A few years ago, me and 2 other dudes (Martin Rose and Tom Hartshorn) had an idea that went a bit like this: “Hey, let’s run Back to the Future live on Twitter”.
It’s 2 years later and we’ve done it – www.theHillValleyProject.com.
We registered 50 separate twitter accounts for all the characters (and some of the objects) in the film, and starting on October 25th at 7.45am (the exact time and date the film starts), they all started telling the story of the film in real time. It takes 6 days for the whole story to play out.
Here’s a few choice tweets:
We took it all a bit further with things like setting up foursquare locations and having characters check in…
…and giving Lorraine an obsession with instagram selfies and hashtags:
#love #calvin #kiss #brother #vodka #selfie #parking #18 #enchantmentunderthesea #parked #nervous #square”
We even gave Biff a match.com account:
One of the many reason we did this (most of them were around the theme of Back to the Future being awesome) was to raise awareness and encourage donations to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. They’re trying to speed up the time it takes to get newly developed drugs to market by concentrating on one specific part of the process and helping to provide support and access to research when and where it’s needed.
So, how did we do it? Well, Tom had already done a very similar project a few years back running Home Alone on twitter over Christmas, so we had a rough idea, but working out the times all for the tweets was a massive task. There’s lots of times in the story you just have to hit, like the time the car first time travels, or the lighting strike on the clock tower, so we had those as starting points. The rest we worked out by events like the school day starting, or looking at the position of the sun and working that out for California at that time of year.
We then had to re-write the entire film in tweets, adding in any screen shots that looked like they could be Twitpics, links to YouTube videos for the soundtrack and just making the tweets sound like tweets with the odd #LOL, ;-), and the occasional #FML. We ended up with 1211 tweets, all hand written and all cross references each other with @replies.
We gave each account it’s own biography, background image, profile image and cover image.
We then entered the whole lot into a social media management system that was logged in to all the accounts and set each tweet to send at the desired time.
The system only went wrong once when I noticed we’d entered in all the dates a day out of sync when Marty wakes up on the first day before he goes to meet doc in the car park in 1985. I fixed this by using a technique of utter blind panic, and switching to manually tweeting all accounts for a couple of hours in the early hours of Saturday morning – I managed to get far enough ahead in the end to re-arrange and re-import the rest of the tweets. I felt a bit like this moment:
It all went down very well with Gizmodo calling us Brilliant Wackos.
Questlove Jenkins become a bit of a super fan tweeting about the project and then re-tweeting some of the characters:
OK Go liked it as well, which was nice:
And I was interviewed on *THE* Back to the Future Pod-cast, the Flux Capaci-Cast.
Even though it’s all played out now, you can still witness it in all it’s glory here: www.theHillValleyProject.com