Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vlogger Interview: Bill Elder [BillTVMacon]

Today's Vlogger Interview features Bill Elder, known on YouTube as BillTVMacon.  He's based in Macon, Georgia, and has had a long career in broadcast radio - including thirty years as a DJ.  That experience definitely shows.  His vlog is funny, well edited, and responsive to his subscribers the vlogging community around the world.    He has an amazing ability to create content that has an appeal across all age groups on YouTube.  AND, if that isn't enough, he's a nice guy.

Though the Vlogger Interview is usually ten minutes long, I sometimes have great conversations that go on quite a bit longer.  I'm considering an audio podcast that would, among other things, include in-depth interviews with a number of vloggers that's you've met here.  What do you think?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Curt Phillips [OhCurt]

Today's Vlogger Interview features Curt Phillips - OhCurt on YouTube - he's a vlogger with a cinematic sense, and a vlogging veteran with over five years behind him.   In this interview, learn how Curt actually began developing his vlogging style in the 1980's - and the single greatest reason he keeps it up to this day.

If you haven't seen it yet, here's the powerful video by young Jacob Mowry, to whom Curt refers to in this video. This video, though posted months ago, went viral just a couple of weeks ago.  Here's Curt's own response.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are We Expecting Too Much? Motion Capture and the “The Adventures of TinTin”

I recently had the opportunity to see The Adventures ofTinTin, the Steven Spielberg  3D motion capture film based on Hergé’s iconic European comic books of the mid-20th Century (here's the main TinTin Site).   The film is visually spectacular - a real showcase for state-of-art-graphics technology.   Whereas Hugo combines live actors and CGI technology, TinTin is entirely a computer graphics creation.

Used Under Fair Use
Simply put, The Adventures of TinTin is the story of a boy/young man detective (his age is unspecified) and his trusty canine sidekick, Snowy on an international  adventure in search of a lost pirate's treasure.  It's a comic book come to life as never before - on sea, in the air - and on land - including some truly wild stunts that would have been almost unthinkable in a conventional film. 

Working with Peter Jacksons WETA Digital, which provided animation and special effects, Spielberg doesn't attempt to create photorealistic human actors.  The motion picture version of the TinTin character is a representation of the comic book version (early in the film, a street artist creates a caricature of the reimagined TinTin that brings the two interpretations together).  Like most cartoons, foreheads might be large, noses might be big - proportions aren't quite "right."  This isnt a cartoon, though.  This occupies a special territory somewhere between real and imagined. 

As I watched TinTin, I found myself wondering how much more of an experience this film would have been with live actors.   Though the motion capture technology used here really allows for an effective "performance," I felt a curious emotional detachment from the characters and experiences on screen.

Is such a comparison fair?  After all, TinTin is clearly a comic book character.  This is "The Adventures of TinTin," not the coming of age of TinTin.  As an adventure, it's succeeds probably beyond any previous comic book adaption.  Even in this success, though, there's a unsettling awareness that something's missing.

The advancing nature of the technology, in my opinion, is creating a subtle expectation of humanity.  With the creation of characters like TinTin, with his full range of emotions and human-like movement, we're beginning to instinctually expect these creatures to be more human, with all of the imperfections and inconsistencies that entails.   Though TinTin's performance is motion captured (from actor Jamie Bell), even the most sensitive motion capture can't recreate the distinctive human texture that makes a live performance wholly unique.  As biological creatures, humans are never perfect.  Even so-called beautiful people simply inhabit imperfections that happen to be considered attractive.  Humans are not symetrical.  We arent believeable, were simply the real thing.  TinTin is engaging, but he cant quite generate empathy, even in him most harrowing moments.

I highly recommend seeing both The Adventures of TinTin and Martin Scorceses Hugo back-to-back to gain a real perspectives on both the wonder and (current) limitations of CGI and motion capture technology.  Both are cinematic masterpieces and enjoy the most effective 3D yet.   Compare the performance of Asa Butterfield as Hugo and the motion-capture interpretation of Jamie Bell's performance as TinTin.

Let me know what you think. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Gabe Gerrard [TheresGabe]

In this latest episode of The Vlogger Interviews, I speak via Skype with Gabe Gerrard of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Gabe, along with his wife and son, create content across several channels, including TheresGabe . Gabe loves the camera, and even though he now works in an industry about as far from the entertainment world as you can get, you'll learn about his role in a certain classic kid's movie.   Perhaps that was just his warm-up for his vlogging career....

Enjoy the Vlog!  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Margaret Fabrizio [ATree3]

Here's a very special Vlogger Interview with Margaret Fabrizio, ATree3 on YouTube.  Margaret is a livelong creative artist.  As her website notes, she began her study of piano six weeks before her third birthday.  She's been a pianist, harpsichordist - and for 25 years was on the faculty of Stanford University.   She's a writer, visual artist, filmmaker - and an active and prolific Vlogger.

Margaret's creative and dynamic use of the vlogging canvas sets the bar high for all of us. In fact, she might very well represent the elusive soul of Vlogging...

Enjoy the interview!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I Think Vloggers Should See "Hugo"


Martin Scorsese's new film, Hugo is a rare film that combines rich effects and an intimate story in an experience that is both emotional and visually stunning.  It's also a tribute to the earliest days of motion pictures.

Based on Brian Selznick's New York Times best-seller, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," Hugo is the adventure of a clever and resourceful boy living on his own in the hidden upper reaches of a magnificent Paris railway station nearly one hundred years ago. Left to maintain the fanciful clockworks in the station after his uncle disappears, Hugo embarks on a search to solve a mystery left by his father, and in the process also discovers an entirely new life.

An important aspect of the film is Hugo's connection to real-life filmmaking pioneer George Méliès, whose one minute film A Trip to the Moon, created in 1902, is considered cinema's first blockbuster. A former magician, he produced over five hundred films in his short career, and is considered the father of special effects:  the first double exposure, the split screen, and the dissolve are just a few of his innovations.  He was also the first to use storyboards in the preparation of his films.  He was also a pioneer in meteoric rise and fall of a film career - he was bankrupt and largely forgotten by 1910.   As in Hugo's fictional tale Melies was eventually rediscovered and enjoyed in his later years the adulation he deserved.

The boy Hugo is a fan of the movies, so we're treated to both original and recreated clips from many of Méliès  films, and even meticulously recreated behind the scenes footage.  We'll see some of the classic faces of early cinema, including Harold Lloyd (whose stunt hanging from a huge clock face is recreated as Hugo is suspended outside an impossibly tall clock tower).

Apart from such direct visual connections,  Hugo itself is a tribute to the artistry of motion pictures.  Presented in 3D, and featuring a seamless marriage of live action and digital imagery, we experience somewhat of the  sense of wonder early moviegoers must have felt.

I tend to draw a direct parallel between early filmmakers like Méliès, who fearlessly produced hundreds of short films in a quest to develop their new craft, and serious online content creators, who are essentially doing the same thing in thousands of far flung locations.  I don't believe many vloggers and webseries creators are aware of the history of early cinema, so I would hope that many see Scorsese's film, and draw the parallel themselves. 

Méliès wasn't simply a entrepreneur out to make money - he loved exploring his craft and seeking out new ways of bringing the wonder of motion pictures to his audience. 

That spirit of creativity and risk-taking eventually drove motion pictures to become a major force in creative expression; there are still lessons to be learned from the pioneers of early cinema. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Matt Dean [HelloItsMasterHulk]

This Vlogger Interview features 19 year-old Matt Dean of Essex, UK, whose channel, HelloItsMasterHulk has gone through a number of transformations since it began in 2009.  One thing, however, has remained consistant - Matt considers himself a member of a very real community - and, I think, works to be a good citizen of that community.  Amidst his comedy and commentary, he'll take the time to speak out on vlogging community issues that are important to him.




For those unfamiliar with the world of vlogging, this world still seems like a odd subculture consisting of hundreds of thousands of individuals talking into their cameras, alone in their rooms, separate and removed from human interaction.  Matt's a good example of how many rank-and-file vloggers - in other words, the majority that aren't YouTube celebrities - are not simply content creators, but neighbors, too.

Enjoy the vlog!





Friday, November 25, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: ErikTV365

In the latest episode of The Vlogger Interviews, I spoke with Erik of ErikTV365, a family vlog based in Dallas, Texas.  Erik's made the commitment that he's going to vlog every day for the rest of his life.  In the world of YouTube, where gimmicks and imitation sometimes seem like the norm, Erik's channel is a little bit different:  it has a purpose.




Erik's a survivor of testicular cancer.  He decided to start vlogging during his chemotherapy, when he watched other YouTube family channels, and found that "it boosted my spirits - it help me to realize that there's more than just dwelling on something."  He wants his children - and as time went on, his audience -  to know that "no matter what obstacles are thrown at them in life, that they can always have a happy day." It's a philosophy he follows on his vlog - and in his life.

Watch the vlog is learn more about how this channel came about, and how Erik maintains his vlogging commitment every day of the year.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Your Vlogging Legacy


One hundred and eight years ago, the first member of my grandmother's family came to America, thanks to the sponsorship of another family that preceded ours.   Though they were always considered family to the generations that followed, the true nature of the association - how we were related - was lost in the past.  Recent DNA testing finally proved that we were, indeed, cousins - a relationship that likely originated in 19th century Russia.    We recently had a reunion with members of that family - individuals whom we'd never met, but whose families had a pivotal role in our own history.  

The search to find that distant common ground - one of the key attractions to exploring one's genealogy - takes on new meaning in the age of online video.

When I started my "Vlogger Interview" project on YouTube, my intention was to seek out a better understanding of this powerful and rapidly changing means of expression.  As I talk to more and more vloggers, I've realized that preserving our collective history is an important part of the process. 

Vlogger Andy Gunton  (Andymooseman on YouTube) has recorded over 700 vlogs over the past several years on a wide variety of topics ranging from history to politics to music.  He made an important point in his vlogger interview that in creating those videos, he's also creating a legacy - a time capsule of sorts - of who he is, what he believes - essentially, a gift to his descendants. 

We're recording and preserving our personal history as never before.   As time moves on, and our era is consigned to the (digital) history books, future historians and genealogists will have direct access to, as  Richard Reyonlds (BusterSenshi, another interview subject) puts it, the Zeitgeist of modern society.   In an upcoming interview, ErikTV365 is driven to post a vlog every day of his life - sharing his family's daily adventures - and expressing an appreciation of his own life as a cancer survivor - preserving his family history, but also, his very nature.  By simply pursing his hobbies and interests through his social media channels, teen vlogger Harrison Houde (xTurnipTimex - here's his interview) will one day be able to recall aspects of his own coming of age more directly than any previous generation.

Traces of family members from generations past won't disappear as thoughts, ideas, friendships, conflicts and opinions will preserve part of their essence.   We'll have the opportunity (or curse?) to learn more about ourselves from our ancestors - or even our younger selves.

What will your distant descendants perceive of you from your social media - your Facebook posts, your tweets, your vlogs, your photos - and your YouTube videos - and of the media you post publicly on a regular basis?  

Is it you?


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Steve Jobs Wasn't Cuddly. Neither Are You.




"Steve Jobs," the new biography of the tech icon by author Walter Issacson, is a fascinating story of one of the most successful innovators of recent times.  Issacson succeeds not only because his subject is complicated and contradictory, wildly successful though deeply troubled, but because, really, Steve Jobs' character is accessible

It's worth recalling that Jobs only hit his true stride in this century.  Though Apple began in 1970's, it could have died the death of other early computer companies - and it almost did.   It's status today as one of the most successful American businesses of all time is directly related to the lessons that Jobs learned throughout his career, which included a forced exile from his beloved company for eleven years, during which he created another computer company (NeXT) and became the patron saint of another iconic brand (Pixar).

Jobs was famously volatile, but loyal (when he wanted to be).  He developed an intuition for product design and development which led his company to create the technology that has transformed our times, yet his single-minded focus - his obsessive personality - may have prevented him from seeking medical help at a time when it might have saved his life.

The biography is effective precisely because Issacson doesn't lift Jobs onto a pedestel.  He was an imperfect human being, like every other human being..  As time moves on, and his directly hand on Apple product fades into the past, his legacy may shift into one of a man who succeeded in spite of himself - and which is really the story of all of us.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Harrison Houde [xTurnipTimex]

Today's Vlogger Interview features Harrison Houde, a teen YouTuber from Vancouver, Canada.  He's also a professional actor (he was in the first "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" film as Darren Walsh  - the kid with the "Cheese Touch").  He's also a podcaster, a blogger, a young entrepreneur - and an entirely new kind of young filmmaker (and just about a universe away from my super-8 days!)




I chose Harrison as my first teen vlogger interview for several reasons.  He's interested in learning and improving his creative process as an actor and vlogger - and shares his experiences and advice as an actor and vlogger with other young YouTubers.

He's also a hard worker.  At the first VidCon, I doubt whether there were many attendees who didn't, at some point, see Harrison and his dad racing around the conference, as he made himself known to as many YouTubers as possible (and earning a few valuable shout-outs that helped build his channel).  

Harrison, of course, has the extraordinary self-confidence that young actors need, but manages to balance ambition with a positive attitude.  In short, I think he's a good citizen of the YouTube community. 

After you've checked out the interview, check out Harrison's main YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/xturniptimex

[Interested in being interviewed?  Know someone who you would like to recommend?  Let me know!]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Blogger Interviews: Steve Miller [QiRanger]


I think you'll enjoy this week's Vlogger Interview, featuring Steve Miller, known on YouTube as QiRanger.



Steve has a voice that comes out loud and clear not just through his YouTube channel, but across his social media landscape:  his blog, his podcast - even his Tweets.  He's not trying to sell anything, or build celebrity.  He's sharing an adventure.  As an American teaching English in South Korea, he takes viewers on a voyage through a country it's history, and it's culture.

"Predominantly I focus on travel, not only here in Korea, but also around the world. Most of my content is related to traveling abroad outside the United States, and in addition to that, I work here in Korea as an English intructor, so I do have some content related to life in Korea and live as an English instructor here in Korea, but I also write about cultural issues, historical issues, I have a podcast, and I just try to share a wealth of information that I think people would find interesting who have not been to Asia and specifically to Korea."


Steve is more proof that the best content is created through passion.   Subscribers, and a YouTube partnership are only part of the equation.  The quality and consistency of his content caught the attention of the South Korean government.

"I have an incredible amount of fun - it's something I enjoy doing.  It is a job. I do get money from being a YouTube partner, but I also write articles for the Korean government to help them with their tourism.  I also appear once or twice a month on a local English-language radio station here to talk about travel as well. So, there is certainly a business side to it, but for me, it's about fun."

Social media creators are like conductors, I think, leading an orchestra made up of a universe of social media platforms.  If they can reach the sometimes elusive goal of creating content across that platforms that work together - than they can, in effect, create beautiful social media music.  Defining just what that is might be is wildly different  from person to person, I think Steve's approach is a good example of how to do it right - and, as the saying goes - do what you love, and the rest will follow.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Where's the Vision? First Impressions of Blogworld


This week, I visited BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2011 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which was promoted as "The first and only industry-wide conference, tradeshow & media event for all new media."   It was jam-packed with seminars, a busy exhibition hall, numerous networking opportunities, book signings, parties and plenty of one-on-one time with noted bloggers from around the world.  In the one day I spent there, I gained a great deal of perspective and information - but I was with one nagging question:  Where's the vision?


Blogworld is, first and foremost, about the business of blogging (and, despite the title, only touching a bit on new media).  Like many trade shows, It's an expensive proposition - full price for the entire convention could set you back nearly thirteen hundred dollars (hence my one-day visit).  For professionals in any field, there's a true value in attending events like these, and improving both your knowledge and legitimacy in your chosen profession. In the blogging world, however, I soon felt the pricing might be a bit steep for the blogging world at large. 

The highlight of the day was Shani Higgin's presentation of Technorati's State of the Blogosphere  report -  a thorough, though sobering - in-depth look at the world of blogging.  You can find it on Technorati's website.  For me the most important message was that blogging just isn't a lucrative profession - at least directly.  Even among those who described themselves as professional full-time bloggers, only 37% report that they derive their primary income from blogging (in other words, blogging only supplements their income).


A good portion of the exhibition floor at Blogworld was dedicated to firms that paired bloggers with advertisers, matched bloggers with commercial firms to provide writing services on their own blogs or on company sites, or provided analyzation tools to allow bloggers to better understand and serve their readers.  There were also plenty of books (and book signings) on how to increase readership and/or make money with one's blog. 

After Technorati's report, however, which I felt showed blogging as a stagnant industry, I couldn't escape the nagging feeling that there was too much emphasis on the industry as it is, and too little on transforming and bringing it to a wider audience.

I'm certainly not an expert on the blogging world, and this was my first blogging-centric conference, but it seems to me that there should be be more emphasis on growing the universe of readers and/or viewers  - and making it possible for more bloggers to benefit and - yes - make a living in this field, if that's what they choose to do.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Peter Ilagan [JourneysOfLifeVlogs]

This episode of my webseries, "TheVlogger Interviews" features Peter Illagan, known on YouTube at JourneysOfLifeVlogs.



Just who are Vloggers, anyway?  Yes, the obvious answer is that they're "video bloggers," but that's too simple an answer, I think.  They're not filmmakers, as we've come to understand the craft (and anyway, that's a dated term).  YouTubers are often called "content creators," but that's a term that seems awfully bland for what the site has come to represent.

Peter Ilagan, of the YouTube channel, Journeysoflifevlogs, has found expression for himself as an artist in a several different forms - as a sketch artist, as a painter - and as a writer.  In fact, he began his YouTube experience after publishing his book of short stories, Journeys of Life.  He saw social media at first as a way to promote his book, but rapidly discovered that he liked creating videos and posting them online.

"I've come to realize that I like the aspect of making videos for YouTube social media because it gives me a chance to be more creative, obviously, and just express my thoughts in a way I never could have imagined.  I mean, I'm a little more funny in the videos that I expected to be I guess, and I just like the fact that I can put it together in like a two or three minute video and just put it out there for people to see and just really enjoy and hopefully entertain them."


Some might call that a thirst for immediate gratification, but if you're an artist - you know that there's huge satisfaction in knowing that you're actually reaching and touching your audience.  I asked Peter if he's a writer who vlogs, or a vlogger who writes.  His answer, I think, sums up the multi-dimesional canvas that, thanks to technology, is at our fingertips - and makes defining social media-centered artists so hard to define.

"I don't look at myself as a writer who vlogs, or a vlogger who writes.  I look at myself more as a vlogger who creates, using whatever means I feel is the best way to express my creativity."

Take a look at Peter's interview here or on my YouTube channel, and then check out Peter's main channel.

And if you really want the full "Journeys of Life" experience, here's a secret:  make sure you follow him on Twitter - he's got a wickedly dry sense of humor.   And I don't use the word "wickedly" too often...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Siri and Milo, Sitting in a Tree

Ever since Siri, the voice recognition/voice synthesis AI device on the iPhone 4s came out, I've been thinking about Milo.


Here's Apple's own demo of Siri - word is that it lives up to expectations.

Milo [see my most recent post, here], you may recall, was a game concept that Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios introduced for the Xbox 360's Kinect project.  It would have allowed the user to interact with the main character in the game, and so impact his actions as the plot unfolded.  The demo seemed extraordinary - but unfortunately, the gamed seemed so much vaporware.

But, what a concept!

Siri, which so far is only available on the new iPhone, is a voice recognition and response system that gain knowledge and sophistication now only from the user - but the entire universe of users.  It has, so far, proven to correctly respond to voice inquiries and respond in a natural nearly-human cadence.

When the Milo project was revealed, just two years ago, it's capabilities as described were similar in concept - and would have created a spectacular flagship game for Xbox Kinect add-on, which aims to allow gaming to interact more naturally with the user - through body movement and, it was said, voice synthesis.

It never happened.

Details of the game concept for Milo were sketchy.  It involved an English boy transplanted with him parents to America, where, it seems, he has trouble fitting in.  He also has a faithful dog, Kate, that accompanies him on the (dark?) adventures.

Poor Milo was derided, of course.  The fact that the main character was a little boy led to endless insinuations by doubtful gamers that he would be a plaything for all sorts of bizarre individuals. 

Now that Siri has proved the concept, imagine if that little boy was Damien Thorn, the little boy from "The Omen," or Freddy Krueger from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies - or the terrifying Hannibal Lector from "Silence of the Lambs."  What if you were to interact directly with these characters as you worked your way through the game.  Such interaction, I think, could bring a new level of terror separate and apart from any motion picture or gaming experience.  Interacting with Hannibal Lector is one thing - talking directly to him as Jodie Foster's character is another.

With the sophistication and crowd-developed knowledge base of Siri,  it's now conceivable to create fully immersive virtual reality environments.  What just recently was pure science fiction is clearly within reach.  "Virtual Reality," in fact, has been stuck in a sort of stasis for a while as interactive technology has caught up public expectations.

I used to darken the lights with a friend's son and play the early computer game, "Alone in the Dark," which involved wondering through a vast mansion and avoiding all sorts of perils. It was frightening - but imagine actually responding to that ghostly voice, or having to verbally answer a question correctly at the peril of "death." 

Imagine being in the middle of a zombie apocalypse - or a civil war battlefield - or immersing yourself with the fictional culture of the alien world of Avatar. Even better - imagine meeting and interacting directly with your favorite hero (we'll leave the ethical challenges of re-creating and interpreting a historical person or event for another discussion). 

It's astounding that Microsoft and Lionhead killed the Milo project, particularly when critical pieces of the necessary tech are now real and tangible.

I haven't yet seen any indication that the tech behind "Siri" is being developed for game systems - but Apple being what it is, one wonders if there's a visionary somewhere within the company working to redefine gaming as we know it.  They've done it with so much other tech, so who knows...

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Will Massenburg [CreativeSoulTV]

Viginia-based Will Massenburg, known on YouTube as CreativeSoulTV is today's Vlogger Interview - my blog and webseries looking at the world of vlogging, from the vloggers themselves.



Will Massenburg is, indeed, a creative soul.   His Twitter account describes him as "Director/Cartoonist/Geek/Flawed Genius/Blogger/Tech Enthusiast/Apple Fan/Video Maker/Podcaster/Movie Lover."  By day, he's a professional graphic artist - by his own description, he's naturally quiet and reserved. It's almost like Clark Kent and Superman - Superman being his YouTube personality. Superman was on full display during my recent Vlogger Interview, as Will greeted me in a full Halloween disguise. 

On his YouTube channel, Will is UNreserved, outward, funny, irreverent - and sometimes downright wacky - he's clearly having a great time.

"Vlogging waas something that I got into that sort of opened me up, and exposed me to the world, I guess - and here I am!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Ken Goldstein [Kenrg]


"The Vlogger Interviews" is an ongoing series of vlogs and blogs exploring the definition of vlogging – from the vlogger's perspective, If you like this interview, I would appreciate your subscription to http://youtube.com/worldaccordingtorich on YouTube.  



2006 is only five years ago, but in the world of YouTube, it's practically an eternity.

"It was a magical era," says Ken Goldstein, known as KENRG on YouTube and across the social media landscape - he's one of YouTube's early vloggers.   He was already a long-time blogger when he first came across the site - in fact, he was looking for video footage to supplement a blog post, and then discovered that YouTube offered the video equivelent of what he was already doing.  He discovered Renetto, one of YouTube's earliest "stars," a spritied, outspoken raconteur, among other things, "and I thought, well, if he can do this, just sitting in front of a camera and talking to a camera and sharing it, I can certainly give that a try." 

The idea of a social network was still new, then.  MySpace was primarily for kids, Facebook was in it's earliest stages, and Twitter didn't even exist.  In you wanted to interact socially online, YouTube was the best place to be. 

"I think one of the most brilliant things that YouTube did in the early days that helped the community and the art of vlogging...was the video response...not just that you could comment, but I could comment on your comment."  Through their videos, directly attached as comments to another's vlogger's video, a video conversation followed,  "That's really where it stated, and that's the magic of where it started in 2006, when there was a limited universe of us vlogging back and forth with each other."


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Josh Rimer [JoshRimer]

"The Vlogger Interviews" is an ongoing series of vlogs and blogs exploring the definition of vlogging – from the vlogger's perspective, If you like this interview, I would appreciate your subscription to http://youtube.com/worldaccordingtorich on YouTube.  





In my latest "Vlogger Interview," I had the opportunity to chat with Vancouver, Canada-based Josh Rimer.  Josh is both a successful YouTuber (4.4 million views; 9120 subscribers), and, as of earlier this year, a YouTube Marketer.

Huh, what's that?  If you've never heard of the term "YouTube Marketer," that's probably because the concept really didn't exist until just recently.  As YouTube becomes more and more popular - and vloggers and other YouTubers being to see what they're doing as potentially a profession, knowing how to actually bring those videos out to an audience has become something of an art.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Richard Reynolds [BusterSenshi]



"The Vlogger Interviews" is an ongoing series of vlogs and blogs exploring the definition of vlogging – from the vlogger's perspective, If you like this interview, I would appreciate your subscription to http://youtube.com/worldaccordingtorich on YouTube.  Contact me if you'd like to be considered for the next interview!



In this forth installment of "The Vlogger Interviews," I spoke with Richard Reynolds, a Maine-based vlogger whose YouTube channel, BusterSenshi reflects, as he calls it, the "zeitgeist," or spirt of the time. 

Though Reynold's videos provide information, they're not like broadcast news, "the trick behind web video is that it's got to be funny.  If you're not funny, people are going to leave your video."  Unlike watching news on television, "People don't say, oh the YouTube video is on, let's watch that."   In a very short period of time, a YouTube video has to capture an audience.

Reynolds mentions several "tricks" he and other vloggers use to "catch" his audience, beginning with "I make sure that the first five seconds is something you're going to love."  Other hints include make certain your video includes an embedded subscription button, and perhaps having a short opening intro clip.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Andy Gunton


"The Vlogger Interviews" is a series of vlogs and blogs exploring the definition of vlogging – from the vlogger's perspective, If you like this interview, I would appreciate your subscription to http://youtube.com/worldaccordingtorich on YouTube.  Contact me if you'd like to be considered for the next interview!



As AndyMooseman on YouTube, Hastings, U.K. resident Andy Gunton has been vlogging since 2006.  He’s seen the online community grow from what was essentially a small village into online metropolis it is today.   Though YouTube is only about six years old, Andy things of his own videos as “old-fashioned vlogs.”

“I tend to do unedited videos. Sometimes it’s a stream of consciousness thing.  It’s usually based around some sort of topic…. things I see in the news, or whatever, just something that springs out of something that might have happened to you, that type of thing, maybe trying to get people to thing about things a little bit.”

In the past, he’s also done scenic or historical videos, taking his viewers on guided walks, or sharing a local occasional festival or event.

Though the public generally doesn’t perceive YouTube as a social network, Andy recalls that in 2006, it was just about the only game in town,  “In that time, Facebook was in it’s infancy. There was no such thing as Twitter, so it was the one place where you could more or less meet up and speak to each other and see each other as well.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why We're All Like Steve Jobs


I was a bit under the weather this past week, more Vlogger Interviews  next week!


On October 3, 2011, my niece's sci-fi e-novella, "Echoes," was published on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.  Obviously, I'm a proud uncle, and I'm hoping that the untold multitudes will plunk down their $2.99 to give "S.P. Blackmore's" sci-fi book a try.

I'm also happy and inspired to see the latest example of what I think is going to turn into a wave of newly-empowered entrepreneurs venturing into the world and creating futures impossible without the power of social and mobile technologies.

Just a couple of years ago, most people I knew really weren't sure what or even if online media, social media or "new" media was relevant to their own personal dreams.   Today, many of those same people are beginning to understand the potential, and are hard at work finding - or perhaps inventing - their own way through a brand new, intimately accessible business model.  Just as one can't build a house with a gift of untested tools,  most are still figuring out how to build their world - learning and improving day by day.  It's no longer a question of "if" there's a way to succeed digitally - it's a question of how. 

Success still takes talent and hard work - it's the access to opportunity that has changed. 

The passing of Steve Jobs, I think, says it all.  It's a massive passing of the torch.   His vision, innovation and enthusiasm created accessible technology that, in turn, is making it possible for a near constellation of dreamers to innovate and create as he once did - and making a living doing what they love to do.

And it's all just beginning.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Robert Anton

"The Vlogger Interviews" is a series of vlogs and blogs exploring the definition of vlogging – from the vlogger's perspective, If you like this interview, I would appreciate your subscription to http://youtube.com/worldaccordingtorich.blogspot.com on YouTube.



My latest interview features Robert Anton, a musician from New York City who first ventured online as a means to promote his music, and discovered a much bigger world.

“I’m a singer, songwriter, performer, music publisher and I am here on YouTube basically to promote my music – but with that comes a lot of other things. Now I have four channels on YouTube, and across those platforms I think what I’m doing is mostly just getting my voice out there.  I’m sharing some of my opinions and some of my life experiences, and interacting with people from all over the world.”

I first met Robert Anton at Vidcon – the YouTube content creator’s conference – almost a year and a half ago.   In an event filled with over-the-top enthusiasm, he stood out.  I thought that was because he’d just been notified that he’d been accepted in the YouTube Partner’s program.   It wasn’t just that.   If you watch him on YouTube, you soon realize that Robert simply projects energy.    


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Vlogger Interviews: Lane Fournerat

Just what is vlogging, anyway?   

Ask a random selection of vloggers why they vlog, and you’ll get five different answers.  To some, it’s an opportunity to be an entrepreneur, to another a chance to make friends, or bring people together for a cause – or simply a means of pure self-expression. 


Ask those same vloggers how they vlog, and the road map becomes even more complicated.    The art of creating online video isn’t simply creating a video and posting it.   Vlogging is also an interactive art.  The vlogger, in a very real way, creates a direct connection to his or her audience. 

"The Vlogger Interviews" is a series of vlogs and blogs exploring the definition of vlogging – from the vlogger's perspective.





Lane Fournerat  of Lafayette, Louisiana has a whole family of YouTube channels – in TV terms, LaneVid is the vlogging equivelent of a variety show; TheFunnyRats (a play on his last name) is his reality show, co-starring his wife and baby girl.  Other channels feature his other interests – drumming, mobile apps – even video game walkthroughs.

“It’s me.  That’s the best way that I can describe it.  If you like what I like, then you’ll like what you see.”

According to Lane, The job of a vlogger isn’t simply to create content, but also “to build a core group of people who will really stand behind you and really appreciate what you’re doing for them, which is entertaining them everyday.”  His core audience becomes the vlogger’s friends and supporters.  The comments on a video aren’t just about feedback – they’re about true interaction.

Lane graduated from college with a  degree in the performing arts.  His dream, like so many others before him, was to become an iconic filmmaker, “I wanted to make my “Feature Length Film” - THE film I was going to be known by.”  Like so many others before him, though – it didn’t work out that way.  He discovered something better:  YouTube.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jackass Videos, Bernie Madoff and Online Integrity


In a response to my recent blog, "Six Reasons Why Every Film Student Should Have a YouTube Channel," an educator responded with concerns about the integrity of the content that some content creators might choose to produce.  What kind of content has integrity?  What kind of content is worthwhile?  That's a difficult question, and varies depending upon age, culture and interests.  

If a YouTuber creates a Jackass knock-off that earns him tens of thousands of subscribers, does that content possess a specific standard of integrity for his audience?  If another creates an immensely popular channel promoting conspiracy theories and the illusion of journalistic values, can his follower's simple belief in his integrity actually define his integrity?

Art, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder.  Integrity, defined by Meriam-Webster.com as "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values," is also distinctly subjective - varying between cultures, societies, neighborhoods - and even small groups of friends. 

At one time, Bernie Madoff was perceived as a man of great integrity:  A trustworthy, honest man with impeccable credentials who might be trusted with one's life savings. He formed and maintained an illusion for decades, stealing billions from investors in the pursuit of personal gain.  Violating the trust of virtually everyone, he proved himself to be a man without integrity of any definition.

Likewise, the YouTuber who creates (willingly or through ignorance) an illusion of journalistic integrity amidst suggestions of dark conspiracies is deceiving his followers with declarations of "evidence" where there is none, or of "experts" who are not whose own integrity would be questionable.  As Bernie Madoff deceived his clients, this content creator may be using and manipulating his audience strictly for personal gain, and has no qualms or even concerns about the accuracy of his content.

On the other hand, if the YouTuber creating a Jackass knockoff promises to entertain his audience with a certain type and quality of entertainment with each episode - and delivers on his promise - he might be said to have more integrity than the conspiracy theorist.  His audience's trust isn't mis-placed - they're obtaining what they seek.

But does the Jackass YouTuber really have integrity?  Isn't he, instead, promoting violence?  Isn't he contributing to the destruction of moral, ethical and artistic values across media by helping to popularize mindless entertainment?  After all, we're talking about thirteen year-olds throwing themselves into walls and jumping into thorny bushes. 

Does every film student - or content creator - need to be a moral crusader, create family friendly content, and ignore shallow celebrity culture?   As diverse individuals, the answer is no.  As prospective media professionals, however - it's imperative to understand and develop a sense of integrity to both content and career. 

THEN make some cool Jackass videos!

What's your opinion?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Abuse, Fame, and Other Things - A Review of "Family Band: The Cowsills Story"


A lone musician in his early 60's carries his guitar into a small English pub in Woodland Hills, California.  Amidst the clatter of the restaurant, and the disinterested voices of patrons and bartenders alike, he begins his lonely set.  In a voice-over, the musician introduces himself.  Once he was part of a band, he tells us.  They were famous, and they had a handful of top hits by the time he was seventeen - but today, most wouldn't recognize their name.   So begins Family Band: The Cowsills Story, a documentary journey through the lives of a singing family whose songs became standards of the era, but whose lives were nearly destroyed in the process.   The lone musician is Bob Cowsill, and he guides us through his family's harrowing journey.

The Cowsills at the height of their fame / Pic from their website

For a very few years in the late 1960's, The Cowsills were a musical and marketing sensation.  The band, consisting of various numbers of brothers, a sister - and their mom,  created enduring and even iconic hits  ("The Rain, the Park and Other Things", "We Can Fly," "Hair," "Indian Like"), dominated teen fan magazines, appeared everywhere on television (including the Ed Sullivan Show, where they performed on the same stage on which their idols, the Beatles had played a few years before).   They were the direct  inspiration for the "Partridge Family" sitcom.  Their image was so wholesome that they served as national spokespersons for the Milk Advisory Board appearing in numerous print and television ads.   Then, as quickly as they rose to fame, they spiraled into oblivion.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Bollywood Steps" ON DEMAND!

Last week, my documentary, "Bollywood Steps" finally became available on Amazon Instant Video.  Anyone can instantly download the program for their computer or mobile device.  Until now, the program has only been available on DVD - I'm looking forward to seeing how we do in the digital world!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Minute You Pull Out a Camera, You're Intervening

(You can read my original review of The Boy Mir here)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Phil Grabsky, director of The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan," a new feature documentary that offers an unusually intimate portrait of a young boy growing up in the remote reaches of Afghanistan over the last decade. From eight to about eighteen, we watch Mir's life unfold with his family, as they struggle to survive, distant but impacted by the battle's for Afghanistan's future. This is actually Grabsky's second feature film about Mir. The award-winning "The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan" (2004), followed Mir and his family during a single year as they struggled to survive in the aftermath of Taliban rule, living in the shadow of what had been the tallest sculptures in the world - the Buddhas of Bamiyan - which the Taliban had destroyed to international outrage in 2001.


 Photo used by permission
A large part of the appeal of both films is Mir himself - an intelligent, charismatic boy facing daily hardships that force him to often interrupt his schooling to work in the fields to help sustain his family. As he grows into a teenager, his hopes dreams, humor - and even his material wishes (a bike, a motorcycle, a cell phone) will seem familiar to kids and adults the world over.

Grabsky, based in Brighton, U.K., remembers the very event that triggered both Mir films. On July 2nd, 2002, a U.S. aircraft accidentally fired on an Afghan wedding, perhaps reacting to perceving celebratory gunfire as a threat. The attack killed and wounded dozens - and haunted Grabsky, "I thought to myself, alright, step back from that. Imagine your own wedding day, my wedding day, out of the blue sky - they don't even see this plane - out of the blue sky, one minute everyone's dancing and happy, and the next minute people are literally in bits."

"I thought, who are the Afghans? They can't all be terrorists, they can't all be mute women behind burkhas. And I was just interested, and I thought I'lll just go and find out myself."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Confidence Online: What If You Gave a Party and Nobody Came?


It's not a secret that it takes confidence to succeed.  You don't accomplish anything by constantly second-guessing your abilities and avoiding opportunities to push yourself.  The fear that you'll be rejected:  "What if I gave a party and nobody came?" can be overwhelming.  

The realities of creating a presence on social media are not exactly confidence building.  For most people, it takes a while to build a "following."  Is it worth it to create content for 10 people?  For 30?  For 100?  What makes it "worth it?"  Do people care?  What am I doing this for?  What's the point?  

Creative social media - blogging and vlogging included - provide a direct connection with the public at large - for aspiring creative people, that means putting yourself out there as never before.  Unless you already have a presence in traditional media - and few do - creating online seems like the first test of your hopes, dreams and ambitions.  

So: how does a person get past the confidence challenge?

1 - There's an audience for everyone - you've just got to find each other.  Most people don't follow social media creators directly; a majority of those who watch YouTube, for example, likely are unaware of the subscription option.  As a blogger, if you're not affiliated with any of the major aggregators of blog content, you'll need to find other methods to bring potential readers to your site.  While most blogs have a subscription option of some sort, most readers likely don't know that option exists.

It's important to understand that part of your job as a creative person on social media is finding your audience, and understanding the continuously developing methods to make that happen.

2 - You're the best at what you do.  You are an unmatched expert at what you do best - which is, naturally, being yourself.  You're not a great writer - you're the greatest writer reflecting your own personal talents, interests and experiences.  Likewise, countless talented YouTubers lose themselves in emulating their favorite YT stars.

With social media -  every imperfect creative person the ability to find their audience.    Are you the greatest performer of all time?  The greatest writer ever born?  Probably not.    Whatever your perception of your own abilities - good or bad - you are the best at what YOU do.    You don't need to apologize, disrespect yourself, or give up.  You don't need to fear discovering you're not who you think you are, either.

I remember, back in film school, there were always the students who emulated their favorite directors - they dressed like them, they created like them, and they designed their entire creative ambitions around the pathways taken by their idols.  Learn from others, but don't try to be them.

Every legit social  media pundit will tell you, above all, to be patient.    As a creative individual, you're creating a relationship with your audience that will develop over a lifetime.  Social media isn't so much a numbers game as an interactive game.    If you build it, they will come...eventually.

Remember - this is all new.  The rules aren't in place.  There are no set guidelines.    While there are both less and more effective ways to build an audience, your strategy - like yourself - will be entirely unique.  With persistence, you'll reach your goal.  

And who am I to give advice, anyway?  I don't have a huge YouTube or blog audience - yet I keep this up.  What do you think - why are you reading this?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Six Reasons Why Every Film Student Should Have a YouTube Channel



  1. The opportunity to create content for an audience - and receive direct feedback from that audience. Viewers can provide their feedback by "thumbing up" a video, leaving comments, and adding the video to their list of favorites. In addition, YouTube provides a service called "Insight" to every channel and every video, allowing the channel owner to analyze how their audiences are responding on a wide range of categories, including age, location, attention (how long people actually watch each video), and more. 
  2. The opportunity to network , learn- and collaborate - with a wide range of like-minded content creators from around the world. Artists of all types can work together with an ease never before possible 
  3. The chance to develop, early on, a track record as a filmmaker / content creator. Many YouTubers, without any training, have used their channels to generate real world content creation jobs. The channel, in effect, becomes a living, breathing, constantly changing demo reel with real-world endorsements from an engaged audience. 
  4. With commitment to a YouTube channel, the filmmaker will need to develop content on a regular basis - not only keeping the "creative juices flowing," and developing his or her craft, but developing the creative discipline critical to success. 
  5. The chance to develop the public speaking skills that are critical for any director - to be able to talk confidently to an audience with ease. Though vlogs are typically created alone, they're distributed publicly. Vloggers who host their own channels are also building extemporaneous speaking skills as well.  
  6. Building and evenutally monteizing a YouTube channel offers the chance to develop valuable real-world entrepreneurial skills that successful filmmakers need.  The possibility of becoming a YouTube partner (and sharing in advertising revenue), is only one avenue through which an individual can financially benefit from their channel. Building an audience also provides the opportunity to create independent partnerships with advertisers and engage in additional opportunities such as product placement.
Your feedback is encouraged!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vidcon Thoughts: Today's Cutting Edge is Tomorrow's Stone Age

I'm mid-way through the first day of Vidcon, the YouTube content creator's conference being held this year at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.  This second annual event is an opportunity for content creators of all types share experiences and gain a sense of how to succeed in this rapidly changing field.  At six years old, YouTube, and the online video world, is still fairly new - but the evolution of the content and the audience has been huge.  The challenge content creators face is staying ahead of the curve  - when the curve is constantly changing.

Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, an Internet Television network that creates, produces and distributes web television, presented his views on where television has been - and where it's going.  Revision3, like the media conglomerates,bundles a variety of niche programming under their umbrella, building a central brand identity and standard to help build audiences for the individual video products, and the overall Revision3 brand.

The questions relating to building an audience are on everyone's mind here.  As some of my friends here have pointed out, those are tricky questions.  While some successful YouTube personalities offer advice based on their experience - the rapid growth of YouTube has changed the nature of how producers go about marketing their channels. What worked in 2007 may be completely unrealistic in 2011 - the media world has changed that much.  The best that Vidcon attendees (and YouTubers in general) can do it absorb as many of those stores as possible, learn and brainstorm with their fellow YouTubers, and try to understand and design a catered approach for their specific audience.

But that's the challenge- and the excitement - of creating in the YouTube community.  At six years old, this is still brand-new.  Every channel - every brand - is unique.  Every pathway to success is new.  What's possible today in promoting with social media wasn't even possible when YouTube began.  Stats weren't available to the extent they are today.   The channel-building strategies shared at Vidcon three years from now will be so far removed from today's stories, this will seem like the stone age.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Build Content and They Will Come: Mike Lidskin and Twirl Radio



Mike Lidskin, whom I featured in my recent vlog, Greg and I visit Twirl Radio , began Twirl Radio in Sacramento, California about ten years ago, after taking a course at Access Sacramento, an outlet for public access television and radio programming.   At first, the program was just on cable radio (a radio service that came through the local cable television cable provider) and a very limited (several mile radius) broadcast.  When the broadcast element was suspended, his program - and all the others at Access Sacramento, were reduced to near obscurity - as many people didn't realize that such a thing as Cable Radio existed.

His persistance and hard work began to pay off, audience-wise, when Access Sacramento began to offer content online. Through his website, Twirlradio.com, a worldwide audience can listen live to his program every Saturday night, Pacific Time, from 4-6pm.  At the moment, he believes, he has more listeners worldwide then in Sacramento itself.  After ten years and more than 500 shows, he's developed a solid connection with the indie rock world.  He provides a unique insight and support to several regional music scenes, providing for some musicians unique exposure that might not have been possible otherwise. His audience today, while certainly not huge by radio standards, is constantly growing and makes itself known through interaction with Mike on Facebook during the weekly broadcast.

There were times early on, Mike says, that his only audience may have been his computer left connected to Twirl at home - but he nevertheless continued to develop his craft (what today we would somewhat less elegantly call his "brand"), and was recently named Producer of the Year by his colleagues at Access Sacramento.   Last year, he was asked to join RechargedRadio.com, an internet radio network in the U.K., and offers that program once a week to a British Audience as well (check his website for podcast info).

Whether you're creating content as a hobby, or for business, it's worthwhile remembering that one thing never changes regardless of technology: quality and persistance.   Mike's advice to individuals trying to build a presence online: "First, do what you love. That's the right reason for starting any creative venture. If you truly love what you're doing, listeners and viewers will come. And make sure you treat each viewer and listener like your only one.   If you do that, you'll never be alone in your venture."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why I Flipped to the iPhone

I shot my very first vlog in January, 2010, with a professional DV camera I owned.  Of course, that wasn't practical to use on a regular basis, so I turned to Amazon.com right away and bought the Flip Ultra HD, a simple "point-and-shoot" camera I felt I could take with me anywhere.  The quality, for a camera of its price, was exceptional, and I thought it could serve me well for quite a long time.  I even bought a second recharger and a couple of extra batteries.
Screen capture of Greg and I at Fort Point, shot with the iPhone 
Unfortunately, the Flip never lived up to expectations.  I actually returned the very first Flip I was sent - it simply wouldn't hold a charge.  I didn't think much of it at the time, and Amazon's return/replacement policy is quite generous.  In fact, a new camera was on it's way before I put the old one in the mail.  As I soon discovered, the new camera had battery problems of its own.  While I could charge it, the battery never would last as long as promised - though the camera could hold up to two hours of footage, it would be a near miracle for a single battery to allow for even an hour's worth of recording.  This, even as other tech devices advertised longer and longer battery lives.

After about sixth months of constant use, my  Flip stopped working.  At the time, I still liked the video quality over competitor's cameras, and had my supply of Flip accessories, so I decided to buy the same (albiet white) Flip Ultra HD, which by then had be cut in price nearly 50% from my first purchase.

While the new Flip was the same model, I would expect that some of the battery issues would have been alleviated over time.  That wasn't the case.  This camera suffered from the same battery life and charging issues as it's predecessor.  Though I could take it with me, I couldn't count on it for long term ease-of-use, and found that my vlogs in-the-field began to taper off.  Not surprisingly, Cisco announced that it would discontinue the Flip brand.

When I bought my iPad, I decided to begin using it for my office-based vlogs. I found that the quality - when the lighting was fairly good, was quite high.  It still wasn't practical for other types of vlogs, but I loved the fact that I could shoot - apply some simple editing on the iPad's iMovie app, and upload - all without exporting from the iPad.  It was a major improvement from the cumbersome transfer-convert-import-edit process necessary with video from the Flip.


Here's a vlog from this year's road trip - shot entirely with my iPhone 4

When the time came for this year's Road Trip, I was concerned.  I knew the Flip wasn't up to the task - it wouldn't hold a charge long enough for our day-long adventures.  I considered bringing along a package of batteries (the rechargeable batteries can be replaced with standard alkalines), but, once again, the entire process seemed too cumbersome.

I decided to give the HD camera on my iPhone 4 a try - and it met almost all of expectations.  As you can see in the vlogs, the video quality is exceptional, and the audio quality is at least as good as the Flip.  It's not perfect, of course - it isn't a dedicated camera.  The contrast isn't ideal.  It's sometimes hard to aim at myself if I'm vlogging, hold steady, and it's microphone is sometimes too sensitive to touch.  If I'm not careful when I begin shooting, the camera may think that I'm shooting vertically (high and narrow), and my entire image will be sideways.    The positives, however, are considerable.  The battery lasts a long time - I generally have no concerns that it will last during a particular shoot (and supplementary battery chargers are easily available).  When we left each location on our road trip, I plugged the phone back into the car outlet, and charged on the road.

Greg Checks out an outhouse in Bodie - iPhone video
The pathway to posting to YouTube was much faster.  For simple one-shot vlogs, I could upload directly from my iPhone, using the iMovie application.   For more complicated vlogs, I hooked the phone into my laptop, downloaded footage into iPhoto, do a quick conversion through Mpeg Streamclip (it seems that the iPhone Quicktime isn't perfectly compatible with Final Cut Pro), and could begin editing right away.  

I won't be abandoning a dedicated camera for some vlogging projects.  These phone cameras are, after all, limited in their capabilities.   For most situations, I'll be sticking happily with the iPhone.

More of my recent iPhone-shot vlogs are available on my vlog, http://youtube.com/worldaccordingtorich



Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Subversive Filmmaker: Why YouTubers Should Think Beyond YouTube

My friend Lynette Privatsky just got accepted into the Silent River Film Festival with "Black or Blue," an episode of her web series, Adventures of the Battling Bag Lady. Even as I'm excited for her, I'll also very happy with the nature of her project, and it's relationship to one of my favorite subjects - the relationship between social media / YouTube and "traditional" media.

This episode of "Bag Lady," like so much creative work on YouTube, was written, produced, directed, shot, performed and marketed by none other than Lynette - and only Lynette. The only thing that isn't created by Lynette is the music, which was provided by composer Gary Garundei . Like other episodes in the series, there's no dialogue - it reminds me of silent movie slapstick comedies of eons past. It's also not long - all of 45 seconds - but it tells a nice little story: a trash can with an attitude teaches "Bag Lady" a little something about recycling.

Lynette's been experimenting with short video for quite a while - she's produced several episodes of "Bag Lady" over the past few years. For the past year, she's been exploring and learning about social media - "Bag Lady," at first essentially a portfolio film, has evolved into a web series concept.

To be sure, Lynette doesn't yet have a large number of subscribers on YouTube - in fact, she has very few at the moment - though I expect this might change with this festival exposure and the resulting opportunity to promote her projects. She, like so many of my friends and colleagues, has been diving deep into researching and experimenting with social media entrepreneurship. She's also starting a Twitter, blog and vlog called Special Order, Please - for people like her who love food but struggle with extensive food allergies and restrictions (to find out more about that, subscribe to the Twitter for that project at http://twitter.com/specialorderplz).

I titled this blog "Subversive" not because I believe self-created pieces like this will take over traditional media - they won't - but the developing success and acceptance of programs like this draw attention and create acceptance of some of the real creative energy that the "third platform" - social media - is unleashing. I also hope that it encourages creative / entreprenuerial YouTubers who may never have looked beyond their channels to dream a little bit bigger.

I hope you'll support Lynette's efforts and encourage her work by subscribing to her at http://youtube.com/privatsky .

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Look at Digital Content Creators - From a Super-8 Perspective

Those of us who are veterans of the "super-8" filmmaking generation have been experiencing a wave of nostalgia in the wake of the recent J.J. Abrams / Steven Spielberg film of (nearly) the same name.

Why did super-8 filmmaking mean so much to us? For one thing, having the ability to actually shoot and edit movies was still relatively rare amongst most kids, so a kid making a movie was a special attraction to like-minded friends.

For me, the greatest attraction - though I wasn't aware of it at the time - was the chance to have and lead a team. I might come up with the general parameters, and my friends would join in the adventure and make their own contributions. Like in the film, Super 8, someone might specialize in monster make-up, while others simply wanted to act. Others would work with me on a screenplay, or co-produce a film with me (inevitably leading to an afternoon-long negotiation dedicated to naming our new production company. During junior high school, I served as a mini-mogul at several of these creations - from RSDH Productions (combining my initials with my friend's) or Silver Hammer Productions (because another friend was a big Beatle fan).

The creation of each studio, naturally, would lead to a slate of proposed films, developed through further negotiation and debate. My friends and I usually focused on horror and science fiction films, with titles that ranged from Killer From Space to The Blob From Outer Space.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blogcritics Documentary Review: "The Boy Mir"


Image Used by Permission

(Check out my interview with Phil Grabsky, director of "The Boy Mir")

This review originally posted on Blogcritics.org


The Boy Mir – Ten Years in Afghanistan, a feature documentary now making the rounds at film festivals worldwide, offers an intimate perspective of daily life in Afghanistan rarely seen by western audiences. Over a period of a decade, British filmmaker Phil Grabsky returned repeatedly to this war-ravaged country to visit Mir, a young boy living with his family in remote villages far – but not untouched – by the battles raging throughout the country.

Only eight years old when we first meet him, Mir grows into a young man, with hopes and dreams of a better for himself and his family. His family, at times, is literally dirt poor –living in mountain dug-outs high above the plain, struggling daily to survive. He understands that school is the key to his future, but his attendance is spotty and inconsistent – he must tend to his family’s livestock more and more, as his father is in failing health and is less able to perform the arduous work necessary for the family to survive.

Mir’s life will seem surprisingly familiar to the western audience. Material desires – for bikes and motorbikes – will dominate his thoughts for a time, and as he grows older and the family’s life marginally improves, he dominates use of the family’s new cell phone with calls to girls in distant towns. As he grows, he also develops an awareness of his situation, his future, and what he must to succeed beyond his family’s bare existence.

National and international politics are distant here – but never out of mind. They’ve fled to the remote mountain settlement because of the incursion of the Taliban; they return to when the Taliban are on the run. These are simple people struggling to survive in a world hopelessly beyond their control. They’re not religious zealots, or freedom fighters. Like most people around the world, they only want to live their lives in peace.


Knowledge of the Americans and British are mostly anecdotal in this remote enclave. During one tribal meeting, an attendee struggles to understand the relationship between the two allied nations, asking if the U.K. is part of the U.S. (he's corrected by wiser villagers).   When several American troops in a pair of military vehicles tentatively visit the town, villagers are gracious, but puzzled by the visit, and the peculiar gifts they’re given by the American soldiers.

The Boy Mir – Ten Years in Afghanistan is actually a follow-up to Grabsky’s award-winning film, The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan, featuring Mir and his family when they lived in the shadow of what once were gigantic and ancient statues of Buddha, blown to rubble during the Taliban’s reign.

Mir – the boy and the film - has an abundance of energy and hope for his future – though the road ahead is still unclear. For anyone struggling to truly understand the people of Afghanistan, this film provides an exceptional and moving introduction.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Blogcritics Essay: The Future of YouTube Content Creators

I posted this a few days ago on Blogcritics.org.  It's part of my ongoing exploration of the relationshiop between the old and new media worlds...

Online video has only been practical for the last few years. In only six years, YouTube, has almost become synonymous with online video sharing. It’s where viral videos live, where nostalgia reigns, and also where an entire generation of content creators and consumers have built an interactive community that could very well be the earliest stirrings of an entirely new platform of entertainment - related but fundamentally independent from motion pictures and television.

Entrepreneurs, advertisers, and studios, of course are finding ways to use online video to facilitate or feed other ventures, and it provides added content to traditional media products.

Others  see the "web series" concept as the future of online video. Actors and traditional media types are particularly attracted to this format, which has the closest resemblance to traditional scripted media. A number of these ventures, in fact, have achieved some modest success, primarily in funding and building a social-based following. Break-out financial success, though, still hasn't materialized.

Today, the most successful content creators, financially speaking, are YouTube "partners" - popular YouTubers whose success has earned them entry into a profit sharing arrangement with YouTube, earning a percentage of the advertising placed on their videos or channels by YouTube. The top YouTubers are even are making a good living at it.

The most effective YouTube content creators are of a decidedly different breed than those in other media. These individuals, often in the teens and 20s, write, produce, direct, edit, market and perform in their programming. They also interact with their viewers with an intimacy and responsiveness that would be impossible in traditional media platforms. They may be comedians, musicians or commentators. Some are hobbyists, while others have dreams of fame and fortune. Some are even aspiring feature filmmakers. Very few have studied media.

At this early stage it’s unclear if even the most-watched YouTube partners can survive long-term as online content creators.  Many are experimenting with methods to develop and monetize their content or create peripheral content - from the sale of related music to t-shirts to DVD highlight compilations. An increasing number have crossed over into traditional media as traditonal media actors, filmmakers, or pop musicians.  None, however, have discovered a clear path toward making a long-term living creating strictly for an online audience. Professional vlogging (video blogging) is the domain of very few.

As a traditional media professional, I've seen countless colleagues turn glossy-eyed when the subject of online video or even social media comes up. "I don't know much about those people" one says. "They're young" concludes another. There's a collective scratching of heads related to those people who create online. Traditional production, after all, has over one hundred years of development behind it, and many filmmakers spend a lifetime honing their craft. YouTubers, on the other hand, can come from anywhere. They may never have studied film. They may own just a Flip Cam. They’re inventing the rules as they go. Anyone who has spent time browsing YouTube will agree – there’s chaos online. A working professional in television or motion pictures looks at this mass of content creators as a huge collection of amateurs – who aren’t making money.

There’s also great raw talent.

Cecil B. DeMille (The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ten Commandments), the legendary director of early Hollywood, wrote in his autobiography about the beginning of the motion picture industry. He noted that "for the most part, the only men in America who saw the commercial possibilities of "Mr. Edison's Invention" [motion pictures] were men with no theatrical, scientific or artistic background” but “they took risks, they had drive, they had organizing ability. And the best of them had vision."
If the YouTube (and the wider online video) community can maintain and grow it’s independence as a unique media platform, and resist the temptation to become a second-rate imitation of motion pictures and television, then it’s quite possible that online video professionals can someday number into the millions.

If, to paraphrase Mr. DeMille, the best of them have vision.