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HBO’s ‘When Strangers Click’: The Story Behind The Stories

February 14th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

For anyone who’s looking for a good movie to watch tonight and would like to make it extra special by making that movie seasonal, may I suggest the HBO original, “When Strangers Click”.

Like a romantic-comedy in the form of a documentary, “When Strangers Click” is the brainchild of Marc Weiss, who produced the documentary. The film revolves around the stories of five people with incredible stories of connecting with other people via the Internet and airs tonight on HBO at 9:00 p.m. Last week, Jermaine and I attended a screening of the film and a couple days afterward I had a chance to talk to Marc about how he brought the film together.

Below, a trailer for “When Strangers Click”, some words from Marc on what people can expect when they tune in, and a clip from one of my favorite stories in the film. We’re encouraging anyone who watches to leave their thoughts about the film in the comments.

The Trailer for When Strangers Click

Marc Weiss on When Strangers Click

This film is a prototype of a series we’d like to do. We never imagined it being a one-off. The model is collecting stories about an experience that’s had a really big impact on them and choosing a few of those we can tell in a broadcast, but also there’s still the possibility after the broadcast of people can send more stories, and be engaged after the broadcast. We want to show people what a series would look like, and so we kind of brainstormed topics.

The main point is here is the internet is changing so much about the way we live and all the things all of us have been doing for thousands of years one way, now all of a sudden the last ten years or so, that’s changed dramatically. So certainly the way people meet, it’s not just about people meeting who want a romantic relationships or people looking to get married, it’s also people meeting in unexpected ways online and other things happen. We kind of wanted to paint a picture of how the internet is changing relationships. Once we started gathering the stories, then it really got a great energy of its own because you see these stories coming in, they’re really surprising, they’re really interesting and it’s like, Wow, we should tell these stories.

We probably got about 100, and it was hard to get stories. We didn’t have a big budget. We couldn’t do advertising; we just had to get the word out in all different kind of ways. We got 100 stories, I think we identified about 15 or 20 that were really interesting stories, and then we interviewed those people usually on Skype or on the phone and we just got a feel for who they were and how good of a storyteller they were and from that we decided which five.They had to be really good storytellers first and foremost. Some cases we got stories we would’ve liked to use but we didn’t think the storytellers were as strong as they needed to be. This is television, and the audience, if you don’t grab them right away, they’re going to turn to 300 other channels.

There’s two different ways this has been treated: The last one that was done fictionally was “You’ve Got Mail”, and there’s been some reality TV shows. I didn’t see them all but I did try to look at as many of them as I could, but mostly they were really sensationalized, where it was the worst things that could happen, which is not the reality for most people.

What we did is very simple. We wanted to look at the phenomenon and how it affects people and individuals in the story but also if an audience is watching it and helps them think a little bit more about these kinds of issues, if they’re trying to meet people, and if they’re trying to do it online what does it mean for them? What does it mean for them if it’s hard to tell who’s on the other end? In the case of the woman in the film that got to be 30 and she was kind of giving up or the guy who she eventually married who had never dated before, or the guy who was five feet tall. In some ways these stories are unusual and in some ways you can identify with them in different ways. We were looking for people who could tell good stories, but secondly don’t do it in a sensational way, do it in a way that respects people and respects that this is complicated for people emotionally.

It’s funny, it’s almost like there’s two sides. There are some people who expect if they’re doing online dating it’s going to be easy, and really it’s not, but I don’t think our film shows how hard it is. Our stories don’t really illustrate that. I think there are also for people of a certain generation, like say over the age of 40, they’re never going to try online dating cause it’s too crazy, it’s dangerous. I wouldn’t say those are myths, but because the media exaggerates those stories, that’s out of proportion to what really happens. Most people experience is, people try and present themselves the best way possible, and sometimes the picture they put up isn’t a recent picture that happens. But if we’re just talking about online dating here, that narrow thing, I think it makes people hopeful. The other thing is, it’s not anywhere near as dangerous or as risky as some of the reports in the media would make you believe.

Once HBO said they wanted to do this and we made a contract with them, which was a year ago, I said this will be perfect for Valentine’s Day. They said that was a possibility if we can get the film done by a certain date and we got it done by then.

A Clip from When Strangers Click

Enjoy the film tonight folks, and let us know in the comments what you thought.

  • pintsizedinFluence

    This looks awesome. I love the internet and think it’s a great way to meet people. I will be watching. Wait…my DVR box says it comes on at 9pm.

  • Paisley Beebe

    When Strangers Click HBO tonight! Our interview with Director and Subject in Second Life!

  • Blackie Collins

    you should see CATFISH. reallly good and sorta similar (ppl meeting on internet)