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.

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.

 

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

The shiny new Bosa Centre for Film and Animation at Capilano University

For a few years now, I’ve had the privilege to be regularly invited to offer guest lectures at Capilano University’s Documentary Program, part of the School of Motion Picture Arts. I’ve got to know a few of the fine folks over there, including longtime creative partner Michelle Mason, whose latest film A Song for Carlos took us to Spain on a development shoot in July 2011. I’ve edited all Michelle’s award-winning documentaries, including The Friendship Village (2002) and Breaking Ranks (2006).

Mandy's reflecting inside and out, Bosa Centre for Film and Animation

Reflections on the Bosa Centre for Film and Animation

I love teaching! It’s always a pleasure to share knowledge with those coming into the industry. For the last 5 years, I’ve been primarily teaching editing and story, which will always be my first love.  Then about a year ago,  I was excited to be invited to join the Advisory Board and to start teaching social media to both the faculty and the students at Capilano’s School of Motion Picture Arts Documentary Program. I find it curious that so few of this year’s documentary students appear to be interested in engaging with the online space as either a marketing or creative narrative tool. It’s my hope to plant the seed for thinking about social media as a vital, dynamic new extension to the documentary filmmaker’s toolkit.

This week I had the opportunity to teach in two of the shiny new classrooms in the shiny new Bosa Centre for Film and Animation. It’s really quite a remarkable award-winning building, complete with 8,000 square foot sound stage, sound mixing studio, cutting edge camera gear, a 200-seat 3D theatre, the largest tv screen this side of Toronto and purpose built classrooms and labs for costuming, editing, animation, cinematography and a whole lot more.

Bosa Centre for Film and Animation

The Bosa Centre for Film and Animation at Capilano Univerity School of Motion Picture Arts

At a time when the Canadian documentary industry is facing some challenges during this digital transition and economic stony ground, it’s encouraging to be part of this exciting grand vision for the future.

If you haven’t visited the Bosa Centre yet, I encourage you to find an opportunity to do so. Let me know what you think…

The Passion and Poetry of Community Leadership

Last week I was invited talk about Community Leadership at Darlene Clover’s University of Victoria class. At the end of the class, Darlene offered up a ‘found poem’ that poignantly captured the essence of my presentation. I felt so honoured, and it resonated so deeply, that I thought it was worth sharing…

Ode to Mandy Leith

by Darlene Clover

Do your part
Believe in something
Arab spring, European summer, North American fall
Our stories are powerful
Stories make us human
Raise your message above the rest
Be the change you want to see
Live your message through your life
Move forward with what inspires you
Speak to where the community is at
Plant your dreams
Challenge the didactic passive education role
Encourage conversation
Ask what people think
Create a sense of community
Change the seating, put the audience at the centre
Have food – they will come
Everyone is a community leader
Occupy everything
Use living microphones
Be loud, commit, build trust, democratize
Own your culture, be a media activist
Teach media literacy
Tear down the power structures and senseless bureaucracies
Let film speak for your community
Restore the banter of the bazaar
Breed engagement, create traffic
Follow the rules/break the rules
Let passion exist

Currently, my passion is leading me to work with the vibrant global Occupy movement. Where does your passion live?

The Story Behind Social Media for Writers

I’ve been working with a lot of authors recently. Social media, writing and storytelling make cosy bedfellows; no matter which way you fold it, they need each other, and together they make a great team.

Wired Words Logo

Wired Words: A Symposium for Writers of Every Ilk

Last weekend,  I was invited to speak at Wired Words, the first BC Federation of Writers annual festival on Saturday September 10th, 2011. 50 local authors, writers and storytellers gathered in the stunning historic courtroom of the BC Maritime Museum to talk about everything narrative, ePublishing and digital media. It felt particularly poignant for this old-time house of law to host a twitter workshop.

Wired Words at the BC Maritime Museum Courtroom

BC Maritime Museum Courtroom, VIctoria BC

Writing in the 21st Century

A plethora of insights and tools were discussed at half a dozen insightful presentations: ePublishing, blogging, online marketing and digital printing. I gave 2 presentations, one on Social Media for Writers and the other explored film editing as it relates to writing and literary editing (more on the that later!). All were extremely well-received. Here’s a review of the day, with video interviews of Lorne Daniel and yours truly, written by Craig Spence.

Mandy Leith at Wired Words Festival, Victoria BC

Wired Words participants talk social media with Mandy Leith. Photo: Kim Goldberg

Connecting the Dots

Social networking is a great way to engage with not only readers, but the bookstores that sell your tomes, the publishers who print them and the reviewers who get the word out. Plus, writing blog posts is great way to practice word craft. In addition to a blog (I recommend WordPress.org), Twitter and Facebook page and Youtube (for video trailers of your book), there are a wealth of useful social media tools for authors. LibraryThing, Shelfari and Goodreads are only a few of the sites that offer online networks for sharing your personal library, reviews, published works, and of course, connecting with other writers and readers.

Writers need Social Media: Social Media Needs Writers

“Online tools are the fastest and easiest way for writers to begin building an audience, get better at their craft and network with others.” comments publisher Jane Friedman, whose blog is a great resource. Another great website, chock full of social media tips and links is The Creative Penn.

It’s very rewarding to provide social media support to authors as they launch their new books. I’m currently assisting local author John Shields’ new virtual book launch on September 21st, 2011: The Priest Who Left His Religion: In Pursuit of Cosmic Spirituality. I simply love the myriad of places that story and media come together. As a media-savvy storyteller, it’s my stock-in-trade.

What social media strategies have worked for you and your book or publication?

A Good Story Isn’t Perfect. Neither are Blog Posts.

It’s been far, far too long since I last posted here…why is that?

Blogging is a Commitment

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about interesting stories I’ve wanted to share over the last few adventurous months (more on that later, promise!). But every time I’d think about writing a blog post, I’d feel strangely daunted and intimidated by the task. What to do, what to do…

I recently had an aha moment — I realized I’ve been labouring with this idea that everything I publish here needs to be polished, poignant and, well, perfect. After all, I’m an editor who understands just how long it takes to craft good, meaningful stories. And yet I’m starting to believe that the true value of blogging is to offer up authentic, tasty, narrative bites that can be easily digested. That’s an art in itself, that I have yet to master.

So when I came upon this inspirational video the other day, it seemed like a perfect  segue and a great opportunity to approach blogging with a different perspective…

Creativity is a Process

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

So I need to give myself time to find my own blogging style by experimenting and practicing, to see what works for me and of course, you, dear reader. So I’m going to keep it simple and keep sketching in order to find my own natural, easy blogging voice.

Sketchblog v. Masterpost

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of other bloggers and I suspect it’s a common complaint. How to do you deal with the practice of blogging? What are your stumbling blocks? What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Social UnMedia, Filmmaking and the Bigger Story

Scott Stratten doesn’t like the term ‘social media’ and he makes a good point. The word ‘media’ evokes an old paradigm,  a pushy marketing mindset that’s going the way of the Dodo. Traditional media is characterized by a privileged voice broadcasting a unified message to the masses, but now the emerging digital revolution is changing the game and giving everyone a voice. The key to getting heard above the roar is to authentically engage one-on-one, develop relationships and offer compelling content that pulls people into your (story) world.

Stratten, the dynamic speaker and author of the best-selling book ‘UnMarketing’ was one of the awesome Keynote Speakers at Victoria’s first Social Media Camp (#SMCV10) on October 3rd, 2010. About 500 people gathered for a full day of speakers, roundtables and networking opps, exchanging digital tools, tips and techniques — plus a whole lot of joie de vivre! The buzzwords were ‘content’, ‘engagement’ and ‘relationship’.  That sounds a lot like filmmaking to me. Or maybe we could call it ‘storytelling technology’. Let me explain…

Social UnMedia is All About Relationships

According to Stratten, the outdated concept of marketing as a job or distinct task no longer applies. “STOP that!” he scolds, jumping up and down like an adorable nerd. UnMarketing is the new normal;  everything  you say, do, don’t do, watch or ‘like’ online contributes to the persona, character or brand you are offering up to the digital ecosystem. Good relationships have always been a key to good business; except now they’re the lock, the key, the door and the entire treasure box itself.

Social UnMedia, (to borrow Scott’s UnSemantics!) is making it possible for everyone to be a broadcaster, and even better, you can now connect with each person individually, so you don’t have to shout.

‘Now Hear This!’ becomes Once Upon a Time…’

Social media amplifies everything, so it’s not a quick fix for anything. “If you suck at business offline, then you’re just gonna suck harder online!”, warns  Stratton. “People only spread awesome frickin’ content!” What makes awesome content? Great storytelling.

I’m ready for my Close-Up, Mr. DeMille!

The invention of social media tools to the evolution of the Internet is equivalent to the discovery of the close-up to the history of filmmaking. The movies came of age in the early 20th century, graduating into a true storytelling medium when D.W. Griffith, the father of narrative cinema, decided to move the camera from it’s proscenium arch wide-shot to a close-up of the actors for dramatic effect. At first the Hollywood producers were horrified, worried that audiences would demand their money back having paid to see the whole actor! But as we all know, the close-up led to the art of editing and the evolution of the language of film: a set of ever-evolving conventions that offer precise creative control over the story’s dramatic narrative, fact or fiction.

Overacting was the norm in turn-of-the-century silent-era films. Grand exaggerated gestures were necessary for actions to be noticed in the fuzzy wide shot. But acting styles were forced to change with the advent of the close-up, which accentuated subtle nuance, unspoken backstory, laser intimacy and vulnerable authenticity. The tiniest facial twitch can suggest a rich personal story, such as Marlon Brando’s performance in The Godfather or Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.

So what does this have to do with social media? Like it or not, social media is the contemporary digital hearth around which our stories are being told. “It’s a social forge, a fiery pressure cooker that transforms (or destroys) everything that is fed into it.”  So says Julien Smith, #SMCV10’s other awesome Keynote speaker and co-author of the best-seller Trust Agents with Chris Brogan. Smith nailed it: “We are being called to expand our role and tell a bigger story.”

The Internet Moves in for its Close-Up

Social media is telling this bigger story in digital close-up. Echoing the cinematic revolution,  almost exactly a century later social media etiquette favours authentic human gestures over bold, brassy proclamations .  Conversation and engagement is what it takes to be a star in the social media universe, everything else is likely to find itself on the cutting room floor.

Storytelling Technology for Reinvention

I’m continually amazed with the ways in which good social media strategy mirrors the filmmaking process. As a filmmaker, I live in the realm of story and I’m very excited about the opportunity for transformation and reinvention that this new storytelling technology offers. What’s the bigger story that is calling you?