In a first, a scripted fiction series is playing on Instagram. Shield 5, a 28-part series made its debut on February 2 and is unfolding through 15-second daily episodes. Directed by Anthony Wilcox, the series has been written by Adam Dewar, an editor with the British newspaper The Guardian. The show’s creators are calling this new form of storyteling “social cinema”.
The plot: John Swift is a driver for the company SVC Security Services. A consignment of diamonds gets stolen on his watch, and his co-driver is killed. The police suspect Swift and arrest him. Swift goes on the run to prove his innocence.
While the episodes are not as gripping as a conventional long format web series would be, the creators have been using the platform cleverly to complement their narrative. This includes uploading an image after every episode. Pictures of the IDs of the main characters and newspaper clippings establish context for the characters and the plot.
Shield 5 isn’t an official Instagram series but it could pave the way for more such content to follow on other platforms too. This new form of story-telling on social media poses a challenge to content developers. Snapchat had earlier launched an entertainment portal called Snap Channel, which had to be shut down after a few months of its launch.
With online content getting snappier by the minute, the new challenge is to make it bite-sized and “snackable.” Platforms such as Twitter and Vine pose creative challenges with their tools and limitations, but they can also provide content that is edgy and share-worthy. Instagram was quick to realise this when they introduced the video feature within their 15-second time limitation. While users have been creating videos on Instagram, this is the first time that a scripted series has been created exclusively for this app.
“The way people are watching things is evolving and changing all the time so it seems like the right time to try something different,” Wilcox told the BBC. “This is an experiment but I'm really confident the audience will enjoy it.”