Katherine Brooks has 5,000 friends ... on Facebook. When she realized that she'd never met a good majority of those people, she set out to do just that.
Three months ago, Brooks, a New Orleans resident who directed MTV's The Osbournes and The Real World, posted a Facebook status update pledging to physically meet the first 50 people who responded. For six weeks now, she's been on the road filming those encounters in 32 states for an upcoming documentary, Face 2 Face. Each person she meets chooses the activity for the day. The only rules: nothing sexual and no hunting (Brooks is vegan).
In late July, Brooks drove through Memphis to meet a Facebook friend in nearby Olive Branch, Mississippi.
Do you know the person you're meeting in Olive Branch?
I only know three out of the 50 people who responded for this project. One is the person I'm meeting [in Olive Branch], but I haven't seen her since I was 14 years old. She was a friend from school, and we never kept in touch. She wants to take me to a vegan restaurant. Hopefully, I can meet her two kids.
What other activities have you done with friends for this project?
I spend a whole day with them, and they choose what we do. I've done so many things — from riding a horse into the Atlantic Ocean to airboating to going to the Casey Anthony trial. I wanted to get to know these people and have a bird's-eye view of their life. It's been phenomenal the way people have opened up to me and shared their stories. It's like we've been friends for years.
How did you choose which Facebook friends to meet for this project?
I literally took the first 50 who responded to my post. There was one girl who had to back out because she said she was drunk when she said yes, and she's actually very camera shy. So I had to take the 51st.
How did the project come together?
I came up in the ranks of reality TV, directing a lot of shows. I loved directing reality when it first started, but when it became mainstream, we started scripting everything. I was really frustrated and really depressed. I was spending more time on my computer connecting with people than actually being face to face with them.
I prayed for some guidance and this idea came about. I thought, How am I going to fund this thing since I'd be traveling around the country? So I started a Kickstarter. I made my goal $50,000, but in a week and a half, I made close to $80,000.
When will the film be out?
We're editing on the road, and I want to screen it at Sundance in January. I'm doing everything I can to sell it. People donated to this project to make it happen, so I'm actually giving all the profit back to a charity.
It's the Trevor Project. They help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens who are suicidal. They have a suicide hotline, and they're behind the "It Gets Better" campaign.
What has this project taught you about how social networking is reshaping relationships?
It's so vital for our happiness and well-being to have human interaction, and I think a lot of us spend the majority of our time on a computer. That can contribute to loneliness and depression. I've learned how much I need human interaction and how much better it makes me feel to meet people face to face.