The amiable David Farrier doesn’t want to be talking to me right now. The New Zealand director was in our hemisphere to chat up his documentary Tickled.
“I wish I wasn’t doing this now,” he says.
“I wish there was no trailer. I wish there was no reviews. I wish people could hear about this thing called Tickled, a film about the sport of competitive endurance tickling and say, ‘I’ve got nothing on, let’s go to the movies and see what happens.’ That’s the dream. I wanted people to feel like they were on the same what the f—? journey I was with (co-director) Dylan (Reeve) when we made the film.”
The story of Tickled begins when Farrier, a self-described “light fluffy journalist,” came across a strange tickling video on the internet.
Thinking it would make a good story he contacted the makers of the video requesting an interview.
“I’m always trying to find a story no one has seen before,” he says.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and it’s harder and harder to do that because everyone on Facebook is sharing the craziest things. But when I came across this tickling video alarm bells went off. You’ve got these young, model-esque men in bright Adidas clothes in a stark white room. One of them is tied down with shackles and they’re tickling and having a great time.
“It jumped out at me because I genuinely thought it must be some sort of Adidas sponsored (video). I thought it was legit. It wasn’t shot on a cell phone. It wasn’t shot in someone’s bedroom. It was shot in a studio and that costs money to rent. Aesthetically, it grabbed me.”
When the video maker was slow to respond via email Farrier contacted them through a public Facebook page and that is when the story got weird, troubling and took on the aura of a thriller. Imagine Michael Clayton with tickling and you get the idea.
The documentary sheds light in the dark corners of competitive endurance tickling.
There’s alleged cyberbullying, blackmail and catfishing involved as Farrier takes viewers deeper into the subject matter.
“This company does so many strange things,” Farrier says of the outfit that hosts the endurance tickling contests.
“I have to talk about it in obscure language, I’m sure you understand. Part of it is the game.
“They love tickling but, as it came out, they love bullying and abusing and derailing lives as well.
“When I came along I was another target.”
Farrier says being the subject of threatening lawsuits didn’t concern him too much.
“It’s been two years now and I am so used to threats. Other things keep me up at night. Also, I’m an entertainment journalist from New Zealand. I don’t have money.”
But the documentary subjects have been persistent. At the Los Angeles premiere last Friday, two men who feature in the documentary — David D’Amato and Kevin Clarke — confronted Reeve (Farrier was not at the premiere) and accused the pair of using recorded material they had agreed was off the record.
The circumstance that inspired his documentary is “an unusual thing,” says Farrier.
“I still can’t believe this happened,” but he thinks the movie has messages beyond its obvious examination of cyber bullying. “Hopefully those who come along will learn the simple lesson that not everything is as it seems,” he says.
“If you are engaged in anything on the internet, look into it before you dive in. On a slightly cheesy level, just be yourself.
“If you are into something, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, be loud and proud about it. Try and have that confidence. We’re living in 2016 and we have a long way to go but if you can, try and be yourself, it will help you. Repression is bad.”