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The Resistance Is Streaming: How Online Video Will Save America

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One popular video, called the #MayDayAction video, started as a shooting assignment in Elizabeth, N.J. A partner organization asked the Collective to shoot video at a protest march taking place at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center. The videographer got some strong footage, but the group that requested it ended up not using it. Seeing an opportunity, the Collective asked other partner groups if they had a use for it. CASA in Action, a sponsor of the May 1 immigrant march in New York City, thought the footage was perfect for getting the word out. The Collective edited the work, mixing in footage from ICE raids and news about the immigrant travel ban. Over the 3­-week project, a Collective producer, script writer, editor, and graphic designer worked together to shape the output. CASA in Action loved the video, distributing it primarily over Facebook. Other groups loved it, as well, and asked to have it adapted.

That success led to improvements in another project. The group Hand in Hand, a national network for domestic employers, was ready to shoot a video by itself with playwright Eve Ensler. It had the script all ready to go. But when its members saw the #MayDayAction video, they realized they could create something more impressive than they had first planned.

Hand in Hand approached Jones, who took the project to her team—which had grown to over 200 volunteers. After finding sufficient availability and interest, Jones told Hand in Hand they were able to help. The project, called #SanctuaryHomes, involved rewriting the script and shooting a video in Ensler’s home. Jones directed this project herself and was about to complete the final edit at the time of this interview. She worked with an editor on the final arrangement, as well as a composer creating original music. The video debuted on Facebook, as well as on Ensler’s website 1 Billion Rising in early July. Jones finds most campaigns go out through Facebook these days, due to the viewer targeting available.

The Collective has created live video streams, as well. One Jones is especially proud of—and even conceived of—took place during the worldwide Sister Marches on January 27, when nearly 700 protests around the world occurred on a single day. Jones is big on live streaming and owns a NewTek TriCaster. She got in touch with the Women’s March Network and planned to have attendees at many of the marches stream live video to her via the BlueJeans video conferencing app. Jones then produced those streams into a single stream that went out over Facebook.

“I could cut from Barcelona to Oaxaca to Reykjavík to Phoenix. And, if I wasn’t getting a feed at the time, I could cut to a slide show,” Jones says. “By bringing all these computers into my TriCaster as if they were cameras, I could add lower-­thirds to every single shot. When people are watching on Facebook, they’re watching very, very quickly. I wanted to make it clear if you’re scrolling by this live stream that this is the Women’s March from Vienna, or this is the Women’s March from Chicago. So I had lower thirds going up the entire time.”

Jones and a crew of five live produced the Australian stream the night before, then streamed the other marches for 12 hours the next day. When they were done, they had reached 3 million viewers for a cost of only $50.

“We were starting in Europe, so it was 6:00 in the morning, and there were all these women on the buses,” Jones remembers. “They were opening their phones to see that, as they were headed down to march in Washington, D.C., that women around the world were marching with them. That is my favorite story. How excited that made them, on the bus, on the way to D.C., to see that they had sisters all over the world marching with them.”

While it’s still early days, Jones sees the Collective expanding beyond its original mission to become something different—a progressive digital media agency that takes on paid clients. While it will always take on pro bono work, she sees paid work as the group’s future. Some clients are already offering payment. Not every group the Collective works with is a volunteer organization with no budget. Some are well-­funded with annual revenues in the millions, and they don’t expect work for free. Jones isn’t sure how profits will be distributed, but she plans to work out a system that rewards the people who contribute to each project. In time, it could grow into a company with an office and a full-­time staff. The most important goal, however, is making a positive impact on the next presidential election.

“For me, this is very new. This is a world that’s very new,” Jones says. “My connections are in live streaming and digital media. Now, I’m meeting all these people in the activist world, which I’m loving. And continuing, the activist world will help us to continue to grow and expand our footprint, expand our profile, and help us to hopefully take more and more powerful actions.”

[This article appears in the September 2017 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "The Resistance Is Streaming: Online Video for America’s Future."]

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