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Want to Launch a Social Impact Doc? This is Why You Need an App for That.

Indiewire By George Barnes and Susan Jacobs | Indiewire March 5, 2014 at 3:04PM

With "Look Up!" a short documentary intended to raise awareness about climate manipulation, geoengineering and their health and environmental impacts, director George Barnes created a mobile app to spur audiences to action.
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Screenshot from "Look Up!"
Screenshot from "Look Up!"

In 2013, I tested a new time-lapse camera rig outside my house in Bergen County, New Jersey. The camera snapped pictures throughout the day, noon to sunset. Nothing unusual, until I accidentally processed the film backward -- and saw that the overcast afternoon sky was in fact, created exclusively by jets.

The footage revealed how cloud cover was actually created by aircraft flying in a grid pattern over the area of my house and my kids' school, spraying something from behind that left a long white trail that expanded over time, leaving a thin, cloudy haze across the sky.

I had my news producer do some research, without knowing exactly what we were looking for. Two days later, she returned with a binder of information about geoengineering and chemtrails.  Neither of us had heard these terms, but learned that geoengineering is the intentional creation of a false cloud cover being used to reverse global warming by blocking the sun from hitting the earth, and chemtrails are what the sprayed chemicals leave behind. 

I subsequently learned that geoengineering is unregulated, with health and environmental risks unknown. I had to do something... and making films is thing that I know how to do. And so the "Look Up!" documentary journey began.

Initially, I made the first version of "Look Up!" a 17-minute environmental documentary to raise awareness about what I believe is the most dangerous environmental threat the planet faces today, GeoEngineering, SRM (aka Chemtrails).  But what good is another documentary that informs the public unless it prompts them to action?

"For all of you documentary filmmakers, how many of you have actually gotten money back from any distribution deal?"

Then I came up with an idea: Integrate the film with a mobile app so they can easily use their smartphone to petition lawmakers and spread the message via social media.

By using the patented mobile app, viewers have the ability to capture visual evidence of this potentially catastrophic activity, petition against it, and send it directly to the appropriate government officials-- all in one click, with no need to know who or where those officials are, since it's geolocated.

A confirmation email is automatically sent back to the user's registered email address and the user can see the petition on the politician’s Twitter feed in real time.

Soon after its launch last spring, the app had rocketed to the top five social media apps on iTunes and top 10 on Twitter. More importantly, it facilitated the delivery of tens of thousands of mobile legislative petitions by its users by people who watched "Look Up!" The film has gone on to win film festival awards. After seeing the film at a festival, actor William Baldwin subsequently provided the narration. 

As breaking news has unfolded, the film has expanded to more than 60 minutes and I have been able to sell it directly to thousands of people who have signed up on the site. 

With our self-distribution model, we are able to keep the film current.  Our existing user base is so committed to the cause that they continue to buy each new version of the film at full price. It is a truly unique model, and was, at the end of the day, pretty cheap to make and distribute.

For all of you documentary filmmakers, how many of you have actually gotten money back from any distribution deal? With this model, the first DVD sold, you get all of the money, and if the topic of your film is important enough to go viral-- people will find you and buy your movie.

George Barnes is a multiple award-winning Producer/Director/DP with over 20 years of experience.  He has served on the Executive Office of the Governor (Florida) and Association of Independent Commercial Producers and shot thousands of campaigns commercials, and films for clients including Lamborghini Aventador, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino,, HBO,  and Viacom. George is currently the Senior Producer and Head of Production East Coast for UVAmericas, Managing Director of Skyder, Inc., a 501c4 not-for-profit corporation, creator of the award-winning mobile app SkyderALERT, and director of the award-winning environmental social action documentary “Look Up!” 

Susan Jacobs has spent more than 20 years in the entertainment business as a marketing, communications and branding strategist; event producer; project manager; writer; and connector.  She has worked on projects in the U.S., Africa, Europe and Haiti.  Her new company BlueZan Consulting creates marketing, branding, and communications strategies, campaigns, and events, focusing primarily on socially responsible, cause-driven projects. Previously, she co-founded and ran Thought Bubble Concepts, and Kahn & Jacobs Public Relations. She is associate producer of "Look Up!"

This article is related to: Social Impact, app, Film/Interactive, Tech, Filmmaker Toolkit: Documentaries, Documentaries, Documentary