THE CROWD-SOURCED DOCUMENTARY
Written by Atalanti Dionysus MA
The crowd-sourced documentary can be based on two varying scenarios; (1) the audience telling the story by uploading their own footage and becoming the filmmaker, or (2) material crowd-sourced and integrated into a project driven and authored by a producer.
Scenario 1: The producer puts out a call to the ‘crowd’ (public) as a way to source footage, this is also known as ‘user-generated content’. The producer’s role becomes one of setting up the back end of the project, the website, and acting as the editor of the project, managing and sorting the content as it streams in from the public. The result of the crowd-sourced process is that footage can be sourced from anywhere in the world. This creates opportunities for the producer to amalgamate global stories told by more than one source as, for example, with the Middle East uprising. This form of documentary is providing a diverse range of content than a traditional documentary would have had access to, because it is virtually impossible to have that many crew in place at the right time when an event is taking place, no matter how much money is available to spend. Producing this kind of footage does not require a cash outlay from the producer or production company, as the public who are filming it generously donates it. There is no paid cinematographer or sound recordist used as part of the crew. The production crew may consist of a producer, a researcher and a web developer.
18DaysInEgypt (Jigar Mehta & Yasmin Elaya 2011) is a crowd-sourced, cross-platform documentary, which used user-generated content to build an interactive web documentary, a linear documentary and a location-based app around geo-tagged content, which allows users to find out what happened and exactly, where. It is based on a group storytelling environment, where one person starts telling a story, then the next person adds to the story as they witnessed it, and so on. The means in which 18DaysInEgypt uses this method is by inviting participants to upload footage that was shot during the uprising to the website, allocating it day by day.
This project was entirely made by the people who were witnesses and recorded the actual events during the uprising in 2011 on hand-held devices/mobile phones using footage, photos, emails, text messages, tweets and Facebook updates. The role of the producer/filmmaker for the online version of this project is to manage the upkeep of the website, moderate it and encourage people to contribute.
This type of documentary does not have a time-slot restriction or story limit on the content; it can take as many stories as the public wishes to upload. Technology has allowed limitless capacity in cyberspace.
Mehta, J & Elayat, Y (2012) ‘18 Days in Egypt’, Kickstarter (weblog post) January 2012, viewed 20 March 2012 <http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/18days/18-days-in-egypt
Dionysus, A. (2012). Documentary Producing and Interactive Platforms: Opportunities, Evolving Processes and the Changing Craft. Master of Arts by Research Thesis, Australian Film, Television & Radio School, Australia.
 User-generated content (UGC) video, discussion form posts, digital images, audio files, and other forms of media that were created by consumers or end-users of an online system or service and is publically available to other consumers and end-users.
 Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification to various media such as a photograph, video, website, and SMS messages. Geotagging can help users find location-specific information. It can also tell users the location of the content of a given picture or other media or the point of view and show some media platforms relevant to a given location.