Thanks to everyone who's supported us! We've reached our target!
We can't wait to tell this story and we're really excited to bring it to you all!
My name is David Farrier.
At the moment I'm in a show on Netflix with Rhys Darby, it's called Short Poppies. In the show I play a journalist. It wasn't hard because that's what I am.
Usually I report on quirky and odd stories for New Zealand's TV3.
A month ago a friend sent me a link to a website. It was offering young men from all over the world a paid trip to LA, accommodation in a 5-star hotel and thousands of dollars cash - an in exchange for a just a little on-camera tickling.
It was called “Competitive Tickling”.
It sounds too good to be true, but it was all real. The company had been making videos for some time. They’re free to watch on Vimeo.
Even better, some New Zealanders had taken part - perfect for my quirky little story.
I’ve seen a lot of odd stuff. This definitely seemed odd.
And while everyone was fully clothed… in Adidas sports gear... it all seemed a little bit gay. We’ll come back to that point shortly.
Fascinated, I reached out - first by email.
They told me they’d have to consult with their legal team. I didn’t hear back, so posted on their Facebook page, calling out to New Zealanders who had taken part.
Debbie from “Jane O’Brien Media” replied, saying, “To be brutally frank, association with a homosexual journalist is not something that we will embrace”.
A bizarre trail of emails began between myself, Jane O’Brien herself, and their PR person Debbie - all becoming increasingly homophobic - and all over me wanting to do a story about the very straight activity of young, attractive men tickling each other.
(That was me being a bit sarcastic there.)
Me and some friends began to dig around, suspecting something was fishy.
What we found was a strange pattern of shaming, blackmail and online exploitation.
What were Debbie and Jane up to?
Well, we started looking into their online presence - soon it all led back to man: “Norman Van Der Koos”
A bit more digging, and Norman seemed more likely to be a 53 year old man we like to call The Tickle King.
This is where things get good.
The Tickle King was arrested by the FBI back in 2001 after a 3 year investigation. He’d been posing online as a young woman called Terri, recruiting young men for tickling videos.
The Tickle King was also known for tormenting people online and impersonating other people.
He was jailed for 6 months and fined five thousand dollars.
Now - more than 10 years later - it seems he’s back.
I wrote about all this for 3News here in New Zealand.. and as I wrote.. more and more people came out of the woodwork.
Now I want to make a documentary about all this.
The competitive tickling shoots are still going on in Los Angeles.
I need to get there with a crew and talk to those in the tickling scene, annoyed this old nightmare was resurfaced.
I want to track down Jane and Debbie and the elusive Tickle King.
I want to talk to a host of other people involved in this story. From other tickling-video makers, to tickle-porn directors, to the people who now find themselves subject to a raft of online abuse just because they got tickled for an hour.
The money we’re asking for will get us to the USA for a week or two to chase this story down and interview those involved.
Back at home in New Zealand, it will let me talk New Zealanders who have been burnt by all this.
All the groundwork and research has been done - and it’s ongoing - pages and pages and pages of it.
Names and connections that are far too complex to go into here.
I just need to add some visuals to this story - a story that seems to have captured people’s imaginations.
From reddit to podcasts this last week alone has been madness.
This is a story about fake identities
This is a story about tickling.
THIS IS A STORY ABOUT THE TICKLE KING
Risks and challenges
The reality is that our investigation so far means that the people behind Jane O'Brien Media know we're on to them (even more so once they see this project). There's a real chance they shut up shop and go to ground.
The bad news is that would mean almost no chance of finding or talking to those involved in running the company.
The good news is that probably wouldn't matter too much. This story is crazy enough and there are enough people on the periphery that we can tell the tale even without the tickle masters themselves.
We are experienced in journalism and film-making so regardless of the eventualities we have no doubt that we'll produce a film at the end of this. And we believe it'll make for pretty entertaining viewing!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)