New Comedy ‘TXT Stories’ Filmed Entirely Through Groupchat



Image Credit: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

In 2013, Ryerson University film students Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman broke onto the Canadian cinema circuit with their highly-acclaimed work Noah. The 17-minute short film follows Noah (Sam Kantor) and Amy (Caitlin McConkey-Pirie), a young couple preparing themselves, and each other, for life as college students and, as a result, for a long-distance relationship.

At face value, it sounds like a pretty typical teenage love affair. But the hook and the genius of Noah lies in Cederberg and Woodman’s decision to film the whole thing through Noah’s laptop and smartphone screens. The drama unravels using screen recordings from Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and other online applications. Mediating the protagonists’ perspectives leaves the door wide open for a flurry of technology tropes to play out. Miscommunications, social media stalking and reading-too-deep-into-things are instantly identifiable and relatable.

Since Noah, adding tech screens into story scenes has become almost commonplace in television shows and movies across genres from horror through to reality TV. But thanks to a recent iOS update, the groundbreaking technique Cederberg and Woodman used (which even inspired an episode of Modern Family called “Lost Connection") no longer requires film editing software or graphic design skills. With the iPhone’s new in-built screen recording function, all that’s needed is a single human truth, some killer script writing and a few phalanges at the ready. At least that’s the general formula used by a new online comedy series called TXT Stories, created by California native Simon Brooks.

With more than 800,000 fans on Facebook and over 200 million views, TXT Stories is a popular episodic web series driven entirely by screen capturing groupchats. Each snippet is only 2-3-minutes in length and typically revolves around the same complications explored in Noah. There’s a sub-series dedicated to dating, which follows the ups and downs of love life in the digital age, complete with the sometimes-helpful-sometimes-not-that-helpful wisdom of friends, and the suspense of watching your crush type and re-type a text message. Episodes explore sticky topics like sexting, double dating, meeting your new partner’s parents, breaking up and dealing with dating a mama’s boy. Each is handled with cheek and humour that will make you chuckle and say, “it’s so true!”

In a sub-series of television and movie adaptations TXT Stories takes us into a modern-day girls groupchat between the Disney Princesses (Rapunzel is “pissed” at not being included in the chat), reimagines Romeo and Juliet and breathes new life into The Lion King. There are also sub-series that dive into college chats, family chats and house party prep chats.

It’s a sign of the times that what held our attention for 17-minutes in 2013 has been reduced to 3-4 minute vignettes in a social media feed just five years later, but it’s these social nuances associated with technology which TXT Stories manages to pick up on and joke about so well. It’s a must watch for anyone who loves a laugh and is interested in exploring how technology impacts our lives.

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