A hub for underground movie buffs


The brief

Can a website go down the rabbit hole?

After the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn purchased the rights to a collection of forgotten cinematic gems, he wanted to create a site that would explore and celebrate the influence these films have had. Many of them are arty, underground, independent pictures with an alternative vibe. These are films that have inspired him, other directors and film buffs around the world. He wanted his new site – byNWR – to convey a ‘down the rabbit hole’ exploration of the movies and their themes. For us, it was an exciting opportunity to work on a major film-related project, collaborating with Bureau Agency on the creation of the site.

Our approach

A flexible system that you can explore

The biggest challenge was bringing together all the content created for the site in a meaningful and accessible way. Every quarter, a volume of articles, photo essays and videos is being added to byNWR, each curated by an expert from the world of indie film. But the scope of the content is hugely varied, so we needed to design a system that could be scaled up to present an extended essay of up to 40,000 words with 60 images, or down to a magazine-length feature of 1,500. And, there needed to an easy way to navigate from one part of the content to another while maintaining the sense that you were exploring and discovering.

We designed a UI using a nested hierarchy, with visually rich intro screens that go large on full-screen imagery and video backgrounds. The often grainy and lo-fi look and feel of the images is juxtaposed with clean and crisp lettering and graphical elements, inspired by film credits.



Making a difference

How we tamed the beast

We won’t lie. This was a beast of a site to develop with its vast range of content requirements. However, we adapted to that challenge and upped our game in developing a UX that delivers fast, smooth transitions across platforms. Using PixieJS gave us a lot of control over the code, and the result is something that feels more like a web app than a site. It’s very responsive, it’s easy to scroll through and read the content, and it’s nice and legible.

Because there is the potential for high traffic levels, and because it uses rich media, a lot of thought has gone into performance, caching and content delivery networks. That Alice in Wonderland experience has been maintained, the full films are in there for users to discover, and the site is easy to use.


A labour of love

This project has been a labour of love at many levels – for Nicolas Winding Refn, for Bureau Agency, and for us at Subism. A lot of creative freedom has been afforded at every level, and a lot of time has gone into getting it right. It’s been an exciting and absolutely unique project, and we love working on it. We’ll be adding a new volume every quarter and can’t wait to see how it develops.