He Said/She Said

J. Faye Yuan

He Said/She Said

Six months ago we set out to document how couples conduct their online and offline relationships. I became interested in the very theme i-Docs is exploring this year – Uses of Immersion. How can we re-examine the power of social media by subverting those tools into methods of storytelling to create immersive experiences that most accurately depict modern intimacy?

I found three New York couples whose stories illuminate the degrees to which representations of identities are dialogic, performed, and enhanced. Told in three acts, He Said/She Said roughly mirrors the stages of every conclusive relationship – courtship, day-to-day, and breakup.

While the methodical emphasis is on what we say, the true intention lies in turning the familiar tools and media we use into means of inquiry to deepen our understanding of the what is meant, in the process forcing an active form of personal engagement. “Archival footage” is collected from user-generated content found in social media, email archives, and text inboxes.

Digital evidence of emotional travails when juxtaposed alongside retrospective interviews reveal the discrepancy between what is said and what is meant. Do we always mean what we broadcast to our surround audience? What remains in between the lines – lost amongst a sea of status updates – captures the unspoken power of love. The story sits on a simple messaging interface. Upon entering the chat room, a point of view is chosen setting the stage for a branching narrative. From there, the narrator takes on the role of chief correspondent, guiding one through the experience using pre-assembled pictures, video, and voice messages. If an entire documentary were being texted to you, and you were giving feedback, this is what it would look like. Except this is not a character-driven documentary.

This is a self-reflective piece about the excessive need to be seen and be heard, a critical thinking exercise touting maximum audience participation. Your reaction to prompts – i.e. “Who do you believe?” – triggers a shift in perspective or time travel to another segment, making it possible to experience the same story from multiple angles in a seven-minute session, an ode to reality – how we can be in the same relationship but have radically different experiences, and therefore different ways of talking about it.

We launched our first prototype at POV Hackathon in April, presented at Filmmaker Conference in September, and as of last week, are officially in the running for Sundance New Frontier – achieved with an incredibly lean team and just over $6,000. Rapid prototyping has been the key to our success.

These micro-stories are not only socially relevant but scalable across medium and platforms, and with your support He Said/She Said can become a launch pad for many more grassroots storytelling initiatives, in the process reclaiming the shapes of conversation across a multitude of spaces.