Too Twee or Not Too Twee: Meet the People Behind the Wes Anderson TikTok Trend
A woman stands on a train platform, her unsmiling face framed against the sky by the open door of a rail car. In an up-close shot of a plated burger, a hand reaches for a french fry, only to be gently slapped away. A man in a woodworking apron holds a power drill in front of his torso like it’s a trophy as the garage door behind him rises. The tones are sepia, the music orchestral, the title cards whimsical, and the faces deadpan. These are the Wes Anderson videos of TikTok.
Social media can be nice. That’s easy to forget amid the all-caps outrage, concern trolling, and clout-chasing. But in one lovely corner of TikTok, people are making Wes Anderson fan videos that are capturing people’s twee little hearts. These aren’t the first Anderson–inspired videos to crop up on TikTok, where fans are drawn to the familiar, quirky style of the videos, but few of them reached the millions of viewers these latest creators have.
The latest upwelling of Anderson videos can be traced to Ava Williams, who on April 8 posted a video that’s become known as Girl on a Train. It captures Williams on a commuter rail journey from her folks’ house in Niantic, Connecticut, to New York, where she lives. The clip is 24 seconds long and includes nine shots of the train interior and Williams plus closeups of her shoes, her notebook, her ticket. There’s also a shot of a title card with text appearing line by line: “The first train / Along the Shoreline East / to Grand Central Terminal / 6:45 am.” Its score is a clip of “Obituary” by frequent Anderson composer Alexandre Desplat, a plucky harpsichord instrumental from the 2021 movie The French Dispatch. It’s been viewed 12 million times and counting.
Anderson’s recognizable style seems to have helped the trend gain traction. It doesn’t take a film buff to enjoy the perfectly contrasting colors or signature symmetry. “I think it’s charming,” says Josh Rimmey, a self proclaimed “nerd” for Anderson and a producer and director who’s done tour videography for artists including Ed Sheeran and Demi Lovato. “It’s like looking at a painting and feeling sucked into it.” It’s an aesthetic that’s easy enough to replicate on an iPhone and editing apps, he adds.
According to Williams, 26, she was inspired to make her video in a moment of feeling bummed. She was heading back into the city for an early work shift on the Saturday before Easter. “I wasn’t super pleased that I had to go to work,” she says. “I was tired and I wished I was with my family, and there I was on this train. But I didn’t want to end this really great trip on such a sour note, and I don’t want to be like, I’m a victim of the world. So I decided I should romanticize this moment or make the most of this moment.”
The romanticization of the moment anchors the work of other Anderson fans on the app. Keith Afadi, 29, who’s based in the UK, has been working in digital marketing for almost a decade and recently began posting short films about everyday life to his page. He said people in the comments told him they looked like Wes Anderson, which got him watching Anderson’s films for the first time in his life. He started with the Grand Budapest Hotel. “Loved it,” he says. He had just seen the French Dispatch when friends and followers started sending him Williams’ train video. “I was like, this is cool,” he says.
When he spotted a vintage car parked outside a restaurant, he thought it fit the Anderson vibe and decided to try the trend. “I was just going out to lunch,” he says. “I was like, let me make a video because it’s just quite fun: like a fun pastime as we go for lunch.” The resulting 21-second TikTok has been viewed more than 7 million times and earned him a paid partnership with Adidas for another Anderson-style post.
Afadi tries to challenge himself to go beyond just copying Anderson’s shots. “It looks really beautiful, the way he puts shots together, but I think there’s more that you can pull from his films,” he says. “Things like comedic timing or the way that characters are introduced and subtleties in the way that they interact with each other.” He often recruits his wife to act in videos with him. “In the first video, my wife tried to take a fry — in the UK, we call them chips,” he says. “Her trying to take a fry and me slapping it away is very much playing into that sense of humor.”
Rimmey, the director, doesn’t often post on TikTok, but his Anderson homage, set in his garage woodshop, has been viewed nearly 2 million times. For one shot, he strapped his phone to a plank of wood as it was fed through a sander. That was inspired directly by a shot in the trailer for Anderson’s forthcoming movie, Asteroid City, taken from on top of a moving train. “There’s an angle that he does, putting the camera on top of a vehicle, or a train in the latest trailer, where it’s like riding on the train,” he says.
Rimmey’s just surprised to see people having fun and being so nice on the internet. “The comments are just really reaffirming,” he says. “There’s nice people in the world.”
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Not every Anderson post in the trend aims to celebrate simplicity. For Valeria Shashenok, a Ukrainian photographer living in London, it was a chance to bring attention to the war in her home country. She’s also an Anderson fan. “I like his style, how he sees the world,” she says. But she wanted to send a strong message with her Anderson video. “My message is that people need to pay attention, that war still is going on in my country.”
Shashenok, 21, wasn’t in Ukraine to shoot footage for the TikTok trend, so she used video she already had and picked out the most Anderson-esque shots of her war-torn homeland — to striking effect. One shot shows her standing in the doorway of a building that was bombed; another captures bright orange cupboards that could have been an “aesthetic,” but instead they are open and askew in a kitchen filled with rubble. On a stoop, a man leans on forearm crutches. “I saved this video and I planned to make it in Ukraine when I go back, but I decided I need to do it now because I felt that it will be so popular,” she says. “For me it’s important that many people can see it.” So far, 1.9 million have.
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