When I heard someone was making a documentary about Twitter, I had the same sort of reaction that folks did when they first learned there was going to be a film about Facebook: Were the filmmakers simply going to point the camera at a computer screen and let it all happen real-time?
What could possibly be so fascinating about Twitter beyond the Twitterverse?
I found out tonight when director Tan Siok Siok, a filmmaker from Singapore who tweets at @sioksiok, held a beta screening of “Twittamentary,” hosted by the Social Media Club of Los Angeles (@smc_la).
One of the fascinating things about this documentary is that Siok and her team relied on the same crowdsourcing approach that Twitter does to get the film made: she tweeted the whole time she was making it, people responded and shared their stories, Siok filmed them, and now that the piece is almost finished (she’s still making final adjustments to sound and color), she’s getting the word out and creating interest through these beta screenings via Twitter.
“I experienced a lot of generosity from people who wanted to help get the film made,” Siok said after the screening.
The structure of the doc – which takes the form of a road trip across the United States – is a smart choice; it stays out of the way and showcases the poignancy of the people who share what they’ve become because of their experiences on Twitter.
Yes, some of it’s silly and downright funny (as one interviewee gripes, she gets tired of trying to explain Twitter to people who’ve never been on it and who think it’s all about sharing what you had for lunch), but as the filmmakers travel to social media hubs like New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the audience meets a growing, connected community of Twitter users whose humanity is unquestionably moving.
As Siok says, “The documentary explores the work of the human heart.”
There’s the homeless woman whose Twitter followers help her cope with loneliness and post-traumatic stress disorder, and make sure she has warm clothes in wintertime; there’s a female trucker tweeting to raise awareness of troublesome issues around sexual assault for people in the trucking industry; there’s the trucker’s dog, who has more followers than the trucker (which, she admits, is kind of depressing when a dog has more followers than you do); and there are writers and musicians, artists and advocates, rich and homeless, and a host of humankind all dealing with the quiet flow of daily life, the enormity of death and everything else in between, all contributing their personal and collective wisdom about this crazy channel that brings them together. You’ll want to follow all of them by the time the credits roll. I sure did!