It’s been less than six months since ITVS and Mozilla hosted its first “hackathon” and so much has happened, not the least of which is the launch of this Living Docs site and the coalescing of an exciting new group of partners. I remember back in the fall of 2011 when we began talking to filmmakers about being involved in the hackathon, the response was “hack-a-what?” However, after the two days in San Francisco where we brought six Indie filmmakers together with a crack-team of coders to rapidly prototype web documentary projects, they were won over to a new way of working and thinking about the creative process in the digital age. That’s not to say that the stellar group, including award-winning filmmakers like Steve James, Renee Tajima-Pena, and Bonni Cohen are going to abandon the type of filmmaking they know best, but they now have been energized to create complementary web projects for their films. The teams created great projects over two days on subjects as diverse as Native American activism to the revolution in Egypt. We were even able to provide follow-on funding to The Interrupters team who, along with some co-funding from our friends at Tribeca Film Institute, already developed their prototype into the Digital Shrines feature on their interactive website.

Living Docs Hack Day from Brett Gaylor on Vimeo.

We are thrilled to be a part of what we see as an exciting new movement in documentary storytelling and to continue to introduce the filmmakers we support to the possibilities the web can provide to collaborate, create new aesthetic forms, and further engage with audiences. In addition to expanding the skills of the traditional documentary producer, we also hope to help cultivate a new community of makers that are thinking web first. Of course, we don’t have the exact formula figured out for how to do this best. But that’s a part of what makes this venture exciting – for us all to get together, whether it’s in a room in San Francisco or here online, and, as Steve James says in this video, “just hack it out.”

Matthew Meschery
Director of Digital Initiatives, ITVS