Hi. I'm Walter Thompson.
I moved to San Francisco in 1996 in the first wave of dot-com workers. We flooded the city, leading to shocks in housing, transportation and affordability.
Fast forward 18 years, and SF is now the Internet’s epicenter. Tech has brought amazing changes to life here, but the engine that drives our local economy is built on disrupting old ways of doing things. These disruptions (along with income inequality and public policies) have brought long-simmering social tensions to the surface.
It's no longer a local story: our day-to-day battles over ride-sharing, shuttle bus protests, rising eviction rates and gentrification are international news.
Here's my theory: we've reached a tipping point in terms of sustainability. Economically, we're powering ahead, but socially and culturally, San Francisco hasn't been this fragmented in a long time.
Why am I making this documentary?
I want to build a community of people who care about urbanization and sustainability.
There's a lot of emotion wrapped up in these issues, so much so that it's hard to get a sense of the big picture. Now seems like a good time for a project that combines data and individual stories to present a holistic understanding of the changes swirling around us.
That's why I'm producing GOLDEN CITY, a documentary that explores how the tech industry is transforming housing and transportation in San Francisco.
This production is already underway: at the bottom of this page, you'll find rough edits of extended interviews with people who are feeling the effects of the rapid changes sweeping the city. If you donate now, we can finish filming faster before starting post-production immediately.
I'm speaking to people who are managing the rapid pace of change: politicians, activists, urban planners, academics, real-estate developers and tech entrepreneurs. I'm also interviewing people well outside the power structure: individual tech workers, service employees, taxi and ride-sharing drivers, long-term renters, new property owners, disabled residents, musicians and artists, bicyclists... everyone who's feeling the effects of change.
Surfacing these stories is powerful because we learn by listening to each other. I believe a locally-produced, crowdfunded documentary creates a shared frame of reference for people who'd like to add their voice to the ongoing conversation about where San Francisco is heading.
What's going on in San Francisco?
There are a lot of moving parts, but most of the tension is associated with technology companies, transportation quality and access, tech-friendly public policies and housing affordability:
city officials renewed a major tax break for tech, despite complaints that companies provide insufficient community benefits in return.
the president of one of the city's oldest cab companies expressed doubt that they'd still be in business by 2016.
voters approved new limits on waterfront construction that preserve Bay views and make it harder to build denser/taller structures.
a tenant sued his former landlord, claiming he was evicted so the unit could be converted into an Airbnb apartment.
despite a sickout by Muni employees that caused citywide delays, a bus route connecting Caltrain and a flagship tech office building ran on time.
More people live in cities than ever before, and it's changing the way we live and get around. The fact that San Francisco is just 49 square miles makes this an ideal microcosm for exploring these issues.
What happens after you help us reach our goal?
If we can raise $50,000, we know we can produce a movie you’ll enjoy watching on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, TV or in a theater; people are much more likely to recommend and share movies with good production values.
As soon as the campaign ends, I’ll schedule and shooting additional interviews, hire an editor and purchase a DSLR camera, audio equipment and backup drives for HD video. I'll also budget for video transcription, travel and transportation, equipment rental and SF Film Commission fees. And, I'll begin producing and shipping your kick-ass rewards (named after my favorite SF icons)!
Help us reach our stretch goal of $60,000, and everyone who donates $50 or more will receive TWO FREE tickets to a premiere in San Francisco!
If we don't reach either goal, it will take a lot longer to produce Golden City, and it won't be as well-made. That would suck.
How will we build a community around GOLDEN CITY?
My background is in community management, social media, PR and marketing, so I'll keep you updated on the production process and the status of your rewards; follow the action via updates here and on Twitter, Facebook and tumblr.
Each month, I’ll host meetups in San Francisco to screen clips, hold Q&As and share other info that brings you inside the production process.
Meetups will also be opportunities to share your story and connect with others who are interested in shaping our city’s future. If you can’t attend in person, I’ll use Google+ Hangouts and other tech so you can participate.
I'm also reaching out to local bloggers, journalists and cultural organizations, in addition to pitching tech entrepreneurs and workers to ask them for their support.
Local Coverage of GOLDEN CITY!
This extended interview with Judy Campos was included in Hoodline's ongoing coverage of Cuco's, the restaurant her family has owned and operated for 22 years. Because the Campos' couldn't afford to pay for renovations and upgrades their landlord requested, their landlord is now evicting them.
Here's Judy's GOLDEN CITY Story:
In this extended interview, CEO Howard Flax discusses his future plans for Flax Art & Design. At the end of 2015, the site that contains San Francisco's largest art-supply store will be redeveloped into a 160-unit condominium complex.
How You Can Help
As you can see, I'm already gathering footage and scheduling interviews for GOLDEN CITY, because this is a very timely story that captures what's happening NOW in San Francisco. Donating is the best way to help GOLDEN CITY reach its goal so we can finish filming quickly and get into post-production immediately. The $25 and $50 perks are an especially good value, but any amount helps us reach our $50,000 target.
If you can't donate, please use Indiegogo's sharing tools to help get the word about this project and follow us on Facebook, tumblr and Twitter.
Thanks very much!