Staying ‘Connected’

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.

Popular on Variety

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.”

More Film

  • The 40-Year-Old Version

    'The 40-Year-Old Version': Film Review

    In Radha Blank’s semi-autobiographical comedy “The 40-Year-Old Version,” it’s been more than a decade since the Harlem-based playwright who shares her name earned a promising “30 Under 30” award, and now, instead of getting her work produced, she’s teaching drama to half a dozen high school students. Tastemakers are constantly looking for the hot new [...]

  • Pamela Tola

    Göteborg: Pamela Tola Proves There is an Audience for Different Stories

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden —  Chosen to close the discussion dedicated to discrimination against elderly people at the Göteborg Film Festival, Pamela Tola’s “Ladies of Steel” fitted right into this year’s focus on feminism and gender at the Swedish event. Which managed to deliver on its 50/50 promise, with 54% of the presented films being directed by [...]

  • Shirley Chen and Jose Angeles appear

    'Beast Beast': Film Review

    Writer-director Danny Madden’s “Beast Beast” clatters to life with organic percussion: a stick rat-a-tatting against an iron fence, a skateboard scraping on concrete, a rifle pinging bullets against a defenseless tin plate. Together, these sounds combine into jazz, despite the discordance of the three teens making such a ruckus. Krista (Shirley Chen), the stick thwacker, [...]

  • Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc

    Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc ‘Softie’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    PBS’s documentary arm POV has snapped up U.S. broadcast rights for Kenyan director Sam Soko’s “Softie,” fresh off its world premiere in the World Documentary Cinema competition at Sundance, Variety has learned. The film, which is the first Kenyan-produced movie to premiere at the festival, will air as part of the series’ 33rd season, which kicks [...]

  • Will Smith as Mike Lowrey in

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Rules Over 'The Gentlemen'

    STX’s “The Gentlemen” proved no match for Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” which again left box office competitors in the dust after collecting $34 million in its sophomore outing. Those ticket sales, pushing the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led sequel past the $100 million mark, were easily enough to claim the No. 1 spot for [...]

  • Kajillionaire

    'Kajillionaire': Film Review

    The world is a weird place. Miranda July knows that, but the rest of us sometimes forget. Or maybe we just don’t want to admit how bizarre it is that society more or less agrees that back rubs and hot tubs and flavored chips and McRibs are an appropriate reward for a bazillion years of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content