Mixing tech and belief: a Tugg toward activism

Watch "Incendiary," anti-death penalty documentary, on the big screen in downtown Seattle, thanks to Tugg, a new online service.

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Watch "Incendiary," anti-death penalty documentary, on the big screen in downtown Seattle, thanks to Tugg, a new online service.

I don’t know what you’re doing on May 8 at 6:30 p.m., but maybe you’ll join me at the AMC Pacific Place 14 in downtown Seattle (600 Pine St.) for Incendiarya screening of a gripping anti-death-penalty documentary.

But that’s only half the story.

The other half is how I came to find out about the screening through a new social media website called Tugg, which holds out the promise of getting people away from their TV sets and out to a movie theater to see films of special interest that may entertain, educate, or do a little of both.

Tugg is based on a simple idea. Find a film worth watching, bring it to a local theater, spread the word, collect lots of RSVPs, then watch the film together. Tugg is the tentpole for the operation: an online service that centralizes all these functions — and costs you nothing other than the price of your ticket. You can just attend the screening or sponsor a screening: Tugg lets you do both.

Incendiary is a good example of how it works.

The award-winning film is a tragic story from Texas: about a man who, despite significant expert criticism of the prosecution’s evidence, was executed for setting a house fire in which his three daughters died and about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s refusal to spare the man’s life despite abundant scientific evidence of his likely innocence.

Following the film, there will be a discussion led by Jacqueline McMurtrie, director and co-founder of the Innocence Project Northwest, a clinical program at the University of Washington School of Law.  (The screening will also be a benefit for the program.)

I read about Tugg through a Tweet from film critic Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago). A Los Angeles Times story filled out more details about the service. It led me to the Tugg site and started looking for possible events in our area — which finally led me to “Incendiary.”

When you get involved with Tugg, you’re participating in “renting” a movie theater for a one-time event. For Incendiary, I’m one of 54 people (as of last check) who have signed up with Tugg and booked a $9 ticket via a credit card for the event through them. If not enough tickets are sold, I won’t be charged. A total of 150 tickets are available.

For people looking to set up events, Tugg has a growing library of roughly 300 films to select from. Events can be set up by anyone: a film’s producer or director, or an organization with interests in the film’s subject matter. Events can be personalized with speakers, short films, Q&A sessions, etc. Once the event is set up, you use social media — Facebook, Twitter, Google+ — as well as good old-fashioned PR to publicize your event.

If you can generate enough enthusiasm for your event — you’ll typically need to sell 50 advance tickets — the Tugg folks then book your theater from its theater chain supporters. By this measure, the Incendiary screening is a “go.”  Money raised by screenings go for the film rental and the theatrical space. A small percentage goes directly to event sponsors.

Tugg is being supported by several theatrical chains, including AMC and Regal theaters — both prominent exhibitors in our area.

The service debuted last month and its website site is still in beta. There are still some rough spots, such as easily locating local events. Tugg co-founder Pablo Gonzales said during a phone interview that this problem would be corrected shortly.


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