Social & Digital Platforms – The New Documentary Film Platform
I am someone that loves to tell stories and I love to tell stories through the eyes of people. I like to take that journalistic approach to storytelling, documenting a topic and exploring the ideas surrounding the people engrained in a topic. We see so many great documentary storytellers, bring topics to the forefront…told in a journalistic approach.
Many times, documentaries tell a series of small stories connected by a common theme that make up the documentary. It could be a person or a host that guides us through the documentary, it could be voice over that ties all the pieces together…regardless, there is something that ties the pieces of the puzzle together fluidly. Let’s look at how Wikipedia defines documentary “film making”:
“Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record.”
I am starting to find more and more organizations are creating this in whole new way, using digital platforms as a method of connecting mini-documentaries, shorter pieces as a part of a bigger piece. Instead of having one big 30 minute to 2 hour documentary…I am seeing the opportunity to use blogs, YouTube Channels, and other online mother-ships as a place to connect these mini-stories. They are connecting these stories in a linear historical fashion, delivered over time to tell a larger story.
Here is a few reasons I think we are seeing more and more of this:
4) The Digital Effect
5) Audience Engagement
It takes a lot of time and money to produce one documentary, one complete video/film about a topic and distribute through traditional means. Organizations that have lots of stories to tell, lots of historical information to share, lots of issues to tackle can do so using online distribution and connection.
An organization can produce shorter videos/films that can be tied together via one simple website, providing textual information about each short film, then share these short documentaries via blogs and other social outlets.
The blog or web presence that house’s these short films creates the theme (or the red-string) that connects the dots between these short films. This allows the organization to tell richer stories over time, documenting a path, and creating an online voice that has a huge digital effect…a pipeline for audiences to find their message. Let me be clear, these series of blog posts in a web presence is the documentary housing the short videos and the text in one evolving documentary.
This concept combines all of the following:
1) The power of rich, visual storytelling using video
2) The SEO and technological power of YouTube
3) The strategic writing of blogs and web
4) Distribution power of Social Outlets
What makes this so powerful to tell a story over time? Well, it is the way to continually engage and build a community. Traditionally, we would produce one documentary film and distribute this one piece in numerous venues. We would spend years documenting a story then wait until the whole story is complete, then share. NOW, we can tell this story as it is unfolding, building a community around a message where ever people have access to online media.
This is the real shift in thinking and production. No more waiting til the end of the story to release the documentary…we can produce and release as the story is evolving, using blogs or web as the means to connect each piece together over time.
Let me share one example: InvisblePeople.tv. Mark Horvath (@HardlyNormal) is a documentary storyteller sharing stories of homeless people across the country. This is how Mark defines his mission, “InvisiblePeople.tv road trip keeps getting bigger continuing to be a catalyst for change in the fight against homelessness.” He has first hand knowledge about this topic, he used to be homeless.
I briefly met Mark in Chicago during SOBCON2011 and was extremely impacted and inspired by his ongoing passion. He has been traveling across the country, meeting more and more homeless people, documenting short videos, and sharing them on InvisiblePeople.tv. His story is linear in time, evolving in scope, and could be diminished by trying to produce one big, final video/film. He used the web and a blog to connect all the short documentaries together helping him build awareness and community. Then he used social outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace to share with his friends and followers. POWERFUL.
***Image from France24 International News where Mark Horvath was a guest contributor.