Filmmaker Ondi Timoner on Creating ‘A Total Disruption’

A Total Disruption

Ondi Timoner

Fellow Sundancers, as you may know, I am a two-time Sundance Grand Jury Prize–winning documentary filmmaker (best known for DIG! and We Live in Public), and my main focus for the past two years has been A Total Disruption, a portal which seeks to tell emotionally engaging stories about top entrepreneurs and innovators who are using technology to re-design the world we live in.

The mission is to humanize technology and make it more accessible so that everyone can apply its wisdom to do what they envision—better, faster, and more efficiently. I realized that there are too many incredible wizards rethinking and inventing the way we live to wait to hone it down to a 90-minute film (where many of them will end up on the cutting-room floor), so I decided to use the very thing I’m obsessively following, the internet, to pull back the veil on the filmmaking process and directly share the inspiring portraits of driving innovators as I find them. This was the inspiration for creating A Total Disruption.

We have filmed the founders of Instagram, Linked In, Twitter, Zappos, Reddit, Waze, JustinTV and so many more; game-changing VCs; inside incubators like Y Combinator, 500 Startups and Launchpad; and inside the labs of some of the greatest inventors working with tech to solve climate change, power and healthcare issues.

We have seven original series that take you into the hives of these great creators, and a few more yet to debut. We have over 50 episodes online now in our interactive innovation portal at, and 100 more that have yet to be edited. We have specials that allow our community to go inside exclusive events like Lean Startup Conference at SXSW and the Whitewater Panel on the State of Independent Film.

We have one week left in our first-ever crowd-funding campaign, and though it has been (more than) a full-time job—as I was warned—and though I did feel uncomfortable at times, as I thought I might, I’m really glad that we decided to take this leap with A Total Disruption.

It is the first time in history that we could consider raising money and building a community to celebrate and understand technology, thanks to technology. That irony is not lost on us. We have made strong alliances through the work we have done documenting innovators and entrepreneurs over the last two years for this project.

We are receiving support from countless tech wizards including the likes of Alexis Ohanian – the founder of Reddit, who made us an extraordinary video endorsement, and invaluable support from artists like Shepard Fairey, who offered to make a unique, limited edition ATD print; Amanda Palmer, who is offering a number of rewards; Pirate Bay filmmaker Simon Klose; venture-capitalist Christine Herron; and even the CFC Media Lab in Canada, who have now offered to co-produce a course I will make and offer through ATD with best-selling author of The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, utilizing my footage to take content creators through the methodology of tech and introduce them to some of the best emerging platforms.

Many of the entrepreneurs and VCs are contributing time on the phone in consultation sessions in exchange for pledges to ATD. This support has been invaluable to our success. I am happy to report that today we are over 100% funded, having surpassed our $96,000 goal with a week to go.

I will most likely release several features out of this material, as a few storylines emerge that are worthy of long-form, but building a community around the content—and building the brand of A Total Disruption—by releasing weekly webisodes stokes the ecosystem and helps everyone as I follow these stories and characters in making my films.

We are also creating an unprecedented database that will allow the user to search any word and find the answers through the hundreds of hours of raw material that I have recorded to date. I could never have done any of this as I made We Live In Public over those ten years, because the mighty Internet and technology wasn’t quite there yet. So, I am grateful for the opportunity we have now as content creators to share as we go.

With 7 days left, we are pulling out all the stops. We have an initial stretch goal of reaching $126,000 to complete the production budget for the online course, and make it the most entertaining and comprehensive experience that online education has ever seen. Anything we can raise above that will help us create new, riveting episodes of A Total Disruption to share with you, and even take the odyssey international!

I can’t thank our backers enough. These are my people — forever — and I will not let them down. They understand and support my vision with their hard-earned cash, and I plan on bringing them a cornucopia of enlightening and inspiring content through A Total Disruption for years to come. This is an exchange. They have contributed towards making my vision real, and I will help them to make theirs happen too. Viva la Disrupción! — Ondi

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