So what is all this Twitter business? Wednesday at the Newport Beach Film Fest afforded me the opportunity to check out a documentary that would have made more sense to see on a Friday. At least I now know what I can recommend via #ff on Friday, as Follow Friday the Film is an enjoyable documentary about Twitter. While not an instructional guide and more of an interesting look at how society is evolving, with a specific focus on popular social media, the film is not attempting to force Twitter on its audience, but instead invite folks to see the deeper value in typing a certain amount of characters into a program at any time. It helps that the film is structured together through a road trip, with plenty of interviews to really provide a broad perspective on the subject. As a person that uses Twitter plenty, I was happy to find a group that put out a film explaining this microblogging service so simply, yet in a charming manner.
The film follows Erin Faulk (@erinscafe) on an 11,000 mile, 40-day journey all over the United States, as she meets up with 140 different people that she follows or interacts with constantly on Twitter. The idea is to talk with these different people, as well as have them sign her petition to get her Twitter account ‘verified’ in the same way that many celebrities have. She is joined by a number of friends, who serve as the film crew as well, and deal with all the various challenges of embarking on this kind of trip, with a tight schedule planned. We see many different interviews that range from obscure folks, to comedians, to business owners, to elected officials, such as former Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker. All of these interviews provide a neat perspective on how they feel Twitter has affected their lives.
Putting this film on the road was a great way to make Follow Friday the Film much more accessible. As this is not a film sponsored by Twitter, there was no obligation to make this film a stuffy lesson on the history of the social networking company or really define how Twitter has evolved since its creation in 2006. One could argue that the film could benefit in being more clear in its exact depiction of what Twitter is, but I found there to be themes and interesting aspects to the journey that made for a film that is more relatable do to people explaining something that has inspired them, regardless of the particular service being used. Now with that said, the film is very much focused on Twitter and it is neat to learn about how it has specifically become an important force in communication. If anyone does walk away thinking they only learned so much about how it actually works versus how it can be useful, suffice it to say that there are plenty of ways to learn more about Twitter, if one really wants to.
There is also the fact that this is a young group of filmmakers. Working on a tight schedule and using funds that mainly came via Kickstarter and other donations, Faulk and her crew certainly show signs of being new to how to handle a documentary. Given the hours and hours of footage they must have recorded together, during a trip around the country, it is impressive to see how Follow the Friday the Film has a clear narrative through line, while also delivering on its diverse number of interviews that serve as segments scattered throughout the film. At nearly two hours, it flirts with being a little repetitive at times, but is paced well enough to have me look past it. It does not hurt that the film is charming (and often humorous), given the DIY qualities that come from having a low budget to work with.
There is a lot to enjoy about Follow Friday the Film. It puts Twitter in the spotlight, but rather than serve as a detailed instruction guide for one the most popular forms of social media, it is a film that keeps the people behind their usernames as the focus. A lot of time is spent on people explaining how they have made an effort to express themselves or help out or promote aspects of their lives that they deem to be worth sharing. While it does not go to the length of something preposterous, such as saying, “the internet is always great” it does make a case for why it is not always bad either. Given all the support found in a film about finding connections via online interaction, it is nice to see such optimism on display.