Vermont Crowd Sources Its Way to Independent Energy and Documentaries
Written by Dave Walker | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Vermont Energy Independence Day is a media project documenting Vermont’s transition to a more sustainable energy future. Produced and coordinated by the media company Bright Blue EcoMedia, the film is taking an unusual route — crowd sourcing. Over the past several months, it has gathered submissions from Vermonters all across the state chronicling sustainable lifestyles and alternative approaches to energy consumption.
Bright Blue EcoMedia is a Vermont-based non-profit with the mission “to communicate transitional strategies through film.” Formed in the summer of 2010, the team consists of board of directors Vic Guadagno, Amy Seidl, Jon Erickson and Ben Falk, as well as cinematographer Robert Kittila and editor Brad Johanson. A creative team made up of academics, media professionals and educators, Bright Blue seeks to wed rich educational content with high quality video production to communicate positive solutions to complex environmental issues.
The Group’s initial project, the four-part television series Bloom narrated by Academy Award Winner Chris Cooper, presented the nutrient runoff problem in Lake Champlain and won a New England Emmy for Outstanding Environmental Program. When asked about the success of the film, Guadagno cited the urgency of the subject matter: “40 years after the Clean Water Act was established, we are still facing significant water quality issues in our lakes and rivers. People are experiencing issues of algae blooms and water pollution throughout the world, and are interested in this subject matter.”
The Group’s current film, Vermont Energy Independence Day, adopts the model championed by the YouTube sensation “Life In A Day,” crowd-sourcing footage to shape the story of one state’s movement towards a more sustainable energy usage. The first step was to create a blog, identifying the types of stories they were looking for and detailing a call for submissions. The Bright Blue team encouraged people to submit their footage on March 21st, the official date of Vermont Energy Independence Day. As they begin the edit, the footage from this round of submissions will introduce many of the ideas and storylines that will be developed in footage from later submissions.
Most contributions came from high school groups, many of whom had entire classes organized around the project, and non-profits that helped with Bright Blue’s networking and communications strategy. The types of submissions varied greatly, ranging from one-shot skits, to songs, to pieces in traditional documentary format. Some submissions defy easy categorization. One submitted by a high school group used cutout artwork to describe methane digesters. Another submission proposed “parkour” as an alternative to getting exercise without using electrical energy in the gym.
Vermont has a notable legacy as a trailblazer in environmental and energy policy that seems to be driving some of the project’s success. “I do think Vermont is a leader in action and innovation when it comes to environmental issues,” Guadagno remarked. “And with the ongoing town meetings and small-town communication, people are accustomed to participating and expressing their opinions. These communications don’t often come through film submissions, so that was the challenge. I think a lot of Vermonters are passionate about environmental issues, and anxious to be part of the story.”
While the quality of the footage across submissions can be inconsistent, the process has been effective in rallying participation and generating dialogue about energy consumption. “I think crowd-sourced films can work anywhere, certainly when students, teachers and non-profits are integrated and encouraged,” Guadagno said. Guadagno sees a bright future in this kind of project for creating rich educational experiences that force people to reflect on their lives through the act of storytelling: “As people get more and more familiar with shooting video, and posting online, I see an emergence of this crowd sourcing for gathering content, and engaging people in various stories and issues. I am personally excited about developing crowd-sourced projects that may coincide with traditional filmmaking. As professional crews work to tell stories through film, a crowd-sourcing project can be happening simultaneously, to encourage participation, solicit feedback, and in some cases, be part of a feature presentation.”
To see for yourself how the crowd-sourced story turns out, keep an eye out for the film in regional film festivals, public screenings throughout New England, and online at various websites. The Bright Blue team is also hoping to get national distribution through the National Education and Television Association (NETA) and PBS.
For more information on Bright Blue EcoMedia and its Vermont Energy Independence film, please visit www.brightbluemedia.org/.