It's really that simple. Anyone with the slightest understanding of business is aware that most media is driven by the dollar. That means that taking risks or telling important stories because you are passionate about them is secondary to "return on investment" in traditional media. Independent media is usually created by people who are driven by creating value that is beyond the measure of the dollar. Supporting these creators is as simple as throwing twenty bucks at a project through a crowd-funding campaign and telling your friends through your own social networks. The satisfaction and sense of empowerment is priceless.
We are living in a time that needs new stories. Most of the big big money was made from a paradigm that the majority of us are recognizing as unhealthy to the environment, and society as a whole. There are many more possibilities for a healthy environment, a healthy economy, and a healthy society but we will never see them funded by the big money. We are seeing them funded by masses of people donating small amounts. It is called voting with your dollar and there is nothing more exciting than feeling like you helped make something genuinely good happen in a cynical world.
It has become my shopping habit. When I have a little extra cash, I go on Kickstarter, or Indiegogo, to see what kind of cool ideas people are brewing up and it's not just limited to media. Crowdfunder is a similar platform created for business start-ups. It's so fun and empowering to throw down ten bucks here, twenty-five there, and feel like I have really contributed to making something happen that might not happen otherwise. This country is built on innovation and entrepreneurship yet the capital at the top is afraid to invest in anything that might topple their empire so we are stuck with the same old crap. It's time for a change and if we don't make it now, it may never happen.
Let's consider groundbreaking films like Connected, by Tiffany Shlain, What The Bleep Do We Know (by Betsy Chasse, William Arntz, Mark Vicente), or the landmark film Thrive by Elevate Films (who have another film called Be Brave that was recently funded on Indiegogo). These were films that challenged us to think in new ways, they were experimental, and they were independent! The list is endless, what are some of your favorites?
Films For Action has a whole library of amazing independent films that you may never see at your local corporate-owned theater. The solutions are out there, the new ideas abound, yet it isn't coming from the places you would expect, it's coming from the little guys (and gals) who give their blood sweat and tears to create compelling independent media. Budweiser or a local hand-crafted organic micro-brew; Walmart or the local family-owned business? I decide, you decide, we decide, WE are "The Deciders" (sounds like a new sitcom waiting to happen... The Deciders, How Americans Finally Got off Their Butts and Voted With Their Dollar).
Plus I love the incentives that come with even the smallest donation to an independent film or project. It is down-home, it is people who actually care and they are putting themselves on the line to make it happen. If you don't have a brilliant idea of your own, that's okay because you probably have a few bucks to make a brilliant idea happen. At it's core this is community, at its core this is democracy... not the corporate, packaged democracy, it's real people making a real difference and you could be, should be one of them!
Consider the concept of social investment, you invest money to gain social good, or social capital. Consider that your return on investment can't be measured in dollars, it is measured in well-being. This is at the root of what creating value really is, somewhere along the line we confused value with dollars and things. There is a whole world of value that can not be measured in dollars and cents... Ideas, inspiration, joy, a healthy environment, love, basically most of the things that actually matter.
Consider the notion that the richest 1% can have billions of dollars and have absolutely no value to the planet or society. Interesting to consider isn't it? Now imagine those with plenty of money investing towards things that matter without any desire for money in return. That's what each of us does when we go online and fund something that we'd like to see happen in the world on any of the various crowd-funding sites.
Recently I was inspired to see a project created by a group of 20 highly skilled sustainability specialists, artists and filmmakers who are taking an epic bus voyage from Southern California, through Mexico to Central America. They are visiting 9 selected "Impact Centers" to teach workshops and leave behind completed projects, including: Cob benches, Solar dehydrators, Rocket stoves, Cob ovens, Murals and art pieces, Worm bins, Beekeeping systems, Welding projects. This is how we create social value and if you'd like to see it happen, vote yes here.
Consider Eckhart Tolle and Robert Friedman's upcoming film Miltons Secret, whose producers understand the importance of co-creating a film with their audience (trailer below). Media shapes our thoughts, stories shape our lives and our culture, and the opportunity to participate in giving inspiration to those around us is priceless. This is how we pay it forward.
Up Against The Wall, Public Art Indicted is an upcoming film about the power of art, education, and using public space for community enrichment. In a world where corporate marketing and advertising surrounds us and attempts to define our culture, public art, like independent media is a beacon of true grass-roots community expression. This is my first documentary script and if you like my blog take a moment to help make it happen.
I am happy to report that Exported From Michigan, which I covered in my last blog, was completely funded this week. A little money and a little time goes a long way with social media and crowdfunding. Even the mere act of clicking the "like" button, or sharing a link on Twitter or Facebook is a way of voting for a better future. There are plenty of solutions and plenty of inspiration waiting for you, give it a whirl. A better world is possible!