Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

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!