Happening Today: Seattle Interactive Documentary Summit

Russ Sparkman talks about the power of documentary Photo by Carolyn Higgins

Russ Sparkman talks about the power of documentary
Photo by Carolyn Higgins

In the cavernous lower floor of the Phinney Neighborhood Center, a conference is in full swing. It’s a different animal than the more tech-centric conferences converging on Seattle at the moment. Forget the endless SWAG, and don’t even think about overflowing platters of free food and drink.

The Seattle Interactive Documentary Summit is a small but dynamic gathering of film industry professionals and transmedia experts sharing wisdom at this inaugural conference. Andrew Zinnes, author of the Documentary Filmmakers Handbook, kicked off the day by underscoring the state of documentary-making today: not only are there new technologies for creating films, there are also brand new ways to fund and distribute them as well.

The saavy documentarian will work with that reality, and the key strategy advocated by Zinnes is collaboration. “Sometimes we (filmmakers) get very insular. We live in our heads. We may not like to collaborate, but the projects are just too big,” he said.

Inspiration to do just that came from the first panel discussion, “Make Movements, Not Movies” with Russell Sparkman of FusionSpark Media, Lisa Samford (Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival) and Bonnie Benjamin-Phariss of Vulcan Productions. The low price of admission to the world of documentary-making, the panel agreed, has led to fierce competition for visability. Furthermore, as Benjamin-Phariss pointed out, “The very nature of all the different ways we can get our content out there mandates that we change the way we get those stories out.”

The thread of cutting through the noise of an internet overwhelmed with content ran through “Interactive Documentary Storytelling, Defined” with Kim Barnes, independent film producer and co-organizer of the Summit, Russell Sparkman, and Scott Macklin, Associate Director of the University of Washington’s Communications Leadership program. “It’s no longer ‘Build it and they will come’,” said Macklin. “You have to give people a reason to care.”

Today is the second and final day of Seattle Interactive Documentary Summit. Themes of advocacy, strategies for marketing and funding, and more will be explored.  To see how it unfolds and read more about Day 1, including a look at the StoryDome, check back with us later today.

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