This week “Overtown Inside Out” shifted in to high gear. I designed the sixteen-week multimedia project not only to document contemporary life in Overtown, but also to test the viability of a completely new method for disseminating hyperlocal journalism to communities with limited Internet access. On Friday funding came though for the multimedia kiosks that will deliver to the people of Overtown the films I make about the people of Overtown.
Overtown is one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods. The project is built upon a foundational series of three short films, each one to four minutes long, that I shot in there in late 2009 and early 2010. These introductory films – “This is Overtown” (2009), The Eye of Overtown (2009), and “Bullets Don’t Have Eyes” (2010) – are the first three chapters of what will be a twelve to sixteen chapter documentary about life in Overtown, told from the perspective of the people who live there.
The project will involve Overtown’s residents not only as the subjects of each short film but also as the architects of the larger narrative structure of which each individual film is a basic, chapter-like component. As I shoot and produce the films, I will make them available to Overtown’s residents through four multimedia touch-screen kiosks. The people whose community is the subject of the films will have input into the editorial content of the works as they are shot. Their feedback will dictate the direction of the project’s story line, chapter by chapter, and prescient commentary will be incorporated into a final, long form documentary compilation of the chapters. In the language of the motion picture industry, I will be the “cinematographer,” “producer” and “editor.” The residents of Overtown (“Towners” as they like to call themselves) will be the “directors” and “cast,” as well as the “audience.” Photojournalist/filmmaker and subject will participate symbiotically as co-authors of the work.
Though I have gotten a lot of positive feedback about the films, I have no idea how the kiosk idea will fly in Overtown. I hope it might open some doors for dissemination of multimedia journalism there and in other communities – places urban or rural, domestic or international – where there are stories to be told (and eyes to see them and ears to hear them), but where internet connections are so rare (or so slow) that citizens are kept in “virtual” isolation.
How fast is your Internet connection? Test it for free SpeedMatters.org, and post a comment with your results.
Next: If It Only Had a Brain…