How Movies and TV Shows Are Making Text Messaging Cinematic

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Aug. 18 2014 5:31 PM

How Movies and TV Shows Are Making Text Messaging Cinematic

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We’ve featured Tony Zhou’s video essays before, on what American comedy filmmakers could learn from Edgar Wright, on how Martin Scorsese uses silence, and on what makes a Michael Bay movie a Michael Bay movie. In his latest video essay, Zhou looks at how a range of movies and TV shows are addressing one relatively new problem: how to depict text messaging.

Like Zhou, I favor the approach taken by Sherlock, which shows text messages in on-screen titles, though I’m not sure it would fit as well into movies and TV shows that are less stylish. And though Sherlock was the first show I noticed using this technique, Zhou points out that many movies that are less well-known had used it before—if, often, less well. Filmmakers may still not have figured out the best way to depict texting, but they would be wise to put some thought into it, perhaps by taking a look at this sharp analysis from Zhou. 

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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