Exclusive: Journalist Exposes Underground Fetish Website in ‘Tickled’
New Zealand TV journalist David Farrier went to some dark places he wasn’t expecting with this feature length documentary debut “Tickled.”
World premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, it gained buzz for being an engaging expose on an underground competitive tickling organization called with questionable dealings. In one of the most casual interactions with a documentary filmmaker I have ever experienced, I had an opportunity to discuss with him his work with “Tickled.”
One of the few unsettling moments during “Tickled” was bombarded with constant footage of watching people tied up and being tickled. I’m actually very ticklish so it was hard to watch some of the scenes. When you realized that this exposed abuse, it became very unsettling when you process the crazy information that has been revealed.
Farrier was motivated to get to the truth of the subject matters. He had a few moments where he realized he had truly uncovered something for the world to see. Everything was clicking for him as a director.
“Our main drive was to find the link between these two character Jane Bryant and the system. When we found documents which feature. There were some real eureka moments that made sense.”
Transitioning between TV journalism and feature length documentary can be a challenge especially for a first time filmmaker. From the big choices and small details, Farrier noticed some similarities and differences working between the two mediums.
“The location you interview in is important,” he said. “In a film you need to think about location. There are a million things I learned along the way. With a film you want to have layers. It was a story about power and control. I wanted to propel the story forward…We had a lot of layers and you needed those layers to justify the film.”
Farrier has faced a concentrated and coordinated attack from those associated with the tickling website he exposed. Regardless of the strong push-back that has garnered attention, he wasn’t hesitant to put in any of the crucial information into the documentary. If anything, it validated he was doing the right thing.
“It was important that the information in the film furthers the story. If it was a dramatic thing for the sake of it, we wouldn’t have put it in there everything was for the story and making sure it was clear what was happening,” he said.
This will not be Farrier’s only opportunity into feature length documentary filmmaking. He has no intention to be a “one hit wonder” in the doc world and his emerging talent in this medium affirms he has a potential career ahead of him.
“I’d love to make other documentaries. There are a few things I am working on the moment. I am swamped by the moment with Tickled. This is taking up time at the moment,” he said.
“Tickled” played at film festivals after Sundance throughout this year including Hot Docs, True/False, and Cleveland. Farrier recalls how his documentary elicited a response from audiences with diverse reactions.
“The festival circuit was wild. I was a little nervous. The reviews out of Sundance were positive. Kevin came to Sundance. True/False had some issues. The festivals had been busy,” he said.
Farrier isn’t intimidated about upsetting people and having legal action try to hinder his work. He is used to it as an investigative journalist.
“On some levels, I am used to it. This has been happening for years. I am accustomed to it. I would preferred if I wasn’t served legal papers. It is a thing that is happening in the back of your mind,” he said.
With “Tickled,” Farrier wanted audiences to understand how cruel and abusive bullying can be while those with the money and power are able to dominate.
“Audiences can take away what they want. I want them to understand online bullying and how disruption/disturbed it can be. If you got money, you have power and control. It is a problem. I hope people think twice before taking part in an endurance tickling shoot. I hope more people see it.”