On Oct. 10, 2010, a pair of aspiring American filmmakers--who had never made a film before--asked people in every country in the world to document something they saw that day and submit footage for inclusion in an ambitious film project.
"It was a big idea," Kyle Ruddick, the first-time director, told Yahoo News in a recent interview, "but simple enough to explain to a lot of people."
With some diplomatic help from the United Nations, Ruddick, 33, and Brandon Litman, a 30-year-old executive producer, received more than 3,000 hours of footage in more than 70 languages from over 19,000 people.
Sixteen months of translating and editing later, their film--"One Day on Earth"--makes its debut on Sunday, with free screenings in more than 160 countries--including one at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Litman used what he called "loose connections" with the U.N. to get a meeting, and the partnership helped them gain access to countries they wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
The 105-minute film includes rare footage from places where American filmmakers aren't exactly welcome--including North Korea, where a military parade was secretly shot.
"We had someone who basically shot covert with a DSLR camera that was rolling video," Ruddick told Yahoo News. "It was harrowing to watch--you never want someone to put themselves in danger, or get hurt."
Footage from South Sudan, North Africa and Tunisia--which in 2010 was on the brink of igniting the Arab spring--was just as difficult to obtain. The pair also partnered with more than 60 NGOs, including Oxfam and Human Rights Watch--"people who know the logistics on the ground," Litman said.
But the finished film--which cost several million dollars to produce--almost didn't happen. Out of money, Ruddick and Litman turned to Kickstarter in 2011 in a last-ditch effort to save their film.
"It was really a 'Hail Mary' pass," Ruddick said. "We were done." But through Kickstarter, they were able to raise $44,000 from more than 1,000 backers in a matter of days to keep the project going.
Additional support from the Ford Foundation helped "push us over the finish line," Litman said. (That, and some "very understanding landlords," he said.)
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Now the plan is to make "One Day on Earth" an annual project. Ruddick and Litman have already accumulated footage for 2011 (shooting on 11/11/11), though have yet to announce plans for 2012. (One would assume Dec. 12 is a good bet.)
Their agreement with the U.N. runs through 2015, and they claim to have more than 30,000 filmmakers in their online network.
"We built a community as we made this movie," Litman said. "It's really going to be interesting, year-over-year, to see how politics and global affairs change visually, on the screen."
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