Silverdocs in the Digital World

Posted on June 25, 2010
Silverdocs is a seven-day internationally renowned film festival that celebrates independent thinking, diverse voices, and free expression and fosters the power of documentary to enhance our understanding of the world. Jen Kaczor, senior producer at ITVS Interactive and Independent Lens, participated in this year’s PBS Interactive Workshop entitled “Building Your Digital Toolbox.” She reports from the steamy East Coast: The AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival, presents an opportunity for those who work in disciplines that touch documentary film to connect and share expertise in their fields.  The goal of the "Building your Digital Toolbox" workshop was for filmmakers to present their online strategies to extend the reach of their films, and for a group of us who work in the PBS interactive realm to give feedback and input. The panel, moderated by Stephen Gong, executive director at the Center for Asian American Media, included: Lauren Aguirre, executive editor, NOVA Online Kevin Dando, director, PBS Digital Marketing and Communications Mary Hope Garcia; senior manager, PBS Interactive Jen Kaczor, senior producer, ITVS Interactive Catherine Quayle, Web editor-in-chief, Need To Know Theresa Riley, director, P.O.V. Interactive The three projects covered vastly different subjects: the longest-runing pick-up softball game, which happens in Central Park every Sunday; a project on chocolate, how it's produced, and the perspectives of four people who are effected by chocolate in very different ways; and the mission of an Appalachian grandmother who is trying to stop mountain top coal mining from destroying her community. The strategies proposed by the filmmakers included social media, iPhone apps, outreach campaigns, and online games. The panel asked questions and offered feedback, covering questions about audience and goals of the films. Panel attendees had questions for the panel members as well, wondering what panelists most successful online projects had been. Ideas shared included taking advantage of Facebook and its tools, offering features that gave users a chance to find out info about themselves and be able to "compete" with their friends, and considering the ongoing commitments required for efforts that called for user-generated content or long-term maintenance. It was great being a part of hearing about the online strategies of documentary makers — which are becoming de rigueur to plan for early on — and the perspectives of my public media interactive colleagues. I was also glad I got to check out some of the great docs at the festival, including a short called The Poodle Trainer, about, well, what you think?

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