Ask Jesse Rauch if the beloved, now bereaved, Screen on the Green has a shot at resurrection and you’ll get a resounding, “Yes we can!”
“We will have Screen on the Green this summer,” Rauch said in an interview with Washington City Paper. “And if we don’t, we’re gonna have 16,000 people with DVD players and iPhones sitting on the mall, in a flash mob or something. We’ll find a way.”
Inspired by President Obama’s successful grass roots campaigning, Rauch started the Facebook group “Save Screen on the Green!” in May, shortly after HBO announced it was pulling the plug due to lack of co-sponsorship.
Obama haters and skeptics of new media organizing take note. The Facebook group has picked up nearly 2,500 members and launched a letter writing campaign. All of which, says Rauch, have made him HBO’s go-to D.C. contact.
“I’ve been in direct communication with their Screen on the Green coordinator,” he says. “I’m, in a way, the local connection for them on this.”
Rauch has been checking in with HBO and referring interested local sponsors to the company’s Screen on the Green representative for negotiations. Surprisingly or not, HBO is just as intent on keeping SOTG alive as Rauch and his contacts. So far, HBO still needs a co-sponsor to put up the remaining $150,000 for SOTG.
“It seems like HBO has been working with some people,” Rauch says.
“They’re working with the National Park Service to make sure that they can find dates that are in a series of times that are good for showing—I think they wanna get five movies in at the minimum. It’s a lot of logistics that HBO is working on with Park Service.”
Now it’s just a matter of finding that co-sponsorship.
After a fruitless e-mail blitz on everyone from Lockheed Martin to AT&T (“Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were pretty quick to tell us to stop e-mailing them”), Rauch turned to Facebook group members for help. Peppering his pleas with Obama-like buzz-words “community,” “initiative,” and “advocacy,” Rauch see’s direct appeals to members’ own companies and employers as the best bet to save SOTG.
“Someone that worked for Booz Allen Hamilton got a meeting with some of their head honchos to try to promote this in addition to our e-mails,” Rauch said. “Unfortunately, they couldn’t commit to it.”
Currently, Rauch has no local committed investors. But, in addition to HBO’s SOTG rep, he is working with the D.C. Film Alliance. Rauch’s latest initiative, designing and selling “Save Screen on the Green!” T-shirts to raise money and awareness, is in the works. He’s hoping the Film Alliance will help.
“I’m just a regular citizen,” Rauch said. “I don’t have a corporate bank account where I can protect people’s money when they buy something from me, like a T-shirt. But the film alliance would be able to do something like that.”
Selling shirts and writing letters may seem ineffectual to some, but, according to Rauch, maintaining a presence and building a community of SOTG advocates is most effectual.
“We’re not going to start seeing a protest and a march down the street of our Facebook group,” Rauch said. “In fact, I think what makes the Facebook group effective is we have almost 2500 in just our Facebook group alone—strength in numbers.”
Rauch said he is expecting a phone call from HBO early next week with “news.” He urges people to join the SOTG Facebook community for updates about the T-shirt initiative and the status of SOTG.
“I think it’s patriotic for people to get involved and support SOTG,” Rauch said. “It’s the only film festival that is in the nation’s back yard. It’s just important—it’s free, and in a place that’s just inspiring.”
In the meantime, keep practicing the HBO dance.