The Third Day: Autumn
“When you’re making TV it’s very episodic and you’re in and out of character and hanging around while sets change. For this, they’ll be in character, without a break, for 12 hours solid. . . . What’s so exciting is the danger of it. We wanted to get the frisson of the live performance.”
Sky Atlantic’s The Third Day was a six-episode thriller that unfolded in two parts, Summer and Winter, both set on Osea Island, an isolated spot on the east coast of England whose only connection to the rest of the country is a causeway that lies underwater except at low tide. In between came Autumn, an experience that was unique in scale and ambition: a 12-hour live broadcast from the island that blended slow cinema with theater, transporting audiences from an episodic drama to a long-form durational viewing experience. Created along with the rest of the show by Felix Barrett of Punchdrunk and screenwriter Dennis Kelly, with Jude Law in the lead role and a special appearance by Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine), the program took viewers deeper into the suspenseful world of Osea as the events of a single day unfolded in real time.
Autumn was intended to be something quite different. “Originally, it was planned to be a music festival with 10,000 people,” Barrett told Collider. “And then, during COVID, we thought we might lose it completely and there would be a hole in the middle of our show, all of these years in the making. So now, we’ve pivoted to, rather than 10,000 in the audience, to one audience, which is the single continuous take of the camera, charting the action of the day. It’s a very different format to the TV. It’s got a different rhythm.” Morphing from live event to event TV, it was watched by more than 1.4 million viewers on Sky Arts in the UK and over 500,000 people around the world on Facebook Live—Sky’s largest audience ever on that platform.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Photo: Stephen Dobbie
Felix Barrett is the founder and artistic director of the theater company Punchdrunk. With shows like Sleep No More and The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, Punchdrunk has pioneered a game-changing form of immersive theater in which roaming audiences experience epic storytelling inside sensory theatrical worlds. Blending classic texts, physical performance, award-winning design installation, and unexpected sites, the company’s infectious format rejects the passive obedience usually expected of audiences. Punchdrunk has developed a phenomenal reputation for transformative productions that focus as much on the audience and the performance space as on the performers and narrative. Inspired designers occupy deserted buildings and apply a cinematic level of detail to immerse the audience in the world of the show.
Dennis Kelly grew up in Barnet, North London. He has written for theater, television, film and radio. His credits include the stage production Matilda the Musical, the series Pulling and Utopia, and the film Black Sea. He created The Third Day with Felix Barrett.
QUESTIONS FOR THE CREATORS
Why this? Why now?
The Third Day was always intended to be the world’s first immersive television show. Originally, halfway through the series, viewers would have been invited to step into the real world of the programme and participate in a live event which further extended and drove the narrative of The Third Day. Following the pandemic, Punchdrunk needed to adopt a new approach to the live element and so the idea of the livestream was born. At a particularly challenging time for television production and live theatre, the programme involved a team of over 350 people and succeeded in creating a television moment which immersed audiences in something new and unexpected, defying genres and offering a truly communal experience for audiences worldwide
What was the most challenging aspect for you?