When I need cheering up, I often open a folder on my laptop entitled KISSES. Sometimes I look at it even when happy, wishing to be happier. The KISSES folder consists of short videos of my husband, Andre and I kissing in different places over the last 9 years. The kisses vary -- some are shot underwater where you barely see our faces, some in hurricane like winds in Joshua Tree, others in bed while on the phone with the post office trying to track down a lost passport. But they always make me feel better about life.
When I first thought of "First Kiss," where strangers would be asked to kiss for the first time in front of cameras, I couldn't decide if it was the best idea I'd ever had or the worst. So I mentioned it to Andre. He smiled. Instinctually I knew that if we did this project, we'd need to approach it as a documentary to capture the intimacy and we'd have to control it visually to catch the unpredictable nature of what was going to happen in front of the camera. Andre, who is a cinematographer, suggested that the film should be in black and white. Before long, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn references were flying around and the only possible look for the film was set in stone. This is where my friend, Melissa comes to the rescue.
Melissa Coker, the founder of WREN and I first met in New York in the late '90s. We ended up a few years later in Los Angeles. I came to study directing at the American Film Institute and Melissa launched her beautiful clothing company, WREN. We spoke about working together, but nothing came of it until this February. I had just finished my first feature film, "Forever," when Melissa called wishing to collaborate on a short for her Fall 2014 collection. There were no rules and barely any time or money. I emailed her the idea of the kissing film and she loved it. We both reached out to single friends, to see who would be up for the adventure and quickly had twenty volunteers. Being a part of the indie film community in LA, some of our friends who responded happened to be artists, actors and musicians, including Soko, whose tender song is the soundtrack. We set the date for the shoot. Purely by instinct, I paired the kissers. The pairings kept changing until the very last moment.
I will never forget the true vulnerability among the kissers on set. They were so kind to one another. Andre and his team rolled five cameras nearly all the time and "action" was never called to avoid intruding. Those behind the camera were almost as giddy as those before it. In some instances I may have even closed my eyes. By the day's end, we couldn't have been happier. We had witnessed a beautiful side of people. If no one had ever seen this small film, we would still be proud.
On Monday morning, March 11th, "First Kiss" launched on Style.com. A few hours later, I posted it on Youtube and Vimeo and shared it with friends on Facebook and Twitter. In the first hours, the film had a couple hundred views. Melissa and I were happy that our friends and the kissers liked it. By lunchtime, we had about 30,000 views and by the time I was going to bed it had reached close to 600,000 and made the front page of Reddit. The following morning it had 5 million views and I was interviewed over Skype live on CNN. At last count, it has more than 59 million.
Over the last few days, people have asked what made "First Kiss" a viral phenomenon? While one can't be sure, it was probably the human vulnerability that touched people -- watching the possibility of love play out in front of their eyes. We sometimes argue that technology isolates us as humans, but if nothing else, "First Kiss" suggests perhaps that we are still united by our desire for love and connection.
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