The multi-platform revolution

Prison Valley webdocumentary (screengrab)

This is a still taken from an excellent interactive web documentary, Prison Valley by David Dufresne & Philippe Brault, produced by and, in partnership with FranceInter, Libé and

The world of documentary production is in the midst of an upheaval, the likes of which have not been seen since the coming of cinema vérité/direct cinema in the first years of the sixties.

Digital technology and the Web 2.0 has meant that virtually anyone can be a content producer – or filmmaker – and that the user can express opinions and interact with other producers. We are no longer limited to watching programs on TV at predetermined times – and with commercial breaks.

There is no longer “an audience,” there are audiences. What used to be small niche audiences on a given territory can now be a substantial global audience. It is a revolution, and as all revolutions it comes with pain and loss as well as increased freedom.

We are experiencing this transition in quite a radical way in Canada right now, because government agencies such as the National Film Board and the new Canadian Media Fund have decided to invest heavily in multi-platform production.

Some filmmakers are focusing on the negative consequences. I think this is a mistake, because multi-platform production opens the door to new ways of reaching and audience, and new ways of telling stories. I don’t see these as replacing the traditional ‘linear’ stories but rather, complementing them.

But even this means a substantial change in the way we work.

More on this another day, as I will review several of these multi-platform projects and interview their authors.

Thanks to Tobi Elliot for help with this post.

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Magnus Isacsson

As an independent documentary filmmaker I have made some fifteen films dealing with social, political and environmental issues. Previously I was a television and radio producer. I was born in Sweden in 1948, immigrated to Canada in 1970. I live with Jocelyne and our daughter Béthièle in Montreal, and my older daughter Anna lives in Toronto.

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