Creator Q&A: The Founders of One Day on Earth
One Day on Earth is a community that we at Vimeo are very proud to be a part of. Spanning every country in the world, it serves as an annual video snapshot of humanity and this amazing planet we call home. We were lucky enough to chat with the founders, Kyle Ruddick and Brandon Litman, to discuss this global project, how it all got started, and what lies ahead for One Day on Earth (ODOE).
VVS: How did you two meet and begin collaborating?
BL: Over 10 years ago, in my dorm room at USC, Kyle and a mutual friend from the film school forecasted that we would all make a movie together. Kyle shared the idea of ODOE with me a few times, but it wasn't until a trip out to his office that I got the full picture and knew that together we could make this huge.
KR: This is our first collaboration actually. I always saw Brandon, who was in business school at the time, as being a talented producer. It took many years to link up on a project, but we had tabs on each other’s work for a long time.
VVS: How was the ODOE project conceived?
KR: I was at a concert watching musicians from very different cultural and geographic origins play a fusion of music unrehearsed. The immediacy of their communication made me want to strive to create something similar for cinema. As I listened and watched those brilliant musicians perform my mind and heart raced as the idea fully developed in matter of a couple minutes. Creatively speaking, I feel we are always having tons of ideas flowing through us. Picking the ones we actually execute on is the biggest challenge. In this case, from the moment I had the idea I knew I was very much all in, and that the direction of my life would change to serve it. Funny how an idea can be compared to love at first site or something, but it almost feels that way.
VVS: How do the two previous global video capture days of 10.10.10 and 11.11.11 compare?
KR: The temperature and pulse of the world certainly changes from year to year. Between 2010 and 2011 we had a major tsunami, the Arab Spring, and the Occupy Movement. These topics stood out in the 11/11 footage. We also got some major things we didn’t cover as well in 2010, like Migration and HIV/AIDS thanks to some new partnerships. The 11.11.11 film is really shaping up to be a story of survival. This was true in the 10.10.10 film to some degree, but I do feel 11.11.11 is going to be a darker film, a little more focused on the concept of survival.
BL: 11.11.11 had a lot of partners. The success of 10.10.10 rang loud and we were able to establish production partnerships with some great organizations like the Red Cross/Red Crescent and several other UN programs and agencies. By working with partners who are experts on a topic, we were able to dive into that topic in a much deeper way and build a global understanding of it.
VVS: Were you guys nervous about the project before launching the first big universal capture on 10.10.10?
KR: There were a few moments of “oh crap” along the way, but there was a lot more momentum than doubt. There was a lot more emergency duct tape than looking backwards, and a lot more moments of feeling overwhelmed with detail and sensation than really wondering if you were doing the right thing.
BL: There were so many obstacles in place that we just never stopped jumping over the hurdles to have time to be nervous. The commitment to have participation from every country in the world was so out-there, absolute, and unforgiving that we just had to try everything we could. I was nervous the next day though, as you really don’t know if it was successful for a few days afterwards.
VVS: What's different or new about 12.12.12?
KR: The biggest thing was to add a theme. One day on Earth is an open project and you can film anything you want, but this year we decided to suggest two questions: What do you have? And what do you need? The answers to these questions can be verbal but we really have been pushing the idea that people answer them visually as well. The intention is to create
an interesting dialogue globally. I hope we find that collectively we all have what we need
somewhere in our global community.
VVS: What's been the most surprising thing about ODOE for each of you?
KR: Honestly, I think it might be that we basically pulled off the first event on credit cards and sleep deprivation. We really have a lot of people around the world to thank for each of these events actually happening. That level of community magic continues to blow my mind. Whether it be a square in Katmandu full of people watching the film, or Iraqis posing with our poster, or the fact that our community delivered some of the first images of the Libyan revolution. The reach of this thing, One Day on Earth, is sometimes bigger than I think either of us understand and it continues to surprise.
BL: I'm always surprised by how quickly you can network to even the most remote places of the world. As the community of collaborators grows it gets easier. It really make you think that, in this day and age, it is much less than six degrees of separation.
VVS: What's been the highlight of the ODOE project for each of you individually?
BL: In April of this year we screened the 2010 film in 160 countries on the same day, breaking a world record — it was the culmination of so much support and energy by so many people. That was the best day of my life, not doubt about it.
KR: The screening day as well. In the middle of that storm of screenings around the world was the one we attended at the United Nations General Assembly. The energy there was absolutely electric. Cut Chemist opened up the preshow and people stood in rain for hours to get a seat. It was so amazing to be speaking in the General Assembly of the United Nations showing something that was just an idea several years earlier.
VVS: What's been surprising about the footage captured in previous years? Anything that really stands out?
BL: I think the scope of it all stands out. You really can't escape the global nature of all topics. Keeping in mind that this is all on the same day, we filmed refugees in over 50 countries, people living and treating HIV/AIDs in over 50 countries, amazing wildlife cinematography all over the world, interesting customs and traditions that are so foreign from my everyday understanding. It really puts you in your place. Actually, no, it really thrusts you outside of your place.
KR: Constantly surprised. That’s kind of the fun of the post process. A few nice things stick out. 10.10.10 we had a military parade in North Korea, a sea of discarded tires in Spain, and childbirth in Mongolia. I don’t want to give away all the magic in 11.11.11, but there is a baby dolphin rescue.
VVS: What's been the most challenging aspect of ODOE?
KR: With out a doubt it’s been financial. There goes the old saying in show biz: good, fast, and cheap. Pick two. One of the downsides of having over 3,000 hours of footage is that it takes lots of resources and time to make it into something. We are getting more support now than in the past, but we are working to establish this as a sustainable model to live up to what we have set in motion.
BL: ODOE is really an ecosystem of collaborating. There are a lot of moving parts. We are not only working on a film, but also establishing a collaborating community, maintaining diplomatic level partnerships, and planning for the next big thing. We have learned a lot about this sort of collaboration. Global projects get easier the more you do them. That said, the business end of it is always a hustle. This is the financing, PR, and distribution of the project.
VVS: What's been the most rewarding aspect for you guys?
BL: The first thing that came to mind is a comment from a filmmaker from Sweden. His grandfather was in the final film — it was such a beautiful sequence and story. He told us sometime after 10.10.10 that his grandfather passed away and that if it wasn't for 10.10.10 he
may have not captured those special everyday moments in video. Giving people a reason to pause and engage a subject they always wanted to, but never have, is the most rewarding thing. This is Fredric's video.
KR: There’s an incredible feeling on our shoot days knowing that so much is happening around the world. It’s like Christmas the following weeks as footage rolls in. It’s such an amazing thing to be a small part of so many people’s inspiration. I have cried like a baby a few times just watching other filmmakers' work land on their Vimeo page.
VVS: What do you hope people take away from ODOE, both from the capturing and viewing experience?
BL::I have never learned so much about my city as when i am shooting for the annual collaboration. You really have an excuse to engage without reservation, as it is all relevant. I hope people connect with what matters to them the most, be it a topic, a person, an event, whatever. People should know that they are sharing this day with thousands of other people around the world, all doing the same thing. All of them wanting to share something.
KR: I don’t think you have had the entire One Day on Earth experience unless you have filmed for the project and then actually see the final movie you helped create. I always say my job is just to ask people to film what they know in their heart they already want to film. But even so, the films stand on their own. We hope to offer a unique view of interconnectedness that I hope breeds global empathy and creative inspiration to make this world a better place.
VVS: What hopes do you have for ODOE going forward? Where do you see it evolving?
BL: We started to connect One Day on Earth filmmakers with gigs and opportunities in their local regions. This is the first truly global collaborative network, so let's show the world what's up! Kyle and I always shared the dream of having a non-profit that also connects filmmakers to document causes around the world, so we established the One Day on Earth Foundation. We are building relationships between NGOs and creative communities. I think film students and professionals need to fully appreciate how much of an impact they can have, especially if they are networking with the right organizations. We want to help them network.
KR: I’d really like to start to help produce local country events. Imagine a One Day in India, A One day in Brazil, etc… I think we could effectively take a page from what TED did with TEDx and expand our community model. We can see the potential in this from some of the activities this year, particularly our local producer program. On the technology side, I hope one day we can directly connect the films to the archive to allow people to rework and mash up their own
versions of the film. We could really break ground in the genre of remixing feature films. Beyond that, I truly believe that mobile video will empower the developing world and in five years it will be a revolution... that is televised... or streamed.
So there you have it, One Day on Earth. If you'd like to participate, just sign up here and help capture your world on 12.12.12. Be a part of a global effort effort to document and share stories from around the world, creating a geo-tagged archive and annual film. Then pat yourself on the back because you're awesome.
Learn about One Day on Earth from the guys who created it, Kyle Ruddick and Brandon Litman.
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