Twittamentary: a social-media experiment in the media of movies

Twittamentary will be available to download at from tomorrow and on other sites such as very shortly.

Getting Twittamentary to its “theatrical premier” has been an amazing, fun and thought provoking project to work on. Director Tan Siok Siok invited me to join her as Producer back in February last year when we met over a coffee.

At that point the movie was still in rough cut form and Siok had started showing it to audiences to help her work out what the projects evolution could and should be. I watched the movie at a screening at Hackerspace in Singapore the next evening and was hooked.

The documentary presents Sioks personal and genuine exploration of “what Twitter is”. Something of particular intrigue to her and her as a Beijing resident where Twitter sits on the wrong side of the Great Firewall of China. As Twitter is a “social network” it soon becomes clear that Twitter is and will always be whatever it’s users, or tweeps, want it to be. Where they find value is where the networks purpose and value lives, or dies.

Through our conversations it became clear that the natural next step should be to extend this ethos into the evolution of the movie. Through 2011 we ran fifteen “beta” screenings across 3 continents including Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, SF, NY, Chicago London, Singapore, KL and Beijing.

After each beta screening we captured the live audience twitter conversation. This input was used in creating a new iteration of the movie. Characters & scenes were added, expanded, edited and cut, iteration by iteration, as a flowing, organic crowd-sourcing experiment.

By the end of the year the movie had evolved through fifteen of these iterations, carefully and skilfully curated by Siok. And all done whilst she simultaneously managed and grew her start-up business in Beijing – quite an amazing feat, I’m sure you’ll agree!

The movie completed post production in Beijing and LA at the end of February 2012 and has been screened at various festivals and community screenings including: the Cinequest (Silicon Valley) Film Festival, Oldenburg Film Festival, Urban Tribes Film Festival and fringe screenings at festivals like SxSW (with pop-up screenings for crowds at SxSW from the back of a FedEx truck being the most crazy – and fun – to date).

This week will see it’s theatrical premier in New York City at the 42nd street AMC on Tuesday at 8pm. It’s being screened as part of the 140conf, Founded and curated by Executive Producer @JeffPulver (and yes, pizza will be served!).

So what’s next?

Well, as mentioned, the movie will be available for download via the website and various blogs this week and will be available on other sites such as Amazon over the next few weeks.

We’re using Distrify to help us with blogger and web distribution, Distrify provide a very exciting set of tools for independent movie makers and we’ll post further updates about how this as distribution progresses.

Requests for community screenings continue to flow and we have a number already confirmed for July and August in Europe, Asia and the Americas including our first in India, Indonesia and Latin America.

We’ve also received enquiries about purchase of TV screening rights from media companies in countries such as Israel, Australia, NewZealand and Singapore. We’ve held back on these to date to avoid any confusion with (the frankly archaic) Geographical exclusivity requirements before we had made the movie available for download online.

Case Study
The “making of Twittamentary” has also been made into a case study by Michael Netley (@communicateasia) , Corporate Communications professor at Singapore Management University. The case study has been made available, free of charge, to graduate and post graduate institutions via the website and will be used as teaching material at various educational institutions around the world from next semester. It’s being translated into Spanish by a faculty of the university of Madrid. Later this month Michael will start on a “b” case study about distribution of the movie. More news on this as we have it.

Lessons Of..
We’ll be putting together some “lessons from Twittamentary” using clips from the movie. Twittamentary is becoming a popular teaching & insight tool for corporate, media and government organisations. The use of social media is becoming so pervasive, so quickly, that it’s easy to forget just how nascent and embryonic the whole ecosystem is. And how much and how fast we, as massed humanity, are evolving the way that we communicate and interact. These notes will be made”open” for people to edit, use and customise as they require.

‘Open Sourcing” Twittamentary
In the past month or so we’ve seen audio and video content from Twittamentary starting to be reused and repurposed in different ways. For example DJ’s in Singapore are working on mashups of audio clips in new trance and house tunes. It’s wonderful to see this happening and we’ll be making more of the raw audio, video and soundtrack content available on web over the next month or so.

If you have any other suggestions, we’re all ears, please tweet us!