Many of us pay careful attention to the way we represent ourselves online. We only post the most perfectly-filtered Instagrams, the wittiest Tweets. We carefully select the emoji we use when chatting with our latest Bumble match, and agonize over the appropriate number of exclamation points for a business email, looking for the magic number that says “enthusiastic,” without tipping into “juvenile,” or “unprofessional.”
But as we practice restraint with strangers and acquaintances, are we inadvertently reshaping the way we communicate with our closest friends?
I’ve been preoccupied with that question for a while now, and it’s the question at the heart of my web series, Keep Me Posted. The series is a biting look at the impact of texting and social media on our closest relationships, but it wasn’t always supposed to be about social media.
I intended to explore the way old friendships change as we hit adulthood and our lives start to diverge from those of our friends. In the interest of staying true to life, I decided to weave in texting and social media, using it as a springboard to propel the narrative from one character to the next. Yet as I developed the series, it became clear that texting and social media weren’t just a storytelling device - they were the story.
The more I wrote, the more I realized just how much our modes of communication impact the way we relate to each other. I looked at my own life, my own friendships, and realized how often I had hidden behind my smartphone when things got rough. It was easier to send a chipper text than confess that I was feeling anxious, easier to post a smiling photo than admit to feeling lonely or lost. And yet, in doing so, I denied myself the things I needed most - connection and support.
The friends at the center of Keep Me Posted do the same. When we first meet our three main characters, they’re looking at their friends’ perfectly curated onscreen lives, and can’t bring themselves to reveal their own struggles, doubts and flaws.
We know that social media presents a distorted view of reality, that influencers are meticulous about their personal brands, that every envy-inducing Instagram post is plucked from a camera roll full of photos that are badly lit, badly composed, or just plain bad. But we don’t often think about what our closest friends might be hiding from us - or what we might be hiding from them.
It’s often unintentional. We’re not trying to make our friends feel bad. It’s just easier to pretend everything’s ok.
Keep Me Posted draws attention to that fact, and to a range of issues that are common, but often not discussed. Things that we should all be talking more about.
The three friends at the heart of the series are facing down impostor syndrome; grappling with expectations about romance and marriage; struggling with depression and anxiety; and figuring out how to reconcile cultural and familial backgrounds with their own needs and desires.
The series aims to help those who are struggling feel a bit less alone, and to spark some necessary conversations. But in order to shed light on the things that we often leave unsaid, the series itself had to see the light of day - it couldn’t just live as a pdf in a few email inboxes. This project, more than anything else I had written before, was begging to be produced. I couldn’t wait for someone to discover it, or to hand over money. I had to make it happen.
People like to point to the cinema-quality cameras most of us carry in our pockets and say, “just go out and make something.” But it’s often not that simple. I don’t mean that to be discouraging. On the contrary, I found it incredibly discouraging to hear “It’s so easy!” when there I was, struggling to figure out where to start.
If we’re transparent about the fact that it’s hard to be a first-time filmmaker, maybe we can actually start to share hard-won wisdom, and to help each other out. When you look at others’ finished films, you don’t see the hard work that went into them - they’re like the perfectly-filtered Instagram feeds of your most photo-ready friends.
As we made Keep Me Posted, I did my best to keep our newsletter and social media feeds honest. It was a delicate balance - I wanted to be truthful about the speedbumps of filmmaking, without making our crowdfunding supporters worry that they had wasted their money on us. And therein lies much of the problem. As filmmakers, we want to appear capable, professional (and hireable!), so we often shy away from things that makes us look imperfect. But the truth is, the mark of a true professional isn’t the ability to avoid challenges, it’s the ability to face them and overcome them.
For me, one of the biggest hurdles was finding collaborators. When I set out to make Keep Me Posted, I knew I couldn’t do it alone, but I also didn’t know any other independent filmmakers. I did what I could to put myself out there - to learn the practical aspects of producing while finding potential collaborators. I tried writing workshops. I took UCB classes. And then, I attended a daylong series of filmmaking workshops. On a whim, I applied to join the collective that sponsored them - Filmshop. It was there that I found a community of independent filmmakers who inspired me, challenged me, and supported me, filmmakers who I could learn from and commiserate with. I also met some talented people who would become key members of the Keep Me Posted crew.
At the same time, I had a chance encounter - a whole separate story - with the women of Pitch Her Productions, a non-profit production company dedicated to supporting women in media, and signed on to help with their inaugural short film. The collaboration was a success, and the core team for Keep Me Posted began to fall into place.
But even with an amazing team, it takes an incredible amount of drive, dedication, and determination to see a project through. As an independent filmmaker, you’re the engine that keeps the project going. You’re the one who will be with the project from the very beginning to the very end, staying up late, working weekends, and wearing more hats than any one person should wear, doing jobs you likely weren’t expecting to do, like fundraising, marketing, and press outreach.
The process from script to screen can take months or even years, and motivation can be hard to come by when there’s no paycheck on the line. People who don’t get your project will get in your head, and you’ll question your ideas, your instincts. It’s easy to let self-doubt take over.
Every day on set will present new challenges - locations will fall through, equipment will fail, difficult creative decisions will need to be made. There will be times when you’re filming late, when everyone’s tired and cranky, and you’ll have to keep morale up. Or you’ll have to sacrifice shots for the sake of schedule or budget.
Rough cuts can throw you for a loop - you want the assembled footage to look perfect right away, but a rough cut is a rough draft, not a finished product. Sound will need to be smoothed, takes will need to be swapped, transitions will need to be finessed. A script that you thought was totally clear may suddenly be confusing and discontinuous when you assemble the footage in post, and you may have to “rewrite” an episode by rearranging scenes in the edit.
Even a relatively easy filmmaking experience...isn’t actually easy. Filmmaking is hard. But it can be done. Ultimately, you have the power to create, to tell stories, without waiting for the industry gatekeepers to let you in.
It all comes back to connection. Independent filmmakers need to help each other out. To be honest about the difficulties they face. To share time, advice, skills, and support. No one can do this alone.
As Keep Me Posted posits, life’s that way too. Even when it’s tempting to hide our struggles or imperfections, sometimes what we really need is to be open about them. To connect. Because we all have times when we need advice or support, when we can’t do it alone.