In 2007 a YouTube video created and narrated by social activist Annie Leonard was released, and quickly proceeded to go viral. The documentary–“The Story of Stuff”— walked viewers through the life cycle of production, use, and disposal of goods and the impact on planet, people, and profits. It has been viewed over 10 million times.

As a special post today, we have an interview with the Director of Online Strategy of the Story of Stuff Project, Christina M. Samala. She is part of the team that has gone on to release a total of 7 movies. The most recent documentary addresses an issue on the minds of many these days, U.S. spending, jobs, and investment. The film, “The Story of Broke”, released on November 8, 2011.

Watch “The Story of Broke”
  
Q & A with Christina M. Samala, Director of Online Strategy & Media at The Story of Stuff Project
Q | Innov8Social: Thanks Christina for joining us and answering a few questions about the film and project. It’s an eye-opening watch & timely considering Occupy Wall Street has been going on for over two months, with protests in over 60 cities worldwide. Did the Occupy movement inspire your team to make “the Story of Broke” or was it already in the works?
A | Christina: The idea to make The Story of Broke got brought to the table almost a year and a half ago. The role that subsidies play in society in the US was on the forefront of all of our minds, but in Annie’s, in particular. Whenever ideas of innovation or problem solving spurred, she frequently heard, “that’s a nice idea, but there’s no money for that” as a response. She heard it so much that she started mentioning it in her talks and found that people really sympathized with that.

So, while this movie has been in the works for a while, I think the sentiments and situations fueling the Occupy Movement are the very same ones that inspired us make The Story of Broke. If anyone’s interested, Annie wrote a great blog about The Story of Broke, Occupy and how while some have gotten bailed out, we the people keep getting sold out.

 

Q | Innov8Social: What were the primary sources of research used in making the film? Can you provide any links so we can continue our research?

A | Christina: We partnered with a lot great and knowledgeable organizations, an effort spearheaded by Allison Cook, one of my five amazing colleagues at the Project. A lot of these NGOs already have extensive and thorough research on subsidies in the US. For some, like the National Priorities Project, delivering data is core function of their mission.

 

The best way to dig deeper and learn more:

Q | Innov8Social: What was the most challenging thing about making the film? The most surprising?

A | Christina: Perhaps not the most challenging thing, but definitely one of the first things to come to mind: picking the title. A year and a half ago, when we first started talking about making this movie, we referred to it internally as “The Story of Subsidies”. That stayed the working title for the movie until about June of this year, when we decided that “The Story of Subsidies” didn’t make for a particularly awe inspiring title. I’m pretty sure we were right!

The biggest, and much welcomed, surprise is that our online community is more powerful than Stephen Colbert! At least according to Google Analytics it is. On launch day, November 8, 2011, we registered 71,814 visits to storyofstuff.org. Annie’s appearance on the Colbert Report on March 10, 2010 brought 64,504 visits to storyofstuff.org. We feel pretty darn lucky to have such a diverse and engaged network and are so grateful to every individual and organization sharing our stuff!


Q | Innov8Social: How long does it take to make a film like “The Story of Broke” or “The Story of Stuff”? Do you have any suggestions or tips for budding social entrepreneur filmmakers out there?
A | Christina: The Story of Broke took over a year, from concept to launch. The Story of Stuff took decades if you include all the research and organizing Annie did in the field before bringing the movie to Free Range to start production. As far as suggestions go, if you’re heart’s in it, if your passion can sustain you through all types of hurdles, you just have to go for it. More practically, surround yourself with awesome, insanely intelligent and trusted colleagues!

Q | Innov8Social: If there was one single takeaway you would want viewers to carry with them after watching “The Story of Broke”, what would it be?

A | Christina: We’re not broke and there’s no time like the present to drop the consumer hat and put on the citizen one! Civic participation in these times is a must.

Q | Innov8Social: While the film overviews the current spending issues, much of it focuses on what we can do, on our ability to re-frame the story and make our money work for us, our environment, our economy, and our communities….so, what can we do? :)


A | Christina: We’re encouraging folks to sign up for our Community of Action so we can all flex our citizen muscles together. That’s one way to engage with the issues we raise in The Story of Broke. Another thing that we can each do all day, every day, is just talk about these things. Make a point to have a conversation about it; start re-framing the story. Dialog with family, friends and colleagues about the parts of our spending priorities that you feel strongly about, the parts that affect your life and the lives of your loved ones. When it comes to getting involved, it doesn’t really matter how you start. What matters is that you do start.

One of the things that’s been so uplifting about the response to the movie so far and the Occupy movement is that now, more than ever, I’m witnessing people being vocal about political and social concerns in public forums. Folks, en masse, are finally participating in the conversation of which systems just aren’t working. Along with all that good talking though, we all need to remind one another, and our government, of the power of an engaged, active and united citizenry.

A very special thank you to Christina! You can find out what everyone’s talking about. Watch “The Story of Broke” above!

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