OSE is Semifinalist in Focus Forward Film Competition

My name is Tristan –  Video Communications Director for OSE. I directed, produced, and edited a 3 minute film,  Build Yourself – for submission to the Focus Forward Film Competition. We are glad to report that we have been selected as semi-finalists. We need your help to promote this – the public votes for the winner. To vote, go to the Focus Forward Vimeo Channel and cast your vote there.

Build yourself. | Tristan Copley Smith from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

This got featured in Boing Boing and there is good media buzz.

I first heard about OSE through a friend in London (I’m a Brit) who works for the Open Knowledge Foundation. OSE was looking for a videographer to join them at Factor e Farm, and after watching the Global Village Construction Set TED Talk, I totally saw the importance in what they were doing. The experience so far has been extremely interesting and rewarding, and I hope you’ve been enjoying my weekly output of videos (check them out on our Vimeo page).

During my interview process with OSE, I randomly stumbled across the Focus Forward 3min film competition while browsing online. Now, I don’t usually go for film competitions because…..well, I just don’t. But this was different, for several reasons.

  • First, the winning 5 films are screened at Sundance Film festival and receive a global distribution deal.
  • Second, the prize money shared between top 5 winners is $200,000 (pretty unheard of in 3min competitions).
  • Third, the creative brief basically outlined exactly what OSE is doing:

“Focus Forward films highlight exceptional people and world-changing ideas that are impacting the course of human development, changing our lives for the better. We are looking for professional quality 3-minute stories about visionaries and thinkers and in some cases everyday folks who have brought a quantum leap to human progress by their efforts and inventions. Your film may encompass anything from jaw-dropping medical advancements to renewable energy breakthroughs; open-source architecture to the development of wireless technologies in Third World countries; computer programming wizardry to sci-fi-worthy robotics; or any other sphere of art and knowledge that inspires you. We’re especially interested in the accomplishments of inventors, engineers, educators, surgeons, scientists, techies, artists, programmers, backyard tinkerers – i.e. anyone making a difference, utilizing their skills and vision to innovate, share their work, and help sow the seeds of a brighter future.”

I read that, and felt someone up there must want this to happen. (I’m an atheist, but still).

So I set off for Missouri and started shooting. But I wasn’t alone – a very talented filmmaker from the UK named Drew Cox joined me. Drew was on camera, but was also a general co-creative, co-driver and friend – it wouldn’t of been possible without him.

I wanted to build a wider picture of OSE than has been seen previously in their videos. To me, this meant filming not only at OSE’s headquarters on Factor e Farm, but also out in the world, where OSE’s designs were being build and used to help people remotely. Thus, we hit the road, traveling to Detroit, Bloomington, Dallas and Austin to meet the growing number of remote replicators around the USA.

Our first stop was Detroit. This was less to film people than the place itself. As you may know, Detroit is America’s most significant modern industrial casualty. Detroit’s economy, once a thriving heaven for auto-manufacturing, has collapsed into somewhat of an urban ghost-town. There are several reasons for this, but for now lets just say there’s a lot of abandoned industrial buildings.

Personally, I find abandoned industrial structures beautifully hypnotic (I always have) but with this film I saw the opportunity to make a poignant statement with the image. I saw Detroit’s demise as a direct result of the frailty of the capitalist industrial system, and by associating industry with this image, I hoped to make the point that this is an out-dated and dysfunctional system. Why rely on industry when the open source development method allows you to Build Yourself? (sorry, couldn’t resist).

So we entered a number of buildings in Detroit, including the Packard Automotive Plant, the Fisher Coachworks, and the Highland Park Complex. The nice thing was that these building were not only very beautiful, but were also historically important to the strength of America’s economy. And look at them now.

Next we drove down to Bloomington, Indiana where a lovely guy called Zach Dwiel was putting the finishing touches on his new Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) press. Zach is working on building an Eco-Community in the suburbs of Bloomington. He plans to build a whole neighborhood of houses with the CEB press for his family (equipped with new beautiful baby) and friends. What struck me about Zach was the casual and confident way in which a guy who has no building experience (Zach is a software developer by trade) could start coming to terms with a large steel machine and the building of a new home. It was hugely inspiring to see…and the machine works! I hope to see many more people like Zach having this courage and success in the future.

Next stop was Dallas, but not before a grueling 14hrs in the car. When we finally arrived, we met with Tom Griffing, who’s been an integral contributor to developing the Powercube (our cube-shaped engine that powers all OSE machines). Tom works out of a Texas ranch outside of Dallas which was beautiful but blazing hot! Interviewing him in his workshop felt like interviewing a Yoga teacher during a Bikram session. Our camera’s were overheating so much we had to leave them in front of the fan. Tom had some great insights into the building process, and showed us his new creation – Powercube v6.0.

(Unfortunately, Tom’s interview didn’t make it into our final cut.)

Next, we traveled down to Austin, Texas where James Slade of Creation Flame has been helping develop the CEB Press and Lifetrac. Creation Flame is a very unique community tucked away in the outskirts of Austin. They are a spiritual group (running the ‘church of awesome’) and practice sustainable living, open source development, and seem to have a lot of fun. James is a friendly, funny guy with a booming voice, and he kindly took some time to tell us about his machines and demonstrate the CEB press in action. If your local, I highly recommend stopping by – a lovely group of people.

(Unfortunately, James’ interview also didn’t make it into our final cut).

Next stop, back to Factor e Farm. On our return, we conducted several interviews with OSE founder Marcin Jakubowski. This process was very insightful, filling many of the gaps in my understanding of OSE, while giving me an opportunity to get to know Marcin as a person. To me, Marcin’s dedication to empowering people with technology and information was inspiring. The sacrifices and progress he has made to reach OSE’s current state are exceptional, and I truly hope that is conveyed in the film. Truth is, there was so much good content in these interviews that it was extremely difficult to edit!

And of course, there were the machines. I wanted to film as much of the machines doing their thing as possible. This included the CEB Press, LifeTrac, Powercubes, Sawmill, Backhoe, Coldsaw, and Iron Worker. Fortunately for me, they are used on a pretty much daily basis to farm, fix, and improve the state of Factor e Farm. I chose to use a mounted tripod and tracking shots to get really smooth and clear looks at these wonderful creations. I find that when things are presented in a cinematic style, they become all the more real and impressive to the viewer.

The editing process was a difficult one. I found myself with hours of great footage and only three minutes to fill! This meant being particularly brutal with editing decisions (hence the cutting of Tom and James) but I am proud of the final product being presented today.

Please have a watch, and if you like it, vote for it and share with your friends. Your votes can really help us to win the Focus Forward competition.





  1. anon

    Awesome video and nice idea using the derelict Detroit buildings at the beginning, I think it fits perfectly with Marcin’s narrative and makes his points more real.

    I’ve voted and will be forcing all my friends to vote too.

  2. Riffraffer

    Terrific work! I love the final result and really hope you’ll win the competition. That being said, your interviews with Tom and James sound really interesting. Might it be possible for you to provide a “director’s cut” that’s slightly longer and feature that footage as well?

  3. David

    What happened to marcinose Youtube channel? YT tells that it doesn’t exist.

  4. Luke

    I would also be interested to see the cut interviews.

  5. David

    Ok, it’s back again.

  6. Marcin

    Build Yourself is featured in Boing Boing –

  7. Tristan

    Thanks for the feedback guys – glad you like the film! A directors cut is a great idea, ill start working on this soon.

  8. Adamantus

    David, I think the marchinose channel might have been renamed to Marcin Jakubowski.

  9. David

    I have translated the video to Polish. The idea is worth spreading so I do it on my blog and YT channel.

  10. rowan skinner

    Can I get those plans please. Rowan