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Some Pioneering Efforts in Independent Film Distribution

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Now that it is so cheap to produce and distribute your own multimedia material, the value added provided by distribution companies is not as much as it used to be. The Internet has shattered the previous barriers for distributing video and information around the world, which has created an information explosion. And as Herbert Simon says, "a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." So the mainstream media companies and movie distributers are now competing with individual bloggers, podcasters and videobloggers for the attention of audiences.

And so instead of pre-filtering gatekeepers deciding what will and will not be published, now anyone can publish anything and it is up to post-filtering systems like Amazon's recommendation systems or word of mouth that is built up from a network and community of followers.

Below are a few pointers to how this environment is changing the field of film distribution...

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Echo Chamber Project Vlog Episode 1: Introduction

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Introducing the first Echo Chamber Project video blog entry & vlog!

Description: First vlog episode about an open source, investigative documentary on how the television news became an uncritical echo chamber to the countdown towards war in Iraq -- and proposed tools for collaborative journalism that can provide some solutions.

Featuring: Jay Rosen, Dan Gillmor, Doc Searls, Jonathan Landay, Pamela Hess, Bill Plante, Halley Suitt, Marilyn Schlitz, Kent Bye and 60 others.

To Watch the Video click here -- or on the picture below -- or try here if that link doesn't work. Check back in 10-15 minutes if neither work, the Internet Archive has been a bit spotty.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!


(6:15 minutes / 15 MB)
Download QuickTime

Listed below is

* A full transcript of this video with additional links
* How to keep informed with the project (Vlog RSS / Blog RSS)
* How to get more involved
* Click here & scroll to the bottom to leave feedback or other comments.

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Greenwald calls his audience "Distributors"

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Robert Greenwald of Uncovered & Outfoxed fame announced that he's doing a film on WAL-MART three weeks ago, and he's already set up over 700 screenings in homes across America via Democracy in Action.

Greenwald is the leading pioneer creating alternative distribution paradigms for independently produced documentary films, and so I'm definitely taking note with his latest strategy and success.

Greenwald just sent out an listserve e-mail asking people to vote on what the title and subtitle of their documentary should be. Greenwald has started referring to his audience as "the distributors":

A friend I respect a lot, George Lakoff, raised some concerns about the movie's subtitle, so I thought the distributors should weigh in. And that's you.

Greenwald provides a link to his blog with the final choices and solicits people to vote:

Thankfully, in our democratic version of Warner Brothers, YOU, the distributors, have to make the final decision. The choices are....

Greenwald is holding a live chat next Wednesday to announce the results, and he's asking people to post questions beforehand on his blog post.

Greenwald's innovations with using grassroots activist organizations to distribute his work have provided me with a strong foundation for finding new ways of getting my work out there. I'm standing on his shoulders with this experiment of getting the audience even more involved in the post-production of The Echo Chamber Project. I'll be watching his WAL-MART film closely.

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Distributed Transcription for Citizen Journalism

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I put a call out yesterday to all of the volunteers who have already completed a transcription. I needed to re-assign 9 more interviews to be transcribed because of a delay in loading the footage caused by a hard drive malfunction back in late 2004.

I sent out about 18 e-mails and I had my 9 volunteers less than 24 hours later -- even with my website completely offline during most of this time period.

I was surprised about how eager these volunteers were to help out again. I think that Americans are really hungry to get involved with helping out with these documentary projects because they want to feel like they're making a difference both politically and with their frustrations with the media...

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Citizen Journalism Implications of Blog Doc Controversy

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(UPDATE 6/7/05 6:08p.m. -- John Hart has posted a public reply on his website, and I'm a bit speechless. It is certainly not a very rational response to the whole situation. Below were my thoughts on what I saw developing with the project independent of any outside influence or input from Chuck Olsen.)

There could be a bit of a PR nightmare brewing for the 59 Bloggers documentary in pre-production that I mentioned a few days ago. Independent filmmaker Chuck Olsen titled his film Blogumentary and expressed concern to the 59 Bloggers director John Hart that there might be some confusion over loosely throwing around the "Blogumentary" meme on his site.

Hart sent back a curt e-mail telling Olsen, "Please don't bother me with this bullshit nonsense." Then Olsen published an excerpt from Hart's e-mail on his blog. Hart apparently threatened Olsen with some type of legal action for publishing the e-mail.

Then David Weinberger -- one of the potential interviewees for the 59 Bloggers film -- responded to the controversy by saying, "I've seen how this new guy responds to a civil inquiry, I have asked him to drop me from his list of interviewees."

Hart then backtracked and removed all references to "Blogumentary" on his website -- along with a lot of other background information. Here's Olsen's archival screenshot.

At this point, we're only hearing Olsen's side of the story because Hart is not keeping a production blog (Bad PR on Hart's part).

So I see four lessons for citizen journalism from this little episode:

1.) There's a difference between social capital and normative standards and institutional capital and legal standards
2.) There are ethical and legal issues with publishing e-mail correspondence
3. ) This may have implications for establishing credibility and building trust with potential interviewees for citizen journalists
4.) It's bad to write something in an e-mail correspondence that you wouldn't want published in The New York Times.

More details below...

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Another blog documentary coming down the pipe

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Steve Rubel has been asked to participate in a documentary film about bloggers done by a career film industry guy named John Hart. Rubel says that the 59 chosen bloggers that Hart plans on interviewing represent his vision of the blogosphere -- after looking at the preliminary list, I can tell that Hart isn't very political since there is no sign of Instapundit, Atrios, Daily Kos, or Talking Points Memo on the list. Hart blogs here.

Rubel suggested that it might be a good opportunity for a company to support the project from a viral marketing opportunity.

Rubel didn't mention Chuck Olsen's Blogumentary or PBS' Media Matters: Welcome to the Blogosphere.

I met Olsen in Austin for SXSW and we had already discovered each others' projects. I had found his project because Olsen wrote on his site:

I want to make Blogumentary the first open source documentary. (If this has already been done, I'd love to know about it!)

Olsen found my project after Rebecca MacKinnon & David Weinberger linked to my New Media Ecosystem flowchart.

Olsen and I agreed that he is doing "open source" filmmaking from a transparency perspective, and I intend to do "open source" filmmaking from both a transparency and a decentralized collaborative perspective. A summary of links are below, and I have a couple of other blog posts about it on the way.

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Bridging the Technology & Filmmaking Gap

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My wife just asked me why I'm posting so many details about the mundane day-to-day stuff that I'm dealing with.

The first reason is for transparency sake -- Sometimes I'm debugging a problem and the site goes silent. I think it's better to keep everyone informed with what's going on even when there bad news or if I'm pulling my hair out trying to get something to work that probably has a really simple solution.

I also assume that a lot of the people reading this are skimming the posts for what they find interesting.

I also wanted to document the process for how I go about making this film for others who might want to try a similar approach.

kentbye's picture

Using Folksonomy to Edit Film

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I've been experimenting with folksonomy tags in Final Cut Pro to help edit a short video discussing how technology is changing politics, media and culture.

This is a proof-of-concept for my plan of importing tags into FCP that are provided by volunteers via a Drupal infrastructure -- the 42 hours of The Echo Chamber footage will be broken up into textual soundbites so volunteers can add tags in a manner.

I took the 2.25 hours of interviews with 13 leaders of the new media movement, and I boiled it down to around 45 minutes of quality sound bites.

kentbye's picture

Roadmap for Open Source Documentary & Citizen Journalism Toolset Development

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The Echo Chamber is a documentary on the failures of the mainstream media, and how I produce this film will hopefully provide some solutions to this infotainment bottleneck.

I'm trying to develop more sophisticated techniques for citizen journalism by open sourcing my interview material and collaboratively producing The Echo Chamber on a Drupal/CivicSpace platform. More details are below...

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Phase 05: Use Collected Information to Inform Documentary Editing

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* Collaborative Content Development
* Media Transparency
* Exporting Data from Drupal
* Open Source Business Plan


* Develop a formal thematic taxonomy for the documentary that is informed by the emergent patterns of the folksonomy tags collected from volunteers in Phase 03
* Open Source the Business Plan to further discuss the target audience and strategic communication intentions for The Echo Chamber documentary.
* Normalize and export the quantitative data on sound bite Source Credibility & Quality, and import this data into Final Cut Pro editing software through Final Cut Pro XML.

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