Yesterday I got chance to screen We Want the Airwaves, a neat, out-of-the box, feature-length documentary that chronicles the adventures of three first time television creators (Charmel Green, Cory B. Clay, and Scott Ryan) as they embarked upon a naive but inspiring journey: filming an activist focused documentary TV series, selling that show (Manifesto!) to network, and along the way, changing television as we know it.
In its day, Manifesto! was innovative; it was a progressive docuseries--each episode featured 3 activists who were deeply committed to solving issues in their communities. The show was the first of its kind. This film really shows the passion behind their project, the issues they raised awareness about, and their determination to get Manifesto! on television. In 2005, they sought out on a ten year journey to create the first "citizen's platform" on network tv, and We Want the Airwaves visually captures that so vividly. From poverty to privilege, the disenfranchised to the digital divide, they were on the move before independent content creators, social-based video sharing was a "thing". If you wanted people to see it, mainstream media was the gatekeeper.
I love the film's "insider POV" perspective. It's unique because you kinda feel like you're inside the room. You become emotionally engaged in their process, and I found myself rooting for the show to get "greenlit"--a Hollywood term you'll hear often in the documentary. I also learned a lot from seeing their introspective acknowledgement that it would an uphill battle.
Check out the trailer below...
The film represents Scott Ryan’s feature film directorial debut, and the documentary compellingly chronicles the foot and brainwork of activists leading up to the making of the Manifesto! television series. Along with nostalgic footage of flip phones, and pre-HD footage, it features interviews with Julia Butterfly Hill, Michael Levine (PR), and Charlie Gay.
Scott explained, "the film not only covers our journey to get Manifesto! on the air; it interweaves the real human interest stories of the shows subjects." Stories like Charity Water and Olympic gold medalist, Ruthy Bolton Holyfield. "I wanted the audience to see the stories we were trying to tell." The documentary captures the emotional aspects of the team's struggle to get someone else to believe in their project. He also says, "we wanted audiences to take that ride of what it's like to pitch a series."