It may be an extremely bold statement to make, but the book Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe, changed my life. Or at least, it made me realise that “crowdsourcing” had already changed my life before I had even heard of the concept, let alone read the book. It infuses all parts of my life as an academic, journalist and film festival chair. I therefore felt it might be useful for me to share with others, the various examples of crowdsourcing in Canter 2.0.  The first spotlight is on short film festival Film Northants.

As Howe (2008) states crowdsourcing is: “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call”. It is about the power of the crowd and how organisations can work with vast, global online communities to create successful projects whether it be in governance, business, science, journalism or any other discipline. Instead of Web 2.0 it is Big Society 2.0.

Since its inception Film Northants has unwittingly embraced this concept by always looking to the population of Northamptonshire to help shape the festival. As people are arguably more involved in the creation of all forms of media, including film, due to the cheapness, accessibility and user friendliness of digital technology, it makes sense for those people to also be involved in where that media ends up. But as Jeff Howe suggests it is not just the people creating content (active audience) that are important but also all the people who rank, like and vote on said content (active filters), giving it extra significance and helping to sort the wheat from the chaff. It is the 1:10:89 rule = for every 100 people visiting the Film Northants website, 1 will have entered a film, 10 will vote on the film entries and 89 will merely watch the films.

Furthermore, according to Jeff Howe active audiences also need help from “benevolent dictators” who can guide them, set loose boundaries and respond to demand. In relation to Film Northants, the creators are the film makers, the active filters are all the people who vote for the films, and the Film Northants committee and judges act as the benevolent dictators by setting the film criteria and drawing up the shortlist.



Here are some further examples of Film Northants crowdsourcing in action:

1. Entries

The festival is open to all. The only criteria being the film must be shot in Northamptonshire.  Amateurs and professionals alike can enter (and as Jeff Howe argues the line is increasingly blurred between the two), children and adults can take part, any technology can be used as long as the entry can be uploaded to YouTube. The festival is promoted online and anyone can enter online. Our crowd is the globe.

2. Voting

Again because the voting is now all conducted online anyone in the world can vote. The power of the crowd can decide which of the shortlisted films is the winner and runner-up.  The bigger this crowd gets, the fairer the result will be.

3. Promotion

Social media are significantly important as a viral marketing tool. We need the crowd to spread word of mouth online and link back to our website, Facebook and Twitter.

4. Feedback and development

The committee is always guided by the feedback it gets from the crowd. Whether it is from the formal feedback forms, a casual email suggestion or a comment on Twitter or Facebook, it is all collated and acted upon. Changes over the past four years have all been borne out of crowd feedback including: Judges’ Comments Film, Judges’ Choice award, Under 16s category and even the nibbles at the champagne reception. Rather than the attitude ‘built it and they will come’, we ask the crowd what they want, what they suggest, and then we provide it, knowing there is already demand for it.

5. Crowdfunding

Although Film Northants itself has been funded by grants, advertising and sponsorship in the past, crowdfunding may be a possible model for the future as it is gaining popularity in the film industry as a whole. And indeed Film Northants judge Becky Adams is running her own crowdfunding campaign at the moment to raise money from the public to produce British comedy Fortune Cookies. Find out more here.

My final message would be this: Film Northants is your festival. The crowd can decide what shape it takes. Let the crowd speak.

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