This week’s Certified Film Threat in Progress is a little different than previous week’s selections. While we’ve focused on feature films or filmmakers looking for crowdfunds, or who are excellent case studies in crowdfunding success, this time we take a look at a couple students who are making a name for themselves with their own short documentary production company. Calling themselves New Left Media, Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll have mounted a successful IndieGoGo fundraising campaign (that is still ongoing) and are making waves with their style of video journalism…

What is New Left Media? Who are you? Where’d you come from?
A two person-documentary production team working out of Yellow Springs, Ohio. We’re currently undergraduate film students at Wright State University, studying under documentary filmmaker Julia Reichert.

Why make short films? Are your aims more cinematic, as filmmakers, or is this more about a more grassroots form of citizen journalism?
Because we can afford to. We feel torn between whether or not our films should be more cinematic or journalistic, and when shooting or editing sometimes choices get made along that line. There are brilliant documentaries like Laura Poitras’ “Flag Wars” which achieve both, and that’s our ultimate goal.

How many short documentaries have you made? What topics have you covered?
We’ve made a few documentaries outside of New Left Media, but as a team, we’ve mostly been covering the evolving conservative moment since the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. We’ve also covered the progressing LGBT rights movement, which still faces some setbacks, like last November’s failed campaign to protect marriage equality in Maine.

While the nature of some documentaries give away their political leanings, many don’t come right out and proclaim it in their production name. Why New Left Media?
After documenting Glenn Beck’s last big conservative event–the 9.12 DC Tea Party March–we had to come up with a name for our YouTube channel. After editing all night, without sleep, sitting in our underwear, we came up with New Left Media. At the time we thought that the moniker was wise because it was honest–something that can’t be said of an organization name like “Fox News”–but in hindsight it was perhaps a bit naive, as people assume your position when sometimes it might not mesh with liberal orthodoxy. Objectivity is still a journalistic principle we hold, but like many journalists we concede that it is an unreachable ideal.

It’s a common notion that documentaries are supposed to be objective, but the reality is, the second you decide what to film or what not to film, or even what gets removed in the final edit, all objectivity is removed. Do you strive for objectivity and then find your story, or do you start out with an agenda?
Most of our films have been interview-based where we ask participants at political events why they came, and what their concerns are. We hope to show them honestly–our interest is as much in why they believe what they believe as it is in what they believe.

What is your fascination with the Tea Party Movement?
We have a new, formidable political movement who purports to have no centralized organizing force but emerged suddenly with Obama’s presidency as its impetus (their absence under the high-spending, deficit-increasing Bush administration is telling). In reality, this is a movement that was created and perpetuated by Fox News and other conservative media outlets who’ve shaped their anti-Obama narrative to drive ratings. Participants at these rallies repeat talking points verbatim, lifted from conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and particularly Glenn Beck (who called for both of the movement’s largest rallies on his Fox Show). As Bush’s speech writer David Frum said, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.”

Why did you decide to use crowdfunding?
We have an enormous online following, and we’ve gotten hundreds of emails from people looking for a way to help. As we are about to graduate and lose access to university equipment, we thought it was a good time to hold a fundraiser. Crowdfunding websites make it easy for donors to understand your fundraising goals, as well as to share the fundraiser with their friends.

Why IndieGoGo instead of a different crowdfunding platform?
Initially, we went with them after we were rejected by Kick Starter because our fund raiser wasn’t for a single project. But there are other reasons to go with IndieGoGo–for one, you are able to keep the money you raise even if you don’t meet your goal. We couldn’t be happier about our choice. The people who run IndieGoGo have been helping us get the word out, and giving us advice on how to raise the visibility of our fundraiser.

You’ve blown passed your fundraising goal; how early did you reach the goal?
Six days for $12,000 from about 300 donors. We estimated it’d take fifty to raise it–needless to say, we were wrong. We’re up to $19,000 now with half our time left.

Where is the money going? Straight into production, have you already been filming and just need finishing funds, etc?
The money goes into a production account from which New Left Media creates films. As we follow certain political events that aren’t predetermined, our turn around–from pre-production to finished project–is often closer to that of weekly news magazines. So it’s hard to say which productions at the moment, but we do have a few longer pieces in the pipeline. We’re always juggling more than one project at a time.

What is the future for New Left Media? Do you plan to continue making short films, are you aiming for a documentary television series?
We don’t know! We have some films on the way, and those have consumed most of my time and thoughts about the future. We wouldn’t mind television as a venue for weekly short documentary films, but on the rare occasion that I turn my television on to watch anything but films, I see the most horrendous, frivolous bullshit. There are a few outlets that show quality documentary films, like HBO, but not many. So we’ll see.

If you’d like to know more about New Left Media, or we didn’t ask all the questions you’ve got, go ahead and comment below or head over to the New Left Media’s IndieGoGo page and comment there. Next week we’ll be back with a new project for you to check out but, until then, we hope you enjoyed this closer look at New Left Media

DISCLAIMER: Donating or investing in a film or film-related project is always a risky endeavor, so it is important to keep that in mind before deciding to get financially involved with any film project. Film Threat, and our parent company, Hamster Stampede, LLC hold no liability or responsibility regarding any of the projects showcased on our site, their content or performance or the content or performance of any of the sites linked to in this article. Our involvement with the featured project is strictly what you see here: we find a work-in-progress project that sounds interesting to us, we ask all the questions we’d like to know the answers to and then we share that information with you, the audience. This should not be considered as personalized investment advice. What happens after you read this is your decision, and, again, before parting with any money for any film, think it through and BE CAREFUL.

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  1. Nick Gunn says:

    I’m not sure how you can say that these filmmakers “hate” the tea party. They actually go out and speak with them and ask questions as respectfully as any television interviewer. Most of the people in the videos voice positions that are quite popular in the tea party–remember that half of Republicans believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim. So you may think what they are saying is dumb, or the result of “ambush” editing, but the consistency with which NLM can find these talking points repeated suggests that their portrayals might be accurate, even if you think such a portrayal “looses it luster” in repetition.

  2. Maria Ashley says:

    Certainly fun to view and clearly anyone that hates the Tea Party will have their personal views vindicated. This type of video exploits the ignorance of those filmed but gives no insight as to why they feel the way they do unless that was left on the cutting room floor. I am not a fan of portraying an entire group as ignorant and misinformed because they most likely aren’t. I doubt most people, even if they hate the Tea Party as much as NLM, think they are all this dumb. This is ambush journalism (or something similar) which quickly looses it luster except to those die hard fans of this type of video.

    When I was 10, watching someone get kicked in the crotch was funny and AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS was born. Now that I am older, it is boring.

    After the first few films, NLM gets boring real fast. At least their bread and butter issue – the Tea Party. KUDOS on the LGBT/Maine video which scratches the passion of its subjects and the cause they deeply believe in but it really isn’t telling us anything in the end I couldn’t pick up from the evening news.

    Admittedly, shorts on YouTube don’t give you the latitude you need to make a convincing film on most subjects. I looked for something from NLM that had depth and couldn’t find anything. Probably not their fault, just the medium they use, YouTube, isn’t the place to present anything meaningful.

    Hopefully, that will change with their promise of longer features, etc.

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