LONDON – Remember our story about the violist who improvised with his rendition of the Grand Vals Nokia ringtone when his performance was interrupted by a phone?
It was a reminder for everyone to turn off their phones before public performances. But here’s a movie which asks you to turn ON your phone before it starts. Called Twittamentary and directed by Singaporean filmmaker and Tweeter, Tan Siok Siok, it is screening tonight as part of Social Media Week, sponsored by Nokia.
And it is based on a single theme: How Twitter has affected your life and the lives of those around you. Conversations had the chance to put some questions to @sioksiok on the eve of the show.
I’d heard it was OK to have your phone on during the film but I wanted to double check, because I didn’t want to embarrass myself with another Nokia ringtone moment like this one. So, would she mind if I tweeted on my Nokia during her movie?
“Please tweet your heart out,” she says. “The audience get a kick out of our request for them to turn on their mobile phones and tweet during the movie.
“In fact, we even have a ‘live’ Twitter wall at every screening so the social media conversation is integrated into the movie watching experience. So tweet away!”
I wondered if @sioksiok had set any limits in movie terms, just as Twitter limits each tweet to 140 characters? But the film, which has already been shown in Singapore, has no such gimmicks.
“No, we did not set absolute time limits per se,” she says. “So the total duration of the movie is NOT 140 minutes, nor are the stories 140 seconds each.
“But it would be ironic to make a slow-paced film about Twitter, which is all about speed. So most vignettes within the film are short and sweet.”
I soon realise that Siok Siok’s movie is a serious cinematic venture because her ambitions for the project are more about film-making than promoting the Social Network. And don’t expect some bio-pic like the Facebook movie, either. Instead, you’ll see a wide range of people to engage with, from homeless person, to city trader, to journalist.
“We want to reinvent the cinematic experience by crafting unique experiences that happen in real time when passionate communities get together,” says @sioksiok.
“We always joke that this is a 3D movie, except the third dimension is ‘Twitter’, or more precisely, the human connectedness that is made possible via Twitter.”
So this is shaping up as a unique piece of cinema. But there’s another dimension to this “documentary” – the stories within it are crowd-sourced. And given the nature of Twitter, it’s hard to see how they could come from anywhere else. This movie was crying out to be thrown open to the Twitter community.
“The idea of crowd-sourcing a documentary about Twitter came to me in April 2009,” says Siok Siok. “Although Twitter was growing in popularity then, it was often misunderstood and even ridiculed.
“Even now, the people who ‘get’ Twitter have a really tough time trying to convey the experience to those who don’t see the point of it.
“The most fascinating thing about crowd-sourcing is that you can’t always see how and where the ideas come from, or even who contributed the idea. Instead the process morphs and takes shape as you combine and recombine ideas from multiple sources.
And that is where Siok Siok met her greatest challenge in movie terms.
“Moments of connection on Twitter are so ephemeral that any attempt to capture them seemed doomed to failure. A film about Twitter seemed an impossible film to make and I relished the challenge of pulling it off.”
So, has she pulled it off? I thought about writing a review of this movie, but given the level of live interaction, no two performances will be the same. It almost defies criticism, in the traditional sense. So let’s leave it to a crowd-sourced Twitter stream of critics!
But if you want an idea of what it’s like, I’ll be tweeting on @RepublicT during the performance tonight from around 6.30pm (GMT) on my Nokia Lumia 800. (Provided I can get a 3G signal inside the cinema). You can always search for #Twittamentary where you’ll find tweets about the Singapore showing.
And if you want to organise a viewing of your own, contact @sioksiok before May 1st and you could end up hosting your own free community screening. Otherwise the movie will be available via video on demand services from April. For more information go to twittamentary.com