Canadian media concentration is 300% higher than US. We need more indie media! #MDDyyj. Haunted by this statistic @joannrobertsyyj revealed at yesterday’s Media Democracy Days Victoria.
I spent the last week of May at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, talking about documentary with inspiring media makers in a yurt under towering trees on a remote island. It’s going to take a few days to integrate, reflect and rest.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Canadians 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.
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.
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.