Sunday, September 05, 2010

Childhood According To Rich!

This is my legacy blog - a blog I've been maintaining for five years. For most of that time, it's been a random collection of thoughts and ideas, ranging from childhood stories to social media.

A few months ago, I created The World According to Rich, a blog dedicated to social media. Since then, I've been pondering this site, which had previoiusly been dominated in the preceding months with my thoughts on social media.

I've decided that this site will now be a primary center for my childhood stories. There's a section to the left on all of the stories I've posted in previous years; I'll add others as they come about, in addition to an vlogs and audio podcasts in this category.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Reality is an Illusion

I have mixed feelings about the recession. As a matter of fact, the worse things get, I'm simultaneously educating myself about the opportunities just developing through the skilled use of online communication and media exploitation. Yes, i mean social networking / social media. I not only believe that i can learn to use these tools to my advantage, I believe they're likely to be a critical factor in my career from here onward.

Yet, many people I know either remain suspicious of social networking as a useful tool in their work and personal lives, or look for method through which to shoehorn conventional networking and marketing methods into an environment that is entirely inappropriate.

Social networking and social media are, above all, methods through which to connect and engage - not a platform for conventional advertising. If you are using social networking professionally, the point isn't simply to get the word out about you, your service, or product - but to think of yourself as the star of a reality show. You are relating an ongoing saga that your targeted viewers/readers, etc. should be interested in following. Just like reality shows on television, however, your "reality" isn't the truth - it is in fact a crafted illusion.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I've looked at quite a few videos on social networking and social media techniques. Some are chock-full of useful information. I've learned a great deal from just observing what other people are doing. However, for too many of these video presentations proved less effective than they might have been for one important factor - they were poorly executed. Poor quality video - poor quality audio - poor quality graphics. You don't need to be media savvy to recognize sub-quality video.

I find it extraordinary that many social networking professionals fail to understand how important effective social media can be to reaching their goals and objectives. A poor quality video presentation reflects poorly on the presenter - and on the facts presented.

Many successful YouTubers have learned by watching others closely, emulating their favorite videos, and building upon their experience. As a video professional, I'm attracted to YouTube because of that very spirit - a spirit of innovation and creative freedom that is quite unique to this platform.

The rapid growth of social networking and social media technology has generated a sea of Social Media "professionals" that lack awareness of just what makes effective social media.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Real Face of Social Media

A few weeks ago, I had a great opportunity to meet some long-time vloggers who were gathering in Santa Monica before several of them took off on a week-long road trip north to San Francisco. I'd become familiar with several of them; I'd only met one of them before - we'd been high school friends, but our last contact was about twenty years ago, as far as we can remember. They came from across the United States and the UK.

In the journey learning and applying social media into my life and business, this experience was particularly inspiring (you can see my initial reaction at

I just watched one of the traveling vlogger's recollections. If you're interested in the human side of social networking, it's worth taking at look at this vlog by Andymooseman. Then, check out their group page, and learn more about the trip.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Rich's Social Media Meditation

My experience with Social Media has been picking up steam lately, and it's showing specific results (even as my blogging here paused for a short time). My vlog is evolving from an exercise to a real tool in various segments of my life.

Creatively, vlogging feels like a vast storytelling "sandbox" - I've been experimenting with various approaches my vlogging "technique," and interacting with viewers with a directness and immediacy that's unique to the online world. I've come to think of vlogging (and grassroots online entertainment in general) as a form in its infancy, much as early Hollywood or the early days of television. There is an excitement to the form that I've not only witnessed and experienced through online contact, but in meeting a number of the vloggers I've come to know over the past few months. If you haven't seen my commentary on meeting those vloggers, it's here.

It's beginning to pay off in other ways. I've found in a number of professional interactions, that clients and/or potential clients have been watching my work, and have found a value in getting to "know me" before actually getting to know me.

In what are really my earliest stages in this world, I'm finding real value in staking my online claim.

More to come!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Social Media, Socially

The other day, I was looking over a list of the dozens of "social media" related seminars, conventions and conferences that are being held across the country. Most the descriptions offer, in often breathless terms, to present to the attendee the information they need to succeed in growing their business with social media tools.

It's occured to me that online social media technology is moving so fast that any information presented at these conferences will be based on experiences gained in the recent (ancient) past. It's not any fault of the conferences - it's just the reality of the situation. Conferences of this sort seem to be archaic in a time when trends and experiences can be immediately shared online and in near-real-time.

Social media tools themselves present the real opportunity to learn from the pros. Following social media sites (like, as an example) and taking part or even just browsing discussion in specialized sites like Linkedin provide such an in-depth and interactive environment that I really would tend to doubt that most of these conferences are necessary. I think that those that are looking to understand "what it's all about" would be better served by rolling up their sleeves and diving in.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Us Versus Them

Security was tighter on Amtrak when I was heading back from San Diego recently. It was certainly more visible than the last trip – with K-9 sniffer dogs prowling along the San Diego station platform, and aboard the train as we were on our way. The extra security wasn’t intrusive, though – and perhaps the whole point was to provide a random presence to act as a deterrent.

In the nine years since 9/11, we’ve become used to increased security and increased surveillance where ever people tend to gather – it seems to have become another price we pay for the freedom we enjoy.

Yes, we still do have quite a great deal of freedom, including freedom of expression – probably to a great extent than anywhere else in the world – despite how some might portray our situation.

I tend to try not to see issues in the extreme – there’s a middle ground – an area of compromise – with any disagreement. I also believe that most are frustrated with the political extremes that define US politics. When major policy votes are reduced to strict party-line votes, I have to wonder sometimes if any of our representatives have the courage to vote their conscience.

The night the health-care bill was passed in Congress, a Republican yelled out “Baby Killer!” at a Democratic pro-lifer who didn’t agree precisely with his position. Really? “Baby Killer?” This individual is an elected representative to the US House of Representatives? Earlier in the week, some protesters were incensed enough to yell racial and sexual slurs at black and gay politicians. While I doubt they represent the great majority of protesters, the atmosphere that makes such behavior acceptable (or seem acceptable) is frightening. I have to wonder how far “us vs. them” will go.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Technology and Accessibility

A while back, I wrote about the social media advantages of Iphone/Smartphone games like “Words With Friends,” which allows users to play a Scrabble-like game with both friends and stranges, and provides a chat-like environment for interaction.
I wrote about the advantages of such a platform to bring together like-minded people of a particular ability level – sort of a unique social networking opportunity.

Well, I was called on it by a friend who brought up a critical question. These chat-like environments are by nature limitied in their opportunities for interaction to those who have specific skills and abilities. They leave out entirely a huge range of individuals, including those with dyslexia and similar challenges, like my friend. Online interaction, for all of its attraction and opportunity, can be exclusionary. Brilliant, talented indivudals may be entirely “out of the loop” in this Brave New World. It’s worth considering that we can’t look entirely at the online environment as the be-all and end-all for cultural, business or even retail interaction. The world is a lot bigger than the online world – even now.

I also believe that some of these concerns will be addressed as technology continues to develop. For instance, I’ve been astounded by the accuracy of my Dragon Dictation – and Iphone speech to text program that works surprisingly well. If you have an Iphone. The connected world in which we live offers so many exciting opportunities – but threatens an elitist information class – if we’re not careful, attentive, appreciative and proactive to create accessible technology.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts on the Apple Ipad

I like the Ipad. I admit it. I haven’t held one yet, and I’ll probably hold out for one with a webcam, but it’s a damn sexy product that I’d like to have in my hands. The size and screen resolution – and color display – of the Ipad offer a platform for reading that I think can, in many instances, provide an alternative to traditional media (i.e. books, magazines and newspapers). I know that that’s heresy to some, but I feel it could be a useful alternative. The idea that I can go anywhere with the Ipad – lay back on my sofa, read in bed, or in any number of casual situations – is precisely what people have been waiting for, “IMHO.”

I do have concerns. If I accept digital-only editions of daily newspapers – am I out of luck if my Ipad goes down? I suppose I could then use my laptop or desktop computer to access the publication – but I’d forgo the convenience the convenience of the Ipad. That’s an issue that print media would never encounter, of course.

Still, I like the idea. I would give up paper delivery for an electronic edition once I have an Ipad. I know many people bemoan the death of newspapers as we know them – but I really don’t think that print editions will dominate “newspaper” distribution in the future. The writing is really on the wall. I don’t think paper editions will disappear entirely – but most of us who wish to stay informed will do so electronically. And we’ll save a few million trees, too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Bollywood Steps" Update

Bollywood Steps,” my hour-long documentary about the relationship between a Bollywood choreographer and American-born Indian boys in Southern California- has been completed. I’m now working on the next stage in the process – getting the film out into the real world. That mean getting the film to potential distributors, entering numerous film festivals to develop recognition for the program (and attract distributors) – and using the film to generate other documentary opportunities.

In the USA, a land of immigrants, I believe the film offers a story of interest to anyone seeking to understand the meaning of diversity in our country. The film explores the efforts of Indian parents to preserve their heritage in their American-born (and very American) kids – that’s a challenge that many cultures face in America – and approach in many different ways. The parents I interviewed in this film emphasized that they didn’t want their children to be isolated from either culture- but they did want them to be aware of their cultural and moral traditions. I’m hoping to hear generate some interesting discussions through screenings and reviews over the coming year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


There’s a great deal of anxiety and debate about America’s competitiveness in the world. Concerns extend from the quality of education to loss of industrial capacity – on the face of it, evidence would seem to suggest that we’re falling behind in so many areas.

While many of these concerns may be valid, we are still the leader in one critical area – opportunity. I’ve spoken with quite a number of expriates from a number of countries around the world. The United States may be imperfect in many ways, but people still come here for something that can’t find anywhere else: the chance set the path for their own future – to achive what they want to achieve, to have the opportunity to attempt to be entrepreneurs. Not everyone will achieve their dreams – we’re all imperfect human beings, after all – but we still offer unrivaled opportunity.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Great Vlogging Experiment

I recently took on the challenge of vlogging and blogging the International Family Film Festival. I’ve been experimenting with Vlogging of late, and I’m eager to explore it in all sort of variations. Within a few weeks of beginning my vlogging channel on YouTube ( to rich – please subscribe!), I bought a little camera called a Flip Ultra HD – a pretty nifty little point-and-shoot video camera that will make it possible to freely vlog wherever and however I want (as opposed to pulling out my professional equipment)

Armed with the cam, a monopod (tripod with one leg) to allow for steadier shots, a Twitter account for the film festival, and voice-to-text software on my Iphone to allow for easy blog updating, I ventured forth to the IFFF to social network it to the extreme.

Or so I thought!

First, my Flip died on the second day of the festival. I’m not sure why – buttons other than the basic power stopped responding – so I was forced to pull out my DV cam to continue documenting the experience. Pulling out that camera, I found, triggered by documentary instincts, so I really ended up recording the experience, rather than vlogging it as a personal experience. (incidentally, both Flip and Amazon came through for me once I had a chance to call customer service, and a replacement cam was in the mail even before I’d sent the other camera back).

Second, I realize now that social networking to this extent can be intense – particularly since I had intended on crossing over several platforms – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to attend to the festival, vlog, blog and sleep!

On the positive side, the limited vlogging I did do proved to be useful – it provided recognition for me at the festival that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Since I began vlogging a little over a month ago, I have found that it’s developed personal relationships with colleagues – people I really haven’t had a chance to work or socialize with are getting to know me on a personal level. I’m fascinated with the prospect of exploring the possibilities of this new tool in my arsenal…..

Friday, March 12, 2010


After my last entry considering the value of random “fan pages” on Facebook, I realized that I have quite an interesting time using another form of “random” social networking. I often play a game called “Words With Friends,” a Scrabble-like game played across the cell phone network on the Iphone and other similar smartphones. Games can be played with particular individuals, or with random individuals, and extend over days, depending upon each player’s availability.

The game includes a chat function to allow for direct communication beyond simply playing the same. For months, I’ve been playing a succession of games with a rapper in Texas – we’ve exchanged websites – who knows, maybe we’ll work together someday! I’ve played other random games with many others, most recently discussing weather with a snowbound player somewhere in Pittburgh.

In the case of this game, perhaps the nature of “Words With Friends” community infers a more educated set of players – a more compatible community.

I continue to wonder: are we becoming a community-addicted culture?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


It’s interesting how many Facebook users feel compelled to join “fan pages” for the most mundane aspects of their lives, from the food they eat, to any number of household products, moods, myths and random opinions. I have to wonder, however, the real value of joining a community of others who share your interest in a brand of potato chips. I would imagine the conversations in that virtual room would be somewhat limited!

Monday, March 08, 2010


During the upcoming International Family Film Festival, which was founded by the same team that created Freshi Films, I’ll be vlogging and blogging the entire experience. It’s really somewhat of a laboratory for me, as I’m beginning to use the social networking tools at my disposal.

As I research and apply these tools, I’m coming to the conclusion that “social networking” is radically different from person to person, depending upon individual needs and talents. It’s more a question of understanding the tools and developing a strategy, as opposed to searching for “how-to” guidelines. Even my plans for the festival are evolving before it’s even begun, as I contemplate how each of the tools I’m using – vlogging, blogging, Twitter, and Flickr – work together to create an overall experience. I look forward to the journey.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Using the Tools

Bookstores now have entire sections dedicated to "social media." It's become the single hottest buzzword in business, by far. Everyone's jumping on the bandwagon - but I believe that the real long-term impact of this multi-tiered marketing and communications landscape has yet to be applied or felt by the vast majority of the public. "Social Media" is really a set of tools. Like any set of tools, how they are used depends upon the user.

The more I learn to use the tools, the greater impact it is having on all aspects of my business and creative life - the access to markets, potential collaborators, and even potential subjects for my next documentary is virtually unlimited. It's a rich, largely untapped resource...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Preparing to BlogVlogIt!

I'm preparing to cover the International Family Film Festival with every tool of the trade I can think of. So far, this will include these approaches:

1) I'll be blogging at the actual event, using my Iphone. Instead of typing text into the phone, I'll use the "Dragon Dictation" app, which will take my speech and convert it into text (with amazing accuracy). I'll likely write out some notes long-hand, but it will be much father than having to type directly into the phone's little keyboard.

2) I'll be taking photos with my Iphone, and uploading them directly to the IFFF blog (which I manage). Or, I might upload photos to a Flickr account connected to the blog.

3) I'll vlog as well, creating short reports that will be uploaded later in the day, both to the IFFF blog, and my YouTube vlogging channel (see this blog's sidebar - if you're reading this on Facebook, click on the title of this note to get to the blog itself).

4) On occassion, I'll upload short reports directly from my Iphone using a video app - though, so far, the video frame rate for most of these apps is so low, I'm not certain how often I'll use it.

5) There's also an app that would allow me to broadcast live directly from my Iphone, but I'm not certain if we'll have enough of an audience at those moments to make that worthwhile. It's under consideration.

6) I may also Twitter the festival, depending upon audience interest.

This should all keep me pretty busy! More info to follow!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Platforms Unlimited

“Social Networking,” the term that purports to explain the growing ways we interact (and which I suspect will soon be archaic), almost seems quaint in its wording. Almost everything we do seems to incorporate opportunities to connect with strangers in ever more expanding ways – from the avatars of World of Warcraft and Second Life, to iphone Apps like Words With Friends, which allows users to play a Scrabble-like game against friends or strangers – and allows for text chat that often extends beyond trash-talking and where-are-you-from. I have an ongoing series of games with a Houston-based rap artist – we’ve traded websites and created a basic connection that – who knows – could prove useful in our work someday.

Words With Friends allows only choosing games with friends or random opponents – you can’t choose individuals on the basis of shared interests – I’ve had young opponents terminate games simply on the basis of learning my age – but on balance, it’s interesting to learn basic facts about where and who you’re playing with.

The online community isn’t truly a community in the traditional sense – but I believe that we’ll rapidly moving toward a technological age when our virtual town square might be 3000 miles wide.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vlogging Attempts!

As I attempt to create an onoing vlog (I hope to get into the habit of creating a new vlog as often as possible), I’ve had some challenges in developing a delivery that feels both natural and entertaining. I enjoy storytelling, but my experience in my vlog varies depending upon the complexity of the story and my overall stress level going into the vlog (which generally run from 2-5 minutes). Recently I spent perhaps an hour trying to record a vlog that recalled a childhood story. After seeing the results of my efforts, I felt it seemed awkward and unnatural – so I elected not to post on the site.

The key, I think, to making a go of this effort is to find an approach that seems “natural” and might also be entertaining to my viewers. The story I chose to tell was a fun story of mistaken identity (which I’m sure I’ll relate here eventually), but also required that I relate a tale of confrontation and anger. Fun in the telling – but it didn’t seem fun in the acting. I’ll try it again – that’s what this all about – but perhaps I’ll start with a simpler story and revisit this story as I gain my footing in my verbal storytelling skills.

Vloggers on YouTube employ a diverse collection of styles – from comedy skits, collaborations with other YouTubers, serious, emotional outpouring – the list is as vast as the number of blog subjects. The key for me is to learn as much as possible from other vloggers without trying to emulate them, subconsciously or otherwise. It's a intriguing challenge.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Why a Vlog?

There are several reasons I decided to launch a vlog. First, I’m curious about the YouTube social network, which consists of individuals across a wide range of ages and locations. There’s a trend toward collaboration across this former barriers with fascinate me (and with which I’m hoping to be involved, eventually), and I simply think it could be good for business, if I do it right. I love the idea of playing in this new sandbox and seeing what I can do – and what I can contribute to that world. I’m also looking for ways to combine my vlogging efforts with my other activities – including finding ways of tying those activities together with this vlog, and perhaps other interactive, creative efforts. It’s a challenge, of course, to keep all of these networking activities going and still remain productive (which seems ironic) – but I suspect, with persistence, the very nature of what I do for a living will change and evolve into something entirely new and – if I can use the word – unique.

We’re in entirely new territory – and I sincerely believe that the opportunies for individual entrepreneurs are broader and more exciting than ever before.

Friday, February 05, 2010

What do you DO with Social Networking, Anyway?

I’ve recently increased my interactivity with social networking. Though I’ve been using the traditional sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. – I haven’t really approached the landscape with an overall strategy reflecting my business and creative interests. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I listened to the audiobook version of “Crush it,” which is, generally speaking, about strategizing social networking to achieve professional objectives. There are many well-written business books out there, but I’m generally unfazed about how they fit into my overall objectives. This book, however, seemed to really provide a useful overview of how to use the environment that’s really become the DNA of our society. It’s not a step-by-step guide – everyone’s situation is different – but it’s a look at the philosophy of the developing social landscape.

I’ll be discussing in some detail how I’m applying this philosophy. Like everyone else, I’m learning as I go along. Technology and communication is changing so fast that I realize that I need to interact much more effectively.

One of my major new ventures in social networking is to begin vlogging – a video blog– and thus become part of the YouTube social environment. I’m still developing a style – I’ve only been doing this for a week – but this effort appeals to me as an opportunity to develop my interests as a documentary filmmaker. In fact, calling oneself a “filmmaker” is already archaic – film is rarely employed, and the very definition of “documentary” is developing beyond the linear structure of a set video presentation. The future documentary may very well be more an experience extending across platforms and interactive opportunities.

If you haven’t seen my vlog yet, take a look and tell me what you think! There’s so much to this process, and this world is so large, this seems like an exciting expedition that may never end!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


One of the greatest documentary films - or, rather, series of documentary films - is the "7 up" collection. Director Michael Apted has, since the 1960's, revisited the same group of British children every seven years, from the age of seven onward. Each visit results in new documentary - the subjects will be in their 50's in the next film. They came from across the ethnic and economic (class) strata, and were meant to represent a cross section of British society.

The film was based on the Jesuit saying that goes something like: "Give me a child until the ago of seven, and I will give you the man." Through the years, we've had the opportunity to see these individuals search for identity and develop as human beings. We've seen them evolve and change, stumble and recover - and, in many cases, achieve successful lives despite themselves. As time goes on, we've also seen that they are, indeed, who they were at seven. One individual that comes to mind once seemed to have departed from the bright-eyed little boy he was to a tragic homeless figure as an adult. His life seemed destined for failure. Seven years later, however, he'd become a part of the community - even a local political leader. He suddenly seemed to fit with his long-ago self.

In England, the 7-Up films have been so popular that some of the participants have pulled out of the documentary, tired of being endlessly scrutinized not only by the filmmaker, but by the glare of publicity. In this case, it's hard to measure the impact the documentary has had on its participants. Depending on the person and situation, it's very concept may open doors for some of the subjects, and close it for others. I have to wonder if the world attention, even every seven years, has impacted the decisions and relations these people have had throughout their lives.

Regardless, the film is a real tribute to the human sprit - it puts on display the roller coaster we all ride throughout our lives - the ups and downs that make us who we are. Like a roller coaster, it can sometimes be a wild ride, but we're okay if we stay on track!

Monday, February 01, 2010


As Director of Production for Freshi Films, I've had the opportunity over the last several months to work with Raleigh Studios, a worldwide corporation that runs several motion picture / television facilities around the world. I'm creating a series of promotional videos highlighting their services - and have spent quite a bit of time at three of their properties in Hollywood, Manhattan Beach and Playa Vista.

The Hollywood facility is the oldest continuously operating studio in Los Angeles, and dates back to 1915, when it began operations with the production of a Mary Pickford film. . At one point, it was the base for Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and many others. Visiting that facility, curiously enough, brought back a lot of memories for me, though I'd never been there. As the son of a 20th Century-Fox executive, I was fortunate to have spent a great deal of time at a boy at that legendary studio. The Fox studio of that period was a utilitarian place - it was strictly a working studio and, outside of building facades and related areas, mostly lacked today's landscaping, elegantly paved walkways, and the other trappings of a modern industrial park. When I recently visited the Fox lot, which now serves as the headquarters of an infinitely larger multi-national corporation, I saw very little that was familiar. It wasn't bad - Fox and other studios have incredible facilities - but it somehow lacked a bit of the magic of the old movie factory.

Raleigh Hollywood, though state of the art, still retains much of the atmosphere of the independent studio (which Fox really was back then, by today's standards). It's a working studio that still shows its history almost everywhere you walk. Freshi's sister organization, the International Family Film Festival, holds a film festival on the lot every year; we screen on the lot in landmark theaters that have hosted the screen's great legends. It's no accident that the three theaters are now called the Pickford, the Chaplin and the Fairbanks. You can imagine Charlie Chaplin just around the next corner...

Friday, January 29, 2010


If I could travel back in time to shoot a documentary, I don't think I would focus necessarily on the great historical events in history. I'm fascinated with the question of what everyday life - intimate family life - was like in ancient times. What did the family talk about around the equivalent of our kitchen table? The world over the last several hundred years has accelerated fast and faster, to the point that today our lives are fundamentally changed from just a decade ago.

I wonder about day-to-day Rome or ancient Egypt. Some documentation exists, but most tell about the life of the nobility. I wonder what life was like in advanced civilizations in which there were no great changes in status, style and technology for centuries at a time. It's impossible to imagine such a world from our modern perspective. On the other hand, I suspect that basic human nature hasn't changed - the family dynamic almost certainly existed in recognizable form five and ten thousand years ago.

That's really the underlying beauty of creating documentaries that explore some aspect of the human condition - there's common ground to be found with almost anyone - the fun is finding where the common ground lies.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


My nephew Greg posted a status update on Facebook recently that was a quote from author Alvin Toffler (Future Shock). It was too good to let it simply disappear into Facebook limbo, so I wanted to pass it on to all of you!

If you don't have a strategy, then you'll just be part of someone else's strategy.

Ujjual Nath, a friend and supporter of Freshi Films, added:

"My version: All decisions seem reasonable when you lack a strategy."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I work for Freshi Films as Director of Production. On occasion, I also teach filmmaking. In 2006, I had the opportunity to travel to India with Freshi to lead a week-long filmmaking workshop with Indian teens. Including a bit of site-seeing (yes, we visited the Taj Mahal), we spent ten days in India.

While "Bollywood Steps" didn't evolve directly from that experience (the main subject is married to a colleague), it was definitely inspired by the intensity of our journey. India is an ancient culture, and it seems that thousands of years of tradition are constantly on display. While hundreds of years of foreign domination (India regained its status as an independent state in 1948) still impacts that country in massive infrastructure and bureaucratic challenges, the country is moving in an exciting direction.

The kids I had the privilege to work with in our workshop were the greatest possible introduction to India. Their spirit of adventure motivated our entire team. To this day, some are my friends on Facebook. Though the kids I profile in "Bollywood Steps" were born in America, I see some of that same sprit. I'll leave it to the audience to interpret what is Indian - and what is common ground between our two societies.

Monday, January 25, 2010


With computers, smart phones, and everything in between becoming ever more ubiquitous, more and more Americans have constant access to more information, more forms of (usually sedentary) recreation, and, undeniably, more constant communication with friends and family than ever before. We won't understand the long-term benefits or consequences of our ongoing transformation for another generation, perhaps - but I believe that most people would agree that we live a world (or at least a nation) fundamentally different than the world we inhabited just ten years ago.

Even more recently, these devices have evolved rapidly as creative tools. While computers have provided new opportunities for creative expression since the dawn of home computers, today's technology allows for increased collaboration and mobility. Most smart phones include video recording capabilities - and, increasingly, editing tools. Iphone apps include tools for creating imagery and music - It's possible to shoot, edit and post online a podcast or YouTube video without touching a laptop or desktop computer.

Combine the ability to create with an improving platform for connecting and collaborating, and the next several years seem to promise an entirely new opportunity for artists around the world to work intimately with their compatriots. It already happening - search "collab" or "collaboration" on YouTube, and you'll discover many small groups of users - tens of thousands of miles apart and of all ages - working together on a variety of innovative projects. From these early experiments will almost certainly emerge entirely new opportunities for creative, micro-economic (i.e. individuals doing business together) and personal interaction.

Friday, January 22, 2010


While my documentary, "Bollywood Steps" isn't an emotionally sensitive film as a film like "Streetwise" might have been, I've still pondered my impact on my subjects through the production of the film.

For my young subjects, the very fact that I was creating a documentary about them will have an impact. Though I was careful not to give the boys any impression that they were in any way "larger than life," there is naturally a tendency to feel "special" to be chosen as subjects of such a project. The best I can do is minimize my profile and impact on the individuals I'm profiling.

For "Bollywood Steps," that means a small crew (my crew generally was limited to myself and one other person), a low-profile camera, and little else - aside from the formal interviews in the documentary, I generally depended upon natural and existing light. It's also my responsibility as a documentarian to make certain that I don't impose myself on the situation. In my opinion, I have no right to insist on my subjects - or anyone in the environment - to behave unnaturally or even unusually accommodate my presence. In reality, most people will be willing to give the filmmaker what he or she wants and accordingly. As often as I can, I try not to telegraph my intentions.

It's impossible to measure the impact my camera brought to the situation at hand. I do know that everyone concerned became more at ease as I continued to shoot the documentary over the eight months or so that I spent. Time will tell as I bring the film out to a growing audience.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The 1984 documentary "Streetwise" followed a group of teen runaways on the streets of Seattle. Nominated for an Oscar and recipient of many other awards, the film, like "An American Family" is nearly forgotten today, and unavailable on DVD.

"Streetwise" made an impression on me for two reason. First, of course, this was a documentary that offered an unusually intimate look into the lives of street kids. Filmmaker Martin Bell and his team had earned the trust of their subjects to an extraordinary degree, and were able to present a unique perspective on a generally mis-represented population.

At the same time, the film disturbed me for purely ethical reasons. I couldn't help but wonder if the teens in this film were amping up their behavior for the camera, motivated to more and more outrageous conduct. I wondered what they were like when the cameras were gone. Some have called this film "staged," but I feel that, perhaps, the subjects of the film picked up on the interests of the filmmaker, and, in effect, gave him what he wanted.

It's a constant concern for documentarians attempting to honestly portray the world around them - to what extent do they impact their surroundings, and how can they minimize their influence?

While "Bollywood Steps" was a different sort of film altogether, these questions did figure into the production. I'll discuss my experiences in my next post.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I believe that one of my early inspirations in documentary filmmaking was a PBS program, "An American Family," which followed the large Loud family of Santa Barbara for six months in 1971. 300 hours of film was cut into a 12 one hour episodes that captured the national imagination. Not only was this the first intimate "behind closed doors" portrait of an American family, it also recorded the collapse of that family. By the last episode of the series, the parents were divorced and the teen and young adult children were struggling with the monumental changes hanging over their lives. During the course of the series, one child revealed he was gay, and thus became the first openly gay character on American television.

Today, when "reality shows" are rampant, this all may seem quaint in comparison. The "John and Kate," "Big Brother" and "Survivor" freak shows purport to portray real people. After all, we're told, they're not actors. Remember MTV's "Real Life," which placed a series of young adults in special equipped homes and geographic environments? These shows don't represent reality. All participants are cast, just like actors, to provide for the best conflict, and the most outrageous results. In shows lke "John and Kate," families are chosen for their oddness - either in numbers of children, physical issues, or over-the-top personalities. The Balloon Boy incident, created by a family desperate for "reality show" attention, shows just how bizarre the "reality" world has become.

"An American Family," however, was different. While I'm certain the Loud family was chosen for the promise of conflict and (at the time) relative similarity to the PBS viewing audience, the entire 12 week series was shot by the time the program aired. This was, it seemed, an typical (though upscale) nuclear family: Mom, dad and the kids. The audience could identify with them - and so feel a more intimate connection when the family collapsed.

I'd like to say this was reality - but in truth, it's quite possible that the upheaval in this family was, just like today, impacted by the presence of the documentary crew. In those days, compact video equipment didn't exist. The Loud family's home was wired with heavy lights, audio equipment, heavy film cameras and full crews that no doubt added to the stress in a family already on the edge. In "Big Brother," cameras are tucked away with the hope that the participants will lower their guard and forget they're being observed. I believe that such an approach with a American family today would be as intriguing, engaging and ground-breaking as "An American Family" was in its day. Given the right family, and careful production that's as unobtrusive as technically possible, I believe that such an approach with an American family today would be as intriguing, engaging and ground-breaking as "An American Family" was in its day.

"Reality" doesn't have to be a freak show.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Perhaps I'm going out on a limb here, but:

1 - The World will not end in 2012
2 - A Shadow Government is not poised to take control and throw dissidents into secret federal detention camps.
3 - We are not about to be thrust into a Marxist - Leninist Dictatorship.
4 - An earthquake will not dump California into the ocean.
5 - Nostradamus the Bible and the pyramids are all open to interpretation, and yours is not necessarily the right one.
6 - The Masons don't control the world, nor does the Queen of England, Jews, Arabs, Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission, or Lizard-like aliens.

Prove me wrong.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


One would think that the enormous and growing volumes of information available at our fingertips would make for a more informed, compassionate and fair-minded society. While this might be partly true, I also see an increasing willingness of the public to accept some information without question. Comments on any video on YouTube display a peculiar sense of paranoia - almost anyone and anything can be interpreted as a reason to hate for all of the usual suspects: race, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, or even class warfare.

On Facebook, I've been invited to a wide range of independent Facebook Groups that purport to represent resistance to nefarious plots by Facebook management to attack Facebook membership in any number of ways, from charging for access to the site, to promoting one political position over another. These are usually founded on groundless statements that begin with something like "Facebook management is planning [insert horrible action here]," followed with a great, noble call for resistance.

Like people, corporations are certainly not saints, and very often represent or support particular social and political positions. However, the suggestion that an evil "Facebook Management" would create anything that would create major roadblocks in the continued development of the company is groundless.

Charge for Facebook? Really? Creating a paid service would drive nearly everyone away, and cause a collapse that would ensure that Facebook will never make money - or even survive (AOL was once a paying service - remember them?). Premium services within Facebook are slowly developing (for example, games that one can play for free, but pay for additional in-game content or advantages) - but converting Facebook to a paid service would be corporate suicide. And even without knowing Facebook Management, I'm confident they're not bottom-feeding idiots (yes, even if some people believe changes to the interface prove ill-conceived).

Finally, the assumption that Facebook would take any position that would run counter to widespread political and social opinion is naive at best. In an increasingly reactive society, for Facebook (or any corporation seeking a wide apolitical audience, for that matter) to take high-profile positions that would offend a wide selection of users and trigger a vocal backlash from the public, government representatives, and media is inconceivable.

Look for the evidence. Please.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Recently, Microsoft announced that the "Natal" add-on for XBOX 360, along with the Milo game I've previously discussed here, will hit the stores for the holiday season late this year. For the uninitiated, "Natal" will be an add-on for the game system that will not only allow for various games to be played without the use of a controller, but will also allow for more natural interaction with certain games, incorporating speech and pattern recognition.

I think that this technology is proceeding somewhat stealthily, considering the impact it will have on mass entertainment. Gaming is one thing - this will be an entirely new genre, with a far wider appeal (and that's considering that gaming already has a huge appeal).

Saturday, January 09, 2010


During the last couple of years, a great part of my free time was taken up in with shooting and editing "Bollywood Steps." Now that the documentary is complete, I'll be working on getting it out into the wider world. In the case of this particular film, I have multiple goals. The most important:

First, I'll be entering the documentary in a number of film festivals, to develop a wider awareness of the project.

Second, I'll be seeking a suitable distributor to bring "Bollywood Steps" to television audiences around the world. Generally, these sorts of projects are sold to individual markets by skilled distributors. It's not impossible to "do it yourself," but I'm not interested in re-inventing the wheel!

Third, I'll be seeking direct sales avenues - there's a wide range of new opportunities for this, which could include online venues (i.e. and features that didn't exist just couple of years ago, including digital downloads. Not every independent documentary is suitable for this sort of distribution, but this particular film, I believe, has a unique appeal to certain audiences.

As I work on all of these goals, it's critical, at the same time, to develop the Next Thing. What's the Next Thing? Oh, you won't get it out of me that easily!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Mystery of Google Wave

At the end of November, I had the opportunity to join the Beta testing of Google Wave, the new online collaboration utility. It combines features of email, chat, and other functions in a whole new approach. Google describes it this way:

Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

Unfortunately this is one innovation that seems, as yet, to be a mystery to almost anyone who has had the opportunity to try it - including myself. It seems to do a little of everything, but not much of anything.

It might possibly serve to create a creative environment in a virtual office, assuming that employees are online at the same time, so that the give-and-take of a actual office might best be simulated.

Has anybody found an effective use as yet for Google Wave? I'd really like to hear about it!

By the way, if you would like to explore it yourself, I have one more beta membership I can give out - first come, first served.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Thoughts on "Bollywood Steps" - Fusion / Confusion

My documentary, "Bollywood" explores the attempt by an expatriate Indian choreographer/dancer to both train American-born Indian kids in Bollywood-style dance, and encourage a sense of identity with their Indian heritage. In the group on which the documentary focuses, all the boys are first generation Americans. Like millions of first-generation children before them, they live a dual identity, with their family life still strongly reflecting their heritage, culture and religion, and the outside American socieity, which, despite what many people might think, has a culture, mood and attitude of it's own, which in turn is built from those hundreds of unique cultures brought here from other lands.

For first generation American kids of any culture, the result could initially lead to a confusion of identity. In time, though, I believe they're discovering a new fusion - a new definition of being an American in the 21st century. The kids in "Bollywood Steps," I think, are creating an entirely new interpretation, unique to their generation, of what it means to be Indian-American.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Unexpected VERY COOL TV-Series-To-Movie Adaptation: "UFO"

Many of you may not be familiar with "UFO," a cool, early 1970's Gerry Anderson tv series about a secret human defense force (in the far-off year of 1980!) protecting the earth from aliens bent on harvesting human body parts. It was a cool, if short-lived series with a chilling premise and a sleak futuristic design. It's largely forgotten today, but I suspect it won't be for long. Read more about the project here.

Director Producer Matt Gratzner, who is developing this adaptation as a movie trilogy to be completed over the next decade, is a great guy - when I was teaching a filmmaking workshop at Pacific Lodge Boys' Home ( a residential group home for teens transitioning from juvenile hall back into society), Matt took the kids in my workshop on a tour of New Deal Studios, his special effects facility in West Los Angeles. Since I began working with Freshi Films, he did the same thing for an educational video we distribute to schools nationwide, enabling kids anywhere to gain a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process.

Here's the opening of the original "UFO"series - look beyond the dated special effects and just imagine what the movies could be.....

Friday, January 01, 2010

My Favorite New Technology Developments

  1. Natal Milo - Those of you who have read my blog, or follow gaming technology, won't be surprised at this selection. Natal is a new add-on for XBox that will allow the system to respond to the user with such sophistication that controllers won't be needed in most cases, and natural verbal interaction with on-screen characters will create an unprecedented illusion. If this comes through as demonstrated, the result my very well be an entirely new form of entertainment beyond traditional gaming.
  2. As a filmmaker, smartphone tools like the Artemis Digital Directors Viewfinder and, from the same company, the Helios Sun Calculator (which determines the position of the sun at any given time of day) are very cool Iphone apps that have a real practical use for the film/video professional. The whole "apps" thing, whether it's Iphone related or not, is really a whole new world (and a whole new business). The computer / high-tech industry continues to develop in directions we couldn't have anticipated just a few years ago. The tablet computer - which is midway between a digital book reader (like the Kindle) and a laptop computer, is said to be the Next Big Thing on the horizon - I'll be curious how that product will fit into the rapidly expanding landscape of -dare I say it- gadgets. I don't mean that in a negative way, either - we live and die in the gadget universe. We've come to live in a James Bond movie, with technology beyond anything "Q" could have imagined.