Get on the Doc Bus – Photo Blog

A Canadian Exploration of Documentary and Community Building


Join us on our roadtrip connection project during summer 2013, as we take the pulse on documentary and community engagement, across the country where documentary was born and raised.

Get on the Doc Bus! from Get on the Doc Bus on Vimeo.

Join our fun audience outreach project, Summer 2013. We’re going to travel across Canada to connect film lovers, filmmakers and community screening programs to explore our country’s documentary legacy. The goal is to seed a Cross Canada Community Cinema Network to support our struggling documentary industry.

Please share this video and donate to our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign April 15-May 15 2013. Documentary needs your help! Get on the Doc Bus!


Get on the Doc Bus is an audience development roadtrip that will travel across Canada to connect and engage documentary screening partners on the topic of documentary and community engagement. Travelling from West to East during June through September 2013, OPEN CINEMA founder and program director Mandy Leith will travel across the country meeting with filmmakers, audiences, cinemas, alternative venues, media orgs, festivals, non-profit outreach programs and businesses to talk about the successes, challenges, needs and future of documentary screenings as a tool for community engagement. Along the way, she will document and share stories and create a database of connections, with the goal of seeding the development of a Cross Canada Community Cinema Network.


Like many digital industries, the documentary genre is at a cross-roads. The way forward depends upon engaging stakeholders to share their reality, explore alternatives and map the territory. Canada has played a leading role in the birth and development of the documentary art form, so it’s time to travel the length and breadth of this great country to take the pulse of the industry and put the players on the map.


Documentaries are hot, people are hungry for in-depth stories about real people dealing with real issues, locally and globally. Judging by the growing popularity of documentaries at festivals, in cinemas and at award ceremonies, the average filmgoer believes the genre is on the rise. But behind the screen, the changing economic and digital landscape is throwing the documentary industry into crisis: broadcast documentary strands are dwindling, production companies are closing their doors or retooling, the traditional models of production and distribution are breaking down, leaving a feature length list lot of unanswered questions about how best to monetize and distribute documentaries and utilize their potential to inform, entertain, and engage in a new always-on digital universe.


Meanwhile, community screening initiatives like OPEN CINEMA are discovering that documentaries are a valuable tool for community engagement, tapping directly into and contributing to the local and social economy. For 10 years, OPEN CINEMA has been successfully screening docs in cafe-style venues followed by open forum discussion with invited guests and a packed house. Virtual audiences can also participate, thanks to our innovative hybrid event format that includes an #opencinema tweetchat and livestream feed of the conversation. The potential for engaging thousands of people on social justice issues via these hybrid documentary screenings is exciting!

But it’s the wild west when it comes to setting up a community screening program, people are working in isolation and there is no unifying body, best practices or principles. With television doc strands dwindling, the industry in crisis, the genre at its peak of popularity, it’s time to meet community screening partners and audiences in person, map the territory, share our experience, develop best practices and build a support network.

Get on the doc bus!

Join us as we travel the length of this great country to talk about documentary and community building. Mandy’s goal is to share her passion and experience running ‘one of Victoria’s most successful cultural enterprises’ and to take the pulse of the community screening movement across the country. All aboard!

6 thoughts on “Home

  1. This is such a wonderful venture, that creatively focuses on engaging people with what we want! It’s the heart of democracy. Best wishes…will be following you along the way.

  2. you will have to come to the Comox Valley, the home of the largest documentary film festival in Canada. the local non profit group ‘World Community Development Education Society’ has a vast film library that they lend out to anyone in the community, and also purchase a 2nd copy to send across the country as a travelling film fest. all put on by a very engaged group of volunteers, some of which have previewed upwards of 7000 documentaries over the years. I would say the Valley will be a wealth of information for your trip!

    • Thanks for this Melia! I have been up to the festival in Comox, it’s truly remarkable. I met with the hardworking founders and organizers Wayne Bradley and Janet Fairbanks last week at DOXA and I will be visiting in the fall, upon my return, most likely.

  3. Have you talked to the Canadian Framelines guys? Sounds like they’ve just done something similar, albeit with more of a focus on analogue film and participatory filmmaking.

    • Yes! I have been in touch with Canadian Framelines. There are some similarities, for sure – a travelling exploration of Canada on film. Get on the Doc Bus specifically targets documentary cinemas and screening programs as community building initiatives, using documentary as a tool for community engagement. The goal of the project is to build a network of community cinemas across Canada to create an alternative grassroots distribution model. So while some themes are similar between the two projects, the focus and deliverables are distinct.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s