Food, Inc.: From Screen to Social Action

Director Robert Kenner discusses a new platform that can offer forms of social action in the food community

The Future of Film Blog, launched as part of the Tribeca (Online) Film Festival, features leading filmmakers and other experts within the film industry sharing their thoughts on film, technology and the future of media. Below, Robert Kenner, director of Food, Inc., discusses a new platform that can offer real forms of social action in the food community.

 

Over the course of my career I have made films about a broad range of subjects, immersing myself in each while making the film. It was not until Food, Inc. that my involvement in a subject continued to grow after completing the film. I thought I could move on to new topics, but the tailwinds have been too strong.

Since the film’s release I have given talks across the country and have been asked at every event, “What can I eat?” and “What can I do to change the food system?” It’s exciting to begin work in a new form that can address these questions and offer real forms of action. But getting people to take action may require a different format. I became intrigued with the idea of making short videos to be viewed quickly and distributed widely. I’m talking about web-based content — making films for telephones with clickable options for action.  

Incredible things can happen quickly when people have immediate options to make change. Indeed, it’s the driving force behind my new project. If Food, Inc. aimed to inform the American public about our food system, my new project is about channeling people towards action.

Working closely with YouTube and using their annotations feature, we’ll funnel our viewers up the rungs of commitment. With a single click on the video, you’ll be able to learn more, tell your friends, write congressional leaders, donate to related NGOs, discover which brands to avoid, join regional or national activist groups, start your own community initiatives, etc.

All of these options, and all of the relevant information from our partner NGOs, will reside in a new destination hub that we’ll build — think of it as the “Facebook of Food.” Tapping into Causes.com’s 140 million users and other key platforms, and fueled at every stage by social media, we’ll allow users to invite friends and share info, take quizzes and polls, donate time or money matched by our sponsors, and join innovative contests to win prices — fostering the viral growth of the hub and recruiting consumers to take action.

By no means have we given up on traditional media or publicity. Our goal is to reach as many eyeballs as possible. Imagine the entire series launching on Good Morning America or on Oprah’s sofa, and you’ll have a sense of our mainstream intentions. Our sponsors, both for-profit and non-profit, will play a crucial role in marketing.

This is about building a whole new type of platform that can deliver vast audiences. I’m blown away by the potential of social media to explode our reach and to transform the message in a way that turns engagement into action!

 

Robert Kenner has produced and directed many award winning documentary films including Food, Inc., The Road to Memphis, and the recent HBO film, When Strangers Click. Click here to follow Robert Kenner and other experts from film and technology comment on the changing media environment on the Tribeca Future of Film Blog.

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