Director Commentary In The Age of Twitter

I want my “Twitter DVR”

There is precisely one thing I miss about DVDs: director commentaries.

As a film buff, I lived for them. I used to watch movies twice. Once regularly, and once with the accompaniment of those who made the film, explaining certain things. Netflix, in the red envelope era, actually made this even better. I no longer had to buy each DVD to get these film school lessons.

Then came digital distribution.

While in many ways, things like iTunes have been able to replicate and make better just about everything regarding the distribution of movies, for some reason, director commentaries haven’t transfered over. This still annoys me. But I see light on the horizon.

In the intervening years between DVDs and digital distribution, something else has risen: Twitter. And that has yielded something similar, but arguably even more powerful than the director commentary: live commentary during screenings.

For the most part, this is done during television shows, where the talent tweets their thoughts on a show as it airs in real-time. It’s pretty amazing when you catch it live, actually. But it could be so much more.

Earlier today, I was watching Anthony Bourdain live-tweet a new episode of his (fantastic) CNN show, Parts Unknown. The only problem? I’m about a season and a half behind. Granted, his show is one you can watch out-of-order. But I don’t want to. I want to catch up before I start watching the new episodes. And yet, that means missing out on his wonderful, live Twitter commentary.

Twitter needs to utilize this. They need to figure out a way to capture these tweets and “replay” them as others re-watch the show, no matter when they re-watch it.

The same should be done for films. Maybe to bolster a film’s rating on television one night, you promote live Twitter commentary. But then Twitter captures it to replay whenever someone happens to be watching the film. One imagines they could even charge for such a feature.

It’s obvious, right? Well, yes. No less than Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has hinted at something simliar last year. As Sarah Perez reported at the time:

“It would be nice to see things like a graphic of spikes in the conversation, what time they happened…and be able to scroll back to that time to see what happened at that particular moment,” he said. And for planned events, like televised events, Costolo added that Twitter would like to offer that same functionality to users, even if they’re watching the event on a delayed basis. He described this as being able to “follow along with Twitter in a DVR mode.”

It’s a good idea. But it has been almost a year now and we’ve seen nothing to indicate this is coming. Meanwhile, I’m watching the Bourdain tweets pass me by, only to be lost in the ether. And worse, I’m getting spoilers galore.

And we haven’t even talked about natural live events like sports and award shows. My god, it’s full of opportunity.

You can do this, Twitter. You can revitalize director (and talent) commentary. And you can make it so much better. And, as a result, it may just feed back into the system to revitalize the notion of watching live so as to interact with the talent. So much win.