Owen Vandenberg: TweetFilm

Published:  February 28, 2011
Owen Vandenberg: TweetFilm

The new virtual film club, TweetFilm, is an initiative of Melburnian movie lover/online enthusiast Owen Vandenberg, which, if all goes to plan, will be blitzing your Twitter feed from this weekend. Using a hashtag provided at the TweetFilm website, participants are invited to engage in a stream of commentary and discussion while viewing the month’s chosen film from the comfort of their own homes. It’s about introducing a little interactivity to the movie-watching experience, new-millennial style, as well as fostering connections between like-minded film fans.

I put some questions to Vandenberg for Desktop readers ahead of this weekend’s launch event. At 12pm AEST this Saturday (March 5), TweetFilm will get off to an oneiric start with a synchronised home-format viewing of Inception#tfinception is the hashtag. Your loungeroom is the place. See you in the stream (I’ll be tweeting from @gerardelson).

People have been live-tweeting movies since the advent of Twitter. What compelled you to start TweetFilm now?
I love the concept and act of live-tweeting, but everything I’ve seen so far has relied on TV schedules, or coincidence. I thought it would be great to set up something that aimed to create that experience for anyone who wants to join in.

So how does someone participate in a TweetFilm event?
You need three things – a Twitter account, a copy of the film and an opinion. We set a designated time for the screening (12 noon Melbourne time according to timeanddate.com on the first Saturday of every month), everyone starts the film at the same time and using the provided hashtag we live-tweet until it’s done!

Most of your audience will already be familiar with the concepts of hash-tagging and following a live-feed in Twitter, so can you explain how the TweetFilm website fits into things?
Aside from announcing the events, I’ll be using the website to archive the entire discussion that takes place during the film. So even if you missed out, you can browse through the Twitter feed and see what others had to say. The website will also hopefully act as a way to draw more people to take part – I’d love it if someone was convinced to join Twitter just so they could take part in TweetFilm!

Can you go into your role as TweetFilm’s moderator – will you dictate the tone and content of the discussion, or do you simply see yourself as a facilitator?
I don’t wish to dictate the tone at all, that’s what I love about live-tweeting (I’m basically the opposite of Ben Elton). For example, I tend to make a lot of jokes while live-tweeting something, but others may want to discuss the technical aspects of the film, or share stories about their own connection with it, or even just criticise it. For that reason, I don’t intend to tweet from the official TweetFilm account (@tweet_film) during the events, lest the tone I take be seen as any kind of guide; I’ll still be using mine (@ovandenberg). I’ll be monitoring the hashtag throughout the film, and retweeting anything I think could be interesting to others or might be worth adding to the wider discussion. I’ll try and keep that as balanced as possible.

Any plans for how you’ll deal with feed spammers, should any crash the party?
I think if we get successful enough to have feed spammers, that’ll be encouraging in itself! If it happens, I’ll have to report them, and I’d recommend blocking them on an individual level if any of them get particularly bad. Naturally I’ll remove them from the hashtag archive.

Twitter + DVD + your opinion = TweetFilm. Simple!

A Twitter account + a copy of the film + an opinion = you're ready for TweetFilm!

What appeals to you about online communities like TweetFilm?
The ability to interact with other film fans, especially in a shared experience like live-tweeting a film, is to me one of the great advantages of the internet. I know everyone says that crap about how the internet transforms the way we interact etc, but to me this really is a new way of consuming something and interacting with it/others. Which I obviously enjoy enough to try and facilitate for anyone else that agrees.

You’re kicking things off with Inception, a film which obviously falls into the ‘blockbuster’ category. Do you intend to stick to more populist titles so as to increase TweetFilm’s potential participants, or can we expect the odd unsung arthouse gem or obscure trash relic to receive the TweetFilm treatment down the line?
That’s definitely part of the intention of choosing Inception for the first one, as I felt the need to strike a balance between something popular enough to draw participants and something still interesting enough to warrant discussion. Inception really captured the public consciousness last year, so it seemed like a natural fit. Similarly, The Social Network is one that I think would translate well to TweetFilm, once it’s released on DVD.

There will still be a certain level of populism in some of the choices, as I want to make this widely accessible, but I definitely want to have more obscure choices in the future to balance that out.

How will you select films for future TweetFilm events? Are you open to suggestions?
Absolutely! For the moment it’s basically whatever I think would appeal and be interesting, so any and all suggestions are welcome.

What’s your pie-in-the-sky trajectory for the future of TweetFilm?
Whilst this started as an idea for people’s loungerooms, I really want to have public screenings in the future. Somewhere like The Astor or £1000 Bend (hint hint guys, contact me), but set up with the express purpose of being a TweetFilm screening, so no one’s allowed to get mad if you’re using your phone. Aside from that, I hope this takes off enough that we can have a lot of folks participating in each one, ideally not just Australians either, but globally.


For the full run-down on TweetFilm and this weekend’s launch event, visit the TweetFilm website. Follow TweetFilm on Twitter @tweet_film.

One Response

  1. Pingback: Owen Vandenberg (TweetFilm) Interview @ Desktop | celluloid tongue.

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