Is there anything worse than ambivalence?

Aside

ambivalence[ am-biv-uh-luh ns ]
noun
1. uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
2. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.

Live + Virtual = Dynamic Hybrid Events

Since launching OPEN CINEMA Season 10 in October, we’ve been experimenting with adding virtual engagement elements to our tried and true community screenings of documentaries followed by open forum discussion in cafe style venues. The early results are extremely exciting!

Not only are we livestreaming the post-screening discussion for virtual viewers at home, but we’re also hosting a moderated Twitter chat. In November, we were extremely excited by the results, with a ‘reach’ of about 20,000 tweeters (according to www.Hashtracking.com). Not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds impressive. A more tangible measure of success? One tweeter from Toronto asked to use the tweetchat stream as a research resource for her Master’s Thesis in Nature Education. Read more about this amazing hybrid event here.

Last week I drew a Venn diagram to help our tweetchat team and guests understand the dynamic interactions it makes possible. It’s pretty complex!

venn diagram of hybrid event with speakers, tweetchat and livestream

So many conversations: Venn diagram of hybrid event with speakers, tweetchat and livestream

Our next hybrid event is tomorrow, Wednesday December 5th, following the Victoria premiere of Occupy Love with virtual guest Velcrow Ripper as well as live guests. Find out all about the event here.

Have you organized a hybrid event? I’d love to hear what worked (and didn’t work so well) for you.

The Silver Flask of Narrative Gold

A few months ago, while I was sorting and clearing my dear late mama’s house and antique collection, I found a beautiful silver hip flask that has become somewhat of a talisman. It never fails to elicit stories, memories, dreams and reflections while dispensing medicinal amounts of single malt scotch, as if it were the elixir of life.

photo of my mother's silver hip flaskThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines talisman as: 1: an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune. 2: something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects. ”

The Genie in the Bottle

As a storyteller, this silver flask is narrative gold. It’s a conversation piece that never fails to both delight and ignite the imagination. People want to touch it, sip it, discuss it, hear about it, fondle it, marvel at it and, not least, savour its golden contents. The effect of this flask as a functional objet d’art, in combination with the malted liquid muse contained therein, is nothing short of remarkable! It’s like a Genie in a bottle!

photo of silver hip flask lid "James Dixon and sons"

So it’s becoming a bit of a ritual: before I head out to a party or gathering, I carefully fill the flask with Bush Mills or Auchentoshan Single Malt whiskey (I’m open to other suggestions). And then I wait for the right moment to pull it out…. the wide-eyed expressions of delight and surprise when people first catch a glimpse of it, is priceless! It’s as if they can hardly believe their eyes!

photo of The Silver Flask of Plenty

Ask the Flask

The stories it elicits have a timeless archetypal quality. One friend, who is not easily impressed, declared that if this flask were sold on the open market, it would be highly sought after, fetch a high price and find its way into the hands of a rich Saudi prince, who would treasure it as a gift from another world. Others have conjectured that it has survived the front line in a World War or two, offering a lifeline for a trench full of dispirited soldiers.  It’s even inspired the possible creation of a creative iPhone app and Instagram filter.

photo of silver mark on the bottom of the flask

The Hip Flask Chicks

I recently had dinner with a couple of digital media creator pals to brainstorm ideas and collaborations, and once again the flask found its way into the heart of our conversation. Not only did this beautiful silver vessel convert a scotch-hater into an evangelizing single malt crusader, but it so inspired her that she promptly spent an afternoon searching local antique shops to find flasks for both herself and her partner. And as we tossed around ideas for project names and hashtags, the flask even managed to become a hilarious steam-punk symbol of empowered female creativity and self expression.

I feel sure this Flask of Plenty will continue to bring me good storytelling luck by inspiring magical tales, miraculous effects, while keeping the single malt industry in business! Thanks mom!

Do you have a talisman that brings you good luck? Share please!

POST SCRIPT (Nov 24) – my mother’s flask has started a craze! People have heard of it where ever I go and people are even shopping for antique flasks! Read Angela Hemming’s flask post, also inspired by my mom’s talisman! tee hee!

Road Trips, Instagram and a Random Encounter with Jack Kerouac

I’ve always been a gypsy at heart, but last week an Instagram photo revealed that Jack Kerouac was my first boyfriend’s uncle. Huh? Let me explain.

Cross country road trips, camping, travel and moving house have all been a big part of my life. By the time I was 8 we had lived in 4 countries on 3 continents. When I was 11, I saved up my pocket money and bought a tent, which I pitched in the garden. And now, finally, after years of longing, I’m on the verge of buying a VW Westfalia campervan. It’s my dream come true!

Toy Westie with street in the background

On the Road

By way of encouragement, friends and family have recently been giving me little tokens to keep my vision alive until I can drive away in my very own Westie. Earlier this month, my brother bought me an awesome ‘On the Road‘ leather keyring and luggage tag. I love the nostalgic classic orange penguin cover, it’s so iconic of a more innocent time, when travel and communication was purely mechanical and analogue, before the Internet catapulted us into a complex digital paradigm.

Last week I decided to go camping to escape the September crazies*, so I headed for the woods. An Instagram photo seemed the simplest way to inform my online peeps that I was out of town.

Keyring that looks like a penguin novel "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

The Plot Thickens…

Screen capture of Facebook exchange about Jack Kerouac's nephew

Within a few hours, my status update was seen by an old highschool pal in Chelmsford, England and she had news for me! Mima and I both went to the British School of Brussels in the 70′s, a fantastic school that was popular with British and American ex-pats working abroad in Europe.

Well, as you can see from the conversation that unfolded (right), it turns out that Jack Kerouac was my first boyfriend’s uncle. Who knew? I guess George and I were preoccupied with other things, but somehow the subject of the Beat poets and Uncles just never came up.

There are so many things to love about this exchange! Of course, there’s the obvious thrill of a personal connection to an immortal cultural icon. And the thematic relevance of the novel’s quest for freedom to my own unfolding journey of discovery is delightfully poignant. But perhaps most intriguing is the random juxtaposition between the old and new, a contemporary digital echo of the novel’s core theme expressed via Instagram and Facebook: a clash of opposing forces. Route 66 meets the Information Highway. The Beat Generation shakes hands with Digital Natives. Layers of storytelling traveling across time and space on real and virtual freeways. Trippy, man!

The Unbearable Randomness of Being

What are the odds against this strange factoid ever reaching me, 35 years after the fact? It seems so deeply random, predicated on a whimsical gift, photographed and seen across the world by a particular person at a specific moment in time. I might never have discovered this minor plot point, if it weren’t for the always-on exchanges facilitated by Instagram and Facebook. It boggles the mind.

Six Degrees of Digital Separation

This curious little story got a few digital media storytelling pals and I thinking…how can we use photos, and specifically Instagram, to share stories and engage people in real time? We brainstormed a few fun ideas that you’ll be hearing more about soon…

Has digital sharing revealed new facts or opened up storylines for you?


* The September Crazies follow the August Lazies – suddenly everyone is back at work after the summer and it can be a little overwhelming.

 

Is Documentary Canada’s National Art Form?

If you know me or read my blog, then it comes as no surprise that I have a lifelong passion for documentary. Way back in 1984, my first film was a 16-minute experimental documentary: Citizen Soldier. In 1989 I emigrated to Canada specifically to work at the National Film Board of Canada, the worlds oldest government film agency and the birthplace of the documentary.

I’ve worked on dozens of social justice documentaries and hosted hundreds of OPEN CINEMA screenings in café-style venues with discussion, using documentaries as a catalyst for community engagement. And I’m now in my second term serving on the Documentary Organization of Canada‘s national Board of Directors. Yep, I’m a feature-length docuphile!

Documentary is a uniquely Canadian art form

But did you know that the documentary genre was actually born and nurtured in Canada? The world’s first documentary, Nanook of the North, was made near Inukjuak, Quebec in 1922, before the term documentary was even coined. in 1939, John Grierson launched the NFB, arguing that portraying reality on film was essential to saving Democracy from the rise of fascism in Europe.

poster for documentary If You Love This PlanetCanadians have made dozens of award-winning, popular and important documentaries. Most notably is Terre Nash’s Oscar winning If You Love This Planet (produced by Edward LeLorraine, who I worked with on the worlds first non-linear editing system EditDroid – another story!). Other well-known Canadian-made docs are Up the Yangtze, The Corporation, as well as Toronto’s Hot Docs, one of the biggest documentary film festivals in the world. You can read a comprehensive list of Canadian documentaries here.

Let’s protect our national heritage

Sadly, the documentary is facing a perfect storm that is currently threatening its very survival. The economic downturn, shrinking arts budgets, the advent of Reality TV, changing technology, YouTube and the riddle of Internet monetization are all conspiring to turn a once thriving industry into a flickering archival memory. I, for one, am not about to let that happen.

As Jazz is to America, so Documentary is to Canada.

Earlier this year, Kevin McMahon wrote an inspiring article that proposed making documentary Canada’s official art form. In response, POV Magazine has just published the first in a series of in-depth interviews with Kevin to further explore this idea. And the Documentary Organization of Canada has issued a petition to Minister James Moore.

You can help – please sign the Petition!

If you love documentaries, then we need your help, please! Read more about it, discuss with your peeps on social media and IRL and please, by all means, sign the petition.

Do you think documentary should be Canada’s official art form? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Crowdfunding, Collaboration and the Blind Men and the Elephant

This week, five key media-making organizations in Victoria are joining forces for the first time to present Ian Mackenzie’s popular Crowdfunding 101 workshop, and Media Rising (yours truly) has helped to make that happen. As part of a new move towards increased collaboration across media sectors, MediaNet, CineVic, the Victoria Independent Film Professionals Association (ViFPA), Media that Matters and the Vancouver Island South Film & Media Commission are coming together to offer a workshop that is all about participatory thinking inspired by online engagement. Read more about the workshop in this Times Colonist article.

Tearing Down Old Structures

While the new 24/7 everywhere media environment is presenting a whole host of funding, production and distribution challenges, it’s also thankfully breaking down worn out silos and hierarchical ways of doing business. The distinction between amateur and professional media creators becomes blurred, and even irrelevant, when everyone is struggling to make a living in the field.

Cooperation in a fractured media landscape

This became very clear when ViFPA, Media that Matters, NFB and Media Rising offered a workshop called Making Films, Making a Living in March 2012.  We brought a wide range of local screen media professionals together with the hope of forging a new collaborative future out of the fractured media landscape. What emerged was a renewed spirit of cooperation and shared learning that transcends age, experience, job titles and sectors.

drawing of the Blind Men and the Elephant

The Blind Men and the Elephant

If you’re planning to make a living telling a story or message to an audience, the game is changing beyond recognition, no matter whether you work in film, video, TV, the Web, social media or even writing. The cult of the individual has encouraged us to try to figure out things out on our own, but the problem is too multifaceted for one person to solve. It’s like the story about the blind men and the elephant: individually they couldn’t make sense of their different experiences, but with the perspective of their collective understanding comes the possibility of greater knowledge and insight.

Collaboration is the name of the game

So, waddya say.. Let’s work together across our differences to find bold new answers to mind-bending media questions.

 

Thankyou, Neil Armstrong RIP. You brought media storytelling to life.

I’m so sad to hear the news of Neil Armstrong’s passing. I vividly remember the moment when those words were spoken, clear as a bell. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” 20 July 1969, a moment that was broadcast around the world to an estimated 600 million people.

Media storytelling comes to life…

photo of Neil Armstrong about to set foot on the moonThe moon landing was a most remarkable moment for a six year old to watch live. I can remember my utter disbelieve that I was watching this happening. Right now. Up there. On the moon! Wowee! The tension in the control room, the beeps, the fuzzy pictures, their weightless movements all formed a vivid impression. This moment truly brought storytelling to life for me!

A moment that changed the world

I doubt anyone would disagree that the world changed at that moment in 1969. Not only did it bring us directly in contact with a new frontier beyond our planet, but it changed our relationship to broadcast media and storytelling and perhaps most importantly of all, it radically shifted our perspective of our place in the universe. By being able to look at earth from space, we literally saw ourselves and our achingly beautiful fragile blue home for the first time, ever.

Was this the first social media moment?

I think it’s taking a while for us to come to terms with the self-awareness, mediated by technology, that this moment gave our species. In fact, I think the impact is still only now rippling down into our DNA and changing the way we think about and do things. The Earth Day movement grew directly out of this time, and continues to evolve and inform our lives on every level. And it showed us the potential of using digital media to connect – and reflect – the planet in real time. It’s interesting to think of social media being born in this moment, isn’t it?

logo of the consulting company Media RisingThis image of Earth Rise wasn’t taken by Armstrong, but he was on the back-up crew for Apollo 8, one year earlier in 1968, when these archetypal shots were taken. These shots of the earth from the moon belong to all of us, both literally and figuratively: NASA has given these photos to the world by making them public domain ie copyright free. Thanks NASA! In fact, the photo above of the earth from the moon is the inspiration behind my new logo for Media Rising. What do you think?

Journey in Peace, Neil Armstrong. We will never forget you.

Portrait of Astronaut Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 mission