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Crimeface: a Manchester Movie

Jack Jones goes to Whalley Range for interactive crime overload with Krishna Stott

Published on May 29th 2007.

Crimeface: a Manchester Movie

The poor state of British TV crime drama is, well, criminal. While the Beeb delves into its archive for Life on Mars, other channels look over the pond to import Americana. So just where is the British crime drama for the 21st century?

To find out I donned my dirty mack' and headed south towards the leafy enclave of Whalley Range. It was a dead-end night in the rainy city but I'd ventured off the beaten track to check out Krishna Stott: a multimedia artist with a serialised crime drama to plug. CrimeFace is an online, interactive film coming to a small screen near you.

Tranz wears a face numbed by crime: having witnessed it, observed its consequences and, perhaps, enacted it. At his darkest times it seems Tranz knows that without crime he has no rhyme nor reason.

On first glance CrimeFace (CF) wasn't a conventional case: neither a whodunnit? nor a howdunnit? (a police procedural like CSI). Stott winced under my spotlight as I pummelled him with questions. "It's not at all easy to categorise," Stott said. Was he on the level? "CrimeFace is an interactive film because the story shoots off for a bunch of extra video material and sub-plots regarding characters."

This wasn't interactivity in the sense of those naff TV experiments where viewers vote for their favourite Scooby-doo ending. "It's a complete story but you decide how far you want to go," says Stott. By my viewing you better journey deep to uncover facts like whether the protagonist, Tranz, is hero or villain? Stott was staying tight-lipped: "Tranz is ambiguous."

Maybe Stott is playing his own game but he's no comedian -more like a magician. By juggling various media (film, software, music, text), by plate-spinning storylines, Stott is conjuring with much in trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat rather than a dead donkey.

Stott could be overstretching. But it's refreshing to find someone sticking their neck out. He's done it through guerrilla tactics, pulling in heavyweight favours to bolster a lightweight budget. Various Northern notables have contributed time and talent (and reputation) as they've been excited by the project.

"There's David Crellin," Stott explains, "who I've done small projects with over the years." Crellin, who currently enriches Emmerdale, adds a touch of class here as a menacing face. Other faces include Juliet Ellis who has a leading role in the Ken Loach film These Times. And there's Wayne Simmonds -a cult face on Manchester's underground film making, music and art scenes for the past twenty years, Simmonds plays the aforementioned 'hero', Tranz Van Zandt: a broody black detective flying solo through a dark cartoon of serial crime investigation.

Tranz is largely silent but his deadpan expression says it all: a puggish, post-everything, untrained stare. Tranz wears a face numbed by crime: having witnessed it, observed its consequences and, perhaps, enacted it. At his darkest times it seems Tranz knows that without crime he has no rhyme nor reason. In his patch - Union City- crime is the catalyst, face is everything.

An original soundtrack comes courtesy of a namedroppable list of Mancunian musos: from the aforementioned I Am Kloot, Superqueens, Durutti Column/Inch and Easterhouse. Meanwhile indie special effects house The Box have transformed Manchester into Union City. "A lot of people have helped," Stott concludes.

CrimeFace is a serialised crime drama that looks and sounds cool: a kind of lo-fi CSI. But, it transpires, Stott is keener on interactivity than crime drama. "Part of the attraction," says Stott, "is the process of working with interactivity and developing it… I'm not trying to be profound but it is like the search for the ultimate interactive format."

Clicking through CrimeFace can feel like an exercise in style alone. Stott calls it "modern Noir". But the dark and broody feel has resonance for all who have grown up with wall-to-wall, 24-7, media saturation that just loves crime and crime stories: from Myra Hindley to missing Madeline.

If not the definitive crime drama for 21st century technology CrimeFace might prove more engaging than regular TV. So what can we expect on the 1 June launch? Nothing is Stott's candid message: "Just hit 'go'. You'll get to see some story and it will become obvious as to what you can interact with to get more story… in terms of characters, video, text or objects." Intrigued?

The audience will love it or hate it. And Stott welcomes your verdict. "I want feedback," he says. "I mean, I don't know if CrimeFace is hitting the mark."

CRIMEFACE goes live on 1 June 2007. Watch the promo here.

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