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An experiment in online distribution by the filmmakers at Fat Rat Films

Act of terrorLondon documentary filmmakers Gemma Atkinson and Fred Grace of Fat Rat Films have recently been undertaking an interesting experiment in online film distribution with their new short animated documentary, Act of Terror.

The film tells the story of Gemma’s unpleasant encounter with police when she started filming her boyfriend being frisked by officers on the London underground back in 2009 during a routine stop and search.

Shortly after Gemma began filming the police on her camera phone, a plain-clothes officer told her that her actions were a criminal offense under the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism act, and she was threatened with arrest.

After 40 minutes of being wrestled by a number of officers, Gemma was eventually let go. Outraged by her treatment, she sought justice through the Independent Police Complaints commission and the High Court. This then began 19 months of legal wrangling to seek a clarification of the law, and to try and get an explanation as to why she had been targeted that day.

Gemma and Fred decided to transform the story into a short documentary, seeking to remind people of their rights when it comes to documenting the actions of police officers on film.  Now the documentary is complete, they want to try and share it as widely as possible.

Over the past two weeks they have been documenting their efforts to get Act of Terror noticed by the press and on social media. Last week they had some highs and lows, but things changed dramatically in their favour on Monday when the film was embedded on the front page of the Guardian website and was subsequently viewed over 250,000 times.

All this is detailed in their video blogs they’ve been posting on their Vimeo account every day. Each new entry has given a really interesting insight into just how much work it can be to distribute your film online successfully.

Gemma and Fred give some very useful tips and advice, establishing what tactics worked for them and which didn’t. Some of their most successful actions included creating an email database of press and online bloggers to contact, targeting specific communities who they thought had a strong interest in what they had to offer, identifying key ambassadors and influencers, and they establishing which online channels can provide the most engaged audience.

So if you are planning on releasing your own documentary online in the future, their video blog is well worth a watch.

To check out the first of seven episodes of their video blog, visit the Fat Rat Films Vimeo page.

Plus, make sure you also check out Act of Terror online to find out in full what happened to Gemma.


Written by

Emma's passion for documentary film developed whilst studying History and Politics at Warwick University. After interning for the BBC's international documentary strand 'Storyville' she became intent on working in the documentary film-making industry and now works for a London-based independent production company [Spirit Level Film]. Emma is one of the only documentary-lovers around that thinks Errol Morris' films are boring.

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