I've dedicated the past 31 years of my life to creating travel programs that give people a taste of the beautiful diversity and magic that is found when we venture into the world. But nothing I've accomplished in my career matches the project of two ambitious and creative young men who had a crazy idea -- to create a feature-length film with footage shot in every nation on earth. The part that makes it truly amazing is that it was all captured on a single day.
Now absorb that for a moment. This would be the first-ever simultaneous filming event occurring in every country of the world. If it sounds like a project worthy of a filmmaker like James Cameron or Ridley Scott, consider this: Kyle Ruddick and Brandon Litman are two graduates of The University of Southern California, had no budget and had never made a film before. And yet, somehow, they pulled it off.
Last week, I had the opportunity to watch the result -- the 105-minute documentary film One Day on Earth, shot entirely on Oct. 10, 2010 (10/10/10). And it was quite simply one of the most sweeping, stunning and inspiring pieces of cinema I've ever witnessed. How did they do it? Crowdsourcing, of course.
Utilizing a social networking model, Kyle and Brandon mobilized thousands of filmmakers, students and other inspired citizens across the planet to pick up a camera and document the world around them over the chosen 24-hour period. With some diplomatic help from the United Nations, they sent video cameras out to more than 95 U.N. offices, including some of the most remote and impoverished corners of the earth, like South Sudan and Papua New Guinea. (The filmmakers all got to keep the donated cameras.) The result? More than 7,000 volunteer videographers in 190 countries contributed to the One Day on Earth project, submitting over 3,000 hours of footage in 70 languages.
There were no particular guidelines on what to film, and the resulting footage showcases the incredible diversity, conflict, tragedy and triumph that occur each day on Earth, including many births and weddings, moments of joy and suffering, along with some more unusual events -- like a military parade in North Korea, shot in secret.
The task of sorting through all that footage and shaping it into a feature-length film was largely undertaken -- and funded -- by Ruddick and Litman themselves, with Ruddick doing much of the video editing in his basement. But it almost never saw the light of day. Running dangerously low on funds, they resorted last year to a Kickstarter campaign to keep the project alive. They managed to raise $44,000 in a matter of days, and with some support from the Ford Foundation wrapped up the film this past spring.
After four years in the making, One Day on Earth finally debuted on Earth Day 2012 in over 160 countries, including a showing at the U.N. General Assembly hall in New York. With music by Paul Simon, Fela Kuti, Sigur Ros and others, the film is remarkable for how polished it is while maintaining its authenticity, as it captures a dazzling array of human experiences first-hand.
It's a truly unique snapshot of a single day on Earth -- "a time capsule for the whole world to better understand itself," as the filmmakers put it. They hope "people walk out of this movie feeling a little more interconnected with the rest of the world." And now that it's out on DVD, you can order your own copy. I can't think of a better stocking stuffer for the world travelers in your life.
Not content to stop there, Kyle and Brandon have undertaken a trilogy. They orchestrated a second global day of media creation on 11/11/11, from which their network of contributors, now 19,000-strong, contributed thousands more hours of video footage. That collection is now being shaped into a second film, due for release next year.
And this Wednesday -- on 12/12/12 -- they're at it again with a final day of filming. I spoke with Kyle and Brandon, and learned that they're inviting you -- and everybody else on the planet -- to grab a camera and do some shooting of your own this Wednesday to contribute your own voice and perspective to the project for this third and final installment. You'll join the international community of volunteer filmmakers who've helped to create the first two films, and -- who knows -- you might just make the final cut.
Be sure to visit www.OneDayOnEarth.org for more information about the project and to learn how you can get involved. Will be you shooting your own footage on Wednesday? If so, what will it be? Be sure to let us know in a comment below.