While speaking in Tribeca a couple of months ago in front of a packed theater of New York independent fiction and documentary filmmakers, I introduced Stroome, a collaborative online video editing community, and was astonished to receive a standing ovation. One filmmaker explained to me that she had been sending clips back and forth with a collaborator in London, and having to take the time to re-edit a sequence to make slight changes or slowly upload finished segments was encumbering her entire filmmaking process. She, like many others in the room, envisioned how Stroome could vastly improve collaboration, and she greeted my demonstration with excitement.
In fact, filmmakers are already working with Stroome to design useful implementations. Jason DaPonte (a longtime friend of Stroome) from The Swarm is currently in pre-production as the cross-platform producer for a new documentary about an Aboriginal storyteller named Francis Firebrace who has been living in the U.K. for the last 10 years and is soon returning to Australia to bring his stories back to his people. DaPonte plans to use Stroome as a core part of his cross-platform campaign to help engage users digitally with the ancient Aboriginal stories and the filmmaking.
I talked to him last weekend about why he's doing this and his thoughts on Stroome.
What made you think to use Stroome?
DaPonte: One of the challenges we have with the film is to engage users with both the story of Francis' journey and the ancient Aboriginal stories he tells. The number and variety of Aboriginal stories Francis tells means that letting users explore them online is ideal, because they don't have to be wedged into the film's time limits.
When users engage with stories online, they do it at a variety of levels that begin with passively watching and absorbing. However, at the top of the ladder of engagement is creatively participating and collaborating with a story. I think that Stroome could be a great way of encouraging users to engage at a deep creative level and to let them work collaboratively with Francis (who's very engaged with the Internet for a 75-year-old!).
The stories have deep, transcultural meanings and significance, and I hope that we'll see some surprising output from people around the world as they interact with these traditional stories!
How are you thinking of doing it?
DaPonte: We haven't got the entire campaign designed yet, but the hope is that we'll host a competition, judged by Francis, to find the best short videos of his tellings of a variety of Aboriginal stories that he has permission from his people to retell to the public. We want to put soundtracks of him telling the stories onto the platform, with additional material shot by the crew, and to let users mix and remix videos for the stories with this material and material they've generated themselves.
I'm hoping we can get users collaborating with each other and with Francis this way. It will mirror what happens in the real world when Francis brings his stories to the schools and prisons where he tells his stories and what will be happening at various events when he goes back to Oz.
What's the best-case scenario for the project?
DaPonte: I'd love it if there were an ongoing community of people from around the world engaging with the stories and building and working with them before, during and after showings of the film. One of the benefits of working with people online is that it isn't time-dependent like linear TV and film are, and we want people to be engaged with Francis beyond just when they watch the film.
It would also be great if work on Stroome helps Francis' versions of the stories spread across the web. Seeing users move their stories onto YouTube, Vimeo and social media like Facebook would be great -- it would build the reach and impact of the stories. We're going to do some of this ourselves too. I'm keen to try to put the stories onto Neighbourhub.org, a platform that helps you geo-locate stories on Google Earth.