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Peep Culture: Production Notes
Online and on TV there exists a never-ending spectacle of bodies and souls willing to bare all in the name of entertainment, self-betterment, and instantaneous recognition. Think reality television, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and more. Pop culture has become “peep” culture, where we’ve traded privacy for notoriety and, in the process, reinvented mass culture. But what does it all mean and how is it changing us?
It’s the question writer Hal Niedviecki asked himself when he wrote the critically acclaimed book The Peep Diaries. But while Hal had lots of fun analyzing why other people reveal and confess, he himself didn’t even own a cell phone, let alone a webcam or blog. Thus begins Peep Culture where filmmakers Sally Blake and Jeannette Loakman peep the peepmaster, urging Hal to forsake his ivory tower in favour of full-disclosure.
“Hal is one of the most boring film subjects you could possibly find”, says director Sally Blake, “but that was both the point of the film and it’s challenge. If you go on line or watch daytime TV it’s filled with everyday mundane people who are using whatever they’ve got – crazy family lives, screwed up children, money troubles, you name it – to capture their 15 minutes of fame. If they can do it, then why not Hal? Or me, or you?”
The question was, if Hal put himself out there by all means possible – blogging, vlogging, 24 hour cameras in his bathroom – would he create a meaningful online community or turn into a narcissistic micro-celebrity who couldn’t stop broadcasting? The filmmakers teamed up with new media producer Resolve Labs to create an interactive website where viewers were encouraged to follow Hal’s life, comment, chat, and participate. Hal, an ornery and solitary soul, found himself instantly immersed in a world of gastric-by pass bloggers, hipster porn stars and reality television moguls. His own attempts at finding comfort online surprised him, but he wondered openly if these new people in his life were his “friends” or his “fans” – and was that even a relevant question anymore?
Says Blake: “I didn’t want to make a film about the technology itself – Facebook and Twitter may come and go - but what interested me was how the ubiquitous nature of documentation and revelation was changing our notion of friendship and privacy. To that end, I wanted to see the world through the eyes of people who are perhaps more on the extreme ends of peep than others. Through Hal’s story we reveal a collection of discrete portraits that together form a picture of how peep culture is changing the way we live and communicate.”
Peep Culture is an insightful romp into a world where everybody with an Ethernet cable can be a star for at least 3 minutes. If YouTube and Chatroulette are simply high speed versions of lost village life, they are reconnecting the human tribe in the context of a culture that is celebrity and camera obsessed, when we are not so much connecting as “broadcasting”. As Hal discovers, in the age of peep it seems more and more that the challenge isn’t to protect your private life - but to figure out how best to capitalize on it.