Bringing a Close Encounters Documentary Film Into the Light
The 701 film is based on the Air Force's Project Blue Book, a 17-year investigation that logged 12,618 reports of close encounters and sightings. The film’s title represents the number of once-classified Project Blue Book cases that remain unsolved.
When the 701 filmmakers contacted High Seas, their documentary feature film was just entering the fundraising and production phase. Buzz around the film had already started, but they had nowhere to send potential fans, supporters, and conspiracy theorists. They needed to build a website that could serve as a social hub while providing a sneak peek for fans, press, and potential investors.
The plan was to create a web design as sensational as the film’s central theme: “real-life close encounters of the third kind.” In addition to this, the 701 team needed a strategy to ensure their website could expand along with the film’s growth—from the fundraising stage, through filming and film production, and onto the final movie site with promotional merchandise and teaser trailers.
Regular updates played a major part in this plan, and the film crew needed full access to update content and publish or hide sections as the production schedule demanded. We saw a WordPress site as a natural fit, as it would allow multiple users to access and manage site content. The challenge lay in creating an engaging website that could comply with their state-of-the-art request for scalability.
To curate content for the site, we identified key stories by sifting through the sheer volume of film and photographic assets that the talented 701 production team had gathered. Our creative director worked closely with the 701 director and producers to select content for four feature cases that included documentary film footage; behind-the-scenes production photos and videos; archival print materials, audio and video.
When crafting a brand identity and web design to anchor their online presence, we concepted a style and theme by interviewing key stakeholders and combing through the asset libraries for creative inspiration. These interviews led us to research targeting the 1940s and 1950s—particularly print materials from the U.S. government and military. This collage represents one of the mood boards used in the style discussions that centered around the final look and feel.
The biggest piece of the puzzle was creating an entirely customized WordPress website design with features like: 1) a custom auto-play full-screen video animation on the homepage and internal pages to create an “iMax” theatrical experience for site visitors (this enabled us to showcase high-definition content in the best light); 2) customized slideshows to display the film assets in beautiful settings for maximum impact; 3) featured content showcased in customized, expandable overlays onto film and photography assets, allowing the viewer to read, watch, and absorb the story all at once; 4) parallax scrolling to provide an eerie yet elegant effect to maximize impact; 5) and a responsive web design to show the best views on any screen, without compromising the effects that make the film experience so compelling.
Lastly, our website designers created a custom Services landing page that features three main categories, from which users can expand to see additional subcategories. This approach not only improved search engine optimization, but also made it easy and intuitive for site visitors to find a direct path to access more information.
We chose High Seas because we could tell right away that their approach was to dive into our project with a tremendous level of curiosity; in fact, it was clear from the get-go that they believed it was absolutely crucial to understand our vision—for both the film and its accompanying website—from the inside out. This subject matter poses so many challenges for storytellers, so getting the brand and interactive website design nailed down with the kind of eerie awe that we all feel in working on the film was an ambitious task. Thankfully, High Seas’ process and exceptional team allowed them to create a website that beautifully embodies the mystery, adventure, and investigatory spirit of 701 The Movie.
Director / Producer 701 The Movie