What is Connecting the Docs? Uniting Diverse and Distant Communities Behind a Cause.

This post published on April 15, 2014

OPEN CINEMA’s ‘Connecting the Docs’ project involves reaching out beyond Victoria to develop a sister event with social media engagement in a second Canadian city. In March 2014, we worked with Calgary’s Fairytales Queer Film Festival to host the sister screening of My Prairie Home on the same day as our Victoria event.

The day before the event, we were scrambling to find an experienced tweeter to join the social media engagement team in Calgary. At the eleventh hour, an Alberta colleague put me in touch with Shannon, who immediately jumped on board and agreed to attend the Calgary event. We are so grateful for the significant contribution she made to the online engagement! Shannon eloquently captured the essence of the event, 140 characters at a time; read through the Storify archive to see for yourself. We’re honoured to share this glowing account of her experience.  Thanks Shannon!

Shannon McLennan’s OPEN CINEMA Story.

“I live tweeted a documentary film, and this is what happened…”

I’m somewcropped photo of Shannon McClennanhat of a film fan, reviewing films for The Calgary International Film Festival in years past and now, on the Huffington Post Alberta blog. I’m particularly fond of documentary film, which offers an often insightful glimpse into the little-known world of Star Wars obsessed fans or the secret life of house plants; the limits of documentary films are boundless. As is the reach and potential for OPEN CINEMA’s “Connecting the Docs” project.

It’s not every day I have the opportunity to live tweet a film and the ensuing conversation, so I jumped at the chance to use social media to unite two Canadian cities—in this case, my hometown of Calgary and coastal Victoria, BC—to share and discuss My Prairie Home. Harnessing the power of social media users, “Connecting the Docs” seamlessly carried the themes found in My Prairie Home—gender, sexuality, identity and community, including where we find it, how we make it our own, and what it does for us— out into the ether of the Internet to make Rae Spoon’s message exponentially powerful.

graphic for OPEN CINEMA Connecting the Docs 'My Prairie Home'

Technology use—particularly social media—has become pervasive and continues to rise in Canada. But the more we use it, the more it seems to be linked to our identity, becoming an extension of who we are and what we do, more than how we use it. As such, our notions around “community” have and continue to evolve. Through social media, we now have access to a previously untapped capacity to unite diverse and distant communities behind a cause, an interest, or an action.

We find and make community everywhere—where we live, work and play; in physical and virtual environments; about a host of ideologies, affiliations and identities. As a resident of a wide variety of physical and virtual communities—whether yoga, gardening, books or film—I had to wonder, “How is it that no one has thought to do this before? That Mandy Leith has been running OPEN CINEMA out of a Victoria cafe for more than 10 years and I’d never heard of it? It seems like such an obvious fit!” And it is.

photo of OPEN CINEMA Connecting the Docs "My Prairie Home" screening March 26, 2014

The OPEN CINEMA social media engagement team Connecting the Docs via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream.

“Connecting the Docs” is a natural extension of what the documentary film viewing experience should be: the opportunity to absorb, engage with and discuss a film and its meaning from varied perspectives and experiences. It’s a self-replicating organism, multiplying and expanding, ever evolving. What began by connecting two cities resulted in new virtual and physical communities, where countless others will spring up to fill a void, and ask or answer a question. It’s an experience I’m honored to have been part of and I look forward to all that comes next.

Join us at our OPEN CINEMA Connecting the Docs hybrid cinema event on Wednesday, April 23, 2014: a screening and discussion of Liz Marshall’s award-winning film The Ghosts in our Machine in Victoria, Toronto and online.

Shannon McClennan is a Calgary writer, sometime blogger and infrequent poet. She has a Master of Arts in International Journalism from the University of Leeds, UK, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Calgary. Shannon has done time as a communications specialist in big business and not-for-profit and currently works in provincial politics. Connect with Shannon on Twitter @shannoetry or on her website about.me/shannonmcclennan.

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