160 Characters: Filmed, Produced and Directed by Victoria Mapplebeck. An award winning animated smartphone short film for Film London - Short listed for the Innovation category of the 2016 AHRC Research in Film Awards

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160 Characters – An 11’ animated smartphone short film – Funded by Film London – 2015

There are now more mobile phones than people on the planet. (GSMA Intelligence 2014). Almost seamlessly, mobile phones track, trace and archive our lives, containing a complex trail of messages and stories about our digital selves.

160 Characters began a decade ago when I relegated another one of those handsets to my kitchen drawer, an elephant’s graveyard where old mobiles go to die. I realised I had unwittingly archived a three year text message dialogue between an ex-partner and myself. A story that unfolded in just 100 texts, yet covered how we met, dated, broke up and subsequently dealt with an unplanned pregnancy. Over the three years we were in touch, conversation was increasingly replaced by text.

How do ‘affective technologies’ influence how we shape our boundaries and relationships with both self and other? 160 Characters begins with a personal story, but it also tells a universal story, one in which, “we increasingly expect more from technology and less from each other’” (Turkle, 2014).

160 Characters also responds to the ways in which mobile media can be used to enhance documentary access and storytelling. Shot entirely on an iPhone 6, stories and relationships that were originally mediated through mobile phones were bought to life using the latest in smartphone production techniques. 160 Characters is part of a new genre of technological storytelling in which Directors seek to convert the vernacular of digital dialogues and interactive screens into cinematic narratives. Throughout Production, the mobile phone was employed to explore and document the present as well as the past. 160 Characters takes as its starting point the uses of mobile media as a medium for ‘expression and agency’ and as a ‘memory tool’ for creating and archiving life stories.

160 Characters was short listed for the Innovation category of the 2016 AHRC Research in Film Awards, held annually at BAFTA which aims ‘to find new and emerging talent that straddle the worlds of both film making and Arts and Humanities research’. 160 Characters was officially selected for the 2015 BFI London Film Festival, The 2017 London Short Film Festival , Last of England in Rouen, The Copa Short Film Festival in Arizona and The 2017 Standing Rock International Shorts Festival in Ohio, in which it won the Juried Prize Award for Best Short Film. 160 Characters also recently won the Best Documentary award at The 2017 Short of the Week Awards.

When 160 Characters launched on Short of the Week in November 2017, it received a Vimeo Staff pick and also featured on Slate.com. 160 Characters has received 161,000 hits, 6,000 Facebook shares, 4,500 likes and 300 comments.

Future Screenings : La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris and MIT DocLab - 2017
Original languageEnglish
PublisherFilm London
Media of outputFilm
Size11 minutes
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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