popcorn time Is It Popcorn Time?

Digital and disc distribution of cinematic content needs to catch up with the music industry. Cost, time, and access are getting closer but still fall short despite some technological advances. Here's a look at iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Popcorn Time, and Aereo when it comes to accessibility to the same kinds of content.

Poor Quality Assurance in Digital Delivery via iTunes

I recently wanted to see the film "Snowpiercer." Even in Los Angeles, the screens playing the film looked sub-par: sticky floor, soft focus projection, and squeaky chair kind of places. Some colleagues who went to see it in theaters even commented that nobody else was there. Fortunately, the distributor decided to release the film on iTunes an unprecedented two weeks after it opened in theaters. The film cost $16, which was fine to own the digital file, however, and on a business DSL line it took a massive 3 hours to download. To make matters worse, the non-streaming digital file had intermittent glitches: lo-res frames that would stutter every few scenes, which led me to complain to Apple about poor quality assurance.

Irregular Disc Distribution via Amazon

Unrelated, I recently needed a physical, disc copy of Malcolm in the Middle Season 5, which was made in 2004. The only available copy was an Australian copy that would either need a region-free player, or take a bite out of my DVD player's five "reset" options (which sure is archaic, huh?). The shipping time was estimated at 1-2 weeks. And, other than a massive series DVD set, it seemed the distributor wasn't interested in providing even U.S.-based customers with access to content that's a mere decade old.

Disappearing Titles via Netflix

For streaming only content, Netflix sure has a market. When I load up Amazon Instant, it pales in comparison. But one thing that has bothered me for years is Netflix's transparency. They once published expiration dates for all of their titles. Third-party sites could tap into this, like InstantWatcher.com, and I could see which films on my queue were going to expire soon. When they pulled this feature in the wake of thousands of titles expiring at once, prompting negative headlines, their head engineer blogged about how the feature was unsustainable. But that doesn't make sense: they have that data and they just didn't want it public anymore. Now, when I cruise though my queue, I might get a few days notice, buried in the film's description, that the title won't be available after a certain date. But I can't search or sort for this, and that's a shame.

Illegal Content via Peer-Assisted, Legal Networks

Meanwhile, there's Popcorn Time and Aereo, two services that shut down soon after launching. Popcorn Time provided a new face to accessing torrents, or free peer-to-peer file sharing that's a fine line on copyright infringement. Aereo was a television streaming service that offered paid access to cable content without the bundled programs; but it was recently called illegal by the United States Supreme Court.

When Popcorn Time shut down on their own terms, they did two things. Their founders wrote a public letter explaining that the piracy problem is the service problem, not a people problem:

[T]ons of people agreed in unison that the movie industry has way too many ridiculous restrictions on way too many markets. Take Argentina for example: streaming providers seem to believe that "There's Something About Mary" is a recent movie. That movie would be old enough to vote here.

They also released all of their source code on Github, which spawned two clones run by others — http://time4popcorn.eu/ and http://popcorntime.io/ — which are all apparently completely legal as infrastructure networks.

When Aereo was sued by Walt Disney Co., which led to the Supreme Court decision, it highlighted a problem with the technology platform. According to NPR, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia calls "it 'troubling' to see the majority opinion's suggestion that companies seek action from Congress to clarify how new technology interacts with U.S. copyright laws."

In the dissent, Justice Scalia noted the service was like a library card to an antenna, rather than a specific video-on-demand service. All told, it highlighted a dated take on copyright laws for an otherwise very innovative idea that paying customers may have preferred for their cable.

Next Steps

Somehow the music industry got it. After Napster, iTunes and other efforts made the MP3 a gold standard. Now you can get almost everything in music quickly and legally. It's not great, but it's accessible and economical for big and small time artists.

The film business at large doesn't yet get it. Instead of engineering or nurturing more competition to Netflix and iTunes, we hear about knee-jerk lawsuits. Instead of creating more customer-centric tools, these cutting-edge services get called Hollywood's worst nightmare because they're still connecting to illegally distributed content, even though the service infrastructures are fast and organized.

I feel we're close. There's clearly interest and demand, even to pay to play. Creative minds are engineering new routes and breaking old models. Inconsistent disc distribution and hidden expiration dates are utter failures, going against the grain of accessibility to a hundred years of cinema.

I have to applaud the distributors of "Snowpiercer" for trying a multi-pronged distribution, which tops the iTunes charts when it's not necessarily going to top the traditional box office. And it's incredible what Popcorn Time and other have engineered, even if to just prove a point.

While they've not necessarily provided a sustainable model for the business of show business, perhaps there's going to be a breaking point soon, balancing the fairness of legality, cost, and accessibility.


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

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Part of a series of posts about great film, web, or design artists and their work abuzz online and in-person.
0 [Dailies] Jason Zada vs. 150 GoPros, Dolby Vision vs. Your TV, Star Wars vs. Breaking Bad

turbocharge the everyday whirly [Dailies] Jason Zada vs. 150 GoPros, Dolby Vision vs. Your TV, Star Wars vs. Breaking Bad

  • Jason Zada is the director behind "Turbocharge the Everyday," an interactive ad for Volkswagen and agency Deutsch LA featuring 150 GoPros and utilizing cutting-edge "choose your own camera" interactivity (on youtube.com via desktop only) in a single video timeline, which solves the woes of page refreshes
  • "Dolby Vision" is a video about how TV manufacturers can improve brightness, colors, and contrast (via Gizmodo via Leonard Walsh)
  • "Is the Feature Film Dying?" by Short Of The Week compares the total running time of multi-season TV shows with multi-episode feature films, such as "Star Wars" (800 mins.) and "Harry Potter" (1,176 mins.) versus "Breaking Bad" (3,000 mins.) and "The Sopranos" (4,000 mins.)


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

  • Published June 26, 2014 in Film + Web

0 Inspiring Advice from Matthew Silver

matthew silver tn Inspiring Advice from Matthew Silver

"You can't get away from your heart. Because life is a paradox. It’s a mirror of confusion. So, love now."

Framed by some sites and social media posts as a video featuring "inspiring advice from a mentally insane person," something felt off. Student film? Branded content? Or somebody's rush to judgment?

Sure enough, this is a performance artist named Matthew Silver and this is his schtick, in a video made by Enlisted Films uploaded last week. The filmmaker — who was unattributed by most social media shares due to how Facebook hosts unsearchable video (except Gizmodo) — notes that it's a piece about "a man who runs around NYC in underwear saying and doing radical things. A friend and I stopped and actually listened, and he said some beautiful things."

One commenter, Raj Marathe, notes that Silver "puts on unique performances and is good at being effective and acting. He is not a bum, a homeless person or anything like that– like some [point] him out to be. His day job involves editing wedding videos and being a filmmaker. He attended Ithaca College. His message is spreading awareness of loving yourself and others, to stop judging people, and other social awareness issues. You will hear him often refer to the 'Love Movement' in his discussions and presentations."

Silver's website features Gothamist's video interview with him, which really explains his methodology in his own words:

0 Inspiring Advice from Matthew Silver

In regard to the "viral" video, it's a testament to the power of editing — and the rush to judgment that is easily made when presented out of context and without attribution.


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

  • Published May 28, 2014 in Film + Web

short feature examples When a Short Helps Make a Feature

I was recently asked if short format work could lead to big picture deals. Instead of laughing off the incredibly unlikelihood, I looked at the data.

If you exclude filmmakers who just make a killer short film and subsequently get notoriety thanks to their name or affiliation (e.g. Disney's "Paperman" by John Kahrs, who is now directing the feature "Shedd"), as well as commercially/celebrity-driven projects (e.g. "Dr. Horrible" by Neil Patrick-Harris), here's a breakdown of the rare instances where independently-made short films and long-term web series garnered enough festival attention and/or fans to lead to feature film and broadcast deals, respectively.


  • the evil dead short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    This 1978 short (left) led to the 1981 feature, "The Evil Dead."

    "Within The Woods" (1978) by Sam Raimi was the short made over three days for $1,600, which led to the feature film "The Evil Dead" in 1981. Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "Frankenweenie" (1984) by Tim Burton became a feature by the same name in 2012. Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "The Dirk Diggler Story" (1988) by Paul Thomas Anderson was the precursor to "Boogie Nights." Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "Milton" (1991) by Mike Judge was a series of animated shorts that led the way to "Office Space." Watch the short on YouTube.
  • bottle rocket short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    "Bottle Rocket" in 1992 (left) helped make the 1996 feature.

    "Bottle Rocket" (1992) by Wes Anderson was a short film that went to Sundance before getting the opportunity to become a feature film with the same name in 1996. Watch the short on YouTube. Anderson also did a short called "Hotel Chevalier" (1997), although it was more so a supplement than a building block for some of his other feature films with the same cast and production aesthetic.
  • "Joe's Apt." (1992) by John Payson was originally a short before becoming an MTV-produced feature film (1996). Watch the short on YouTube.
  • hard eight short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    The 1993 short (left) introduced us to the 1996 feature for "Hard Eight."

    "Cigarettes and Coffee" (1993) is 24-minute short from Paul Thomas Anderson (who we mention above) which led to the feature film "Hard Eight" in 1996, which was his directorial debut. Watch the short on YouTube. Anderson also made a short in 2003 called "Couch" which starred Adam Sandler was somewhat related to his later feature, "Punch-Drunk Love."
  • "Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade" (1994) by George Hickenlooper was the precursor to "Sling Blade" (1996). Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "The Hard Case" (1995) by Guy Ritchie was the 20-minute short that helped make "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998), which then led to a single-season TV series called Lock, Stock… in 2000. Watch the trailer for the short on YouTube.
  • "The World of Tomorrow" (1998) by Kerry Conran was the 6-minute short film that was the 2005 feature film, "Sky Captain: The World of Tomorrow." Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "Five Feet High and Rising" (2000) by Peter Sollett was a successful 30-minute short film that — after winning at Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, and more — eventually led to "Raising Victor Vargas" (2002). Watch the short on YouTube.
  • napoleon dynamite short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    2002 short (left) for "Napoleon Dynamite" paved the way for a 2004 feature.

    "Peluca" (2002) by Jared Hess was the short before "Napoleon Dynamite" in 2004. There was even an animated television series in 2012 on Fox, who eventually cancelled it mid-season after six episodes. Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "Saw" (2003) by James Wan was originally a short film before it became one of many feature films by the same name. Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "Cashback" (2004) by Sean Ellis became a feature by the same name in 2006. Watch the short on DailyMotion.
  • boy short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    Taika Waititi's short film (left) six years prior to his feature.

    "Two Cars, One Night" (2004) by Taika Waititi was an Oscar-nominated short film before it was a baseline for the 2010 feature, "Boy." Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "Gowanus, Brooklyn" (2004) was the 19-minute short that led to "Half Nelson" (2006) from both Ryan Fleck (co-writer and director) and Anna Boden (screenwriter). Watch the short on YouTube.
  • district 9 short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    Neill Blomkamp's short in 2005 led to the "District 9" feature in 2009.

    "Alive in Joburg" (2005) by Neill Blomkamp was the short film whose story loosely became that of "District 9" in 2009. Watch the short on YouTube.
  • "The Customer Is Always Right" (2005) by Robert Rodriguez was the 3-minute short made both as a proof-of-concept (to get Frank Miller interested) and as a promotional piece, using a single scene as leverage before production started on the whole film, "Sin City" in the same year. Watch the short on YouTube.
  • 9 short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    2005 short (left) for "9" led to the 2009 feature.

    "9" (2005) by Shane Acker led to a feature by the same name in 2009. Watch the short on the director's Vimeo.
  • "Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan" (2006) by Mike Flanagan led to the 2013 feature film, "Oculus." Watch the trailer for the short on the director's YouTube.
  • "The Replacement Child" (2007) by Justin Lerner was a 25-minute film so well received at film festivals, it led to the character portrayed by Evan Sneider being expanded in the feature film "Girlfriend" (2012), which received theatrical and also DVD/VOD distribution. Read our interview with the director or watch the short on the director's Vimeo.
  • "Machete" (2007) was a fake trailer by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, which Rodriguez turned into the 2010 feature by the same name. Watch the trailer on YouTube.
  • "Jay and Seth versus The Apocalypse" (2007) by Jason Stone was a nine-minute short that led to the feature film "This Is The End" (2013). Watch the short on YouTube.
  • mama short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    Posters for the 2008 short (left) and the 2013 feature of "Mama."

    "Mama" (2008) by Andrés Muschietti became a feature film in 2013 by the same name. Watch the short on YouTube. [Link updated 6/5.]
  • "Excision" (2008) by Richard Bates Jr. helped pave the way for the 2012 feature-length horror film by the same name. Watch the short on the production's YouTube.
  • "Panic Attack!" aka "Ataque de Panico" (2009) by Fede Alvarez was a showcase piece of his VFX work. The YouTube upload that garnered so much interest in his work that he was given the studio feature film "Evil Dead" in 2013.
  • short term 12 short feature When a Short Helps Make a Feature

    The 2009 short (left) and the 2013 feature for "Short Term 12."

    "Short Term 12" (2009) by Destin Daniel Cretton began as a short film before becoming a 2013 feature-length film. Watch the short on the director's Vimeo.
  • "Mary Last Seen" (2010) by Sean Durkin was a prequel to the feature film "Martha Marcy May Marlene" made in 2011. Watch the trailer on Vimeo.
  • "Hobo with a Shotgun" (2010) by Jason Eisener was made as a fake trailer for a contest, yet it led to the 2011 feature by the same name. Watch the trailer on the director's YouTube.
  • "Fishing Without Nets" (2012) by Cutter Hodierne led to the feature by the same name in 2014. Purchase the short video-on-demand (VOD) at Vimeo.


As you'll see, it's very rare to make this work, and not as common a model anymore as it was 10 years ago. Today, if not just to do short-format work for the merits of the work itself, there's now more than ever the opportunity to sell a short film download online, as a VOD business model. Or consider the commercial / branded content route, such as "Touching Stories" for the iPad in 2010. Either way, it's super rare to walk away completely profitable from either approach.

Food for thought when making something to get somewhere else.


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

  • Published May 17, 2014 in Film + Web

0 Three Efforts for Defending Net Neutrality
net neutrality is under attack Three Efforts for Defending Net Neutrality

"Net Neutrality is Under Attack!" illustration by Free Press. Used under creative commons.

There's protest — both in Washington and all over our newsfeeds this week — over the imposing possibility of favored treatment to companies that pay for a new "fast lane" on the Internet. In an ongoing back-and-forth at the Federal Communications Commission, there's currently "proposed rules, drafted by Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and his staff, [that] would allow Internet service providers to charge companies different rates for faster connection speeds," says the The New York Times. Here are three efforts of defending so-called net neutrality, which affects filmmakers and audiences:

Update Re-published today on Thompson on Hollywood today, there's another great piece by Chris Dorr called "Indie Film needs an Open Internet." The author cites many film festivals backing the need, but asks an open-ended question: which organization will lead the effort?


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

  • Published April 28, 2014 in General

gasland This Time Its Personal: 3 Tips for Connecting with Your Audience

A few weeks ago, I was stuck in bed with the flu and was combing Netflix for something to watch. After a bit of browsing, I came across Gasland, a documentary about the fracking industry released in 2010. I turned on the movie and within a few minutes I couldn’t stop watching.

The visuals are powerful (including a jaw dropping scene in which a man lights his tap water on fire), the information is well researched and relevant, and the characters are funny and engaging. But there’s something else that makes the film truly unique and wonderful that’s unfortunately missing from too many documentaries out there.

The story is deeply personal.

To help you make your stories, pitches and maybe even documentary films more personal, here are "3 Tips for Connecting with Your Audience". Follow these tips and you'll have the Academy calling you before you know it.

  1. Put Yourself in the Story. The first thing that drew me in about Gasland was an image of the filmmaker, Josh Fox, playing around with his family on a beautiful piece of land in Pennsylvania. The audience then sees a copy of the note that Josh receives from a gas company offering him $4,000 in exchange for extraction rights. But rather than recoiling, the stakes of the film become clear and we're now rooting for Josh. When you make it personal, you engage your audience immediately.
  2. Show Vulnerability. Once you’ve hooked your audience with something personal, the simplest way to maintain their attention is to expose a personal challenge or shortcoming. When you put yourself on the line, you take a big risk: the audience may initially react with surprise or even discomfort. But once the audience fully grasps the struggles of the storyteller, they'll see the central problem of the story through the storyteller’s eyes. In Gasland, for example, Josh periodically draws the audience back into his personal worries and concerns with voiceovers, which puts the economic and political forces surrounding the issue of fracking in context. A little vulnerability makes complex information digestible.
  3. End With An Image. The strongest way to end a story is to offer a powerful visual. In many cases, this means returning to the personal elements introduced in the beginning of the story. Much like the first scene in the film, the last scenes of Gasland are of Josh Fox on his land. In a voiceover, Josh mentions that he's not sure what’s going to happen to his land but that he's learned a lot about America in the process of traveling the country. The final image transforms the story from a simple recounting of a problem into something larger: a quest for identity in America. When you end with a strong visual, the story becomes more memorable.

Pretty powerful, right?

(Originally published at The Story Source.)

Andrew Linderman
Writer. Teacher. Consultant.

  • Published April 23, 2014 in Film

unsung hero thai life insurance commercial The Predecessors to Thai Life Insurances Unsung Hero

The latest in well-done branded content comes from an unlikely source: Thai Life Insurance. When was the last time you cared to sit through a commercial about life insurance?

"Unsung Hero" breaks through. It's a 3 minute feel-good story advert that pulls at the heartstrings. The effort is part of a transmedia campaign with daily updates called "Thai Good Stories," which is both the whole gist of this insurance company and also the larger effort of their agency, Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok.

In the first two weeks that "Unsung Hero" was online, over 11 million people have seen it via the YouTube release:

0 The Predecessors to Thai Life Insurances Unsung Hero

The media likes to tout Ogilvy & Mather as the sole credit, but the director of the ad is "Tor" Sornsrivichai, who recently won a Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival Palme d'Or. His company was also cited as the most awarded production house in the world — and Tor as "the most awarded director in the world" — according to The Gunn Report. Here is the breakdown, thanks in part to Jonathan Nguyen, who works at Ogilvy:

Production House: Phenomena
Chief Creative Officer: Korn Tepintarapiraksa
Film Director: Thanonchai "Tor" Sornsriwichai
Senior Copywriter: Rudee Surapongraktrakool
Managing Director: Phawit Chitrakorn
Group Communications Director: Thitima Liangpanich
Communications Manager: Pranpreeya Arunjindatrakul
Communications Manager: Morrakot Rieanthong
Head of Strategic Planning Unit: Vanich Jirasuwankij
Strategic Planning Director: Nuntaporn Laoruangroj
Strategic Planner: Chanya Sutthienkul
Producer Section Manager: Yuthapong Varanukrohchoke

Browsing through Thai Life Insurance's YouTube channel — which has a hefty fifteen thousand subscribers — there are actually many other videos just like "Unsung Hero" done in recent past. Take this one from last year:

0 The Predecessors to Thai Life Insurances Unsung Hero

3 million views in English. 2 million views in Thai. And the same agency of record: Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok.

There's many more of these sorts of story videos, going consistently all the way back to 2003 … yet they were all uploaded on their YouTube channel in the last month. Here's a link to easily view them within YouTube and here's one called "Everlasting Love" from 2004:

0 The Predecessors to Thai Life Insurances Unsung Hero

With numbers and strategies like this, why aren't there more story-driven ads for less than glamorous industries?


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

grip and electric apps Making the Apps: Grip Apps, Set Lighting Apps, and    Soon    One for Crew Scouts

There aren't many apps for grips and gaffers, but the ones that exist can be contributed to a developer by the name of Nat Aguilar. His programming chops set up G&E apps on iOS — theGrip App and setLighting — and he's constantly turning out new apps for Android on his own — Set Lighting Technician and Android Grip — and is in the midst of developing for new apps for film scouting and invoicing which are coming soon. I got in touch with Nat to talk about his unique work both on set and off.

You're a gaffer who has programmed, released, and followed up multiple apps for mobile. How did you get started? What has been your greatest moment with your apps since starting out?

set technician example 270x480 Making the Apps: Grip Apps, Set Lighting Apps, and    Soon    One for Crew Scouts

Set Technician on Android

Nat Aguilar I am a gaffer who has programmed, yes. But I have been focusing mainly on programming. It's no small subject. Programming came to me as a small curiosity. While I was a gaffer on shows small or big, I always had books — both math and computer science — so I could study during lunch or after wrap. That's where it all started.

The greatest moment I've ever had in app development was with my former business partner Darcy Schlitt. We were in a bar, and we just finished the Set Lighting app and, right there, we uploaded the app to Apple. We were both very proud of what we did.

You began with an iOS app called The Grip App. You've also made G&E apps for Android. What was the greatest challenge working with both SDKs? Were there any unique benefits for your app where Android worked better than iOS — or where iOS worked better than Android?

NA The first application I developed was the Grip App for iOS.

grip app example 269x480 Making the Apps: Grip Apps, Set Lighting Apps, and    Soon    One for Crew Scouts

Grip App on Android

Android was the second platform I developed for. It is actually almost 10x easier developing for android than it is developing for iOS. With Android I could build something with 500 lines of code, but building a replica for iOS would take 10,000 lines of code, and a dozen architectures like MVC, MVP, Target action, delegate, singleton, oop, etc, etc. Because I started with iOS, developing for Android is much much easier.

Looking at apps tailored to gaffers and overall G&E, how do you feel your app is unique and competitive, especially for your price point?

NA For the price, on either iOS or Android, it's a collection of all the information that one needs. Or at least I hope it is the information that people need.

For example, I was on a shoot and the gaffer on the shoot — I was one of the 3-rds — wanted to know what the weight of a 6K was because he was planning to put about a dozen on the grid. I pulled my iPhone and showed it to him. And he had his answer in about 5 clicks.

The price really justifies the convenience of quick and fast information. And as new gear comes up I try to keep up to specs with that information. I think competitiveness comes as convenience to the user of the software.

How has being on set while developing apps helped your apps take off? What new things are you working on currently, both with new apps and existing apps?

NA Working on set has allowed me to understand what people want in software. There have been a few times when people use the apps that I built to get information — but they don't know I built them. I don't really talk about it other than to close friends. But it's given me a knowledge of how people use software because they don't really know that I'm taking notes.

Currently, I'm building an invoice application for both iOS and Android, but one app coming soon is called Crew Scout. I'm most proud of how customizable it is. The fact that a person can make a list for grip, camera, lighting, expendables, or theater, and customize their gear list, and have their own macros already set in the settings is what wonderful. Writing those algorithms took me a long time, but a person can enter, for example, a 10K and all the little details are already done for them: scrims, scrim bag, etc.

What are your thoughts for the future of mobile apps tailored for film crews? Where do you think the overall industry of apps for filmmakers is headed? What do you think needs to be developed as an app next?

NA A lot of apps have been developed for iOS and Android for the entertainment industry. And I'm glad they have. But I think one thing is missing over all. And that is the sharing of information — whether that's invoices or call sheets, the sharing of information between me and everyone else on set.

The sharing of information is something I think that people want. People are sharing contact info via text, e-mails, or person-to-person, but if there is an app that can solve that problem, then we have something.


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

  • Published March 31, 2014 in Film + Web

unicef tap project 2014 tn UNICEF Taps Into Global Inaction

Today marks the last day of the seventh annual UNICEF Tap Project, a campaign that offers this simple challenge: go ten minutes without using your cell phone, and UNICEF's corporate partner Giorgio Armani Fragrances will provide one day of clean water for a child in need.

Simply load uniceftapproject.org on your mobile phone, pretend your phone is diseased, and Armani will donate $.0025 for every minute of inactivity towards providing clean drinking water to 768 million people worldwide — making the process so easy that, yes, you probably could and even should do it it in your sleep.

Digital Backlash

The Tap Project is a timely idea propelled by a growing backlash against social media and digital addiction overall. In one fell swoop, the Tap project juxtaposes the first-world boredom of #selfies and #cat pics with the fact that hundreds of millions of people worldwide lack access to something as basic as clean drinking water and sanitation. It’s a refreshing perspective, and provides a sort of reverse call to arms in our era of overconsumption: put down your phones and do something to help.

0 UNICEF Taps Into Global Inaction

"We are obsessed with cell phones," the project's informational video begins, featuring animated diners sitting in a restaurant dutifully glued to their mobile devices. "Have you been out to dinner lately? We think we can’t live without our phones. So why don't we use them to provide something people actually can’t live without? Clean water."

To put this dichotomy into perspective, not only does the Tap Project provide real-time statistics on how many years of clean water have been raised by the effort on a current day (4.2 years at the time of publication), and the current record for inactivity (17k minutes at the time of publication), but perhaps more saliently, what users aren't doing when they abstain from using their phones:

People have helped kids today instead of:

  • Viewing 9 Million #Selfies
  • Uploading 3692 million Facebook photos.
  • Viewing 911K #Cat Photos.
  • Viewing 11 million #nofilter photos.

Don’t Just Do Something: Sit There

unicef tap project 2014 detail 233x320 UNICEF Taps Into Global Inaction

While your phone sits still, you're shown various infographics about the cause.

No one can argue with just how insidious cell phones and social media have become in society, of having so much benevolent power at one’s fingertips yet wielding it to post pictures of our chicken caesar salad; and where the Tap Project really shines is in its cynical — albeit probably unintentional — acknowledgment that the public would prefer to literally not lift a finger in order to make a difference.

UNICEF makes the giving process about as painless and non-participatory as it gets — and because of that, has been extremely successful in drumming up awareness and, more to the point, clean water. Their press release from March 25th stated the following stats:

So far, these Tap Project donations have been used to promote hygiene, provide well rehabilitation and emergency water and sanitation — most notably in Syria, the Philippines, and the Central African Republic.

Engagement Disrupted

In this gilded age of "disruption," the Tap Project provides a definition that is undoubtedly too literal for most digital marketers or campaign managers — and even physically uncomfortable for all those fidgety end-users addicted to their phones. And this is why it works so well. It asks us to be truthful with ourselves, to solemnly acknowledge that what we do on social media, gaming, fantasy leagues, should all be reminders of how many people are suffering worldwide, and should likewise provide the necessary guilt veneered leverage to contribute to a very worthy campaign.

The Tap Project encourages people to pause, reflect, and unplug. Not only to pay attention to events going around the world, but to be mindful of what’s going on right in front of them — for instance, the next time they are poured water at the dinner table.

The UNICEF Tap Project end today, March 31st.

Daniel Steiner

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