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What is Get on the Doc Bus?

Get on the Doc Bus is an audience development roadtrip that will travel across Canada to connect and engage documentary screening partners on the topic of documentary and community engagement. Travelling from West to East during June through September 2013, OPEN CINEMA founder and program director Mandy Leith will travel across the country meeting with filmmakers, audiences, cinemas, alternative venues, media orgs, festivals, non-profit outreach programs and businesses to talk about the successes, challenges, needs and future of documentary screenings as a tool for community engagement. Along the way, she will document and share stories and create a database of connections, with the goal of seeding the development of a Cross Canada Community Cinema Network.

Why Now?

Like many digital industries, the documentary genre is at a cross-roads. The way forward depends upon engaging stakeholders to share their reality, explore alternatives and map the territory. Canada has played a leading role in the birth and development of the documentary art form, so it’s time to travel the length and breadth of this great country to take the pulse of the industry and put the players on the map.

What’s Up With the Documentary Industry?

Documentaries are hot, people are hungry for in-depth stories about real people dealing with real issues, locally and globally. Judging by the growing popularity of documentaries at festivals, in cinemas and at award ceremonies, the average filmgoer believes the genre is on the rise. But behind the screen, the changing economic and digital landscape is throwing the documentary industry into crisis: broadcast documentary strands are dwindling, production companies are closing their doors or retooling, the traditional models of production and distribution are breaking down, leaving a feature length list lot of unanswered questions about how best to monetize and distribute documentaries and utilize their potential to inform, entertain, and engage in a new always-on digital universe.

Documentary as a Tool for Community Engagement

Meanwhile, community screening initiatives like OPEN CINEMA are discovering that documentaries are a valuable tool for community engagement, tapping directly into and contributing to the local and social economy. For 10 years, OPEN CINEMA has been successfully screening docs in cafe-style venues followed by open forum discussion with invited guests and a packed house. Virtual audiences can also participate, thanks to our innovative hybrid event format that includes an #opencinema tweetchat and livestream feed of the conversation. The potential for engaging thousands of people on social justice issues via these hybrid documentary screenings is exciting!

But it’s the wild west when it comes to setting up a community screening program, people are working in isolation and there is no unifying body, best practices or principles. With television doc strands dwindling, the industry in crisis, the genre at its peak of popularity, it’s time to meet community screening partners and audiences in person, map the territory, share our experience, develop best practices and build a support network.

Get on the Doc Bus!

Join us as we travel the length of this great country to talk about documentary and community building. Mandy’s goal is to share her passion and experience running ‘one of Victoria’s most successful cultural enterprises’ and to take the pulse of the community screening movement across the country. All aboard!