An award-winning eco-doc, The Cove has rewritten the rules of the game of social media. Communications director Viki Psihoyos takes us through OPS’s wild ride.
Pre-Oscar. During Oscar. Post-Oscar. Throughout the life of our documentary The Cove, social media has played a key role.
In early ’09, we were already posting on Twitter. Basic stuff: upcoming film festivals, awards, reviews that were especially enlightening. Used well, this was great for building our global community of “Covies.” From that first screening at Sundance, the film seemed to have this fervent following, people asking “what can I do?”.
We have always been cautious about messaging. Only good stuff, News You Can Use. The bullshit meters have gotten finely tuned, followers can sniff out robo-Tweets, rah-rah stuff a mile away. So content is king.
We felt the need to support. We were hyper-diligent about updating our site with current screenings, festival links, as rich as possible. Also, The Cove raised several issues: dolphin capture and slaughter, mercury content in seafood, burning of fossil fuels, seafood depletion. We were researching. We offered links to science, links to studies.
We did this all in-house. I studied information architecture in J School, so the site was done by me with our longtime web designer Brandon Smith. At some point we partnered with Participant Media so there was another info component that was interesting.
Their reach was broad, so that was good. But it got to be a bit confusing once there were half a dozen different petitions to go sign. People were asking us what we thought was the best course of action. I felt uncomfortable assuring people that if they signed a certain one, or wrote to a certain politician, they were doing all they could to save the dolphins from slaughter.
Social media helped in other ways too. Of course YouTube was a great place to throw our trailers, PSAinterviews and .
After Louie got “Kanye’d” at the Oscars, we uploaded his acceptance speech.
Last summer, the Japanese theatrical release was marred by pressure from violent nationalist groups, several theaters in Japan cancelled screenings. Louie responded.
Recently (before the recent tragedies in Japan) our distributor was to release a subtitled The Cove on DVD. We created a Japanese dubbed version and made it widely available. We put it on our site but to avoid conflict, we geoblocked the Japanese territories. In another act of commando marketing, Louie arranged for every household in Taiji to receive a copy in the mail.
Others are choosing the film or related issues for their final projects these days. So we are developing a cheat sheet for them.
There seems to be lots of activity in the comment section of Facebook lately, not all nice. I have had to monitor any posts I put up, and encourage others to do the same. This seems to be the sole venue for expression for the masses. I am not sure how much longer I want to use Facebook for messaging. I see a lot of racist, hateful venting.
On the other hand, potential partners/funders all ask about our numbers, how many Twitter followers (13,281 and rising steadily, thank you), how many Facebook “likes” (half a million) but I think the real kudos come in the form of the tribute sites. Who created and maintains The Cove News Twitter account? Who cut The Cove trance remix? And what about this charming homemade version of our Oscar-winning film?
We don’t know, but these supportive gestures really show the power of social media. Tools in the hands of the people, the armies of activists can now extend messaging further than anything in the past.
Social Media and the Cove is also cross-posted on Tribeca Film Institute's blog.