The American Film Showcase (AFS) brings award-winning contemporary American documentaries, feature films, and animated shorts to audiences around the world, offering a view of contemporary American society and culture as seen by independent filmmakers. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) sponsors the AFS program, which typically sends filmmakers to 35 countries for film engagement programs. When the AFS program in Egypt was postponed due to security reasons, ECA was inspired to adopt a new method used by Tiffany Shlain, an AFS participant and leader in filmmaking and technology. Tiffany and her team are known for creating collaborative films using footage captured by cell phones from around the world. In April 2014, ECA utilized its own Collaboratory unit to pilot her cloud-based filmmaking method as a virtual exchange run solely in the cloud.
The Collaboratory first hosted a Virtual Cloudmaking Film Salon during which Tiffany taught other students how to use connective technologies and the cloud. She also led a series of cloud-based filmmaking workshops through Google Hangout to present her work, discuss her cloud-based method, and ask the participants in Egypt to contribute to her film on the 21st Century Brain. Once empowered with this new filmmaking method and cell phones to capture video, the students set out on the streets of Cairo to make five short films of their own.
Such collaboration between American and Egyptian filmmakers in this program reflects the value of film in fostering understanding, cooperation, and dialogue. By embracing new technologies, the Collaboratory brings people-to-people exchanges to a broader audience than previously imagined, especially when participants cannot physically travel because of circumstances such as political unrest, disability, cost considerations, or travel restrictions.
“I do feel like with these cloud films every time we make them we’re making these new synapses in this global brain,” Tiffany said. “With the Internet, the possibilities are endless for this kind of diplomacy.” See the Collaboratory page for more information on this new initiative. Also, watch Tiffany Shlain's video to learn more about her experience.