Interview: David Farrier Talks “Tickled”

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To make a documentary film in the best suspense genre of Hollywood is not so easy. If you allow me to add the following line, then, it is almost impossible to deliver that kind of intensity where an investigative journalist investigates or narrates the story in a certain manner to keep you at the edge of your seat. “Tickled” directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve does what many documentarists or investigative journalists would love to do: they not only begin a massive investigation to discover the real truth behind Competitive Endurance Tickling, but more importantly, were able to conclude it with a shocking fact that will shake you afterwards.

During the Hot Docs in Toronto, I had a chance, even though, it was over the phone to chat with David Farrier to discuss his documentary film, challenges and the beauty of investigative journalism…

MOVIEMOVESME: What drew you into making this film?

David Farrier: Being an entertainment reporter in New Zealand for about 10 years it was my job to find strange people no one had ever heard about before. So when I found this video on the internet about this tickling competition, I thought it was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen, not because they were tickling but because they were in uniforms and were shot in the photography studio. Obviously they had some money and then when I read more about it I saw they were being flown from all around the world and getting a lot of money. So obviously there was a lot of money behind it. But the thing that really got me intrigued was when I met them and asked if I could do a story and then immediately, within an hour, replied, “We don’t want to deal with a homosexual journalist.” This was the strangest reply to that request I could ever imagine. That’s when I thought there’s gotta be more than meets the eye and I got the idea that there might be something of a film in it.

MOVIEMOVESME: Was there a time you thought about asking the police for help because of the threats you were receiving?

David Farrier: There were moments where I questioned the safety of what Dylan and I were doing because there’s a moment in the film where we received threats all the way from New York to New Zealand just to tell us to not make this documentary. But we didn’t really reach out to the police because we were a very tight team of four that shot the film together. There was a moment where I reached out to the FBI, who were involved in the story, to try and tell them what we were doing to get a heads up. But I didn’t hear back, so we were really on our own.

MOVIEMOVESME: What were the challenges you faced while making this documentary?

David Farrier: There were a lot of things that tried to stop us. There were a bunch of emails threatening us; I was at work one day in New Zealand in the newsroom and I got a call from a private investigator who was at the front door of my house asking me, “Where are you?” I said I’m at work. They said they had documents for me which were actually a letter from a lawyer telling us to stop what we were doing. That was a real shock. The whole way along it’s been legal threats and suing. I was at a film festival in Missouri a month and a half ago, after we completed the film, and a woman came up to me and served me with legal papers telling that I got sued. So I just got it on and on. Throughout filmming there were threats, lawsuits and threats of lawsuits. But that just indicated to us that there was a story they were trying to cover up and we should find out what it was!

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about transforming yourself from being an entertainment journalist to becoming an investigative journalist, which is far more dangerous?

David Farrier: It wasn’t easy for me, up until then I was just used to doing short, light stories like cat up on a tree, that sort of thing. I surrounded myself with really intelligent people. Dylan came onboard and helped with the investigation. We just used our curiosity and our skills on the internet to try and look into what was going on. This is a story that started on the internet and we spent a lot of time in the internet and it was fun to have the chance to really look into something rather than just talking to someone for two minutes and making a little story of it. Actually having months and months of time to be able to really did deep into this company was an enjoyable process.

MOVIEMOVESME: What would you like the viewer to get from this film?

David Farrier: There’s a few things. The first is being cautious on the internet; be aware that not everything is what it seems. I hope people realize that how damaging and destructive boing can be and to perhaps think about teaching their kids that boing is not a good thing; it sounds very obvious but it’s really important. There’s also a message about the way society is set up, where people with money hold the power, have control and those without are left behind. Finally, I think people should not be hurting anyone; don’t hide or be embarrassed about what you’re into, just be yourself and don’t be embarrassed by that.

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