Could TikTok be the home of the next big Japanese film director? That’s something which Japanese movie producer Toho would like to find out as they launch the TikTok Toho Film Festival 2021.
The derision often shared about TikTok as a service often causes many to overlook just how influential the social media network is at dictating trends in music and pop culture. Even in regards to anime, the revival in popularity of older series can be tracked to their appearance in TikTok trends, as a major proportion of the anime-watching audience learn about these shows, sometimes for the first time, through the service.
But TikTok is more than a tool for finding about new (or old anime). Part of its success with all audiences is the way it transforms the phone in your pocket into a tool for personal creativity, with the barrier for entry massively lowered so just about anyone can get in on the act and use the service for just about anything. Filters allow users to recreate technical video effects with the press of a button to do anything from distort the video to multiplying yourself. Along with the collaborative nature of the service that allows anyone to build upon the works of others, TikTok has fostered a creative space for anyone to create comedy or story-driven content that can find viral success on the service.
It’s this story-driven content that the TikTok Toho Film Festival is interested in. Creators have used the filters and limited 60-second time limit for videos to create bite-sized stories that grip audiences with the potential to go viral, and Toho wants to see if these creators have the potential to make this content on a larger scale. As opposed to a standard film festival, this can be better described as a competition where TikTok users are encouraged to create videos and upload them to TikTok under the hashtag #TT映画祭2021 in order to enter their video into the competition.
Entries can be as short as 15 seconds or as long as 10 minutes (if uploaded in multiple parts with clear numbers in the video’s description citing the order the clips should be watched in), and must be created and uploaded between now and midnight on 31 May. The most liked and shared video will earn the creator 200,000 yen, with the grand prize winner receiving 300,000 yen and support from Toho up to 4,500,000 yen to create a new short film roughly five minutes in length under the production support of Toho themselves. TikTok creator Shinnosuke, alongside directors Takashi Miike and Tomokazu Yamada, will be acting as judges.
Can a TikTok creator really grow into a film director? There’s no reason why not. The tools and formats are different, as are audience expectations for a short video versus a full-length feature, but the central core of trying to engage and entertain an audience remains the same.
In comments made by Miike in discussing the promotion, they noted that ‘this has got to be the best battlefield for the next generation of creators’, and it’s hard to deny that fact when more people watch TikTok and YouTube than traditional video formats. Audience expectations are being changed by the experiences found on platforms like these, so who, other than the creators, themselves are better suited to understanding how to bridge the gap between traditional film production and the audiences on these apps?