Ideas for Three-Minute Films on Innovation


The New York Times "Media Decoder" blog recently reported that General Electric is partnering with Cinelan, a non-fiction video publisher,  to produce 30 three-minute films about world-changing innovation.

The documentary filmmakers tapped for the yet-to-be-named project include Morgan Spurlock (“POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”), Joe Berlinger (“Crude”), Barbara Kopple (“Shut Up and Sing”), Jessica Yu ("Ping Pong Playa") and Alex Gibney (“Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place”). The project is set to be introduced at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, with the final films scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival early next year.

Judy Hu, a G.E. advertising and branding executive, said her company hoped to “inspire people to continue to work to change the world for the better.”

According to the Times, Spurlock suggested that one of the films could be about the invention of microfinancing techniques. That's a good idea. Here are some others to consider:

The Search for the Perfect Toilet. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced it would dedicate $42 million towards reinventing the toilet. “No innovation in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health than the sanitation revolution triggered by invention of the toilet,” said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the foundation’s Global Development Program. “But it did not go far enough. It only reached one-third of the world. What we need are new approaches. New ideas. In short, we need to reinvent the toilet.”

Laptops for All. The invention of the personal computer is definitely one of the top innovations of the last 30 years. Now the question is about ensuring access to the technology for all. One Laptop per Child has made great strides in delivering low-cost, low-power computers to children and teachers who otherwise would not be connected to the digital world.

Caught in the Net. Malaria is preventable and curable, but still, in 2008, it caused nearly one million deaths, mostly among African children. Campaigns like Malaria No More and Nothing But Nets are doing their best to eradicate the disease by distributing insecticide-treated bed nets to vulnerable populations. But nets alone "cannot conquer the disease," as one Guardian article reports. So what do we do next?

Water is Life. We're in the middle of a crisis. Nearly 1 billion people live without clean drinking water, especially in the developing world. This affects education, health, poverty and the lives of women and children. Who's going to fix this? Organizations like Charity:Water and Wine to Water have raised millions of dollars to help millions of people worldwide gain access to clean water. Designers have developed concepts for sanitizing or filtering water, like IDEO's Aquaduct vehicle, Michael Pritchard's Lifesaver Bottle. Businesses turn to projects like LifeStraw's “Carbon For Water” Campaign to use carbon financing to provide sustainable access to clean drinking water.

As G.E., Cinelan and the movie directors begin producing and promoting their films, I hope they will also consider distribution and advocacy tactics. It's one thing to get people to watch your film, and another to get them to be inspired and moved to action by the issues it addresses.