What is Connecting the Docs? Dimensions of Sharing

This post published on April 17, 2014

 A couple of years ago, OPEN CINEMA needed a non-profit friendly web designer to upgrade our website. And we were very fortunate to find Sherwin Arnott and Pink Sheep Media who agreed to give our website a fresh makeover and sponsor our program. Since then, Sherwin has not only maintained the website, but he’s also attended our events and been a great supporter of all that we do. We appreciate you, Sherwin!

Connecting the Docs is making our live offerings available to online audiences, so we were excited to get a sense of what it’s like to attend OPEN CINEMA– without leaving home!

Sherwin Arnott’s OPEN CINEMA Story

I had every intention of going. I’m a big fan of Rae Spoon. And I love documentary.

photo of Sherwin Arnott, Pink Sheep MediaBut life happens and I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t make it downtown to watch My Prairie Home in person, at the Victoria Event Centre.

I knew in advance that I could participate by watching the Twitter stream, or by watching the livestream of the panel discussion. But this OPEN CINEMA event was a little different from past showings because the documentary was available to watch online at the National Film Board. I’m accustomed to watching NFB movies for free, so I was somewhat surprised that My Prairie Home had a small fee. But it was only a few dollars and the NFB made it easy to sign up.

And it was so worth it. On so many levels!

First of all, My Prairie Home is beautiful to watch. And I was surprised at how important it felt to watch it at the same time with a community of people. I asked to be forewarned when the movie at the Event Centre would start, so I could start mine at the exact same time. Jonathan from AVI was kind enough to reassure me that the movie was, indeed, starting right at 7pm. On the flip side, we were sharing our evening with another screening event in Calgary, and I was, surprisingly, disappointed that the Calgary crowd was starting their film an hour before us. This became one way in which the experience was slightly less shared.

Editor’s note: Canada’s vast geography and multiple time zones make it challenging for every city to watch films at the same time. So Connecting the Docs is exploring the ways to mitigate this: every city screens the film at 7pm local time (ie 7pm in their own time zone) and our social media engagement strategy literally and figuratively connects the docs across time and space.

photo of someone watching My Prairie Home online via laptop, while tweetchatting on their iPhone

There is something, strangely, important about simultaneity.

I also found myself participating in public, but silent, speech. And I found myself in a very fascinating private public space. I was in the privacy of my home and could have been in my pajamas (I’ll never tell). But I knew that my tweets were being broadcast to a room full of people, many of whom I know and who know me.

photo of tweetchat power bar during the My Prairie Home film screening

This meant a lot. I had the experience of sharing in the joy and pain of Rae’s narrative. And there’s a significant amount of pain. Unlike panel members, who unanimously acknowledged their strong feelings about the documentary and who all had to manage their feelings after the film, I was able to have mine, uninhibited, in my home. And yet I felt a kind of social duty to try to at least be present and available in the public Twitter conversation.

photo of Alyx MacAdams sharing on the post-screening discussion panel.

It was a poignant and moving post-screening discussion L-R: Metta, Maureen Bradley and Alyx MacAdams.

There is something important about availability in sharing.

I suppose it’s a little bit like when you’re watching a sunset and you call your friend and you watch it together, over the phone. You might both be silent on the phone, but just knowing that you’re both watching the sunset and that you could speak if you wanted to, creates a sense of shared experience and friendship. It’s not the same as being in the same place. It’s not the same as holding hands. But it’s powerful nonetheless.

All in all, it was a lovely and fascinating experience and one I hope to continue to interrogate.

Sherwin Arnott is a print and web designer and communications enthusiast. He is a co-founder of a small design and communications consultancy, Pink Sheep Media and moved to Victoria eons ago to do graduate studies in Philosophy.  Connect with Sherwin on his personal blog, Twitter feed or Pink Sheep Media website.

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