Life in Berlin
9:52 am
Thu June 7, 2012

Inspired By Twitter, Filmmaker Records Stories In 140 Seconds

Every day, approximately 340 million Tweets are posted on the social networking service, Twitter.

Inspired by the Twitter format of 140 characters per message, filmmaker and editor Mia Meyer and her colleague, Tim Klimes, started a website that films Twitter users telling their stories in 140 seconds.

"What the 140 seconds does is, actually we show that Twitter is more than just 140 random letters," Meyer explains. "There is always a story behind that, and that people can say something in a very short sentence. Twitter really is a place where great stories can be created and can originate."

In Germany, only an estimated 550,000 people actively use Twitter. Mia Meyer spends hours and hours reading Tweets, mainly following German accounts.

She admits there are a lot of boring Tweets out there, but after sorting through the mundane postings, the 30 year-old says she always finds a character she would like to know better.

"We are looking for stories we find interesting, if it's related to politics, psychology, or just an amazing, cool project that has to be spoken about. That's kind of our criteria. Something we find interesting."

So far, 44 videos have been uploaded on the 140 Seconds website. The stories come from all over Germany, usually recorded by a local one-man team.

In Berlin, Meyer interviews and films the Twitter users. She also edits the short video clips.

140 Seconds has captured a teacher's quest to save the German language, an artist creating portraits based on users' avatars, and a member of the Pirate party trying to have a spontaneous citizen meeting in the Berliner S-Bahn.

One of her favorite stories follows an episode with Julia Probst, a deaf Twitter user who is able to read lips.

"She became famous for reading the lips of the German National Team, I think, during the World Championship. And she had a Twitter account where she twittered what the players were saying to their girlfriends, or the coach when he got angry and threw a bottle on the ground. There is a lot of things she is capable of that other people are not capable of."

This May, the website went international with the story of a 23 year-old Oxford graduate who tweets eyewitness accounts of World War Two.

140 Seconds is among nine productions nominated for the Grimme Online Award in the category of Culture and Entertainment. The Adolf-Grimme Institute is one of Germany's leading research and service institutions studying media culture and quality.

"The fact our format is being considered by someone like the Grimme Institute is so flattering and really gives us such a boost. It really makes us feel we are not doing this for no reason. People start to appreciate the hard work we've been putting into this," Meyer says.

The nomination came as a big surprise to Meyer, who holds a Masters in the Arts of Filmmaking from the Londoner Goldsmiths College. She won't have to wait long to find out the result; the prestigious German prize will be awarded June 20th.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.