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.


Always a storyteller, sometimes a…cameraperson!

My work involves wearing many digital media storytelling hats, which gives me a variety of ‘looks’, or at least, ways of looking. By turn, I’m strategizing with and coaching clients on their media and messaging goals; writing, producing, directing and editing content for every kind of screen; teaching; networking and brainstorming with peers; managing events & programming OPEN CINEMA screenings; and more. Variety is the spice of life!

A Digital Storytelling Toolbox

Having a broad skill base is a good thing if you’re a media savvy storyteller / digital alchemist / social media strategist / content marketer / documentary filmmaker like me, because it gives me a big ol’ digital storytelling toolbox to dip into. (I suspect I’m not alone in my search for an appropriate single term to describe my digital ninja skills these days. Can you relate?)

What is a Digital Alchemist, anyway?

Recently, I’ve been whittling away at a definition of what I do. Here’s what I’ve come up with: I help people to clarify, articulate and share their story or message with the world, using the appropriate media tools to reach their target audience: DVD, TV, cinema, podcast, webathon, YouTube, Facebook, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn…you get the idea. The common denominator is storytelling, and that’s what I know (and love) the best. A good story is like a life preserver: without it, your message is just more dead weight data that will virtually drown in the Internet ocean.

Always a storyteller, sometimes a…

Karen Davies, Steve Walker Duncan and Louise Rose in the Flavours studio kitchen

Karen Davies, Steve Walker Duncan and Louise Rose in the Flavours of the West Coast kitchen

So this week, I was working as a cameraperson on a studio shoot for an awesome local TV show, Flavours of the West Coast. Now in it’s 3rd successful season, this Cedarwood Productions gem features local farmers and foodies who are creating an astonishing array of local delicacies. The series also includes a fab studio kitchen segment with affable and talented host Chef Steve Walker Duncan, who is joined by a different local celebrity Rookie Chef each week. Check it out! This series is a lot of fun ~ with some great recipes, too!

Cooking up Soul Food

Chef Steve Walker Duncan with R & B legend Dutch Robinson in the Flavours kitchen

Chef Steve Walker Duncan cooks up soul food with R & B legend Dutch Robinson

During two long studio shoot days, we shot ten kitchen segments with ten amazing local talents, including Bob McDonald (Quirks and Quarks), jazz singer Louise Rose; Assistant News Director at CHEK Dana Hutchings; and an exciting newcomer to the West Coast music scene: Dutch Robinson. This R & B legend demonstrated his five octave vocal range (!!) and he’s played with The Ohio Players (Love Rollercoaster), Kid Creole and the Coconuts and most recently DRUM. Every one of these folks is passionate about their life and their work, and it was a pleasure to help share their stories.

I love my job!


Wishing you a Merry Christmas

A Christmas greeting from Media RisingThis is an iPhone photograph I took on Johnson Street in Victoria, BC on a rainy evening. I then passed it through some funky filters using Instagram – I LOVE Instagram, it’s my favourite app. I post the photos to Facebook and Twitter, and I’m going to find a plug-in that allows me to post here as well…

Talking of my blog, I’ve made a new year’s resolution to blog regularly – at least once a week starting next week. I love to write, I’ve starting thinking in blog posts, but somehow, my musings rarely make it to the er, well, screen. Considering I’m always recommending regular blogging to my social media clients, I think it’s time I practice what I preach, n’est ce pas? *ahem*

Which neatly segues to a delightful meeting I had with two digital divas today, Jane Victoria King and Angela Hemming, of AHEM Productions (hence the segue). Angela and Jane both blog regularly five days a week, and our conversation inspired me. Thanks ladies, this blog post is for you…

Watch this space…a blog post a week is the challenge. I give you all leave to pester me on twitter or facebook if I fall short of my goal. Please, hold my feet to the blogging fire. (eek!)

Enjoy the festive season, and if you have any blogging inspiration to offer, I’d love to hear from you…

In Memoriam: Mike Littrell, Cultural Mythologist (1948-2010)

A few weeks ago my friend and mentor Mike Littrell closed the book on this earthly story. True to his passion for narrative and mythology, this intriguing, brilliant man left more questions than answers and he left us wanting more.

Mike Littrell

Mike Littrell (Photo: Gene Miller)

Mike had many friends who each experienced a different facet of this handsome diamond-in-the-rough. But I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that he was a Master Storyteller. He drew on a profound knowledge of ancient mythology, deep history and popular culture, which gave him an insightful perspective of our collective narrative history. I  learned more about storytelling and mythology during the brief 18 months that I knew him than I had in the previous 30 years that I have been working as a documentary filmmaker, editor and narrative consultant.

Tell Me a Story and Make It About Me

The beautiful eulogy delivered by Mike’s sister Barb Morgan bore the poignant title “Tell me a story and make it about me!” and it spoke volumes about the man and his work.  “Don’t tell your story, ” he often advised. “Tell the audience’s story. The key is getting them to think, Oh yeah, me too!”

I first met Mike at an inspiring un-conference I regularly attend on Cortes Island.  “Media that Matters” annually brings together media professionals dedicated to positive social change.  We brainstorm, network and chill out on the beautiful beachfront property at Hollyhock. Mike’s brilliance shone a light into our May 2009 gathering. We were enthralled by his quiet charismatic presence.

Sutton’s Law

I’ll never forget the first story I heard Mike tell about Willie Sutton, the notorious 19th century bank robber. Sutton spent over half his life in prison and when asked by a reporter why he had robbed so many banks, he replied: That’s where the money is. “Don’t ignore the bleeding obvious,” cautioned Mike with a twinkle in his eye. “The simplest answer is usually the right one.” Sutton’s Law is widely used in medical training.

During the summer of 2009, Mike and I met regularly at his ‘office': the outdoor patio at the Day’s Inn on Belleville Street. I was developing a documentary project and he was generously offering his insight. Accompanied by coffee and sunshine, two of Mike’s favourite things,  we talked about Homer, Parcival, Abelard, Dionysius and the proverbial Dragon we must all face in our lives. “Who’s dragon is it?” he would ask, making a distinction between the pragmatic slaying of someone else’s dragon and the transcendent quality of devouring or assimilating our own epic life struggle. “Make sure you don’t kill your own dragon!”

When Mike was holding court, the rich layered meaning behind his words was too dense to absorb in one sitting. His bright blue eyes danced as he spoke, making it almost impossible to do anything but listen with rapt attention. But I always had a notebook open, pen poised to jot down key words as he spoke, in the hope of mining the narrative gold at a later time. I’m so grateful I did that: I’ve been pouring over these cryptic scribbles in the last few weeks, amazed at their poignant relevance, treasuring every reminder of his sparkling intellect. I can still hear the plaintive sound of the Coho passenger ferry sounding its horn in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. It invariably offered timely punctuation to our timeless conversations, ringing down the ages.

A Bird’s Eye View

An American living in Canada since the late 60’s, Mike’s own story was both universal and unique. His lifelong dream of being a pilot was never realized due to less than perfect eyesight, but clearly he could ‘see’ in other more profound ways. He arrived at his deep understanding of narrative through studying physics and chaos theory, offering him a quantum view of the world. In the 1970’s he the international director of Earth Day International and later he worked as an adviser to the Obama campaign during the Iowa caucus. During recent years, he developed a practical theory of narrative alignment (MPA-N theory) that we will likely be hearing more about in the months and years to come.

While Mike had a deep intuitive understanding of the emergent story being ushered in by the internet and social media, he himself was not a digital native. I’m still amazed that until his death, googling him drew a virtual blank. You can read more heartfelt memories of Mike here and here.

Mike’s favourite quote was from Ernest Hemingway: “The world breaks everyone and after, some are stronger in the broken places.” Although he is no longer with us, his ideas and inspiration are more relevant than ever. Mike posed a riddle that I will enjoy puzzling over for a very long time to come.

You are deeply missed, Mike but far, far from forgotten.