The Social Pollinators

Social Media, film creation, and distribution are now hopelessly intertwined and the three panelists gave their view on how to take advantage of this media revolution. Wendy Levy moderated the event that included the global VP of original programming at YouTube, VP product and marketing at Topspin Media, and the co founder of Kickstarter. The hopeful exuberance of all three media mavens burst forth as they promoted the digital adventure ahead.

All three men were frank about the challenges current and in the future particularly dealing with the monetization benefits versus traditional distribution avenues. Most were in agreement that the tipping point is coming and that the pioneers of online distribution as a primary form are already here and that there are already examples of moderate success. Social media is a primary tool to create this success. Being a gregarious self-promoter or putting together a strong marketing team was a common thread mentioned as keys to success using social media in film promotion.

The founder of kickstarter, Yancy, explained why the all-or-none funding was critical in film fundraising. Along that the thread Bob from Topspin media made the important distinction that they did not do social media marketing for you but provided a software platform for self-promotion and access to potential partners that could mutually benefit from promoting filmmakers material. Finally, Alex from Youtube’s original programming team gave us some insight in to the changing landscape of niche content and the new YouTube channel format’s potential to change the way people consume media. An enlightening evening, I think anyone at this panel would feel more confident experimenting with online distribution supported by social media knowing it is is the wave of the future or perhaps for the more ambitious the wave is breaking right now.

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Another Cozy Spot

If you are looking for a cozy, warm cafe filled with the aromas of arabica and the buzz of filmmakers talking shop then look no further then the filmmakers lodge. Yes, the filmmakers lodge has a large room open most of the day to the public. It is filled with comfy leather couches tables to nosh and chat and as of tomorrow free wifi. There are a couple plugs hidden around the room to charge up. Most importantly the cafe is filled with caffeine to get you going and some basic snacks. As an added bonus the bathrooms are clean and a great alternative to the public dungeon-like bathrooms main street. Come grab a coffee, relax, recharge and maybe even see a filmmakers panel in the next room for those lucky credentialed folk.

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Filmmakers Lodge: It’s All About the Story

I eagerly was first in line for today’s filmmaker lodge panel at 1pm. Blending with the surreal whirlwind of movie watching, the filmmakers lodge provides opportunity for both filmmaker and public to engage leaders in the filmmaking and surrounding community. These panels are both educational and inspirational for those who aspire to influence those around them with the power of cinema.

The panel discussion was a dichotomous mixture including eye opening clips of chilling effect that juxtaposed the unwavering hope that society has the power to change when we tell a compelling story that motivates social action.

Drew Westen, the moderator, began with a story of a foreclosure victim who he felt represented the common American versus the media coverage of irresponsible masses driving the economy into ruins. This was a foreshadowing of a later point focusing on the power of the story in the wrong hands. Those who are self-serving wield much power through their ability to allocate wealth in promoting propaganda, while others must work hard to tell a more compelling story if we are to succeed in creating social justice on important issues.

Senator Barbara Boxer was the highlight of the panelists. Her connection to the movie “The Invisible War” was important piece of the discussion. This was the first of 3 important documentary films at this festival discussed. The Invisible War covers some unthinkable material. Rape in the military is not something I have ever given thought to but to see the callous disregard by military officers from the one clip shown is motivation to see this film. The fact that women in the military could be treated in such an abhorrent manner was a powerful beginning to the discussion. I look forward to hearing how much social impact this movie will have on legislation and actions in the military.

The next speaker, Margaret Atwood is a prolific author who is linked to a documentary called “Payback”. Payback delves into the world of migrant tomato farmers in Florida. The working conditions are a modern day slavery in some areas. Margaret skillfully brings an eviscerating point of view on today’s establishment that allows such deplorable conditions to exist. Another must see doc Payback is another story that needs to be told in a manner that will help end these illegal and immoral practices. Margaret also pointed out some interesting analogies of our current economic crisis. Her comparison of today’s financial woes to the French revolution was both accurate and prophetic. Te potential for explosively revolutionary change may be sooner than we think. The occupy movement perhaps is just the beginning of larger upheaval.

Finally, we got to Mark Kitchell and his film “A Fierce Green Fire”. His comprehensive story of the environmental movement was lauded by Barbara Boxer who is one of the leading figures for the environmental movement in politics. His 5 things he decided to focus on was an interesting take on the focus films must take to tell their story in a compelling way. This too is a must watch doc. In my opinion (shared largely by panel), the environmental movement is in danger from opposition forces supported by special interests and greedy business practices. The deniers (of climate change) have little science but a loud voice that may well lead to destruction of the planet. Hopefully films like A Fierce Green Fire will catalyze those people who have the authority to stop the destruction ofair, water and land.

Story is and will continue to be the juggernaut force behind social change. It might even save us from destruction of everything we have built. Story is indeed action in words.

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Sundance Movie Review #1 (and Icon of the Day) – Beasts of the Southern Wild

In the most brilliant performance of a young child actress I have ever seen Quvenzhane Wallis stole the show with her portrayal of “Hushpuppy”. This film covers some emotional territory related to the trials and tribulations of living in the remote and mostly forgotten outskirts of southern Louisiana. Hushpuppy and her father Wink live in derelict trailers patched with a menagerie of found wood and spare parts. They travel around in the back of an old pickup truck converted into a boat. Hushpuppy has a life most would find unimaginable and unlivable but knowing nothing else her blissful ignorance shines forth in her strength that she unknowingly possesses. Her independence is intertwined with her dichotomous need for her father’s presence. Wallis’ portrayal of Hushpuppy was both playful at times and tear jerking. The resilience of the folks who eek out their living on the fringes of society is captured in a voyeurs perspective of the impoverished but hardy residents of the constantly challenged Louisiana coastal parishes.

As the first film I have seen here at Sundance, I am excited at the potential this crop of films possesses. Last year we had a slew of amazing films one after another. This year I can expect nothing less if not more if “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is any indication of the quality of films that are awaiting the public.

Last but not least I would like to give my icon of the day award to the courageous and talented Quvenzhane Wallis who received a standing ovation on stage after the conclusion of the film. Here she is relaxing after receiving her accolades for her performance.

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Art galleries at Sundance

There are a plethora of art galleries to be seen on Main Street and in Park City. One caught my eye as it will many others.

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This wonderful space houses some of the most beautiful landscape photography you can find. Similar to Peter Lik but with his own stylistic touch. There is a bonus visiting this gallery as well. Downstairs is the original HAL 9000. Hurry up and take a peak before HAL tries to destroy the world again!

Sundance Volunteer party recap

The volunteer party for Sundance was held in the same location at the mountain ski resort but seemed much more crowded this year. Highlights included Stella and Grey Goose flowing freely (though the wait to get some took some patience) and some great free food including some vegetarian options (thanks for thinking of us non meat-eaters). Here are some photo highlights.

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Here’s proof I am actually here.

Icon of the Day – festival day 0

My first daily icon of the day goes to my former associate at Yarrow, Carson Knuth. I first spotted this cat busting out mad dance grooves at the volunteer party last year. Carson brings back his 6’4″ frame to this years party and rocked it out to the fine tunes of DJ Bentley. Here’s a video of him in action.


Carson Knuth Dance Moves

The Digs

So I have checked in to my Sundance sponsored housing. It is far better than I was expecting. We have a living room kitchen and two bathrooms for 3 people. It is cozy and a splendid surprise. Thanks again Sundance Institute for treating your volunteers so well! Now the photos.

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My bed.

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The master bedroom. (Andy is a lucky guy!)

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This is that lucky guy.

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The kitchen is big but empty. We shall take care of that tomorrow with a trip to Fresh Market (old Albertsons)

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Our amazing living room with real fireplace.

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And last but not least the war room aka the dining room.