Sitting inside the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco last Monday night, I was chatting extensively with an exec from Facebook, contemplating the remarkable ways that the social network has exploded this year. As far as I'm concerned, it has gone from a leading destination to an essential communication, networking and promotional platform. Its impact is simply infrastructural and its potential to affect change has not been realized. Witness the recent presidential election campaign, which may yield tangible lessons that can empower independent filmmakers who take notice.
Facebook is bonding members of the independent film community in new ways at a time when companies are contracting and indie filmmakers are facing more and more challenges tapping into traditional distribution outlets. Perhaps I am more attuned to these issues as we continue to engage our readers and gather data about how to develop indieWIRE, but I see the seeds of robust networks being sown online.
For months, I've watched so many of my 1200+ Facebook friends communicate and connect around the Barack Obama campaign. Comments and dialogue played out in real time online during the recent presidential and vice-presidential debates, bringing new life to a rather dated format, while numerous new tools have been implemented to organize supporters. As the campaign reached its final weekend, it was fascintating to witness how many filmmakers, producers, festival organizers, executives and many others in my online network mobilized online.
The urgency of Facebook status updates, tweets on Twitter and other outlets have not only created an ongoing conversation and enabled people to organize with each other, but seem to be drawing more and more people into the process. At the Redwood Room last week, we wondered about the deeper bonds being built as like-minded folks connect and engage via platorms like Facebook. Frankly, I've never seen so many people I know so deeply connected and engaged. As email auto-responders indicate this week, numerous film folks have been on the ground in Ohio. Some have been there for weeks. Others have been making regular trips to Nevada, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, among other states.
New York filmmaker Sandi Dubowski ("Trembling Before G-d") recently blogged about his temporary move to Ohio for The Huffington Post, while Marian Masone from the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Eileen Newman from the Tribeca Film Institute were interviewed in Monday's New York Times about their weekend work canvassing in a tough area of Philadelphia. Back in NYC, a number of film people were phonebanking at the Bowery Hotel in Manhattan on Sunday. And, yesterday afternoon I traded email with producer and Filmmaker Magazine editor Scott Macaulay who has been on the ground working for the Obama campaign in Ohio.
"The experience of having volunteered along with literally millions of others in this campaign has been inspiring, invigorating and thought-provoking," Scott told to me yesterday. Detailing the Obama campaign's data gathering, canvassing, phone-banking, social networking, and online video distribution, he reflected on how engaging the electorate, "will not only change our future political process but should also cause us to think about how we can bring similar practices to our own audience-building work."
"'DIY distribution' is suddenly all the rage," Scott said, "and my thoughts regarding its challenges and potentials will from now on be shaped by the forward-thinking organizational abilities of this campaign."