The short film follows a mid-20s woman on her walk home after a failed set at a comedy open mic. She uses social media (Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook) to reach out to those still awake and online, while basically ignoring her physical surroundings. She types jokes with the 140 characters Twitter allows as comments on people she sees in the wee hours of the night and consistently checks to see how many people “like” her observances. One follower engages her in a conversation that leads to a potential late-night rendezvous.
5 questions with @Me director, Kristin Peterson at the half-way mark.
Thursday, August 24th, 2017
1Hi Kristin! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired you to make @Me? One winter I was devouring stand up comedy at an unhealthy rate. That Spring I visited a dear pal living in Portland and got a glimpse into the stand up comedy scene there, and I decided to move there (albeit for a short 4 months). Most nights I would go to an underground show, meet the comics, and get to know a handful of them very well. It seemed to me that these comics used Twitter as a venue for "rap battle"-esque quips & joke exchanges. I was fascinated by their desire to be the funniest, the wittiest, the most relevant, or the least relevant, the most mainstream, or the most experimental. And this obsession with winning the invisible, ever-shifting Funniest crown sparked the beginnings of what would eventually become "@Me." Throw in the loneliness and awkwardness of most comics, and you have the main character (who is based off of a male comic in Portland).
2I've never seen a film that really incorporates how people use smartphones like in this film. What made you want to tell a story about people over the phone? I wanted to make social media a character in this film, and I wanted this character to speak for and without the main character. I wanted the goliath that is social media to be incorporated in all aspects of each scene, and I wanted the lack of the social media presence at the end to feel like the loudest silence. When you're walking home alone at night, you aren't just with yourself and your thoughts. You are scanning your friends' feeds, and checking on what is trending on Twitter. You might be posting to Reddit or checking your e-mail to see if you got another "Your payment is due soon" message. I wanted to incorporate what takes up space in our mind while, to other people, we may look blank or unoccupied. I also felt this illustration of social media emphasizes the overall mood of the story in "@Me": that palpable loneliness and the desire to cover it up with your online image and presence.
3What are your thoughts on smartphones and how it's changed the way we communicate with one another? In many ways, I feel smart phones and social media have made us friendlier. I know for a fact that friend groups or the poetry scene or film projects would never have existed if it wasn't for Facebook private groups. And I have developed and grown friendships dear to me over e-mail. I am not sure I would have been so bold to make a phone call or send a letter to near-strangers in the past.
I also feel we can gain empathy for different kinds of groups quicker, and better because of smartphones. It's right at our fingertips. We can Google "why are dreadlocks on white people offensive" and hear multiple perspectives on it.
And you've heard all the ornery-old-man-on-the-porch-yelling arguments. Smart phones give us "tech neck." They alienate us in public. They frustrate the family elders at reunion picnics. They are making our toddlers dumber.
But screw that. With every new technology, we also gain the responsibility to use it wisely and to use it as a tool, not as an extension of us. There's nothing wrong with my character in "@Me" chatting with someone via Twitter, as long as she doesn't send unsolicited pictures or rude comments, you know?
4Can you share a war story from the shoot? I wish I had a "Saving Private Ryan"-like story to tell but I'll keep it real: Wisconsin is so fucking cold. And when it wasn't cold while shooting, it was wet. I will never shoot a film in February again. [Don't hold me to that.] And I'll never have an almost entirely outdoor shoot again. [Uh... don't hold me to that either.]
I owe my first born to the cast and crew.
5What's next? After (too) many months of drafting and re-drafting the script, I am just about to start the engines on my first feature film project, with the hopes of filming this coming Spring/Summer. It's a thriller. It's sexy. Re-reading the script gives me the heebies.
Also, the total eclipse of the sun is coming up August 21st! I have been filming my grandfather for years about his obsession with this once-in-a-lifetime event (or, for him, thrice-in-a-lifetime), and I am looking forward to wrapping up this little "diary" film for him.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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