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Twittamentary, A Social Media Experiment In Search Of "Character 141"

A sneak peek preview of Twittamentary was held at the Roger Smith Hotel last evening in Manhattan. Hosted by the Singaporean award-winning movie producer Siok Siok Tan, the film which is still in post-production was offered up to a screening room full of social media types. What this filmmaker attempted to capture on film was the randomness of an ecosystem - that is so difficult for anyone to put their heads around  - let alone explain comprehensively in the body of one film.

Siok Siok TanSiok Siok TanTwitter's simplicity of format provides access to all walks of life where users can engage with the microblogging platform in a way that is personal to them. The random acts of expression that emerges is an enigma in the sense that while it becomes a melting pot of peoples and ideas, it is disjunctive, fractured, cohesive, collaborative, disruptive, informative (the list goes on) - all at the same time. Siok Siok tasked herself with the insurmountable challenge of trying to embrace all of those facets in a film supported by a small and meager crowd-sourced budget.

This teaser shows her ability to take on the love-hate relationship many have experienced with Twitter, distilled into a one minute promo.



At the end of the viewing, when she opened the room up to Q & A, she received critiques that touched on the quality of the filming and editing as well as how the subject matter was treated. When asked about why she chose to only use America as the backdrop for the documentary, she noted that if she expanded her project to other parts of the world, such as China, the film would have become twice as long and would have been in need of addressing the issues of firewalls and censorship which is foreign to users of Twitter in the States, where the service originated.

While there were a number of topics and issues covered in the movie from 140 Character Conferences to dogs and cats tweeting, the one theme that resonated with me was "Character 141." As many are aware at this point in time, Twitter limits tweets to a total of 140 characters. Any thing more needs to be edited. So the person behind each tweet in essence becomes "Character 141." And it is the weaving in and out of stories from these characters is the glue that holds the storyline together.

From a homeless woman who accesses Twitter in a public library and finds friends from around the world that eventually aid her in securing housing to a travel journalist turned "twilebrity" who has built a following of over one million by using Twitter as a travel guidebook, these "stories" covered a wide range of human experience.

A 'slice of life' is too hackneyed a phrase to apply to Twitter - because working one's self through the Twitterville maze at times is daunting. From a 30,000 foot bird's eye view down to taking some intimate and sometimes gritty snapshots, Twitter opens a new world that sometimes escapes us in our day-to-day lives. Snippets of experience that we may never have come in contact with  - if it hadn't been for Twitter - is what I think Siok Siok was trying to capture on film.

Case in point, and one that was contentious and ignited some debate from viewers at the screening was the interview of a prostitute from the famous Bunny Ranch brothel outside of Las Vegas. Her descriptive analogy of comparing Twitter to 'anal sex' was offensive to some, while 'on point' for others. Twitter is criticized by many as a ridiculous waste of time, because until one engages, one doesn't fully understand its potential. So according to the prostitute, "its like 'anal sex' because you don't know if you like it, until you've tried it."

While Siok Siok is still crowd-sourcing additional funds for post-production, she requires not only the latitude to continue refining the raw footage we witnessed last evening, but she also needs the luxury of "distance" from the project. As filmmaker, photographer, interviewer, site scout and all the other hats this woman has taken on, she is so intimate with the current results that she hasn't had the benefit of reviewing it from a distance - which sometimes takes "letting go" and delegating responsibilities to others.

However, what this woman has accomplished in her marathon road trip across the Continental US from New York to California is to be commended. There is a reason there hasn't been a comprehensive documentary on the topic of the Twitter. It's because it's a monumental task for any one film crew to take on - even those with substantial financial backing.

Siok Siok describes Twitter as 'mythic' - a universe as compelling as it is illusive. Perhaps the "Character 141" that Siok Siok still needs to add to her film are the stories from the Twitter founders. Without the filmmaker soliciting their assistance - after over a year of filmmaking - a vice president from the company has finally reached out to her. Where this goes, who knows? But their involvement in this project certainly would allow Siok Siok that necessary latitude she needs to to view the multi-faceted world of the Twitterverse - from a distance - with a critical eye.

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