Inside the Digis: Mapping an Olympian’s journey

The first in a series leading up the awards on Dec. 4, Playback checks in with Moosestash Films to break down their nominated non-fiction project The Sticking Place.

Leading up to this year’s Digi Awards on Dec. 4 in Toronto, Playback checked in with the nominees in the cross-platform fiction and web series non-fiction categories to create mini case studies on their projects.

Here, The Sticking Place co-director and producer Josephine Anderson of Vancouver-based Moosestash Films talks to Playback about translating an elite athlete’s quest for Olympic glory into a multi-platform experience.

Project: The Sticking Place, an online interactive documentary exploring freestyle wrestler Leah Callahan’s journey to achieve her lifelong dream of competing at the Olympic Games. The project presents Callahan’s story through video, animation, photos, audio clips and user-generated content in a collection of responsive web screens.

Nominated for: Best web series, non-fiction

Company: Moosestash Films (co-founders/owners Josephine Anderson and Brittany Baxter)

Components/platforms: Interactive film available in a Flash-based website and interactive HTML5 iOS compatible site/mobile app; YouTube integrated “Dream Map” where viewers can post video messages about the film’s themes, to encourage audience participation and online community building; social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo; and an online store.

Objective: “We wanted to reinvent the way that audiences could experience an athlete’s journey to the Olympic Games, creating a modern biopic for a modern audience. Our subject, Leah Callahan, is an inspiring woman whose journey to athletic greatness represents a larger shift occurring in the way that modern athletes train for their sports and approach their lives.

“Leah puts great emphasis on self-reflection, personal growth, and creating a carefully tailored program that allows her to pursue her dreams while also striving for a balanced life. We wanted to directly reflect Leah’s thoughtful approach to life in the way that we shared her story, creating a non-linear film that empowers individual users to navigate the story according to their own curiosity, based on what resonates with them personally.”

Project spend: $175,000

Did you meet your objective? What was your ROI?  “We definitely met our objective with the project. At the outset, we decided that we did not want to monetize The Sticking Place. We wanted to create a project that was free for anyone, anywhere to access, so long as you have an internet connection. Since the project’s launch, we’ve received a great amount of positive feedback and press. One of our favourite moments was when we received a message from a 16-year-old girl in the United States who is a young wrestler and was totally inspired by the film. It’s feedback like that which shows us that we’ve achieved our objective for this project.”

Audience engagement stats/numbers: Averaging 700 views per month, tracked over five months from launch date (June 27-November 23, 2012).

Project afterlife: “A few months after The Sticking Place went live, we launched The Dream Map, a follow-up addition to the main site. The Dream Map integrates YouTube functionality and is built as a video-sharing platform for user-generated content. It is a global brainstorm of ideas, dreams and inspirations that motivate each of us to do amazing things. It was designed as a way to engage audiences to proactively consider how the core Sticking Place themes relate to them personally.

“We are currently collaborating with international youth groups to build ongoing participation and outreach. This encourages yet another level of audience participation and builds a robust online community around the positive and universal themes of the film.”

Thoughts on the transmedia and interactive space: “There is so much room to be inventive and playful and, quite frankly, it’s a big honour to be a part of translating and humanizing one of the most staggering evolutions in communication since the printing press. Internally, our workflow is exceptionally collaborative. There is consistent crossover in roles, and much less of a sense of ownership over ideas than you see in traditional film teams. We work under the assumption that we’re all in it together, and thus make it a priority to work predominantly with others who are equally open to collaborative workflow, building upon each other’s ideas freely and assuming a diversity of responsibilities.”

The Digi Awards, which recognize ground-breaking Canadian digital media companies, projects, products and pioneers will be handed out Dec. 4 at the Carlu in Toronto.