[Intersection Podcast] Episode 019: Invisible People – Mark Horvath

Mark Horvath Headshot

Are many Americans one paycheck away from homelessness? Well, after the 2008 financial crash, I assumed yes.  A Jan 20, 2018 Marketwatch article says that millions of Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness? Just 39% of Americans say they have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or car repair. Can you identify with this statistic? Mark Horvath has a different viewpoint.

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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:

1) Reach
2) Time
3) Money
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.

Passionate stories found…SOBCON 2011

I am not sure what took me to Chicago last week? I signed up for the conference over a year ago. I did not know a soul in the attendee list. I had a few conversations online with some of the attendees, and even had one phone call with one of the organizers. So, what makes us choose to travel 1000 miles to attend a conference. Some say passion…let’s just say that I had a feeling something great was going to come from SOBCON 2011 in Chicago.

From the moment I walked in the door, the energy was high…but I was so nervous. Yes, I defaulted back to my shy days of high school. This collegiate lecturer felt like a fish out of water in a room of smart people. But it was that first day that I met one of the coolest people with the most interesting story. Greg Hartle is his name and 10 Dollars and a Laptop is his domain…literally: http://tendollarsandalaptop.com.

He was invited to join SOBCON2011 in Chicago because Chicago was the next stop on his trip. His mission is to visit all 50 states, starting in Seattle with $10 and a laptop. That is it! He cannot use any resources from his background and “previous life” as a financial man. He wants to create a new life, visit 50 states, and create a new business along the way to finance his trip. He has caught rides along the way, used cheap bus tickets, performed odd jobs…all for his mission. He is an entrepreneur with an entrepreneurial experience as his goal.

After the first day, we chatted over drinks. As I listened to his story and his passion, I thought…my students at Clemson need to hear his passion. So many stories to share, to connect the academics to real world. The word “entrepreneurship” is more than just an ideology that can be taught at the local university, the hopes of hitting it big. Here is a guy who is putting it to the test with only $10 and a laptop as seed money.

I can sit here and give you notes from educational experience inside the walls of “The Summit” during Chicago’s SOBCON 2011. I can draw some tremendous connections between great speakers like Tim Sanders, Chris Brogan, Steve Farber, Carol Roth, Liz Strauss, Terry St. Marie, Michael Port, and the list goes on and on. But…I was struck, struck by the passionate stories of change and entrepreneurship.

But…it was once again…that first day. That first day when someone from GMC took the stage to talk about their new Terrain. Yes, a simple in-person sales pitch coy’d the audience. It was a sales pitch of a different resolve. After a short video about this SUV, we were asked to go down 10 floors, back outside, all 130 of us to look at this vehicle. Some of us were skeptical of this sales pitch inside. Yes, GMC is a sponsor…but this seemed a bit much. Our willingness to please the presenters yielded something special. This is when I was able to hear the story of Mark Horvath. This is Mark below, to the left of the bald head. He has wavy, long hair with a blue blazer.

Mark Horvath of http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog tells stories. Yes, stories of homeless people across our great country. He was once homeless himself after a career as a television man. He found himself on the streets. After pulling himself together, he began telling the stories of homelessness in America. Here is a man that is traveling across the country, documenting the stories of homeless men and women. So this day, this GMC pitch turned into GMC giving Mark Horvath a new SUV. Yes, now he has a new ride equipped with WiFi to continue his passion.  This was all made possible by Liz Strauss of SOBCON and Connie Burke of GMC…and I am sure many others. This to help a man continue his storytelling passion, raising awareness for the homeless situation right here in our own backyard.

I think it would be boring to give you my notes of what I learned as a business owner, as a online business person, and a social media advocate. I could make great connections between wonderful points made from each presentation…I think I would just create more noise. But what I really learned…to chase your passion and use these tools to facilitate the resolve!

I think there is a reason I was supposed to show up in Chicago for SOBCON2011. I found that there were so many other attendees more passionate about their mission, yet coming together to build language and facilitate tomorrow’s opportunity. Thank you Liz Strauss and Terry St. Marie. YOU ROCK! I will be back for SOBCOB2012.