Open: A Short Film about Open Government, Open Data and Open Source

This is a guest post from Richard Pietro the writer and director of Open.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely familiar with the terms Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source. You probably understand how civic engagement is being radically transformed through these movements.

Therein lays the challenge: How can we reach everyone else? The ones who haven’t heard these terms and have little interest in civic engagement.

Here’s what I think: Civic engagement is a bad brand. If we’re to capture the attention of more people, we need to change its brand for the better.

When most people think of civic engagement, they probably imagine people in a community meeting somewhere yelling at each other. Or, maybe they picture a snooze-fest municipal planning and development consultation. Who has time to fit that in with everything else going on in their lives? I think most people would prefer to invest their spare time on something they’re passionate about; not sitting in a stuffy meeting! (If stuffy meetings ARE your passion, that’s cool too!)

Civic engagement is seen as dry and boring, or meant solely for the hyper-informed, hyper-engaged, policy-wonk. Between these two scenarios, you feel your voice will never be heard – so why bother? Civic engagement has bad PR. It isn’t viewed as fun for most people. Plus, I think there’s also an air of elitism, especially when it’s spoken as a right, duty, privilege, or punishment (judges issue community service as a punishment).

That’s why I’ve adopted a different perspective: Civic Engagement as Art. This was motivated via Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin” where he suggests that art shouldn’t only be thought of as fine art. Rather, he argues that art is a product of passion; art is creating something, and that’s what civic engagement is all about – creating something in your community that comes from passion.

I’m hoping that Open will introduce Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source to new people in simply because it is being done in a new way. My intention is to begin changing the civic engagement brand by having fun with it.

For example, I call myself an Open Government Fanboy, so Open uses as many pop-culture and “fanboy-type” references as we could squeeze in. As a matter of fact, I call the film a “spoofy adaptation” of The Matrix. What we did was take the scene where Morpheus is explaining to Neo the difference between the “Real World” and the “Matrix” and adapts it to the “Open World” versus the “Closed World.” We also included nods to Office Space, The Simpsons, Monty Python, and Star Trek.

As a bonus, I’m hoping that these familiar themes and references will make it easier for “newbies” to understand Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source space.

So, without further Apu (Simpsons fans will get it), I give you Open – The World’s first short film on Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source.

Watch Open


Writer and Director: Richard Pietro
Screenplay: Richard Pietro & Rick Weiss
Executive Producers: Keith Loo and Bruce Chau
Cinematographers: Gord Poon & Mike Donis
Technical Lead: Brian Wong
Composer and Sound Engineer: GARU
Actors: Mish Tam & Julian Friday