Photo via Jaymi Heimbuch
Annie Leonard is having an incredible run with her short documentary The Story of Stuff. The film still gets 10,000 views per day and has already reached 7.3 million people over the 22 months since it was released. The film clearly has a big impact on viewers, and while Annie gets thousands of emails each day from people who have watched it and want to do more, she's had few places to send them so they can unleash their activism and make positive changes. That is, until now. There's a whole new batch of stuff stories on their way, with a whole new angle for helping people inspired to advocate for changes in consumerism a place to go. The Story of Stuff is expanding. Or rather, it is splitting off into specialized areas. Leonard and crew wanted to respond to the many requests from viewers over the last two years to make films on specific topics. However, there were two things stopping Leonard from doing just that some time ago. First, Leonard points out that she doesn't have that kind of specialized knowledge - she spent, literally, 20 years thinking about the issues that went into the original The Story of Stuff, and would need to tap the minds of experts in the various specialized areas people want to know more about. The other problem is facilitating the activist flame that is kindled up in viewers after watching the films. Her group just doesn't have the resources to funnel people towards appropriate outlets.
Those problems, however, were not without some great solutions. Leonard recognized that her film has created a huge audience base of motivated people, but she says it felt like a train speeding towards a great destination, but all the seats are empty. So, she put a call out to various activist groups to join in on the next phase of Story of Stuff. She devised criteria for choosing groups to work with on upcoming films.
First, the information presented needs to focus on the production and consumption of goods, since that followed in line with the original film. Second, The NGO partner with whom they decided to work had to be set up to do follow up with viewers - as in, they need to have the resources to help the people who want to be involved actually be involved. And finally, the films had to be solutions oriented so that people watching would want to go forward and work with the NGOs because they'd understand what the next steps are.
The first film coming out within the next month or so is the story of carbon trading. Leonard wants it to be out before the Copenhagen talks, primarily because while many people have heard of carbon trading, not very many really understand it. She said that there are quite a few people she works with who she greatly respects, and who support carbon trading simply because they feel it's the best we can do. Leonard feels differently, though, pointing out that it's not a great solution and that we can do better - we have to do better. The NGO partner for this film is Climate Justice Now.
Also coming out soon will be the story of cosmetics, electronics, and bottled water.
When asked about whether or not she feels that her audience for the film - as well as at Bioneers - are people already aware of the issues and so it's a bit of preaching to the choir, Leonard stated that preaching to the choir is very important.
"We have enough people who care but we have to get them engaged," she said. It's not about educating more people, it's about getting the people who are already educated on the topics - the majority - to actually step up and do something.
The new films with their NGO partners that give viewers a platform to take action will be a big help in accomplishing this goal.