Need a little inspiration? Go out and shoot your city. This April 26th, the One Day on Earth Foundation is setting out to shoot its fourth crowdsourced film. They are the largest media collaboration in the world and this time they are focusing on American cities. Their previous collaborations include three global filming events (on 10/10/10, 11/11/11, and 12/12/12). The first film was released in 2012. The 2011 and 2012 initiatives are in post-production.
One Day On Earth has an open call for anyone with a camera that is willing to capture a part of their city on video. The idea is to get as many people as possible to participate and document the present and future of American Cities. They want you to ask questions like: “Who is your city not serving?”, “What are the solutions that your city needs to implement?” , “What do you love about your city?”, and “What is the best thing happening in your city today?.” Their mission statement is “to build relationships and conversations, while creating a valuable archive of media for continued use and education. The goal is not only to inform, but also to unite.”
We spoke to Co-Founder and Executive Producer Brandon Litman who explained the initiative and gave us some good advice on participating in the project.
Columbia Visuals: This is One Day On Earth’s fourth project. What are the biggest challenges and lessons learned from the first three films?
Brandon Litman: Every event is different, but I think our team and production pipeline gets more efficient every year. That said, the biggest challenge is to pick your battles. There is always another story or lead worth chasing, so you have to temper your appetite a bit. We learned a lot of tough lessons on the technology front as well. It is no surprise that the return on investment to fortify a stable platform is pretty substantial, especially when you scale like we do.
The lessons go beyond production mechanics, though. Working on a truly global level affords you the privilege to evolve your global view of issues and culture. It makes me a lot more talkative to NYC cab drivers.
CV: What made you decide to focus on American cities this time around?
BL: We plan to expand this project internationally, but being so local is new for us and we wanted to get a feel for it before diving into other markets. This 11 city event actually feels bigger than our global events in a way, as we need to cast a much tighter net and make a community come together in a slightly different, more local way. It is more personal. I compare it to our struggle in 2010 to get a filmmaker to participate in Eritrea. We spent weeks looking for someone to film, when we got 1 person we all high-fived. That same excitement translates to 100 people in a US metro area.
CV: What advice do you have for participants on finding stories?
BL: The stories are right in front of us. How do you interact with the city? What are the elements that will shape your life here? As a born and raised New Yorker, I can attest that the city has certainly changed, but who has it changed for and who is left behind? I think it is important to use the day to explore and investigate, ask questions and talk to people. I’ve filmed in NY for the past 3 collaborations and I have always discovered something new about the city when participating. Have fun!
CV: What technical tips do you have for participants?
BL: I’m sure your readership knows these things, but get clean audio when conducting interviews. If there are non-shooters reading this that plan to shoot on their phones, do not shoot portrait (vertical). Participants just need to know the limitations of their equipment.
CV: Once you get all the footage in, how do you start putting it together? Can you explain your strategy or workflow?
BL: As the filmmaker uploads, we’ll ask a series of questions and the answers to those questions and the ability to tag the videos, including geo-location, allows us to have a running start. Our international projects demand a lot of time and resources for footage retrieval and translations. After months of work, a small editing team may start assembling sequences based on the direction. There is a lot of experimentation involved, that is for sure.
CV: You say that the goals of these films are to inform and to unite, can you tell me how these projects do that?
BL: The information is more than what is in the individual story, it is in the context that gets created. Our collaborations show such a diversity of opinions and experiences, all taken at relatively the same time, that offers a unique perspective on the way stories may be interconnected. I think my partner Kyle Ruddick and the editorial team did a great job in creating that bigger picture in our first film.
The unity in the event comes from the act of creating something together. It is really exciting to be part of making something big and sharing an experience with other filmmakers and with viewers. Our events don’t require a lot of commitment, after all, there are no reshoots or revisions. So, it seems to attract a lot of participation from people that might normally sit on the sidelines.
CV: What advice do you have for students or young filmmakers who are just starting out?
BL: Here are the first five pieces of advice that come to mind:
- Know how the business side works. My academic background is in finance and that has paid dividends (pun intended).
- Learn and maintain a resource for contact management. Knowing lots of people, and keeping in touch, is the best way to be plugged into what is happening.
- Learn how to batch process tasks.
- Find good advisors and know their limitations.
- Keep your pitches short. If you made it to the end of the article, congrats, you are part of an elite group of people who actually read everything in front of them.
Participating in this initiative is a great way to get out and put your shooting and storytelling skills to use. Sign up at YourDayYourCity.org.