By the time this post goes live, One Day on Earth’s third installment will have begun somewhere on this crazy planet of ours.
On December 12th, 12.12.12, across the planet, documentary filmmakers, students, and other inspired citizens will record the human experience over a 24-hour period and contribute their voice to the third annual global day of media creation called One Day on Earth. Together, we will create a shared archive and a film.
Brandon Litman, EP of motion design studio Alien Kung Fu, has been leading the program for a while, forging partnerships with organizations around the world, including Oxfam, UNESCO, World Wildlife Fund, Humans Rights Watch and the United Nations. In our interview with Brandon, he talks about how One Day on Earth began, where it’s headed and how he manages to keep it afloat.
Interview with Brandon Litman
Can you sum up One Day on Earth in three sentences or less?
A long overdue fusion between the creative world and the cause based world on a truly global level. The ultimate shared archive and opportunity to explore every corner of our planet.
Where did the idea behind ODOE come from?
It was inspired by watching a group of musicians who never collaborated before come together on stage and, after a few minutes, naturally harmonized. My good friend and partner Kyle Ruddick started ODOE back in 2008 asking hundreds of filmmakers through Vimeo if they would be interested in collaborating.
We turbo charged it by launching a social network and forging a one-of-a-kind partnership with the United Nations. As the first film took shape, we realized that the project evolved into much more than a single collaboration. It is now an ongoing effort with incredible production opportunities worldwide.
Are you running this by yourself? If not, who helps you out? If so, how the hell do you manage it?
We have a small team who love the project as much as Kyle and I and are critical in keeping it on the rails. We work with several producers, editors, coordinators, programmers, consultants and local representatives.
We are also lucky to be able to engage with the amazing One Day on Earth community members who totally get the bigger vision. On top of the individuals help, we have 100-plus non-profit partners and hundreds of United Nations field offices helping navigate local logistics.
Keeping this organized is pretty daunting at times, but we are pretty diligent on contact management and dividing and conquering. We are always asking ourselves if we can improve workflow.
Just doing some back-of-the-napkin math, you must get a ton of submissions totaling hundreds, possibly thousands of hours of footage. Can you share some of the numbers with us?
Our 2010 and 2011 collaboration yielded 7,000 hours of combined footage, representing every country in the world. There were 192 sovereign nations recognized by the UN in 2010 and we had collaborators in all of them.
We also worked with media creators in deputed nations as well, such as Palestine and Taiwan. NASA participated, so we have outer space, and we have great underwater footage as well.
We translated 240 hours of straight dialogue from what turned out to be 90 languages in over 40 different video formats.
We saw a lot of growth in 2011 and we hope the shared archive size will pass 11,000 hours by the end of our third collaboration.
How do you sort through all that?
We collaborate closely with Vimeo, and we built some custom aggregation technology on our end. The initially uploaded footage is navigable via a map interface with a backend that allows us to organize the videos.
After someone uploads video, we usually follow-up by asking to see the raw files. We establish contact with everyone individually. So five minutes of footage sometimes turns into hours. Someone on our team watches every clip, so it takes a very long time. We also work with our partners on the ground to try and understanding the facts related to the issues shared with us.
We have a unique relationship with the UN to retrieve footage from around the world, so we also sort through lots of packages that come in from places that seldom have the opportunity to share their perspective.
What’s the editing process like?
It is certainly a discovery process. Kyle leads the charge with a small team. There is so much experimentation. I know the team stays open to being inspired, and sometimes we see something and we know that it will make it into an edit, but it is a very untraditional process.
It seems 10/10/10 and 11/11/11 were hugely successful, at least in terms of involvement. How do you measure success of each program?
It can be measured a lot of ways, just getting it done is a huge reward, but we always challenge ourselves to go bigger and deeper in coverage. The success is also apparent when we have screening events and actually bring people together to watch and discuss the topics covered. We have shown the film to audiences in 160 counties.
Each project enables relationships to develop. And the best measuring stick is to gauge the depth of those relationships and how they maintain through the year. We started the One Day on Earth Foundation to help filmmakers connect to one another and to issues around the world. Having these opportunities to apply the One Day on Earth community model through the year is the true success.
What have been some of your favorite experiences while producing the last two projects?
Screening the film inside the General Assembly of the United Nations to an audience of 1,700 was an incredible experience. After years of planning and work, it was a real moment to pause and celebrate.
But, the best experience is knowing that someone on the other side of the global is having an experience exploring their local city in order to document it and share it. Being part of that shared experience keeps the whole team going.