Filmmaker & Webby Awards Founder Tiffany Shlain On Her Thought-Provoking Documentary ‘Connected’ [Interview]

Have you ever found yourself faking a trip to the restroom to check your email on your phone or slept with your laptop? Tiffany Shlain's documentary, "Connected," explores this phenomenon and what it means to be connected in the 21st century.

Have you ever found yourself faking a trip to the restroom to check your email on your phone or slept with your laptop?  Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards, is definitely guilty of sneaking off to a fake bathroom break to text, email and tweet and this habit has caused her to ask, “What have we become?”  We are all so uber-connected these days that it can be overwhelming and so she set out to create a film about what it means to be connected in this day and age.  The result is Connected—one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring documentaries I’ve seen in awhile.

Connected not only explores what it means to be connected in the 21st century through a fun mix of archival footage and animation, but Tiffany also tells a personal story of her father battling (and eventually succumbing to) brain cancer and of her own experience with miscarriages and a high-risk pregnancy.  Her father was Leonard Shlain, a general surgeon that studies and wrote about the brain extensively, including in the bestselling book The Alphabet and the Goddess.

Tiffany ties in her father’s ideas when she explores the effect that modern technology is having on our brains, making it easy to tie in her father’s personal story as well.  I love how, by telling her own story along with exploring modern connectivity, Tiffany succeeds in teaching us about connecting while also literally connecting with her audience on a very personal level.

I had the opportunity to ask Tiffany a few questions about Connected.  Check out the trailer for the film below and then read on to find out what she had to say.  If you are interested in seeing the film (and I highly suggest that you do) you can find more information about screening dates and locations at ConnectedTheFilm.com.

Megan at Social Times: Can you provide a little insight on how the film came together?

Tiffany Shlain: When I set out to make “Connected,” the original tagline was “A Declaration of Interdependence.”  I set out to make a film that looks at what it means to be connected in the 21st century by exploring the history of interdependence and how it has changed over time.  That was my pitch, that was our focus, that’s the film I thought I was going to make.

At one point, we had an 80-minute rough cut and I watched it all in one sitting (one rarely gets to do that on a feature, usually focusing on one part or another until the end).  I sat back and watched the film and thought, “This film has not enough humor and, more importantly, not enough soul.”

Now I have to back up.  I was going through an incredibly emotional year that was forcing me to think about connection on such a personal level.  My father, who was a co-writer on the film and someone with whom I was incredibly close, was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given nine months to live.  And a few days later I found out I was pregnant.  Life and death were connected right in front of me so inextricably.  It was during that time that I realized I was making a film about “connections,” but I wasn’t dealing with emotional connection.  So that was the day that I started weaving my own story into the film with my writing team.  It was hard, scary, challenging and ultimately rewarding…experience.  And the surprising thing was that the film got funnier.  That surprised me, too.  So now the film is called, “Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology.”  It still deals with the same exact subject I set out to explore, but from a completely different, much more powerful place.  Funny how that works.”