Interview: Andre Blackman, FastForward Health Film Festival

Reading time: 6 – 9 minutes

FastForward Health is an evening film festival highlighting those people innovating and developing new ideas to improve public and community health around the world.

FastForward Health
Andre Blackman

Founded by Andre Blackman (@MindofAndre) and David Haddad (@haddadda), FastForward Health launched on November 1st, 2011. As we near the end of year one, we sat down with co-founder Andre Blackman to talk about the project and where it’s headed.

Andre Blackman is Founder and Managing Editor of Pulse + Signal, a website that features highlights and commentary on the impact/usefulness of technology in the public health landscape. He is the former Director of Digital for the American Heart Association, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate. Andre is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Health Care Social Media (over the years, we’ve interviewed two other board members: Phil Baumann and Bertalan Mesko).

The Interview

Andre Blackman, thanks for taking the time to talk with me about FastForward Health. What is FastForward Health and what inspired it?

Thanks so much for the opportunity, Walter! FastForward Health is an evening event dedicated to shining a spotlight on the people, projects and organizations taking part in creating the future of our health through film. My colleague, David Haddad and I have been in the health space for most of our careers and we noticed that the innovative concepts we were seeing (e.g. mobile health, food sustainability) weren’t getting the exposure they deserved, especially in the mainstream public health landscape.

We saw a hunger from students, young professionals and others outside of health — to get connected with these areas of innovation. What better way than creating an entertaining/inspirational evening to watch movies, meet new people and grow ideas? Watching a movie is something we all do, is fun and is the lowest barrier of entry to learn about something — we can all relate to a story.

Why did you select video as the medium for FastForward Health?

Storytelling has been around for ages. It’s how we can latch onto an issue or concept in a lasting way. As I mentioned before, stories are something we can all relate to, whether it’s thought provoking or inspirational. For example, at least year’s debut event, we had the very fortunate opportunity to premiere 73 Cents — the story of Regina Holliday, who is a patient advocate and artist. Check out the trailer below:

The emotion contained in that short trailer was compelling right? That is the sort of thing we wanted to fully embrace when telling stories for public health impact. Health is about people, it’s about us. Film/video is a perfect way to understand and connect with the new ideas that are shaping our communities for better health.

What themes does FastForward Health focus on?

The purpose of FastForward Health is to focus on innovations that impact population health. So issues around transportation (creating bike/walking friendly cities), digital communications for impact, access to healthy food, the technology that is shaping our world, are all things we love to see people reimagining to impact our health. That’s pretty much what we are looking for with content. The overall goal is to have highly compelling content that moves people to be inspired, ideate and get involved.

You mentioned social media. Have you been using social media to organize and promote FastForward Health?

We absolutely love our social media community! Since launching last year, we’ve grown our presence on Twitter with amazing people from around the world who see our vision and are excited for what great things are happening to shape our lives for the better. We also use Facebook to share motivational images, information on what we’re up to and to create a deeper sense of community. We stay pretty active on those channels. The FastForward Health newsletter is also great for long form updates and other fun treats for our growing audience. It’s our firm belief that the wider our social community, the more opportunities to find more content and connect with the public on what we are doing. During our launch event, we were fortunate to get coverage from NPR on what we were doing. Amazing!

FastForward Health shares information relevant to film/filmmaking, health innovation and news.

Over the past year, FastForward Health has been in two cities: Washington D.C. for the initial launch and New York City during Social Media Week (February 2012). Where’s the next venue?

So glad you asked! We are really excited to head to San Francisco at the end of this month (October 30th) for the first time on the West Coast. We really like the vibe and community of designers, technologists and social entrepreneurs out there who we feel would really enjoy the event. We are providing some final updates to the site this week and excited to have a packed theater at the Delancey Street Foundation Screening Room.

What’s next for FastForward Health? What are your plans for the next year or two?

Since putting together the first event, we’ve learned *alot* about planning and making sure that things run smoothly. For 2013 we are planning to do an exclusive event for the year around the same time, in the Washington DC area — back to where we first began. We feel that along with another great group of people in the Nation’s capital — there are fantastic organizations, schools and policymakers that we can make some great strides to move health innovation forward. The event will hopefully be bigger than just one evening and with much more content. We’re hoping to continue on that path for the near future.

Finally, we are still open to one or two more sponsors for our San Francisco event so if ever interested in becoming a media partner, financial sponsor or otherwise — feel free to contact me at andre at fastforwardhealth.org

About the Author

Walter Jessen is Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH Tech. He's also a senior writer at Highlight HEALTH Tech.