What does transmedia documentary really mean?
This weekend at Ravensbourne College on the Greenwich peninsular, over 1,000 of the world's leading web makers and digital innovators have gathered for MozFest, Mozilla's annual get-together for a weekend of idea-sharing and web-making. One of the big announcements at the three-day event – which spans from gaming and learning to digital media and collaborative creativity – is the arrival of version 1.0 of a tool called Popcorn, which could revolutionise the way we watch and interact with films and video online. Nic Wistreich, tech consultant on SDI's Virtuous Circle initiative, is on location.
Photos from MozFest 2011 by Jonathan McIntosh (Creative Commons)
It has been suggested that the most innovative aspect of the web was the hyperlink, as it gave the ability to connect one page or item to another without needing the permission of whatever you are connecting to. An article is no longer limited to just reporting an event or idea but can connect directly to the sources, discussion, points for further reading, means to share more widely, and suggestions for taking action. The invisible threads between ideas and debate that once could only be found in the indexes of books and journals could begin to be connected, building an ever-growing tapestry of knowledge and ideas.
But while this has been liberating for text, images – anything that could be printed onto paper – it falls flat (quite literally) when applied to time-based media. You can link to a video file, but the mass of information within it and related to it is mostly lost.
Metadata is the addition of data to data, and for films has traditionally dealt just with the sort of info you could find in IMDb: the credits, technical details, synopsis, rights holders and so on. But a blog link and biography for the person speaking at 24 minutes and 03 seconds? A map reference for the breathtaking cathedral during the opening scene? The latest news stories around the topic at the heart of the film? This sort of metadata has until recently been kept quite separate from the time-based media itself.
Enter Popcorn.Read more
Ben Kempas, SDI's Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD), shares his Top Ten Tips on how to get the most out of Distrify, a key tool for "selling movies socially" across the web.
At the Scottish Documentary Institute, we've been using Distrify for over a year now as part of our Virtuous Circle initiative, testing it thoroughly and creating innovative connections with other tools.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that Distrify are not here to go out and sell your film for you. That's still your job. They're just providing you with one of the best tools to do so. Distrify is used by self-distributors and distributors alike, and its effectiveness is determined by the overall effort you're putting into a campaign around your film.
1. It's about engagement, not just sales
Start using Distrify for initial audience engagement while you have nothing to sell yet, as it will allow people to sign up for your email updates.
Make sure all your allies and outreach contacts will embed the Distrify player rather than a YouTube trailer. I find it debatable whether you really need a trailer on YouTube or Vimeo to begin with. These may reach more people – but they only allow for simple likes or comments. You won't ever be able to contact those people directly later on.
Launching Future My Love at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, we were pushing hard for everybody to embed our Distrify player, and it ended up being the most-watched of all EIFF trailers hosted by Distrify. Between the programme launch and the end of the festival, our player counted six times as many previews as the next best trailer.
2. Use the player to announce screenings
List your upcoming festival, cinema, or community screenings in the player. Not only will it draw attention to those events, more importantly, it will make potential audience members elsewhere want to know when they can see it where they are. The "I want to see this!" button is invaluable for gathering email signups.
3. Connect it to your database of followers
We tend to get more signups through a film's Distrify player embedded in various places than through a form on the respective website for that film. Make sure to export lists of your Distrify followers and import them into the general database you're using to reach out to your audience. It's absolutely crucial to have such a central place, as you can't rely on social media alone to gather your followers (remember how restricted and expensive it has become to actually reach all your Facebook fans).
In our case, the central platform is a NationBuilder community organising system. Upon import, we automatically tag people with the film they signed up for and any products they accessed. The file from Distrify will tell you who agreed to receiving email blasts and who didn't. It is paramount to respect these choices.
But don't just think about mass blasts. The more individual your emails are the better. For example, you could contact people just after they've seen your film on Distrify and ask them for their thoughts, and maybe to share their feedback on your website?
4. Connect it to automated DVD fulfilment
Distrify does not only sell streaming rentals (TVOD) or downloads-to-own (DTO). You can offer any product through their store, be it a DVD or merchandise such as posters or T-shirts. Up to now, this meant the order was processed by Distrify but it was up to you to fulfil it and send out that DVD in reasonable time.Read more
Producers Olivia Gifford and Katie Crook have interviewed each other about making the Bridging the Gap short In Search of the Wallaby, the difference between producing documentary and fiction, and working with the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI).
O: Ok so first of all, how did we get involved in this?
K: Initially we got invited along to an SDI pitching day along with several other producers. We listened to all of the 12 shortlisted pitches from the writer/directors and gave feedback live on each project. It was a really great day for us, although probably harrowing for each of the directors. From there SDI and Creative Scotland chose four final projects, and we were then approached to come in and produce on one of them. We met Alasdair Bayne and Andrew O'Connor, got on well, and there we were helping them to make In Search of the Wallaby.
Ten years ago, I had a dream of creating a space which will serve as a centre dedicated to creative documentary, bringing Scotland back on the map, proud of our Grierson heritage. The name Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI) denoted the ambition behind the idea, despite many raised eyebrows!
We started with a desk and two part-time salaries sponsored by Edinburgh College of Art. Then, with a lot of clever accounting and hard work from the then tiny team, Sonja Henrici and Amy Hardie, we started pulling grants from different institutions and slowly started developing programmes such as Bridging the Gap and other activities to develop documentary talent in Scotland.Read more
Following the success of our Tripoli Stories, British Council gave us the opportunity to return to Libya for a second time. This time we were due to run our workshop in Benghazi and make another three short films, Benghazi Stories. Unfortunately, the political situation there meant that we had to relocate the workshop back to Tripoli but with participants coming from Benghazi.
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya and the bed of the revolution, with the first uprising against Gaddafi taking place there in February 2011. Ever since last summer’s election, various militia have been exploiting a certain political unrest, reflecting Benghazi’s disappointment with the election results and their representation in parliament.
Of course, the killing of the US ambassador only days before our arrival was a drastic turning point. Banned from Benghazi for security reasons, we had to re-organize the workshop in order to deliver those “Benghazi Stories”. Prior to our arrival in Libya, we helped organize a camera workshop and briefed the participants to start researching potential stories with their cameras.
Starting the workshop in Tripoli, we spent the first two days exploring these rushes from Benghazi, and we shared a number of inspiring documentaries, offering solutions to questions raised about characters and structures. We had 48 hours to get the lads of Benghazi to understand the difference between “What is the story?” and “What is the film about?”Read more
Noé Mendelle is the director of Al Khadra: Poet of the Desert, part of the POETS IN PROTEST series made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English. Noé has previously blogged about the shoot for this film in the Western Sahara. Today, she is sharing her observations of Al Khadra, the renowned Sahrawi war poetess.
Now in her late seventies, Khadra has been composing verse about freedom since she was a child – and about the conflict with Morocco over the last 36 years. She became the Sahrawi poet and is known amongst her people as “Poet of the Rifle”. I wanted to start the film with the “wall of shame” as a way of introducing the history of Western Sahara and bring Khadra face to face with her enemy.
When we got to within five kilometres of the "wall" we had to abandon the car and leave the police escort behind. We walked a little bit closer with Khadra and the camera. The sight of the wall was very disappointing because it is so far away and looks just like one long sand dune. We could not get any closer because of the many landmines and the Moroccan rifles pointing at us. Khadra just sat on the ground, in profound silence, looking at the Moroccan soldiers who were looking back at us through their binoculars. After a while of sitting there, with just the desert wind and flies as companions, she lifted her fist to the Moroccan army and delivered a short poem that she had just made up:Read more
Roxana Vilk is producer of the POETS IN PROTEST series made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English. She's also the director of the episode on Mazen Maarouf: Hand Made.
“It is the mission of how to reconstruct the dirt, this is poetry, maybe to make a rose out of dust.”
That's how Mazen described his role of a poet the first time I interviewed him, back in May 2010 in Lebanon. Those words rang true as we drove through Beirut city, still scarred by so many wars, and he then showed me around the small blown up flat he and his family had lived in as a Palestinian refugees.
However by the time we came to film Mazen in December 2011 for the Poets of Protest Artscape series, things looked very different for him. It was no longer Beirut we were looking at – it was Paris and Reykjavik. Mazen’s journalistic work in Beirut had led to his life being put in grave danger, and he left to Iceland where he was invited to become a guest writer for ICORN as Reykjavik had become a new 'City of Refuge'...Read more
Roxana Vilk is producer of the POETS IN PROTEST series made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English. She's also the director of the episode on Manal al Sheikh: Fire Won't Eat Me Up.
I was really keen that we have an Iraqi poet in the Poets in Protest series. When I was reading Manal al Sheikh’s fiery work, I was immediately captivated, as she seemed to truly encapsulate the essence of a poet and activist combined.
As Manal herself says, “when you are a person from a country like Iraq you automatically have some anger inside you – and this anger, if you are a poet or a writer, you can transfer it as an explosion in your text.”
Yasmin Fedda is the director of Hala Mohammad: Waiting for Spring, a documentary as part of the POETS IN PROTEST series, made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English.
I have been visiting Syria all of my life, and when the uprising began I felt hopeful that much-needed change would come to the country. However, as time goes on, and more people are killed, it becomes a more and more painful struggle. At the same time, it has been inspiring to see and read about the artistic work and courage of protesters in Syria.Read more
Isabel Moura Mendes is Director of the Africa in Motion Film Festival. She previewed POETS OF PROTEST, a documentary series made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English starting this Friday, 31 August.
As a person who is very much involved in the championing of African film for its brilliance and artistic merit, but is also aware of its value as a powerful medium towards global understanding, the Poets of Protest series both inspires me and fills me with hope.
From Dec 2010, like many other people across the world, I followed the unravelling of events in the Arab World (North Africa and the Middle East) through a 'mediatised' Western eye.Read more