Taking place February 7-8th, 2008, this year’s “Making your media matter” conference was quite a success. The Center for Social Media did a wonderful job organizing and executing this forum. I took some notes on the various sessions and have posted them below.
Games for social change seminar
- Suzanne Seggerman (Games for change)
- Most people are afraid of the printed word, novels, and films when they first come out, but over time accept them.
- Games are good at immersion in a new environment, as well as a chance to change a scenario safely.
- You have a different cognitive thinking when using video games versus reading.
- Games for change is a non-profit organization that assumes three things are important and attainable with video games:
ii. Social change
- Tries to shape the public outlook and increase the outlook for the positive.
- “Film was the dominant aspect of the 20th century, interactive media will be the dominant one of the 21st.
- Heidi Boisvert (ICED!)
- The game is out to teach users about the 1996 U.S. immigration policy. It’s a free role-playing game targeting high school and college students.
- The law itself has deported over 1.4 million people. It costs $95/day to detain someone. Human rights have been denied some of these detainees.
- The game allows you to play as an immigrant youth seeking asylum. It is a mix of civic questions and avoidance of immigration officers.
- Developed by over one hundred New York City youths from all over the boroughs.
- Emphasizes freewill of characters.
- Attempts to reframe the immigration debate from just illegal aliens.
- Launching February 18, 2008 on both PC/Mac platforms.
- Eric Brown (Impact Games)
- Created a for-profit company in order to launch Peacemaker, a game that addresses the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
- Emotional impact comes from connection to real life, not just spectacle. Games in include real footage.
- Their new online platform has constant updates (http://beta-ptn.impactgames.com)
- The “Play the news” option allows users to read and play other conflicts currently going on in the world. People can sign up by emailing email@example.com
- Ivan Marovic (A force more powerful)
- A single term strategy is a game, which it is a player versus the computer. As a protester you are trying to take down a government, non-violently.
- It teaches analytical skills and decisions without consequences that you would have in real life, like getting killed or thrown in prison.
- Ivan’s background is based in non-violence and had designed the game as a tool for others.
- Documentary films about political uprisings are framed with the filmmaker’s point of view, not the protester. And the film is always linear, with one solution.
- The game has 10 different scenarios, from fighting for women’s rights to a corrupt city or a government eroding the constitution. This allows the users to tweak each game and scenario according to the data they import.
- Dennis Palmieri (World without oil)
- More involved in television, but funded web based content. World without oil, was the first game they sponsored and hosted.
- World without oil ran for a finite time period in 2007. It corresponded to “real time,” a day equaled a day in this online reality.
- The programmers created a shell in which people using it created the content. These users made videos, blogs, and comics, which were hosted offsite.
- The users were sometimes so impacted by the game, that they changed their real lives, making themselves more environmentally friendly.
- http://www.filmocracy.com will allow users to mash-up content from “King corn”.
“Plight Entertainment”: Engaging audiences with difficult stories seminar
- Julia Bacha (Edited/co-wrote Control room)
- Directed Encounter point.
- Set from the point of view of civilians in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
- Was first released in film festivals, but as interest grew, was released for purchase then television networks.
- Giovanna Chesler (AU Professor)
- Focused in on women who have taken drugs to stop their periods.
- The image/video was shot on 16mm film and non-synch audio was used.
- Rejected from every film festival it was submitted to.
- Distributors “got it” and it is being released through Cinema Guild.
- Latest project is web-based. http://www.hpvboredom.com follows primarily college students and their stories about sexually transmitted diseases.
- Bristol Baughan (Good Magazine)
- Graduated from SIS in 2004.
- Works for Good magazine, which allows is involved in film and the web.
- Started last year as a film studio.
- Michael Apted directed their first film, a documentary about soccer, but it was not theatrically released.
- Marshall Curry, who directed Streetfight, is doing a follow-up about NASCAR from the point of view of kids.
- Which way is home is a documentary about immigrants who leave their kids in the U.S. hoping they will be able to stay on their own.
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes seminar
- Byron Hurt (Writer/director Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes)
- ITVS gave completion funds and the Ford Foundation covered him when he ran over budget.
- It took six years to shoot. While a fan of hip-hop, Byron is critical of the negative stereotypes that the music propagates (Misogyny, sexism, homophobia, etc.)
- His first film was rejected by PBS, I am a black man. But it helped create the template for Beyond beats and rhymes.
- Although there were documentaries about some of the issues his film focused in on, he tried to frame the issue of the manhood complex. Likewise, he tried to structure it so fans of hip-hop could enjoy it, without alienating non-fans.
- He has numerous screenings which he had the audience fill out surveys which he took very seriously. It actually altered how the film was edited.
- Although it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2006, but won no awards. However, the media really built up a buzz. ITVS used it as an outreach program.
- After it was broadcast, Firelight Media started to represent it and continued to be involved its community’s outreach.
- Sonya Childress (Firelight Media)
- Firelight Media was initially just a production house that used Beyond beats and rhymes as their first outreach project.
- The success of Beyond beats and rhymes was rooted in the fact Byron was such a fan of hip-hop while finding a great story.
- ITVS decided to air the program during their Independent Lens series. The problem was the ideal audience was not who do not typically watch PBS.
- Pre-broadcast was focused on service providers, teachers, organizations.
- Tried to empower organizations (Big brother, Boys and girls’ clubs, etc.) to utilize the film specific to each goal, created interactive content, advance screenings, and discussion guides.
- The Corporation for public broadcasting gave them funds for advertising and they premiered at 1.1 million. However, PBS continued to give supporting funds after the broadcast (Almost unheard of.).
- About a month after the broadcast, the Don Imus controversy happened where he blamed hip-hop for his comments.
- The biggest problem was the film never gave an answer/solution which frustrated some viewers.
- After the film aired, Byron has toured for the past two years so he is finally starting to step back so he can begin working on his next project.
- The majority of the places he is touring are historical black colleges and universities. The Ford Foundation helps subsidize his travel costs.
- Emulate what the norm is watching, but insert a subversive message.
Short shorts and hot platforms seminar
- Matisse Bustos-Hawkes (WITNESS Hub)
- Works with Witness, an organization that Peter Gabriel started 15 years ago which tries to get a video camera into different people hands to shoot their own stories.
- The hub (http://www.witness.org) is a website that allows users to upload content dealing with human rights.
- The creation of the site was a result of concern of the safety of filmmakers and those depicted in the content.
- They offer options (email, uploading, anonymous logins, etc.) for those without top equipment and those who live in places which are monitored. It allows you to also imbed other site’s videos.
- Leba Haber (Where My Ladies At?)
- Utilized http://youtube.com by creating her own video channel and embedding the videos in her own site (http://www.wheremyladiesat.com/). That way she did not have to host these videos. Cost-wise this is a very good idea.
- Melissa Roberts (Free Range Studios)
- Works closely with flash animation; example, Store wars.
- Current project, The story of stuff (http://www.thestoryofstuff.com) deals with where things come from, how they are made and where they go when they are thrown away.
- Site is very interactive, allows users to check all the facts, but is presented in a humorous way, appealing to all demographics.
- Leighton Woodhouse (Brave New Films)
- Brave New Films started as a feature documentary production house, but over time it has branched into online shorts, primarily hosted on their own channel at http://www.youtube.com.
- Three goals for every project:
i. Fix a target. No matter what the subject, have focus.
ii. Have a story.
iii. Ask people to take action at the end of the piece in a very specific clear way.