Friday, July 20 , 2018, 12:15 am | Overcast 66º


Review: ‘Blind Date Interactive’ Leaves Decisions to Audience

Santa Barbara resident's film lets viewers decide the storyline

When you were a kid, did you ever read those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? You know, the ones where you got to decide what action you, the hero, would take at various junctures in your journey — a perilous odyssey for the rescue of a maiden, or the discovery of a fortune, or the salvation of the world.

Well, now that we’re grown up, what more perilous odyssey does one undertake than the blind date? Blind Date Interactive is a film experience created by John Lengsfelder — an artist, photographer, filmmaker and Santa Barbara resident for the past 30 years. It incorporates the interactive element, allowing the audience to choose the actions of the two characters on said blind date.

Last Saturday evening, upon entering the space on lower State Street once occupied by Pep Boys, guests were greeted with a glass of wine (included with the admission price) and directed down a hallway to the “screening room,” where 40 cushioned, rolling office chairs were arranged in a horseshoe. A clever visual pun was the many old suitcases arrayed on the floor below the screen.

After an introduction by the affable Lengsfelder, the first segment of the film — shot at recognizable locations in Santa Barbara, adding a compelling aspect for the local audience — portrayed a man and woman in their mid-30s meeting for a blind date at a restaurant. While things don’t go smoothly between them at first, it was explained that they both have more investment in the success of the date than they might normally, as the person who set them up is someone with whom they each have close ties.

After a tense exchange between the two, the film stopped and the lights came up. Lengsfelder again stepped out, this time with a remote control in hand, and revealed the three choices listed on the screen. He then invited the audience to briefly discuss the merits of each, and Saturday’s audience engaged in good-natured debate. It was discovered that one might make different choices based on whether he or she wanted to see the characters do “the right thing” or whether the maximum entertainment value was desired, which led to choices based on increasing the level of conflict.

At a dozen points throughout the film, the audience is invited to make decisions to guide the action, voting on their choices by holding up cards marked “A,” “B” and “C.” The experience of considering the options and hearing others’ arguments for or against them was illuminating and intriguing. The actors, Andrew Abelson and Jennifer Jean, did a good job of portraying two strangers in sometimes uncomfortable situations, managing to give them depth and texture.

In the post-film discussion, Lengsfelder mentioned that Saturday’s showing yielded a completely different storyline than Friday’s, a revelation that gets one thinking: How did he film this thing, anyway? The short answer is that he basically had to make 40 short films and extensively map out the many possible connections among them. It also causes this reviewer to consider a second viewing, since it could be a whole different movie the next time, depending on the audience’s choices.

Preceding the main feature was a short film, also made by Lengsfelder, titled Must Haves and Can’t Stands. Here, “man on the street” interviews illustrate those characteristics in a mate that people seek out — and shy away from — when dating. It was a good way of introducing the topic and getting the audience warmed up for the main event, as well as being interesting in its own right.

Lengsfelder has created a fascinating social experiment with Blind Date Interactive, which is also a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment — not to mention a Herculean feat of filmmaking. As the publicity on the film’s Web site states, “Making decisions about someone else’s life was never so much fun!”

Blind Date Interactive, for those age 21 or older, runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 23 at 424-C State St. Click here to purchase tickets online for $10. If available, tickets purchased at the door will be $12.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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