and interactivity to simulate a crisis and teach emergency skills better. There’s a world of opportunities out there for you to use this approach. So, have a go and see if you can save someone’s life.

Martin Percy is an interactive film director. Check out his UNIT9 work.

Read up on how Langland also won 'Best of Show' for their innovative IDIS campaign.

See who else won at the 2014 IPA Best of Health Awards and our Brazilian themed photos!

Last updated 07/07/2014

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