13 Nov 2021

Behind the scenes: Indossavano Maschere Nere

On the Saturday of Abertoir 2021's virtual leg, we presented a live-streamed, choose-your-own adventure – with the audience directing the meeting of two characters.

If you missed it, you can watch again and find out how things panned out for our two protagaonists. If you saw it and you're intrigued to find out how it came together, read on for a look behind the mask...


Cast and crew Q&A


How did it come about?

In 2020, we had to pivot pretty quickly to an entirely online festival. While devising the festival, we put out the feelers to understand what people wanted from a remote festival, and what reservations they had. It was clear that everyone wanted to feel that they were part of something together despite being spread across the UK. And that’s where this idea spiralled from. 

We wanted to create something that had a sense of ‘liveness’, and that felt like it connected you with others who were watching at the same time. A live, choose-your-own adventure felt like the perfect thing. In addition, we wanted to create something that would bring our remote audience – many of whom are outside Wales – to Aberystwyth. And Masks – our working title for Indossavano Maschere Nere – was born!

How has the project evolved?

We wanted to put this on last year but ran out of time. Originally the plan was to create something filmed and streamed entirely live. Although our initial tests went well, we opted for a more polished set of pre-recordings that could be mixed and played out as people made their decisions. 

Another early concept was around the idea of the audience being unknowingly complicit in the demise of one of the characters. We’d considered the idea of the audience making decisions to bring the characters together, and the eventual reveal being that by steering the two together, the audience had caused the confrontation. 

As the idea moved more towards giallo, that idea took more of a backseat. Our wonderful actors Jess and Dan amped up the acting to giallo-proportions, Kristen added lots of symbolic props and Przem went to town with the cinematography. The giallo style enabled us to embrace (read, forgive ourselves) some of the clunkier bits of the film! It was after all a no/low-budget film!


Who was involved?

We were fortunate enough to have loads of talented people involved who volunteered their time.  


Kristen is a writer for the games industry and has worked on loads of high profile titles. We were really lucky to have her onboard to craft the script, story, journeys and endings – as well as making a cameo as the tourist!

Matt is involved with Abertoir each year and often helps us with the streaming, recording and digital side of things, so we knew Masks would be in safe hands with him. He did an amazing job of knitting together all the potential options, and finding a way to play these out based on the live poll results. 

Przem works with Gaz in the cinema but is also a tutor and a talented filmmaker in his own right. He was our cinematographer and made Masks look fantastic, with only an iPhone and (sometimes temperamental) gimbal.

Jess and Dan were our awesome actors – willing to embrace all the wet and windy weather – and also improvising as we did on-location rewrites. 

And then Gaz. Well, what can I say? With his debut performance in that opening scene, I think Hollywood may come calling. 


What was the biggest challenge?

The weather. The weekend we shot was incredibly wet and windy! And the un-used reshootsBeautifully sunny! 

We spent a weekend in Aberystwyth for the filming, and one ‘challenge’ made it into the final piece as a little easter egg. The quote at the end of the credits -‘when they’re gone, they’re gone’ - is a reference to the hotel the crew stayed at during the shoot, which Kristen accurately described as ‘Lynchian’. When one of us asked for more than one hash brown at breakfast, the proprietor replied, ‘when they’re gone, they’re gone!’. When I stayed for one night again during the festival, I actually achieved two hash browns.



What did you think when you first heard about the project?

Excited. As a child of the 80s I grew up with Choose Your Own Adventure books and have always written my own. The chance to do something like Bandersnatch but with more of a horror slant was too good to pass up. 


What were the highlights?

Seeing it all come together. The passion of everyone involved was incredibly creatively energising. Everyone committed so completely to this weird, challenging experience and added so much in the performance, the cinematography and the editing. And of course that doll. That doll gave me nightmares for weeks. 


What were the challenges?

Well, obviously we wanted to do it last year but we ran out of time. Mostly the challenges were the tight filming schedule and the guerrilla style of everything. We were working at such speed and changing stuff on the fly, and this is always exciting but takes lot of trust and focus.




What did you think when you first heard about the project?

Is this that thing where we’ve bitten off more than we can chew?


What were the highlights?

Getting to visit Aberystwyth for filming ahead of the actual festival! I so rarely get to travel to Aber, that it was - despite the tight and busy schedule - really nice to see the town again a few weeks before the festival.

Honestly, working with the team was so much fun, especially the shared issues with hotels and travel and finding somewhere to eat of an evening in sleepy Aber - although I was pleased to try out some of the new cocktail bars that have popped up!

Working on the editing during the week, adding ADR and tweaking edits – there was a point where we really saw things coming together and that was a definitely high point. I was always confident we’d pull it out the bag but it’s easy to get nervous about these things!  


What were the challenges?

Personally, having to learn DaVinci Resolve after my MacBook went south after literally the first edit was a big challenge but rewarding!

On the shoot? The weather! Sunny when we didn’t want it to be, windy… all the time (RIP iPhone microphones). There were a few continuity errors introduced by dodgy umbrellas and at one point the sky deciding to be totally clear despite many hours of rain before hand.



What did you think when you first heard about the project?

I thought it sounded amazing! I’ve always been a fan of ‘choose your own’ adventures; and the team involved sounded passionate and friendly! 

What were the highlights?

Having the opportunity to play Jane- with the multiple paths, it was so fun to consider the knock on effect’ on the character, down to the little details. You don’t usually get many opportunities to explore a character in this way! 

Working with such an amazing, friendly, and funny team was a main highlight. 

Another highlight moment: the looks on everyone’s faces when they saw ‘Baby Emily’ for the first time.

What were the challenges?

I would say the ‘highlight’ of playing Jane was also one of the most challenging: keeping track of paths, keeping in check with the character. Where’s the fun without a good challenge?




Kristen on Masks' construction

We knew we wanted to do something like Bandersnatch but with more of a horror theme. Plotting out the choices was a herculean task, not just to make sure the logic followed through, but to make sure each choice and ending felt meaningful.  

We used a ‘wound’ system to track how likely Jane was to kill Jacob. Both psychological and physical played a part. We worked hard to keep the timeline logical, so there are lots of similarities in the multiverse with slight twists depending on choices, for example the tourist taking the selfie.  

Ultimately the endings all lead to Jane and Jacob meeting at the castle. This is where all the choices that have come before converge. What happens then is dependent on the number of psychological and physical wounds Jane has suffered. Has she seen the roses, picked up the bloody shirt, found the baby, fallen, burned herself? And Jacob may seem innocent, but other branches showed a very different side to him, giving him a more sinister intent.

There were 15 varieties of ending, and even a ‘happy’ one. Well, as happy as giallo gets.

Here are some more of the choices you could have had: 

  • Jane sometimes misses the rose

  • Jacob can find a knife, and the audience can choose whether he picks it up

  • You can miss both the baby or the shirt

  • There is more of the mysterious masked stranger

  • Outside Jane’s house

  • Stalking in the ruins

  • Lisa has a bigger part to play

  • And Gaz lives – nah only joking, he dies regardless. Sorry, Gaz! 






Matt on Masks' live playout

We had to break every choice and every scene within each choice down to a discreet piece of footage. We gave each clip a unique ID – and in circumstances where some scenes or footage could be joined we did that too, however we still had over 50 options through the timeline with no duplicated footage across any of those options.

When it came to the live event, we relied on calling out and agreeing on which clip ID would come next based on the choices you (the audience) had decided on so far. Watching the timecode for each clip and knowing when to cut to the next clip, including one hasty, on-the-fly edit to limit a continuity error we discovered whilst live – I hope you didn’t notice it!

You may have noticed that on some of the footage it sounds like it may have been recorded in a studio – well it was! ADR (Additional Dialogue Replacement) was required not least because the Aberystwyth wind carried away our talented actors voices, but also allowed us to lean into the giallo vibe of the movie.

For those interested in the technical stuff, there was over 60GB of footage, all shot on iPhones. With hundreds of video files, and audio files (including several hours of ADR and all the custom music) – we relied on OneDrive for filesharing – and many hours on Zoom, editing and rehearsing. Everything was edited on DaVinci Resolve (learnt on the fly after my MacBook took a dive), and Adobe Premier. On the day, OBS was used to select the scenes and broadcast to the Zoom audience.





Behind the scenes photos