Film Annex as a Collaborative Community - Social Film

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Cowbird homepage

Today, I joined a website called Cowbird founded by Jonathan Harris. I've been following Harris' projects since he launched We Feel Fine, a data collection engine that automatically scours the Internet every ten minutes, harvesting human feelings from a large number of blogs. On the screen, we see hundreds of emotions from sad to happy, from overwhelmed to guilty. And once we click on those words, a longer statement pops up, like "I feel like a rat" or "I realized that I've been feeling ill, because I consumed too much citric acid!" Whatever the feelings and the related statements are, we know that there's a person behind each emotion who is feeling a certain way the moment we read it. So the site creates some sort of real time connection between the reader and the writer who's expressing those emotions.

We Feel Fine

Cowbird also connects the viewer with the storyteller, but in a deeper way. We see photographs, poems, stories, some of which are shared on multiple slides. The stories are put into different categories like "Bedrooms," "First Loves," "Summer," "Occupy," and others. Somehow, Harris and his team managed to create a more personal platform compared to Facebook and Twitter. Being on Cowbird makes you feel like you're reading someone's diary, and they don't mind. The platform also enables contributors to collaborate on longer-lasting and more "nourishing" stories around shared experiences like Hurricane Sandy

I've been fascinated by collective storytelling for awhile, and I always wonder if it actually works out. I think the key is to find a common thread amongst the storytellers and allow them to discover the topic they want to explore together. On Film Annex, we often talk about filmmakers and their projects individually. Eren's Picks creates a competition between filmmakers and rewards the most social one with the most amount of revenue. It's true that competition creates a fun environment and encourages the filmmaker to be more active. After all, our end goal is to push filmmakers to raise enough money to kickstart their new projects. However, there's also a collaborative aspect of Film Annex that we don't talk about often.

First and foremost, Film Annex is a community of artists, including filmmakers, writers, animators, and designers. And even though in essence, we are an online film distribution platform, we put as much effort into creating a powerful blogging environment and user-friendly photo galleries. We want our community of artists to be able to communicate their thoughts in different mediums. And we'd like to think that with all the tools they're given, they have the opportunity and the drive to inspire one another.

A few weeks ago, we asked some of our filmmakers to share one of their short film treatments with us. We also asked them to explain how to write a treatment in a blog post. Our goal is to share these treatments with students in Afghanistan so that they can write their own treatments and make their own short films. In this way, we are connecting filmmakers from different corners of the world with Afghan kids, because we know there is a common thread, and that common thread is storytelling.

I know that several of our filmmakers who are based in the same city collaborate on productions. I'd be curious to see if filmmakers in different locations will also reach out to one another to start new film projects. With our new revenue model, which is based on the BuzzScore, we're aiming to spread one idea: Social Film. Social filmmakers earn more revenues, create new collaborations, and work on new projects.

-- Eren

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