The Israeli-made technology that made Dylan cool for the post-MTV generation is being used to make Israel – or visiting it – cool as well. Students at Tel Aviv University, members of the Stand With Us Fellowship, have produced an interactive video clip using technology by Israeli start-up Interlude. The video, which is available in nine languages, seeks to combat the negative portrayal of Israel in the media by showing a positive side of the country that goes beyond the headlines, said Stand With Us Israel director Michael Dickson.
The video, called Israel: Your Way, will be officially premiered and feted at Google’s Tel Aviv headquarters Monday night. The guest list will include a who’s who of Israeli “outreach ambassadors” — young people who have been recruited to bolster the country’s image when they travel abroad, among them former Miss Israel Yityish Titi Aynaw, the first Ethiopian-Israeli to hold the title. “As a former officer in the IDF, this video touched me and made me feel proud about my country,” she said of Israel: Your Way.
Interlude was started about six years ago by Israeli singer Yoni Bloch, who designed a system that allows users to “direct” their own version of a video clip. By making a choice in the midst of the action, viewers get to experience a different outcome each time they play the video. With multiple choices available in most Interlude clips, there are often dozens of possible outcomes.
Interlude creates its magic using via its Treehouse authoring suite, which developers can use to insert different choices in a “tree” structure at points in the video, providing a “choice mechanism” where users get to pick the direction of the video – such as choosing a male or female protagonist, whether they will take a taxi or a bus, or any other choice appropriate to a particular video.
In Israel: Your Way, users are able to chart the course of a love story between a tourist to Israel and someone he meets while on vacation. The clip features emerging actors including Yonatan Bashan. The soundtrack is performed by Lola Marsh, an indie-pop band formed by Yael Shoshana Cohen and Gil Landau. The HD video takes in the landscape of Israel from north to south; love blossoms for the young couple in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and down in Eilat. Users have seven seconds to click and choose which way they want the story to go. What they choose affects the outcome of where and how the couple fall in love. The video is available in English, Italian, Portuguese, French, Russian, German, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic.
This isn’t the first time Interlude’s technology has been used to promote Israel. In February, the Tourism Ministry released a video called Discover Israel, which features a visitor to Israel named John (his nationality is not specified, nor is his religious background) going around Israel with three people – Ronni, a tour guide; Amit, a young man he meets on the plane; and Sharon, a female Israeli friend. The three are stand-ins for the different experiences Israel offers visitors, with Ronni taking John around to historical and religious sites (Masada, the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, etc.), Sharon enjoying Israel’s “good life” options (hotels, beaches, The Dead Sea, etc.), and Amit showing off Israeli options for an active vacation (snorkeling in Eilat, windsurfing in the Mediterranean, etc.)
Interlude has done videos for dozens of brands and music groups, but is best known for its 2013 video of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” his iconic 1965 song about life on the streets for a runaway that Dylan refused to turn into a video for 48 years – until Interlude came along. Conceived as a take-off on cable TV, the video allowed users to “change channels,” with characters in different scenarios – a cartoon character, a cook on a cooking show, characters in a supposed movie, comedian Drew Carey and audience on The Price is Right, and of course, Dylan himself – lip syncing the words to the original recording.
Stand With Us, which has chapters and programs around the world, has a variety of outreach programs to enhance Israel’s image, and is no stranger to using technology for that purpose. In 2012, the organization brought to Israel ten of the world’s top Instagram users to take inspiring, interesting, and fun photos of daily life in Israel. Between them, the ten Instagrammers have about 2 million followers, providing what Stand With Us said was an unprecedented opportunity to enable people around the world to experience a side of Israel they are unlikely to have ever seen.
Dickson hopes the Interlude video will perform the same kind of ambassadorial duty. “Today, anti-Israel campaigns paint a distorted picture of Israel, and overshadow the unique, progressive reality that Israel has to offer. By making this video clip the students were able to introduce the viewer to a unique visual experience exploring the current exciting reality of Israel without any prejudices.
“We believe that young Israelis can be the best ‘ambassadors’ of Israel to the world, the true face of Israel,” Dickson added. “We challenged them to be creative in reaching out to people and showing them Israel – they have more than met the challenge with this amazing initiative.”