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...