A new media era is here. The head of NBC says he is selling to sponsors “on the air, online and on-the-go.” “Cross platform” is the term of the day. For progressives and independents, the old hurdles of distribution–erected by the powerful media conglomerates–are giving way to new opportunities. We don’t need a billion dollars to buy a network. We don’t need hundreds of millions to take over this or that media entity. We have at our disposal a rapidly proliferating array of tools available at low cost to get our messages out–from the Internet to iPods to cellphones and whatever comes next.
At Brave New Films we have committed ourselves to using the new distribution methods to reach untapped audiences. Wal-Mart spends more than $4 million a day on ads. Brave New Films spent relative pennies on our satirical ad promoting Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price; and it was a viral hit, becoming the number-two trailer on iFilm. We used our online expertise (developed in short order over the past four films) and our amazing 150 organizational partners (recruited by our in-house organizer in advance) to solicit and publicize screenings of the DVD in schools, churches, homes, union halls, pizza parlors–any place there was a TV set and a DVD player. We reached 700,000 people in one week with the Wal-Mart film. Likewise, through similar methods, our film Outfoxed hit number one on Amazon with zero money spent on traditional ads. Was it easy? No. Can progressives use this model and continue to reach our audience? Absolutely.
Jim Gilliam of Brave New Films has developed a software program, available at BraveNewTheaters.com, that anyone can use to host a screening–a political or indie filmmaker, a politician wanting to show a film–anyone who wants to recruit participants for a screening. And it is free!
We also need to put time, energy and resources into how we tell stories. The form, the length, the size of the image, will affect whether or not our stories are heard. We all need to begin experimenting and figuring out how to tell a story for the cellphone. One thing I know: It’s not the same as telling a story for a full-length DVD or theatrical screening.
With our next film, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, we will use all the latest techniques to reach different audiences, to tell the story in film, in viral pieces, for iPods and for cellphones. It’s a new-media era, for sure. And those who are quickest, smartest and most creative–not those who have the most money or own the most media outlets–are the ones who are going to get their messages out.