Marshaling Social Media to Tell Stories of Death Row Innocence
Posted on February 22, 2013 by WITNESS
Too many cooks spoil the broth? Not anymore, says One for Ten producer Laura Shacham. She’s hitting the social media superhighway to bring hundreds of voices to the stories of death row exonerees.
|UPDATE: The project is now underway! Watch the films here.|
By Laura Shacham.
In 36 years, 142 people have been found innocent and released from death row. That’s one in ten people sentenced to death in this country, found innocent after spending an average of ten years awaiting execution. In the One For Ten video series, exonerees will tell their stories, sharing vital lessons about the failings in the judicial system and – hopefully – mobilizing communities against such miscarriages of justice.
But this won’t be your average documentary.
In April and May, I will travel the breadth of the US in an RV with my co-producer with our two directors, making two films a week for immediate release and online distribution. Giving films away for free is unusual, and our RV trip is certainly unconventional—but the most exciting and innovative element is that our audience will have a hand in the creation.
Having made social issue films for cinema, TV broadcast and radio in the past, we wanted to turn traditional doc-making on its head and engage our community from the get-go in a two-way dialogue. Thanks to the advent of social media, we’ll be able to directly interact with our audience while we’re on the road. We’ll talk via Facebook, Twitter and a purpose-built interactive website.
By inviting people to play a part in the production of the films, we hope to achieve a level of engagement that goes far beyond our core audience. This real-time conversation will take the message of these films to people who wouldn’t ordinarily find them and spark open discussions. The community can contribute questions, join discussions and debates, and feed back on the films while we’re making them.
Since the inception of the project we’ve worked hard to build that community. For many months now we’ve been active on Twitter, Facebook and the One For Ten blog. We share death penalty news, reveal updates in the planning of the project, post photos of us hard at work, and make huge efforts to reach out to everyone working on this issue. And everyone means everyone. From the big umbrella charities and organizations—such as Amnesty International, Witness to Innocence, Reprieve and The Innocence Project—to regional coalitions in every state, to individual lawyers and campaigners. We’re building a groundswell of grassroots support so that when each of our films is released, that support can continue to grow organically.
Alongside the social media and blogosphere conversations we hope to have, we’re building an interactive platform into our website. We’ll publish case notes for each of our exonerees, so that our community can ‘meet’ them ahead of time. As we travel, you’ll be able to follow our RV on an interactive map. It’ll have a pin for every exoneree we visit, and one click will show you the death penalty stats for the State where they live and the State they were convicted in, and the key facts that led to their conviction and exoneration.
We hope to hear from people across the globe with questions and discussion points. We hope those questions will not only respond to the individual issues at the heart of each case – be that eye witness misidentification, false expert witness testimony or the many other myriad problems – but also speak more generally to the notion of justice and reform and help us spark nationwide debate.
This momentum should continue to animate conversations after the films are made—we’ll organize Q&A’s and talk-backs with lawyers, campaigners and our partner organizations.
Ultimately, there will be tough decisions to make when it comes to what we’re able to include, and what must remain in the archive to be used by those who come after us. The questions that make it into the finished films will be those that help to tell the story of that particular exoneree. If we’re faced with too many suggested questions – as we hope we will be! – we plan to bring those that we can’t ask into Google hangout conversations and live debates with campaigners, lawyers, charities and organizations.
And at every turn, everyone’s invited to join in.
Watch the pilot with exoneree Ray Krone here: http://youtu.be/EXwYi_338jk