|Nick Hayes and Naomi Burton of Means of Production.|
A small socialist film company was behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's election campaign video that went viral..
ONE OF THE many notable features of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez's stunning election victory over powerful Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley was her election campaign video. While most campaign videos are quickly forgotten, this one went viral and remains popular today. So far the video has had an estimated three million views on YouTube and on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. In New Zealand Green co-leader Marama Davidson was impressed enough to tweet the video to her followers.
It was the work of two young socialists and members of the Detroit section of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes abandoned careers in the corporate sector to set Up Means of Production, a small production company focused on producing work for progressive causes and candidates.
Naomi Burton told the Intercept website that "production is so wildly expensive that only corporations can afford it." She might of also added political parties that are funded by corporate donors.
To keep costs down Means of Production use smaller crews and less resources to produce videos. The typical result is the campaign video for Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. It cost less than $10,000 to make, pocket money for commercial video companies. Ocasio-Cortez wrote the script while volunteers helped with the New York shoot.
Nick Hayes says that it was while filming a commercial at a plastic chemicals plant that it dawned on him that while he had only had to spend a few hours in the factory, workers had to put up with the hostile industrial environment everyday.
"I thought: Why am I spending my time trying to help them sell more syrofoam?'
But the final straw came for Hayes while filming a commercial for a Los Angeles beer company. It wanted to use the profiles and work of local Detroit artists to promote its brand.
“Using people’s personal stories to sell alcohol felt like a low.” says Hayes.
He quit the corporate work not long after to concentrate on work that did not conflict with his socialist beliefs and might even contribute to making the world a better place to live.
He was joined by Naomi Burton who, after several years in a high paying job in corporate communications, had discovered socialist politics and joined the DSA.
"When you come to that moment of clarity when you just see capitalism as oppressing everything and everyone, standing around the water cooler feels and is kind of devoid of meaning," observes Burton.
Now Hayes and Burton carefully vet projects before accepting them.
“Working with candidates who genuinely know what it's like to be working class is crucial," says Hayes. "Communicating those values simply can't be done well through a commercial, inequitably structured production company or consulting firm, period. As a cooperatively run production company that explicitly works for labour and progressive campaigns, we're in a position where we speak the language that working people do and can create dignified videos that touch on problems we all face under capitalism.”
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez's campaign video was the first significant job for Means of Production. The video underlines that Ocasio-Cortez is a typical working class New Yorker who wants to represent the interests of the people in her district rather than those of corporate donors. It was a message that resonated with New York voters grown disillusioned with 'politics as usual' under a Democratic congressman funded by the corporate sector.
Even the mainstream Ad Week has recognised the power of the video that Hayes and Burton produced:
"We've all seen the "my story" candidate ads (some of which are powerful and mold-breaking). But there was something decidedly different, intoxicatingly defiant but also accessible in this film. The aforementioned, fleeting hallmarks of empathy and authenticity are everywhere in this work. For all the talk of storytelling, the little more than two minutes in the film is a master class in compacting passion, honesty and, yes, empathy and authenticity into a compelling package. Ocasio-Cortez isn't merely telling her story; she's telling everyone's story in the district."
Since the video went viral, people are now clamouring for the services of Means of Production while other film makers are keen to contribute to the socialist cause. Nick Hayes and Naomi Burton are presently working with several progressive candidates and they plan to launch a left wing entertainment focused streaming service within the next year.