Eric Martin & Grace Anglin | January 11, 2021
Have you watched any popular Sundance films lately? If so, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) probably had some hand in it. They are the largest funder, presenter, and community engagement driver for documentary films made by diverse makers for public television. As leaders in this space, they are always looking for ways to get feedback and build community among documentarians and audience members alike. In search of that goal, they created DocSCALE. DocSCALE is a platform that is changing the way the film industry interacts with audiences.
When you think about organizations that shift societal perspectives, the focus often leans to nonprofits, activist organizations or those organizations driven with political missions. ITVS is a hybrid of all three. They believe that “bold storytelling builds a more just society”. ITVS has worked for the past 25 years to bring high-quality films to the masses in order to bring greater attention to the most neglected parts of American society. Their filmmakers have received more than 30 Emmy Awards and are a staple in the independent film industry.
In 2018, ITVS came to a LabStorm to present the first version of their DocSCALE platform. DocSCALE is an interactive survey tool for audience members. It allows them to not only give feedback, but it gives them the opportunity to interact with fellow audience members after screening the movie. Two years later they came back to Feedback Labs to present their new and improved DocSCALE 2.0 tool. With the expansion of their tool, they sought advice from our community on making the tool more community driven and expanding its societal impact.
- Call to Action. LabStorm participants affirmed that this tool has a plethora of applications outside of a post movie survey. One attendee recommended a post movie call to action to engage audience members. Currently, the tool allows audiences to create videos or text comments that they can share. However, many attendees felt that given the nature of the type of films audience goers are watching, ingraining a feature that insisted audience members take a pledge afterwards was an integral piece of feedback.
- Uplifting Everyone’s Voice. It can be difficult to ensure that everyone’s voices are lifted to the surface in an equitable way. Most Social Media platforms take the most used words/phrases and lift them to surface as “trending” thoughts. The DocSCALE 2.0 platform has a feature that allows each voice to be considered equally, whether or not it represents consensus or remains an outlier and a different feature that identifies most used phrases/words. One participant cautioned against using the latter algorithmic logic. Data collected from this tool has the potential to be more meaningful when displayed in a way that takes into consideration groupthink and which does not overshadow less popular thoughts.
- A place for community. One of the biggest takeaways from this LabStorm was that all of the attendees agreed that this tool had many applications across the community engagement space. Specifically, they would love to see this tool being used in partnership with filmmakers and the intended audiences. This could happen several ways. Filmmakers could use this tool after a movie premiere to engage with audiences on the spot. There is also an option for taking the conversations created through the tool and expanding them into broader community conversations that have lasting impact with different communities. Finally, DocSCALE 2.0 could be used to connect audience members with others who have similar interests. This could lead to a sense of community and accountability amongst those who participated.
This LabStorm showed us that it is very possible to create a multifaceted platform that can be used to build community and engagement amongst movie viewers. If you are interested in learning more about ITVS be sure to check out their website https://itvs.org. For inquiries about the DocSCALE platform, please reach out to Eric Martin at [email protected] If you are anyone you know is interested in a LabStorm email [email protected].