Shlain designs 'kit' to keep audiences talking

Securing a Sundance docu competition screening slot is already a coup, but filmmaker Tiffany Shlain has a strategy for how to extend the buzz beyond the screening. The Web pioneer and helmer of “Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death and Technology,” premiering Friday, has assembled a “discussion kit” complete with an app and deck of cards to keep the conversation going.

The mobile phone app allows consumers to scan products’ bar codes to see where they come from; also included is a book, expanding upon some of the ideas in the film, written by McSweeney’s contributor Jennifer Traig; and a deck of conversation cards (i.e., “What would the world look like when there are 12 billion people?”). “So you can have this whole ‘evening in a box’ with the film,” she explained.

Shlain’s box of tricks is an ambitious example of the new indie mantra of “eventizing” films by creating a community of viewers talking about and interacting with the pic, not just watching it. The movie’s end credits encourage audiences to turn on their cellphones and sign up at the website.

Shlain said she’s not an independent filmmaker but an “interdependent filmmaker,” as the docu examines the interconnected nature of the world, both emotionally, through a personal narrative about her dying father (noted author and brain surgeon Leonard Shlain) and historically, through a look at technological transformations over time.

Shlain is the only director with two films at Sundance, also screening the short “Yelp With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl,” about unplugging in an age of sensory overload. But in reality, she couldn’t work without being thoroughly connected.

“There’s no way I could do this without all these support networks, both online, like Facebook and Twitter, and offline,” said Shlain, who also founded the Webby Awards and previously directed short film sensation “The Tribe.”

She’s also taking a holistic approach to launching “Connected,” which is narrated by Peter Coyote. “You have to be just as creative distributing your film as you do creating it,” she said.

But while Shlain will have the film’s “discussion kits” ready to show off at Sundance, she won’t be selling her DVD packages just yet. “We’re looking at a hybrid model,” she said.

Exec producer Dan Cogan said, “When you go to Sundance, it makes sense to be ready for an all-rights deal, but we’re not waiting for it. We feel the film can be an immense commercial success by splitting rights. And we’ll be ready to execute that and launch in the spring.”

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