Back when the trailer for Unfriended debuted, reactions were mixed. As a horror movie taking place entirely on the desktop of a teenager’s computer, its format is less than typical. In it, we see the main character in a Hangouts chat with her friends, flipping between all manner of social media. Following the lead of this in a decidedly more comedic direction is Modern Family, with an upcoming episode featuring a similar format set to a far different context.
Set to air on February 25, the episode strays far from the norm in plenty of ways. The general plot is simple enough: Claire Dunphy is waiting at the airport, having just gotten into a fight with her daughter Haley. In her search for Haley, she flips between chat apps and social media on her Macbook as she interacts with various characters through the comfort of her screen. We as an audience are treated to the screen world for the entirety of the episode, rather than the usual multi-location premise the show, along with its contemporaries, follows.
Everyone is apparently well plugged into their Apple devices, with the logo displayed prominently through Facetime and iChat, as well as the devices everyone uses. The technological side of it all is fairly fascinating, falling under what’s become known as “screen-capture filmmaking.” Claire participates simultaneously in multiple video chats in her efforts to track down her daughter, with Easter eggs and references to past episodes buried in the background. Between this and Unfriended, we may very well be in for the next big trend in entertainment.
This, of course, leads us to wonder: Who will take advantage of this format next? Both horror and TV comedy have been covered, but as a new medium the possibilities are endless. Screen-capture filmmaking could be used for any number of practical artistic applications as entertainment for a generation that spends most of its time looking at a screen anyway. It would figure logically that a film and TV format that caters to this lifestyle would resonate with the millennial generation.
We haven’t had much of a chance to gauge the success of the medium, so nothing is guaranteed. But we also wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Hollywood had multiple projects in the works that took advantage of screen-capture for film genres across the board. Imagine a movie about hackers that takes place entirely in the main arena for hackers themselves: on a computer a screen. Or maybe Unfriended will spawn an entire multimillion dollar franchise’s worth of sequels. Even still, it could die as quickly as it was created due to lack of interest and the limitations of the format.
Whatever the future of screen-capture entertainment is, it’s clear that sooner rather than later this will become a topic of debate among those in the industry. Is this the future for appealing to the social media generation, or simply another passing fad that will burst onto the scene in a blaze of glory only to unceremoniously slink away? Come February 25, Modern Family may very well give us our first chance at answering those questions.