we cause scenesComing to VOD today, Tuesday, January 7: WE CAUSE SCENES

Matt Adams’ overview of the history of prank collective Improv Everywhere had its world premiere at SXSW last year. It went on to screen at Hot Docs, Heartland, Philadelphia, and St Louis, among others. The film now becomes available for direct download and on iTunes via FilmBuff.

In 2001, aspiring actor Charlie Todd was inexplicably mistaken for musician Ben Folds in a bar and ran with it, convincing other patrons he was the singer and giving them a story to tell friends. Inspired, Todd set out to create other memorable moments for the strangers of the city, recruiting friends to stage the first No Pants Subway Ride, an event that has since become a popular annual occurrence. Dubbing their escapades Improv Everywhere, Todd and his motley crew of accomplices set up a website and videotaped their exploits – but in a pre-YouTube age, couldn’t really disseminate them – and a new form of public performance art/mass practical joke was born. Recruiting “agents” online as word spread about their pranks – from staging a rooftop U2 concert with imposters to causing havoc in a Best Buy by dressing like their employees – Todd attracted television interest but ultimately wasn’t picked up for a series. When YouTube launched, Todd suddenly had a way to easily share video footage of IE’s escapades, including the pranks filmed for the TV pilot, which went viral, spawning imitators around the world, widespread media attention, and invitations for Todd to stage a wide variety of events for a range of partners. While Todd is a genial guide, Adams’ film is something of a greatest hits clip show (often drowning in distracting background music), and decidedly surface – there’s virtual no attempt to explore the deeper dynamics of what IE does, why “agents” want to become involved, or why their pranks elicit anger or irritation in some of those not in on the joke. Still, the viewer does get a sense of the fun being perpetrated on an unsuspecting public, and, more interestingly, offers an intriguing window into a surprisingly recent pre-social media cultural phenomena.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Releases

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.