The premise is simple: you have a great idea. It's a film, or a piece of photojournalism, or a short animation, or something new and untried. All you need is the support and technical expertise to make it happen, an open forum where you can meet like-minded people who share your enthusiasm.
As a group, we are more than just a bunch of anonymous professionals; we exist as part of the collective, and are united by the underlying aims and ambitions of the group. We believe in the value of collective action: its power to promote social change and its creative potential, which can imagine new ways of being part of society. We believe in a kind of collective responsibility, where everyone contributes and where each person is the potential solution to another one's problem.
We are creating an open forum in which ideas can be exchanged and discussed, and individuals can contribute in whatever way they are able. By reaching out to like-minded people, we are building a network of contributors that has no formal hierarchies or structures. From this network will come a new kind of audience – one of advocates rather than spectators, who are engaged with each project and who have helped to shape it. We want our work to be a testament to what can be achieved through collective action. We hope it will inspire others to start their own projects, just as we ourselves have been inspired.
One of the Matchbox collective's current projects illustrates perfectly the way an initial idea can develop as part of a collaborative effort.
The film's director, Gabriel Manrique, was working at the time with Jose Fortes - a retired football player who had been on the books of one of Sweden's biggest clubs. Jose told him about Ribeira da Barca, the village where he was born, and in particular about its beaches, which had been his football 'field' when he was a small child. His hometown community had traditionally lived off the sea, catching enough fish to feed themselves and secure a subsistence income. But in recent years, things had changed; the number of fish being caught had fallen significantly and families were struggling to provide for themselves. As income from fishing dried up, members of the community started stripping sand from the beach and selling it to the construction industry. When Jose returned to Cape Verde after 20-years away, he was shocked by what he saw; the beaches had been reduced to nothing more than scarred mudflats. A way of life that Jose remembered from childhood was disappearing and, as he would discover, the causes lie many hundreds of miles away, in the choices made by people the community of Ribeira da Barca will never meet.
After hearing Jose's story, Gabriel determined to find out more. Given his background as a filmmaker, he decided to present the story in a documentary and, with the help of his colleague and co-director Jordie Montevecchi, he began reaching out to people who could help with their project. They secured some initial funding thanks to links with a marine conservation NGO, which paid for a trip to Cape Verde. There they interviewed members of the Ribeira da Barca community, carried out field research, and shot footage that would become the film's trailer. They enlisted the help of a Portuguese freelance editor to cut the footage into a short promo piece. As research efforts intensified and their focus moved to EU fishing policy, they interviewed Swedish MEP and award-winning journalist Isabella Lovin. Their work has taken them across Europe, from London and Gothenburg to EU headquarters in Brussels. As the profile of the project has increased, so has the number of people who want to get involved: the most recent additions to the team include an underwater camera operator.
Sandgrains also relies on non-technical support. It is 100% crowdfunded, which means that it secures its funds from a network of supporters rather than by way of a private commission. Much of the team's time is spent extending this network, and creating an environment in which new supporters want to become involved in the project. By engaging with it, they will be more likely to spread word to their friends and family and so extend the network even further. This has the added benefit of creating a ready-made audience: the people involved in the project will be first to watch it.
Perhaps most importantly, all the people who have contributed to Sandgrains will have seen first-hand the possibilities of this kind of collaborative approach. They may want to get involved in other projects, or they may have an idea that they want to pursue. The Matchbox Media Collective is a space in which this can be done. It isn't subject to strict rules or guidelines, it isn't owned by any individual, and it doesn't exclude anyone according to age, experience, or background. A simple ambition, together with a collective will, is all it takes. To borrow a phrase, all that is required is for people to just do it.