Over the last few years, YouTube has been flooded with videos made with the intention of triggering a euphoric, tingling sensation often felt in the head -- a sensation called the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). Viewers are "triggered" (experience ASMR) by the different stimuli presented in the videos. These stimuli are most often quiet noises, whispering, or simply personal attention.
As ASMR videos grew in popularity on YouTube, the creators of these videos, affectionately known as ASMRtists, started getting feedback, and not just about their ability to trigger "tingles."
To the surprise of ASMRtists, their videos had not only created a tingly sensation. They had also created a method of dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, and insomnia for thousands upon thousands of viewers.
There has been no scientific research on ASMR -- just testimony from those who experience it (and not everyone can experience ASMR). So what happened here? How is ASMR, previously considered a passing Internet fad, changing lives every day?
BRAINGASM will explore the experiences of both ASMRtists and their viewers as they help define what "ASMR" is really all about.
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Were you strangely calmed by painter Bob Ross? Do you unexpectedly get tingles while getting a haircut? Do you fall into a euphoric trance when your teacher slowly and methodically writes on the blackboard?
Maybe you've experienced ASMR. It's an experience many of us have, but don't think to talk about.
Enter the Internet.
In 2007, a thread entitled "Weird Sensation Feels Good" began on a Steady Health forum. This unnamed feeling was described as everything from "a silvery sparkle through the head" to an "attention induced head orgasm (AIHO)." Essentially, ASMR is a pleasurable physical sensation best described as "tingly" that is the result of various stimuli (mainly auditory, cognitive, and visual).
In 2010, this tingling sensation was christened "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response" (ASMR) by Jennifer Allen, the founder of the ASMR Research and Support organization. Since Ms. Allen coined the term, ASMR has been the name most commonly embraced by the online community.
There are so many people out there who struggle daily with stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression. Shouldn't every possible outlet for relief be explored? We think so.
Our main objective with BRAINGASM as a project is to raise awareness of ASMR, providing examples of its successes, and dissuading the misconceptions people may have about it.
It's been said many times: "This is weird." There are people out there that cannot experience ASMR, and when they listen to videos of strangers whispering, some of them think what they're seeing is creepy, sexual, or both. Even our title has sparked controversy online. When our teaser trailer went live, a Reddit thread quickly became antagonistic as individuals were angered by our play on the word "orgasm." While we think nothing of describing a delicious taste as a "foodgasm" or a killer song as sparking an "eargasm," presenting the possibility that a calming sensation in our head is felt as a "braingasm" somehow suggests taboo.
It's hard to articulate a feeling to someone who doesn't feel it. Have you ever tried to explain a joke to someone who doesn't get it?
We want to clarify and express what it means to be a part of the ASMR community. We want to help others find a means of relief from their insomnia or stress without feeling uncomfortable about watching videos of strangers whispering.
Just getting the project this far has had a trickle-down effect on the ASMRtists involved. Some have been able to better communicate with their family and friends just what it is they do with their microphones and cameras -- how it helps them, and how it helps others. Playing a small part in that has made us extremely proud. It's a great feeling, and like any great feeling, we're hoping to get more of it.
With your help, we can pull back the curtains and get a little more daylight into the room.
My relationship with sleep has been strained since childhood, and my struggle with insomnia has become one one of the larger facets of my adult life. During one of my many sleepless nights, I roamed YouTube for videos of relaxing sounds to lull me to sleep. Almost immediately, I came across the ASMR community. At first the videos seemed strange, but after reading that ASMR has helped people with sleeping disorders, I was intrigued.
A few hundred ASMR videos later, I've learned that ASMR doesn't just benefit people with insomnia. Many individuals with depression and anxiety are also helped -- even veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. I was surprised. These successes are a result of an internet phenomenon!
Why is the ASMR community so successful without any actual scientific grounding? What if this internet phenomenon was properly researched? Could there be an actual medical treatment that could utilize "the unnamed feeling" to help people like me find sleep?
Perhaps by raising the awareness of ASMR, BRAINGASM can encourage medical research and participation in the ASMR community. Maybe then others can overcome insomnia, depression, anxiety and other ailments through ASMR treatment.
- BRAINGASM has been in various stages of development and production since December 2012. Up until now, the documentary has been completely self-funded.
- We have filmed in the United States, Canada, Belgium, and England over the past year.
- Last summer, we participated in a collaboration of ASMRtists at the YouTube Space in London, England. Content creators travelled from all over the UK to participate.
- Many ASMRtists have graciously contributed their time, support and, of course, their videos to BRAINGASM. We've completed interviews with quite a few people you'll recognize!
- Countless hours have been spent backing up and organizing the footage we've captured so far.
- We're preparing to interview scientific specialists to hear their thoughts on this phenomenon.
$15,000 - PRODUCTION COMPLETION. Through self-funding we've been able to film about 40% of the story. It will cost an additional $15,000 for travel expenses, equipment rentals, reward fulfillment, and the massive amount of hard drives needed to back up all our footage.
$40,000 (Stretch Goal) - POST-PRODUCTION. A traditional documentary funded by broadcasters would often have this amount budgeted for the editing alone. Luckily, we have the experience and equipment to do the editing ourselves. So, any funds raised above our minimum goal will go towards a professional sound mix, colour correction, music, graphics, and final mastering -- everything needed to make this film look and sound as great as we hope it will!
We greatly appreciate your support of BRAINGASM, and we'd like to give you something in return as a way to say thank you.
Our rewards include: a digital download of the completed film, shout-outs, on-screen credit, as well as a BRAINGASM t-shirt designed by Corey Pierce. You can even attend our world premiere, or view a rough cut of the film and share your thoughts with the filmmaker! We are also very excited to be able to offer magnets, tote bags, and notebooks featuring a colourful ASMR graphic designed just for this campaign by artist Alex Kittle.
Though we're already wearing our BRAINGASM t-shirts with pride, the reward we're most excited about is a series of ASMR videos produced exclusively for this campaign by members of the ASMR community!
For $15, you can enjoy exclusive access to special videos by the following ASMRtists:
ASMR Angel, Asmr inmylife, AsmrMachine, ASMRose (Mermaid), Brad Robbo, Brittany ASMR, DonnaASMR, Heather Feather, The Hushed Life ASMR, KarenSafeWhisperyPlace, Mariedian ASMR, MasterCoul ASMR, Olivia's Kissper ASMR, The River Whisper, Scottish Whisper, theASMRnerd, VisualSounds1, TheWaterwhispers, WhispersRedASMR, WhispersparklesASMR, WhispersUnicorn
Risks and challenges
Documentary filmmaking is risky. You don't know who you'll meet, what they'll say, or what they'll do until it actually happens. Unlike a scripted film, a documentary unfolds and takes shape in the edit suite. Editing -- especially for documentaries -- is a process that takes quite a lot of time. Thankfully, we do have an experienced editor for BRAINGASM, but editing the film will still take a while. Our post-production schedule may run even longer due to our skeleton budget, as the post-production team largely consists of volunteers with full-time jobs. With these factors to consider, we cannot guarantee a concrete release date, but we will keep our backers updated as the film progresses.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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