Big Stories, Small Towns: Asia Pacific (Australia)

Potter, Martin, and Grieve, Anna (2016) Big Stories, Small Towns: Asia Pacific (Australia). Big Stories Co., VIC, Australia.

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[img] Video (QuickTime) (John from the Big Stories, Small Towns Queenstown project) - Published Version
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[img] Video (QuickTime) (Jimmy the Runner from the Big Stories, Small Towns: Coober Pedy project) - Published Version
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[img] Video (QuickTime) (Micehlle the Opal Love from the Big Stories, Small Towns: Coober Pedy project) - Published Version
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[img] Video (QuickTime) (Tallis the Miner from the Big Stories, Small Towns: Coober Pedy project) - Published Version
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Abstract

Big Stories Small Towns is a collaborative transmedia process driven documentary project. The project generates stories with and by local community members using a mixed methods and these stories are then disseminated via a range of media. The project ‘tagline’ is “Local Stories with Global Impact”. To that end, the aim of the Big Stories project in this iteration was to scale the work across Australia and the Asia Pacific to build a diverse and inspiring global portrait of country life.

This research spans the three residencies across Australia, starting in late 2013 and completed in 2016 in the towns of Cowra (New South Wales), Coober Pedy (South Australia) and Queenstown (Tasmania). The aim of the work was to explore mechanisms for remote co-creation with fellow filmmakers who could then translate the process of the Big Stories project into their communities and deliver stories to the online platform of bigstories.com.au.

A key question underpinning research was - can you have a good process and a an impactful outcome simultaneously? So, is it possible to have a participatory production process, community ownership of stories as well as high-quality media products and sizeable audiences?

Previous iterations of the Big Stories project had explored questions around effective techniques for practitioners developing and delivering facilitated participatory digital media projects. In developing this iteration, key influences were Freire’s (1970, pp. 88- 91) understanding of dialogical practice and the necessary values of love, hope, humility, faith in others’ capability and critical thinking from which this practice might arise. This influence is explicitly quoted in the Big Stories Briefing document. Also, the concept of Positive Deviance, after Unger’s (1987) Negative Capability, which allows for human agency within the formative contexts of institutional and ideological structures, has been influential and is seen in the framing described in the Briefing as “shining a light on people who care for and create their community.” In addition the concept of agonistic pluralism outlined by Mouffe (2000) that shifts attention from achieving to consensus and focusses instead on creating space for multiple, often conflicted opinions and Ivan Illich’s (1979) vision of the shift from a technocratic elite towards “convivial tools” developed and maintained by a community of users provide overarching theoretical frameworks for the project as a whole.

As process-driven participatory media projects reach broadcast scale and quality, more intimate and nuanced understandings of both co-creative processes and the values of production are needed. My work in the project focusses on the impact of participation in media making and sharing on individuals, communities and societies. I provide facilitation and resources, working models and evidence of need and impact that supports sustained participation of marginalized communities in creative practices. As creative director and producer of the project I defined the process and principles of production. Along with co-producer Anna Grieve I resourced the project – initially with $220,000 Screen Australia funding and then subsequent funding support through local and state agencies for each residency once filmmakers and towns were identified. Once funding, a briefing document and funding templates had been formulated, filmmakers across Australia were selected based on an understanding of producing both high quality documentaries and participatory media works. Towns were then selected by the filmmakers in each state. Additional fundraising then took place at local and state levels to support residencies in each state. Filmmakers were designated the intellectual property ownership of the stories they produced and were encouraged to share this ownership with participants in the story and to use creative commons licensing. The Big Stories project requested a flexible license from the filmmakers and participants to transmit their stories in various settings.

At the same time as residencies were in play I worked with Portable Studios on a content and marketing strategy to increase audience. This audience development work resulted in 130,369 views from 2013 (~2000 views per month). There was little increase in visits to the site as a result of this work. Portable also supported the project through social media posts with the Big Stories Facebook page receiving a 5x increase in likes (from ~500 likes to over 2500). However, overall this was not an effective driver of audiences to the bigstories.com.au website.

Research Statement

Research Background Big Stories Small Towns is a collaborative transmedia process driven documentary project. The project generates stories with and by local community members using a mixed methods and these stories are then disseminated via a range of media. As process-driven participatory media projects reach broadcast scale and quality, more intimate and nuanced understandings of both co-creative processes and the values of production are needed. The focus of this research was to create a working model of co-creativity across mediums, underpinned by a value-based approach to the production process (see Briefing document).
Research Contribution Big Stories, Small Towns: Asia Pacific (Australia) aims to scale the work across Australia and the Asia Pacific to build a diverse and inspiring global portrait of country life. The research spans three filmmaker residencies in the town of Cowra, Queenstown and Coober Pedy. As creative director and producer, Potter's work in this project focuses on the impact of participation in media making and sharing on individuals, communities and societies and defining the process and principles of production. The process of co-creation and the outputs of the stories demonstrate a working model of nuanced and intimate co-creativity across a range of mediums.
Research Significance This work was the most substantial iteration of the project in terms of people employed, budget, films produced and community participants engaged. A substantial body of local stories were produced and held at the National Film and Sound Archive, online at the bigstories.com.au website and available to the public through screenings, exhibitions and artefacts. More than 10,000 people attended a Big Stories event or exhibition and there were over 130,000 views of the bigstories.com.au website. Each residency was funded through local and state based funding to approximately $150,000. Screen Australia competitive grant funds of over AUD$220,000 were received for the project.
Item ID: 52672
Item Type: Other
Keywords: documentary, digital storytelling, transmedia, participatory media, Cowra, Coober Pedy, Queentown, mining, co-creation
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Additional Information:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following works may contain images and voices of people who have died.

Funders: Screen Australia, Cowra Council, South Australian Film Corporation, Country Arts South Australia, Screen Tasmania, Regional Arts Fund (Australian Government)
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2018 04:19
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media > 190205 Interactive Media @ 40%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200102 Communication Technology and Digital Media Studies @ 30%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200103 International and Development Communication @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture @ 30%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950204 The Media @ 30%
89 INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES > 8904 Media Services > 890403 Internet Broadcasting @ 40%
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