As the film As Goes Janesville launched on DVD and continues to work its way around America with public showings and subsequent discussions, a secondary line of discussion has emerged. The team at 371 Productions, headed by the documentary’s director Brad Lichtenstein (pictured), has now launched the BizVizz mobile app to promote transparency and help the public access more information about corporate behaviour and in particular corporate funding.
The app allows the user to photograph a brand’s logo to access financial data about America’s largest corporations, namely how much tax they pay, how much money they get in government subsidies and to whom they give their political donations.
While the tone of the documentary remained very neutral, it’s now clear that revelations contained within the film, namely the allocation of a vast amount of public funds without a public hearing to entice a large corporation into Janesville, have spurred the 371 Productions team into action.
Lichtenstein is quoted as having “watched the democratic process being subverted. I felt we should do something on a grander scale to make corporate behaviour more transparent, especially when we’re all called on to do our part during tough economic times.”
The Independent Television Service (ITVS), funded by the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, backed BizVizz to extend the movie’s impact. ITVS and the legendary Kartemquin Films are co-producers. Other advisers included non-profits and filmmakers Vicky Bruce and Karin Hayes, whose 2012 Sundance film We’re not Broke exposes how US multinational companies offshore profits to avoid paying tax.
Though the line between campaigning and the commercial aspect of making money from apps can get easily blurred, there is something to say for giving the audience the ability to undertake direct action after raising awareness of a certain issue and it will certainly be interesting to see how this trend will develop itself further.