Friday, February 03, 2012

David Dunkley Gyimah's Newswire Media in Motion presentation

I'm David Dunkley Gyimah and have worked for TV News, doctcoms, videojournalism outfits over the last 25 years. It was good to see some friends in the room: the FT (their story here), that I did some work with, and Joel from the Guardian newspaper, whose colleague Cameron I know.

One of the 20th centuries most eminent philosopher Gilles Deleuze marvelled at the work of another philosopher Henri Bergson for discovering something that was yet to be popularised.

Deleuze said of Bergson that: "the discovery of the movement-image, beyond the conditions of natural perception, was the extraordinary invention of the first chapter of Matter and Memory" (Deleuze, 1986, p.2)

Now, I'd like us to park that thought, as we'll come back to it.

So if you'll forgive me, I'd like to make an assumption - a big one at that.   That my being at this event, is I will assume, based on the notion I have something to offer, be it a tip or an idea.

That  essentially my experience may have some currency in assisting you. Perhaps that's why you've paid to be here, and why I have taken up being an academic.

If that's so then my experience holds something, and in talking about my experience I also aim to reach a conclusion - which unveils my tip or mega rule as I want to call it. 

This idea of hearing one's experience is partly the basis of phenomenology, but much richer under another philosopher, Heidegger.

So this is BBC Reportage (watch and read about its past here). I'm not sure you're aware of the programme, but in 1992 you could describe it as the Youtube of the BBC. It was a revolutionary programme, made by young people, that would change the style of BBC current affairs. These are not my words but execs who worked on the show such as Rachel Purnell.

Some of the figures behind Reportage are international and household names  e.g. Bruce Goodison who made Shoot to Kill for Channel 4 News and the indefatigable Hardeep Singh Koli, whom I worked with.

If Reportage taught how to discard the rules at a time when conventions were being challenged. Note, this was the time of  the YBA - the art movement; The Face magazine, Brit Fashion and the New Romantics.

Newsnight which I'd worked on before the programme removed the idea for me that news is immutable; that it can exist in what ever form you want: a discussion, a feature, a short news piece and on rare ocassions 20 min short stories, and so on.

In 1992 I could not find work in he UK, so relocated to a country which had the world's eyes trained on it. In South Africa I did many things radio, TV for ABC News, magazines, but it was the prospect of wiring up four young South Africans about to vote in their first ever election at 20 plus for BBC Radio 4 which got me going.

First time Voters  (FTV) used radio in a way that  got intimate with the four stars and they were stars. The feature played on Radio 4, the world service and on the eve of the South Africa's historic election after being bought and played by their network. My interviewees in South Africa today are huge e.g. Eric Miyeni and Niemann Fellow Gale Smith. In 1999 working for Channel 4 News I remade FTV to Successor Generation.

In the UK in 1994, a strange irony, the Internet has gone public, and Associated newspapers launched a strange concept called videojournalism.  Here I'm presenting an item for the web in 1995.

The motto for me was if you can think it you can do it. Most videojournalist shot two to three stories a day, totting up 500 plus in a year.  You can spot some celebs from here that now appear on BBC Breakfast TV.

After Channel One and short stint at WTN I became a regular freelance at Channel 4 News for four years, while prodding here and there, for what was possible. A report for the World Service involved an unusual deep sea dive to war graves from World War One.

To get my listeners to understand what it was like 40 metres below the sea I took an extended chord and tied a condom onto the microphone. Also I nearly met the big fellow up there, when I fell on some live arms and ended up running out of air.

The following years had their moments; videojournalism in Africa (Click the image for video behind it) , creative director for an ad agency, and working in one of the dotcoms that's still around today.

Then 2005 hits the year of You tube. Videojournalism has come full circle. The Press Association and me put together a programme to help train the UK's regional journalists. That very first programme we do is 8 day, because in 8 Days they had to learn Videojournalism because they were going live soon afterwards.

PA's programme over the years fulfil a curious thought, however much you think you've moved away from something you're still standing still. It's 1994 again.

From work, academics in China, showing how our university trains, to consulting for a newspaper in Beirut ( film here), to a four year study working with young journalists inside state TV in Egypt - an extraordinary programme that showed how much could be achieved if you're willing to go down the rabbit hole.

Mohammed - one VJ shoots like Hathor - and mad forty VJ reports in a month.

So from 1992 with this short insert from reportage - to this promo from Cairo, there's a theme that runs through these - we're back at phenomenology - the study of my experience, and when I do reflect something keeps cropping up.

Not that you have to chase and experiment in finding some of this field's elusive answers.
Not that sometime you have to travel to regions where the story is - as so many people have done.

But that the thread in this is.... Cinema!

Firstly I realise how laughable this might seem or indeed absurd, even dangerous.

Because at this point you're prone to thinking I have a tendency to fictionalise accounts; I'm not to be trusted. In the years I have practiced this craft of factual storytelling, integrity and truthfulness have met everything, so fiction is not a feature in my book.

However, if this was 1930, you would have no problem with the term "cinema". We'd be talking about Grierson or at least Hitchcock would. Then, experts differentiated from what they called commercial cinema, motion pictures and cinema documentaries and factual films.

Same could be said of the years to follow. But the notion of cinema I evoke is not exclusively physical  though I also claim a cinematic concept of story telling. Principally my notion is more a mental attribute. The thing that affects you. Information that is affective.

That's what Deleuze talking about Bergson was all about. Bergson talked about cinema and affectivity even before the machines that made cinema had been made.

When I approach a subject, I'm having an internal dialogue saying how best can I portray this so the audience, the viewer feels this like I am.

Now, if you still believe cinema is exclusively Hollywood - listen to one of the best film makers alive making a close point.

But now we have a conundrum. If you, as I do think cinema, the next question is who's cinema? What cinema? That's the interesting really, truly interesting question - and while I have an answer, this again is not the forum.

However, the reason why general tips about trends can be counterproductive is for that reason. Cinema, physical, goes in and out of season, it's mental state is what draws you to any number of artifacts.

Today it's shallow depth of field, a generation before and beyond it will be deep focus.

If you can agree, and if not there is a plethora of info that talks about cinema as factual film, ( so I'm not saying anything new) then we must also appreciate cinema is diverse.

I gave Rachel, the News Editor of, and organisers of today's event, some water. She prefered non-fizzy, but it's still water, I said.

That's the problem with cinema. It's so vast, but it has inherent qualities. The films shown by Josh ( FT),  John from the Guardian mimic cinema's qualities e.g overhead shot of St Paul's former Canon; the head to head - which is Errol Morris, or the Lady in the Lake, which is a POV film.

But the question is what cinema are we talking about, even though cinema's internal engine is about affectivity. This is too big a conversation to go into here, but it's one I have ponder for a long while.

What do you make of this image below?

Here's the photojournalism film I made for Yannis as he won the world press award. It takes the cinema of affectivity into cinema physical. This by the way is still a favourite,

Can you figure out how this was taken?

In China, commercial cinema, the concept of hyper reality, has taken a step into interactive cinema. the seats and auditorium moves and as this young child is doing you interact with the screen.

We blithely, and I confess I harboured such thoughts too that TV was on its last feet.

Not a chance. I mooted as much at SXSW and for the last couple of years sitting as one of the judges on the RTS awards, what's coming through illustrates innovation and cinematic qualities - at least in my head.

These then are old established qualities

So to my Mega rule 1.

And those exemplars include Fellini, Godard, Marker, but yes there are contemporary ones who openly talk about how they've been influenced by that past.

Mediastorm - is an outfit that needs no introduction. They've won unteempth awards

Which leads me to Mega Rule II

And here I learned a lesson in1996, which would materialise in 2006 which perhaps was the knod from the Batten awards. I wanted to after all those years put into practice this understanding of media, So I coded, designed, made the videos and built this site.

So two strong ideas that guide me, a holistic look at the whole workflow and cinema. If we stop trying follow trends, and seek exemplars we'll be more diverse. Most of the companies you might quote as exemplars rarely followed others.

Remember that lovely moment in Facebook the film  - I know its fictional - but MZ connects Facebook to work, based on behaviours, what people want to do - connect. An idea as established as Hobbs Commonwealth.

So whilst I'm guided by trends I believe in a quality that Bergson promotes: that information has affective qualities. If we can do this in the construct the audience will watch. If not we run the risk of treating all info as equal - the problem with the package.

You can learn more about my methodology and training here me, whilst my Apple profile and all sorts of  gubbings exists here.

My parting links that excite me. FMR MASTERS STUDENT WITH HER AGENCY LAST MINUTE WITH ODEN ~ Eliot Rausch