Malena, a co-founder and video-game developer, races against time to save her business partner Ji in "Day Zero," a gritty 12-minute interactive cyber-thriller created by Giant Spoon for database platform MongoDB.
Ji goes missing just before the launch of a new game called Operand, and Malena follows a series of clues that lead to a dank warehouse. Once there, she must harness her coding skills to rescue Ji—and ensure the game drop goes according to plan. Because on top of everything else, the program has been compromised. There's a vulnerability that hackers can exploit, and Malena must mend it on the fly, Hollywood style!
Oh, and a freaky bunny mask comes into play. You can sample "Day Zero" in this brief trailer:
At key points, the narrative—which plays off the concept of "zero-day attacks" on new software releases—prompts viewers for input. For example, should Malena wave to ousted company partner Guillaume? Later, should she take the green or red elevator? Other choices are tech specific, focusing on speed, security and scale, topics of concern to developers, touted here as selling point for MongoDB Atlas, the client's flagship database platform.
It scores as a campy, long-form product demo with a retro/William Gibson vibe. Colossale director Benny Nicks bathes the action in compellingly moody shadows and constantly flickering screens, with a neat double (or triple?) twist in the final frames.
So, tech founders aren't always paragons of virtue and loyal team players? Who knew?
"Our mission was to build an ad campaign for an audience that hates ad campaigns," Giant Spoon group creative director Ian Grody tells Muse. "Instead of messaging at them, we learned about their passion points and made a movie that feels like the genre-driven Mr. Robots and Bandersnatches they seek out. Inside of that Trojan horse, there's tons to discover about MongoDB Atlas."
The interactive elements are designed "to let developers know that MongoDB Atlas puts you in control, lets you, the dev, drive your own story," he says. (In "Day Zero," viewer choices change the tale's flow, but not its tricky denouement.)
It's all about the devs.
"This is a 'for-devs-by-devs' campaign," Grody says, "and we looked at every creative choice through that lens: from the decision to make this feel like anti-advertising to the nuances of each interactive moment to the data that scrolls across screens. We built it in partnership with devs, we tested it with devs, and devs are helping us get the word out. Leaders at the brand are walking through the experience on Twitch, pausing to break down details—dev influencers are even easter-egged in the film. Plus, there's a universe of ancillary content—trailers, teasers, GIFs, animated social posts, and media partnerships, driving to the 'Day Zero' experience."
"Every organization today is a software company, and data fuels every software application, making databases the largest market in enterprise tech," says MongoDB chief marketer Rishi Dave. "However, most database providers designed their technology 50 years ago—before the cloud, before mobile, before the internet."
"We designed our global cloud database, MongoDB Atlas, for the massively scalable applications of today," Dave says, "but awareness of the product is low. This interactive thriller aims to break through the noise in a bold way."
Dig that retro vibe.
"We referenced movies like Hackers and The Game in building our world, even our wardrobe," Grody says. "We referenced throwback puzzle games from that era, too—using the camera to frame up our hero as if she were an avatar. The music has one foot in that era as well. But we mashed up those references with inspo from Ex Machina and Atomic Blonde, which delivered a sense of modernity to the project."
Giant Spoon tapped Nicks to direct based in part on his stylish efforts for Adidas, Grody says.
Even the setting is retro.
"We shot in two locations: a hotel, where we found our party space, and Montreal's old Olympic Stadium, which was epic and gave us those killer exteriors and interiors for most of the movie," Grody says. "We all love making stuff—and there we were golf-carting between rooftops, subterranean hallways, boiler rooms—but half of your brain is constantly focused on Covid protocols, making sure you're doing your part."
"Making our days was tricky. Fifteen pages is a lot to shoot. But we flexed together. Dolly shots became handheld (for our hotel room scene). Two angles became one (the party sequence). You handle certain inserts in post instead of filming practically (the green room). You just make it work."
What's up with that rabbit head, doc?
"Malena and Ji, our leads, have founded Operand, a game heralded as the next Fortnight," Grody says. "And Operand has two key avatars: a rabbit and a fox. The rabbit is our hero; the fox, our villain. Those roles take on a new meaning as our story progresses, and Malena is placed, quite literally, in the shoes of the rabbit. We even nod to that power dynamic in the name of the game——"Operand" is the object of an operation. So, our thriller suggests an interesting question: Who is the operator and who is being operated on? We see a reversal as the film progresses."
Dev Ittycheria, President & CEO
Sahir Azam, Chief Product Officer
Rishi Dave, Chief Marketing Officer
Grace Francisco, VP, Worldwide Developer Relations And Education
Mindy Budgor, Director, Content Marketing
Jack Costley, Director, Corporate Communications
Alexandra Loh, Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Kalie Paterson, Visual Design Lead
Tatiana Morozova, Principal, Growth Marketing
Rebecca Mosner, Social Media Manager
Karen Huaulme, Principal Developer Advocate
Michael Lynn, Principal Developer Advocate
Jim Blackhurst, Principal Solutions Architect
Adrienne Tacke, Senior Developer Advocate
Kevin Arhelger, Staff Engineer - Technical Services
Agency: Giant Spoon
Trevor Guthrie, Co-Founder
Laura Correnti, Partner
Ji You, VP, Account
Malena Silva, Associate Account Director
Ian Grody, Group Creative Director
Erin Hauswirth, Associate Creative Director
Alexis Kafkis, Associate Creative Director
Carla Johnson, Associate Creative Director
Eva Vidan, Designer
Kurt Hogarth, Motion Graphics Designer
Matthew Severin, Motion Graphics Designer
Jason Lau, Executive Producer
David Schiavone, Executive Producer
Janina Lagemann-Done, Strategy Director
Ben Juzwin, Associate Strategy Director
Amelie Deblois, Media Director
Gianpaulo Pons, Media Strategist
Alex Jones, VP, Analytics
Gene Tsenter, Senior Analyst
Director - Benny Nicks
Executive Producer - Vlad Cojocaru
Director Of Photography - Pawel Pogorzelski
Production Designer - Fred B. St-marie
Digital Production: Polymorphic
Gevorg Ablabutyan, Technical Lead
Arman Chilingaryan, Senior Developer
Lusine Inants, Project Manager
Nare Tovmasyan, Quality Assurance
Post Production: Nomad (Editorial / VFX)
Editors: Jojo King - Nomad and Kallie Billadeau
Executive Producer - Jennifer Lederman
Senior Producer - Valerie McAndrews
Flame Artist - Alexander Chizhov
VFX Producer - Ed Rilli
Color: Company 3
Colorist: Joseph Bicknell
Music/Sound Design: Cult Nation
Sound Design: Theo Porcet
Composers: Tim Buron, Theo Porcet (opening club track)
Project Manager: Sandrine Carbone-Cyr
Musical Director: Sean Sable
Final Mix: Yessian
Audio Mixer - Weston Fonger
Audio Producer - Angelina Powers