New & Next: Filmmaker Thad Anderson and "What Community Does"

Filmmaker Thad Anderson documents Denver's grassroots with a new short film, "What Community Does." He spoke to Confluence about what makes him -- and the city -- tick.
Filmmaker Thaddeus Anderson has become one of Denver's unofficial storytellers. Last year, Anderson was the creative force behind "Breathless," a video that captured the essence and energy of a changing, growing city. Set to an original piece by poet Ken Arkind, the video quickly caught fire in Denver circles and, soon, went viral, with millions of views from across the world. It was a moment for Anderson, but also for Denver, showcasing a brilliant, booming city coming into its cultural moment.

Anderson recently unveiled "What Community Does," a video that celebrates a different side of Denver: those who work across a large connected network to address pressing social issues and improve lives. "What Community Does" was commissioned by The Denver Foundation, which celebrates 90 years of service this year, and features some of the city's most innovative grassroots organizations, including The GrowHaus, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, Youth On Record and the Community Language Cooperative.

Anderson recently spoke about the new film and his views on the city and its many stories.

Denver is a muse for you. Why is that?

Denver is reaching a point where for the first time people are moving for other than reasons than sunshine and mountains. They're moving for jobs, for lifestyle. With that, we're starting to develop our own culture. As an artist, when you think about being able to shape that culture, or help to push that culture in a certain direction, it's exciting. It's wonderful to think about being able to influence people who are moving here in a positive way.

What kind of influence do you want to have?

Denver is a really great place, but that doesn't happen on accident. All of these things are happening behind the scenes. I feel a responsibility to bring great content to causes that have a positive impact on our communities.

Hence, videos like "What Community Does."

The goal of "What Community Does" was to take the audience on a journey through the video. And it was a journey for us, too. It was a really incredible process because I was vaguely aware of what The Denver Foundation did, but I didn't really feel it. I was aware of it informationally rather than emotionally. As I got into it I realized just how interconnected everything is, how connected we all are, how we're all part of a community. Then you have organizations like The Denver Foundation that serve as a facilitator to make those connections even better and more meaningful; it's really wonderful.

You worked with many of the same people who were behind "Breathless."

Yes, there's an original poem that was written by Ken Arkind. From there I brought in Fred Kahn, a brilliant veteran copywriter and creative director. Ken brought a poetic form to it, and Fred brought a practical feel to it. It was really a great collaboration.

You went viral with "Breathless." That must have been fun.

It was great when that happened, obviously. It's very confirming. With any kind of art, any time you put yourself out there, it's intimidating. You're being vulnerable. It was nice to get a positive response. It was a massive collaborative effort, and it was just really great to think that it framed Denver in a positive way, and people responded to it.

Is one of your goals to connect Denver newcomers to the community?

I do feel a responsibility to give people who are new to Denver something to chew on. I want to capture their attention, because attention is a very valuable resource. If they're able to spend two-to-three minutes watching a video that makes them aware of things they might not have known about, it's a way of asking them to engage.

Why is that important?

The ultimate goal is move as many people as possible to a place of deeper investment. To be willing to invest in Denver, who we are, where we are and where we're going. There's so much great work being down in this city; we have a responsibility to pay attention to those stories, and to share them.

This featured post was produced in partnership with The Denver Foundation.

Read more articles by Laura Bond.

A former editor and staff writer with Westword, Laura Bond has written for Rolling StoneUSAA and Spin, among others. She is the principal of Laura Bond, Ink., a content and communications strategy firm that serves nonprofits across metro Denver.
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