Friday, March 30, 2012

Politics, story telling an Narratives

You have to love politics.

Here goes. There's been a by-election in the UK; where a city elects a new member of parliament, because the previous one resigned, died or any number of things.

Bradford-West in the North of England has many qualities, but the one news touts is its large Muslim population. Until yesterday, it was a shoe-in for the Labour Party. That's the political group led by someone known as Ed Milliband.

Late last evening when the results were announced, to Ed's utter amazement; his speech was all prepared to congratulate his colleague who would win the seat, Labour lost.  By the way his colleague's name, few people know who this person is.

The scale of Labour's loss is eye-wattering. What was a place where they dominated for over 20 years, they lost by 10,000 votes and to of all people a man by the name of George Galloway.

Galloway formed his own party called Respect a while back and then went on reality Big Brother show purring like a cat.

His win was 56% of the electorate vote to his closest rival - that labour person, who won 25 percent. In fact if you put all the losers votes together, they would still fall short of Galloway, known to some as "Gorgeous George".

Now there's a lot more to say about Galloway, but forget him now. Ed Milliband ashen-faced shocked says he's disappointed and that he needs to find out why that's happened.

That's half the story. The backdrop has been this week when the Tories budget which hit middle incomers and gave a tax break to the rich. A week when Pensioners were also hit in the pocket. Oh and tax (VAT) put on those who eat pies. Yes pies. A week when the Tories, the government in power... Oh sorry that would be the Lib-dems. No, that in practice that's the tories have done everything to become unpopular, including yesterday telling everyone to store up petrol because the country will run dry.

So the punch line and this is why you'll love politics. Ed Milliband confused he's lost is being interviewed by all the networks. There's a code you don't cross if you're a political journalist.

Oh you might ask the question, everyone else is thinking, but you'll move on.. And what is that question, that labours own lot and many others think their leader is well, unelectable.

He's so bad, the current government could do anything they wanted, and the electorate won't vote for him. Why not?

Well that's a bigger question, but the long winded point I'm getting at here is that journalism needs to get out from behind the sofa and start stating what everyone else is thinking.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Can we talk - series

Can we talk?

How to be the best at video making, or whatever you do

No, no, no, no, no ! No!

If you're learning how to become a story telling using video, a videojournalist or even designer and your trainer says "You must do it this way", please make your excuse and leave.

I pride myself on one thing, that I recognise that creativity is not a science, where exact answers are required.  I might suggest, as we start our training telling you what works, but these are not hard and fasts rules, and might only likely work now in this zeitgeist, until another period takes over.

So my rule is never to stop anyone doing what they want, and I never stop learning to anticipate the next era and other styles, because the expression within story making is inherently that you MUST be able to develop your own style.

Unfortunately in an institutional setting like a university, parameters are prescribed to quicken up your understanding within a time frame.

Makes you think how some of the greatest painters would have fared on a Masters program.

Being the best is also in today's day and age anachronistic. You can aspire to, but in an Internet age of untold comparisons, it's impossible.

In part because by categorisation you can be the best footballer in Africa, best film maker in Ghana, best videojournalist in Germany, but when you start combining territories it's nay impossible. What you get is people who are different to you, but one system cannot trounce another.

So consider this, to shoot a good documentary you need a tripod, good camera, you'll shoot rules of thirds and grab interviews. How do you know that? Because your lecturer told you so? How does she know that? Because presumably someone told her, and so on.

We therefore arrive at a crossroad, not so long ago in the evolution of film, when there was no, "she told me so". From starting at that base, a couple of experimenters did something, and guess what some worked, some didn't.

The bit where it says hold your camera yourself didn't work because the camera was too heavy, and when the film maker did carry it, the shots were all wobbly.

Then Abel Gance and a group of film makers came along and said, actually we want to show you what it's like when you watch something in a heightened state.

They moved the camera here and there, even attempted to keep it steady by holding their breath. Audiences looked at it and marvelled. The film makers called it impressionism. And that too would become part of the tick box that seemed to work, BUT for a certain type of film and a certain period.

Heightened states invariably use handheld now; 24 the series, police dramas; Bourne trilogy, and the likes, but if you're Terence Malick the style is cinema poetics re: The Thin Red Line.

Film works as many scholars have noted not because it's preordained too. Film has no language, it has a system that's built up like making castles in the sand. Sometimes the castle works, sometimes it doesn't, but when it does, the chances are you know exactly what you'll do when you go to the next beach.

There are a million ways to shoot your friend's face, but in literary language only a definite number of phrases to describe your friend. The beauty of film, design and creativity is anyone can be fabulous, but to do that you need someone who will let you develop. That's why apprenticeships worked. You had time to learn from your mentor.

The essence of creativity and film is therefore an appreciation of human behaviour, because ultimately what works in film is, or was easily found in what you saw. You just had to be prodded where and how to look.

David is a senior lecturer in videojournalism, TV and Docs, and design and online. He is completing his doctorate in future film making and has worked as producer and videojournalist for some of the world top news brands.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Digital Futurism in Academia - what you might want to know

Ilicco Elia, Head of Mobile at Lbi - an Academic Professional guest lectring

This article explores the emergence of the new PAs (Professionals - Academics) and how Post Century Digital is only now beginning to shape up to what will be teutonic changes (Doctoral stuff).

There was a time when as the erroneous saying went, those that couldn't make it taught.

It was wrong then, it's absurd now, because you dare not stand in front of a lecture without being digitally armed, and analogue confident.

Firstly,  the assumption that digital would usurp the media ways of old is still in its infancy so whilst there have been technological shifts, the seeds of comprehension can still be found in traditional norms.

You use twitter to successfully inform others. De facto, you possess strong research skills, finding and critically appraising good articles.

You garner new friends via Social Networks, but guess what, the rules and social etiquette of making friends lay in cognitive, not digital behaviour. Being selfless and loving thy neighbour is a caring human attribute.

Furthermore if you possess News subbing skills, and can turn the long winded into poignant copy text, twitter is a breeze, once you learn its own aphorisms.

Masters students, Michel and Creg in shot listening to Ilicco 
The most important page on your website is not your home page per se, but your article page. Browsers come to you via your articles, only those that know you come by your home page. 
Ilicco Elia, talking to students.

Talking of subbing skills, the story of the Fishmonger's shop sign"We Daily Sell Fresh Fish Here", is the example par excellence. You don't need "Daily" said a friend, because you're here. Neither do you need "Fresh" because you wouldn't sell stale fish. And for good measure, you don't need "Fish", because its obvious. Here's Garr Reynold's take.

But those who use this story often fail to discuss the flip side to this, what I call "cognitive impressionism"

When I tell you don't think about the elephant in the room. What do you think about? So while in literary terms the Fresh Fish story has redundancies, we need the superfluous to trigger sub conscious actions. And you know all this because it has little to do with digital.

The digital trade winds that have swept through many professions, such as media, travel and music, have  impacted upon academia, but I believe this has, by and large, been minimal and reactive, and that a more nuclear impact is imminent.

In part it's being buoyed by the changes in society as baby boomers in the digital world mature, and  fiscal changes to macro and micro economies take root; crashes worldwide are hitting local economies. But also cultural and psycho-happening factors spawning new codes and new philosophies.

Thus the institutions of fixed learning is mutating. This article on "Universities face crisis as cuts crash in on academia" could apply to many universities in Britain and across the world. Will students in 2050 be learning en mass in settings as digital becomes all pervasive is a thought taxing educationists, if not it should?

The more here and now aspect of change is evident, albeit it'll be unrecognisable in a decade. You can see it in the following, the academic-professional Neos, or think along the lines of the Digital Futurians e.g. Kate Craig-wood.

No, they don't hack main frames, but they see the world as a matrix, creating bridges and forging alliances. They exist in the media-doing world and the academic, either lecturing or researching, eliding successfully between the two.

They run successful courses, sometimes their own and deliver needed assets to the industry at large. The world has really become just code, but with a soul.

You know of them through the likes of :

The BBC's Social Network event, organised byClaire Waddle was full of APs

With their growth, fixed tertiary education can at the moment still rest on its legacy of brand awareness as a unique selling point. Another being the institution's accrediting status, but for how long?  Brands are not infallible ask Hoover the vacuum cleaner, better still Dyson.

And Vogue magazine's move into the sector of creating its own degree sets a game changing precedent. This year it's rumoured a national newspaper is set to launch its own degree programme.

If "Did You Know" is anything to go by then much of this below is just the beginning.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies yet to be invented, in order to solve problems which require a philosophical understanding of not what's right, but more appropriate.

Increasingly too, I have identified a growing pattern amongst the PAs ( Professionals-Academic).
They're what I would call Post Century, which is a take on post structuralism with a twist.

If post structuralism believed language in itself could not yield convincing answers and that reasoning needed to be situated in where you were ( society), and what was going on ( culture), Post Century - the age of the Digital Renaissance scores various philosophies in a way that tries to make sense of existing theories and certainly ones within the shadow of the digital age.

Two things to note from unpacking the last paragraph. Philosophy, the art of clarification, whilst never prescriptive is now begging us; I mean seriously begging us to entertain what was meant and what's going on now. We need answers.

The time when philosophy, as a presumed impenetrable obscure subject was meant only for academics should be abandon. Correction, indeed various positions are being challenged.

Tom Kennedy, Jessica, and Brian Storm talking with Rich Beckman, Miami University
Last Tuesday, I invited Brian Storm to talk to our Masters students by Skype. Asked if he considered his stories to be one side as a journalist or thereabouts by a student, his reply was that he ceased to call himself a journalist because the idea journalism can be impartial is impossible, and misleading.

A week ago, I interviewed Richard Sambrook, one of the UK's most revered media figures who is my Morpheus pushing the analogy of The Matrix. He explained how ethics and impartiality emerged; yellow journalism and Pulitzer as standards to help the reader. And that it's needed today now more than ever.

Post Centurists get both arguments, and are informed thereon. The reasoning then becomes dialectic, persuasion through acceptance; rather than rhetorical, persuasion through force of argument sometimes veering on dogma.

My own penny's worth is the rediscovery of cinema without narrative, a place where Heidegger's Dassein emerges as a primary force. Here's a simple more recent logic. I just saw a tweet from the father of videojournalism Michael Rosenblum on the primacy of the iphone (Online course here) as a shooting device and one from Tom Kennedy on photographers shooting cinematically.

So first it was film, then video, then DSLR cameras, and now iphone. Reductive thinking would tell you simply it's not the device by itself and what it creates, but something else is going on inside the brain of the being. That's the frontier we're burrowing ever deeper to understand and explore. That's a strong area for me of what Digital Futurism is all about.

David Dunkley Gyimah is completing his PhD in Film and Video

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Cinematography of War, Storytelling, 5Ds and Recruitment - Act of Valour

"I feel the need, the need for speed". Anyone who remembers the excesses of the 80s will recall Bruckheimer's Top Gun (1986), which featured arresting visual photography, a typical Hollywood script that would make any teenager recite the aphorism above, and it didn't do to bad as a recruitment drive for fighter pilots.

With the same theme comes a 2012 simulucrum; Act of Valour.

The team are calling this a new kind of movie and to its credit it's trying hard to justify this. The first is its stars; actual Navy Seal.

This won't have been the first time professionals take on acting roles: Boogie Nights featured actual Porn stars, Platoon had army men in the film and advisors.

Act of Valor's claim is where you fictionalise fact based around what could happen, by taking what's real and hyperrealising it. The extras become the stars. They may not win Oscars, but there's no faking it.

In February's edition of American Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, cinematographer on Act of Valour gives big jack boots to the other stars, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR.

The team worked with 15 to make this, in a technique I described in this post some years back called "Swarming".

The technical specs include shoot exteriors at 5,200k and Shooting action around T4/5.6 and T2.8 for Shallow Depth of Field effect. In all the effects are impressive and on the back end of Danfung Dennis' Oscar nominated To Hell and Back Again, cement the little Canon as a big beast in the indie movie world.

It won't blow a hole in your budget either. Act of Valour is doing the rounds at the moment, and by any expectation, a new slogan will emerge for a new crop of young people wanting to join the SEALS, if you can get past their rigorous training regime.

Transferable skills of the modern day journalist

Shot on the Ipad 2

He was the former BBC director of global news and an employee of theirs for 30 years.

Then two years ago he joined Edelman, described as the world's largest Public Relations Agency, with 63 offices and more than 4200 employees as global vice-chairman. In September, he becomes the director of the Centre for Journalism at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.

For the doctorate study I have been pursuing, I have interviewed around 90 experts and game changers who point the way to a new horizon in communications, weighted by their experience.  I'm grateful to Richard as I am to all of those who have been generous with their time and been patient while I asked questions.

The future of journalism is a subject we keep coming back to, but its part of a wider debate on communications and the impact of society and culture.

The tools have been the enablers, but as Professor Brian Winston points out there exists a supervening neccessity to make do with the technology. If we did not have a penchant to communicate, to share, to become blase about our social axis, twitter would be redundant.

Now more so than ever, in this excerpt from Sambrook, the integrity of News and its transferable craft skills is called upon.Transferable because since every one is a publisher, clients can and do publish their own news.

But news comes with a number of codes about its probity. In Public Relations that's a soght after quality, as much as the art and what constitutes a story, which goes back to my doctorate study.

We face an ongoing collision of disciplines; the key is to understand the present, reconstitute that with the past, and be confident about the future, It's a great time to study the art of storytelling.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kony 2012 - Should we be worried ? Charlie Brooker thinks so.

This by Charlie Brooker offers a counter to the fan fare accompanying 2012. In a previous post I was effusive over the techniques used. Many people have been.

But I didn't look at Invisible Children the company. Brooker puts forward a perspective that makes you ponder what's really going on. Worth a look and comment.

Is Booker doing what journalist should be doing?

Pocket Rig, Videojournalism and Edelkrone problem solved?

Taken from Promotional Video, Pocket Rig in action

The purist videojournalist adheres to steadfast principles: be discreet, be mobile, move fast, and get into privileged space.

A dilution in its essence, spawned by a tilt towards an ecology and lucrative trappings of DSLR-indiewood film making accessories, has meant videojournalism has often been by passed.

If you've all the time you need in making that Hollwoodesque film, all's well and good. The trouble is often in news the image and issue decomposes quickly, and also you don't want to draw attention to yourself.

That's why this pocket rig by Edelkrone looks an ideal product. It's small, looks compact and thus will offer the type of discretion needed compared to an array of rigs.  Watch the video from 7 minutes onwards.

RECENT INSERT - Please read one customer's legitimate concern about the rig's hidden costs.

It's built on the principle of the collapsible rifle butt, which aficionados of the Fox 1973 Day of the Jackal might notice.

I spent a considerable amount of time on their site to learn more. Edelkrone have garnered a degree of publicity from what appears is a good OK ( Read above link) marketing campaign.

And that's desperately sought after in a multi-million dollar market, where any good product will win  global sales and overturn competitor's advantage.

The story of Sony's 5D is the tell-tale story. You could almost see executives at JVC and Panasonic  smacking their lips when the  5D hit the market with a blaze of viral publicity and ate into their market.

As both a videojournalist/film maker the pocket rig would have been ideal for shoots with Nato and some of the more intense work in West Africa filming special forces, a film I made for Africa's DSTV.
As an educator, I'm keen to know what our Master's students think.

David filming in West Africa

David and team on Nato training
Here's the rub though and its one that's a critique about independent journalism. I like the product, but the website, based in Turkey, posts this notice that the product ships in 2 weeks, and they've run out of supporting bundle accessories. It doesn't inspire confidence.

Having trawled the web for some time, and though I lecture in SEO no doubt I have missed the sites which have given a critical review of Edelkrone's Pocket Rig. However the two I did find high up the rankings were Shane McGlaun from Slash Gear  and Frank Doorhof.

So if you've tried it as a videojournalist and have feedback from the company perhaps you could share that.

One of the Achilles of the web is how you separate independent reviews from listings of PR, where bloggers merely recycle their adoration for a product. The effect is the top pages of google rankings becomes weighted with promotional listings and very little about details which would benefit the consumer.

The question partly answered by Free film at NAB is

1. What's the product truly like through testing?
2. Is there a seller in their region, where consumers can talk to sales people.

That's not asking too much is it?

Click here for insight into major new findings on

What is videojournalism on the web, in multimedia and offline - a major study and film - and why it matters

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Renewing your approach to communications - critical writing and video

David gets ready to talk at his session on IM Videojournalism at SXSW 09

One of the achilles of traditional journalism was it avoided exegesis, which is a critical understanding of issues.  No, that was left to the artsy literature folk.

Perhaps it was right to do this; journalism and audiences have broadly been served well. The evidence has been in viewing figures and the existing use of the word "Mass media".

In the 1950s as TV News was being created, the experts baulked at anything being beyond 2 minutes. Goodness that's a whole 120 seconds.

That approach combined with the sign of the times contributed to the adoption of television's most powerful media and language theories - Myths.

Myths in lay person's language means fables e.g. superman flying, Nike running faster than lightening, and so on. But the myth in media form is about the illusion of reality TV reposits, as we come to acknowledge.

We love a good Myth. Men are better drivers than women, people less well off are less intelligent, and the hero always wears a white hat, are just some of them.

And television in its short hand syntax to tell you a story plays on myths, otherwise it wouldn't only bring you stories of people suffering in drought regions, when there might be many other stories in the region.

The Net and you were meant to veer away from those perennial myths, and to some extent we have. Twitter allows for many more stories to be traded, though the super myths still reign. In any case, just as a technology like Twitter emerges, the phenomenon of re-mediation kicks in.

Here, those traditional media relearn the new skill, adopt it and et voila use it for their old myths again. You can't win?  But oh, but you can, not all old media is able to, or wants to match the new. There might be institutional reasons, or cultural reasons

This is not about who's right, but that simply if say you're playing basketball, you're not allowed says the institution of Basketball to kick the ball, otherwise you're playing football.

On the net, coupled with what I would call the flattening of cultural norms. Some people playing basketball want to kick the ball. What Chinese teenagers want today on closer observation you could posit is no different from California youngsters seek. Yes there might be differences, but those desires have levelled far more than perceived in the 1960s.

Yesterday, in a lecture, we broke down the story form of myth into component , and how playing on old myths we could conjure up relational new ones. That's where we're inching towards, but need to do more. Because for all the technology and learning about new apps, it means nothing if it does not bring about susbstantive change.

And by change, not just the speed of transmission of information, but of enriching and supportive ones.

After all the biggest myth is that we've entered the world of social network, but until social issues of the kind that assist each other and humanity are prevalent, rather than those that pit "them and us", we've made little progress.

Fiftyyears on we still, when we have the chance, don't want to be critical.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Creating your own job in the connected youth market -Entrepreneurial Journalism

In the 1950s, neighbours shut their windows or yelled out. In today's Face book neighbourhood such a performance would have brought out people cheering both couples.

Entrepreneurial journalism, self-employed, freelancer, media tart.

It's never been so good.

The point of working is to make a living, and that depends upon consumers buying your product, which in turn means you're able to attract a constituent in the first place.

The classical approach was join an institution, a brand - if you were lucky. It already has an existing consumer base e.g. Saatchi and Saatchi, BBC etc.  And it has become increasingly aggressive at protecting it.

The BBC is set to launch a new show called The Voice, which threatens ITV's fan base for Britain's Got Talent, so the latter has gone on the offensive.

Audiences and for that matter consumers are dynamic, they shift and flow, yet are susceptible to becoming loyal. And irrespective of the generation from Modernism onwards being young is at odds with an older generation. It's a perennial semantic field.

In a Street Car Named Desire, (above), Brandon's brooding love call, as much as 50s Icon James Dean's petulance  in Rebel Without a Cause, or West Side Story, the cult of youth and misunderstanding by an older generation is shown not to be a new phenomenon.

The issue has always been you had limited means of connecting with someone who shared your values.

For instance, when I lived in Ghana, I had a pen pal in the US (OMG). Pen pal??? What's that you ask? Someone I wrote to via airmail letters, which took about six weeks for us to swap niceties. We sent pics to each other, but never met in person. Think Facebook-in-the-making.

So to recycle the aforementioned thought again. If the nature of making a living is to attract a constituent, then what's changed is how that constituent can now come together, even as a Long Tail (read the book), to become an attractive market.

The university lecturing scenes in Kony 2012 is redolent of this. Students seeking knowledge in which the presumed hypodermic approach of mass media is seen as a failure.  Read here why Kony 2012 represents new forms in doc making.

Anyone who has entertained a charismatic speaker able to command the attention of an audience will defacto appreciate that person has a market.

And for those practising new journalism, that's it!  What?  The audience. Because unlike the paleontologist 1990s, the audience can now connect to you. Question is do you know how to make yourself visible?

Onliners researching new writing habots

This I posted on how to get that job Masters students, and where you'd like to be in 4 years time.

We've been looking under the hood of online journalism recently showing how a strong idea, SEO, and good writing, can bring much needed exposure.

I'm due to give a workshop to one of the world's biggest publishers about this. That is how they can share in a more symmetrical way, which is a win win for prosumer as well.

There are new added issues, such as almost everyone wanting to become a prosumer, so who's doing the buying? The lack of either a unique selling point; and that to sell in the market, you need to understand how broadly it works.

In Stephen Covey's epic book 7 ways of highly successful people, or Micahel Hyatt's 7 ways successful creatives think differently, both speak specifically of interdependency. In the networked age, that's more crucial than ever, a sort of interconnecter-dependency.

And there's ample evidence, successful start ups do this.

What's intriguing is this. If the networked generation, as has been amply demonstrated, move collectively, though not blithely, and their values in important areas are at odd with oldies, then the door is still wide open to recreate the new News brands of this millenia.

If you've the tools and interconnecter-dependency thinking you're at a head start.

David Dunkley Gyimah speaks creates in on new areas in journalism

Friday, March 09, 2012

Kony 2012 - Invisible Children, new trends in Facebook Doc. - Be afraid and excited.



If you're a news outfit, be afraid, though in principal you should not have anything to worry about. If you're a corpororate hold your breath, and if you're a PR group get your note book out.

Not since Green Peace's Brent Spar Oil Platform campaign in 1995 has a video strategy come to signify an exemplar, though Obama's campaign comes close.

The fundamental difference back in 95 was most of what Shell did was obscured from public view, Green Peace didn't go gonzo, didn't have an outlet e.g. the web,  so relied on broadcasters taking its footage. Today we're connected.

Let me explain, I'm an academic and film maker/videojournalist and have an interest in International Affairs, and have won a few awards. Here I am below interviewing the former head of the CIA, covering the US special forces in Africa, Presenting at Apple Store London and on television and meeting Prince Charles.

For the last four years I have been undertaking a doctorate study in new journalism and the Outernet illustrated on Apple's site. and have worked for some major networks e,g, ABC News, BBC etc.

Today I feel like a Botanist discovering a new species.  I have just watched Kony 2012 and am baffled and excited.

Baffled because for all the blogs condemning Kony 2012's journalism, a crucial point's being missed. Kony 2012 is no more about journalism than Jay-Z is a stand up comedian.

Kony 2012 is a brilliant piece of advocacy story telling and from what I've observed in the film doesn't claim to be impartial journalism. But there's a caveat and danger in this explained later.

In many respects it's within the same gene pool as Peace One Day, where Jeremy Giller had a grand idea to stop war around the world, was told he was off his head, yet has since made some important wins on the way.  In 2007 - 9, warring factions in Afghanistan downed their weapons.

His film The Day After Peace shows a truce for one day resulting in his claim that 4.5 million children were able to receive vaccinations.

And how could you not mention advocacy wrapped within video and Social Networks and not see the comparisons for the election of Pres. Barack Obama backed by celebrity quotes n' all. If you're a PR, lobby group hire the Kony 2012 team.

Then there's the daddy of advocacy campaigns, Live Aid. What Bob Geldoff would have done to have commanded the same attention, except in his days as he set about advocating, and was equally slated as naive, Social Network's were Thomas Hobbs, the father of socials wet dream.

In Kony 2012, yes the director Jason Russell makes some bold claims, which has attracted criticism for being naive: We will affect every generation to come, and, the better world we want is coming. But that's advocacy for you. You believe in something even against the odds.

Friends go to Africa, get upset with what they see and like so many other travellers want to do something about it. Whilst many don't and and are never heard of,  Jason with a touch for social network advocacy achieves his goal and in so doing has just thrown a *^%$ big spanner into the field of news and charitable causes which won't go away.

That's not to say I agree with all of his presentation. It's flawed in ways when you look at it through the lens of News, and as David Weinberger notes in determining ethical standards through transparency, the team throw us a wobbly when you look at who they are. [Please note a belated inserted point. You must watch Charlie Brookers video on his analysis on the group behind 2012 - to make your mind up]

I lived in Ghana for eight years, my parents are Ghanaians. I reported from  South Africa for almost two years and have had a fair dose of tourists who meant well, yet sounded illogical in their quest to exact change.

Facebook Journalism
But I'm excited, because what we're seeing is a model for what might be labelled the The Facebook  documentary, Or Social Network Documentary. Et Voila. And before you scream, documentary according to the the highly respectable scholar Bill Nichols is not a one size fits all and neither does it need to be objective.

The FaceBook Documentary is Gonzo, performative, uses key PR drama strategies such as featuring celebs, and knows how to sell a story using the latest, affordable digital kit - right down to the CSS coding for the web site.

But I'm concerned too and if you're a News outfit be afraid because in my profession as educator and film maker, there are many young journalists who see this as journalism, supported by actionable causes.

Daniel Kofi - Facebook Gen Journalist
When a Master student of mine Daniel Kofi in 2005 ( 6th person in the video) expressed frustration that news covers an event without instituting tangible changes, I raised an eye brow, but he was only articulating a change in the notion of news making and documentarians post-Michael Moore for a new generation.

It'll be up to educators to mark the differences in journalism and advocacy to their charges.

In his seminal book Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins covers this fluidity in collapsing different semiotics and styles into one. While philosopher Lyotard told us pretty soon we'll be fighting each other in an  information war: old versus new, analogue versus digital. networked versus traditionalists.

So what are some of the qualities of a Facebook Doc?

1. Naturally Social Network is at the core both in its distribution but as explicit and codifed messages through out. Direct references to Facebook, the use of "we", symbols of people sharing, images of the world etc. This coheres into new myths, not the fable kind, but cultural codes shared by groupings. See   Roland Barthe's mythologies.

2. The use of his son Gavin makes a direct empathatic statement and narrative engine to the social caring generation and responsibilty of the shared network. Aaah cute! He is both the extempore and implicit metonym for innocence and don't we just adore such innocence. Remember Charlie bit me - below. There's also a number of Youtubish viral (funny) moments in the film.

3. An indelible narrative. If you're posting a Youtube video heed this. If you can pull on archive footage, you have shot it gives the film gravitas. Documentarians have been doing it for years e.g. The Seven Up Series.

4. The resolution of a young boy Jacob, now a grown young man. Geldoff's coup was bringing Brhan Woldu, the forlorn girl featured in the earlier Live Aid on stage.

5. Pulling on the levers of power. There was support from some influential people in the film.

6. Celebs. Yes that chestnut. Works all the time. If you have a campaign you want news mileage from find an A star celeb.  Peace One Day had Angelina Jolie and Jude Law on board. Obama's counting on his stars power pull.

7. Using coded net styles. If you've ever watched any of the "Did you Know" seen on Youtube 15 million times, you'll be familiar with the style of motion graphics. It speaks contemporary, youth, now!

8. Strong aesthetic and resolution workflow. Complete the film, go to the slickly filmic - designed website.

9. Remember the Jamal Edwards Ad for Chrome. Spot the similarities that tell you this is web savvy stuff

10. Featuring students as mass participants as well as visiting campuses which give legitimacy. Remember Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth.

The problem with Invisible Children is in going about its business, it's stepping on some big toes in areas people have made their careers. If they weren't so popular no one would much mind. That they are gives succuor to the emerging generation. The games changing fast. Hail the Facebook Doc, or not.

Note - this piece was written before their recent er, PR problem - walking starkers through the streets. If you're not over 12 - you shouldn't click this link, it'll shatter your purity

David Dunkley Gyimah is a US Knight Batten Award Winner and International Videojournalism recipient (Berlin). He lectures in brands, semiotics, online and videojournalism/docs and publishes

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Tao of Eliot Rausch - new breed of filmmakers: Last Minute with Oden, and Limbo

Vimeo Award Winning Director Eliot Rausch in reflective mood skyping in from LA to London

Three students, illegal immigrants from East Los Angeles taught to film in a day, unfurl their lives over three months for the camera.

One counts her mixed fortunes. One minute jail, the next she's meeting US President Barack Obama, the other fights unsuccessfully against the deportation of her father and the third has become part of a murder investigation broadcast on local television.

Limbo (2012) set to premier at the Vimeo Awards 2012 in New York may likely carry the meditative style of its award winning director, Eliot Rausch - elliptical, events and characters revealed as fragments cohered by a strong theme around love, morality, loss, despair and some.

Rausch's oeuvre is temporality, the unfolding of the story and space in the shape of a Rubik cube splayed over a morphing canvas. Causality within his films slide and click into place in different ways for the viewer,  but everyone arrives at the end together.

The great French Philosopher Deleuze identified two broadly different schemas to this phenomenon: the Action Image in which the dynamic energy from the film emerges from the linearity of the narrative.Then there's the Time Image. Here consciousness, memory, non-linearity, reign freely.

Celebrated film scholar David Bordwell explains how in this genre style, fabula, the plot, the sequencing of events plays differently to the overall story.

New Spatial Cinema Makers
Vimeo's 2011 inaugural  overall video winner Rausch has marked his place. But if conceptually you stumbled across this post ten years ago, we'd be marvelling at the cinema poetry of González Iñárritu ( Babel, 21 Grams), who Rausch cites as an inspiration.

Before then Steven Soderburgh in The Limey (1999) Tarantino, and then much further back when Deleuze assualted the film world with his find Alan Resnais in Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959).

What unites all these figures across a wide span of cultures and time is a creative gene in impressionism and an unstinting respect for a brand of cinematic intelligent audiences that you'll find today within the likes of Vimeos gilt-edge gathering of directors and film aficionados.

Here, viewers revel in the interpretation of the works of film makers. The directors, to which I would add Rob Chiu whom I have known for over decade, ellide comfortably between documentary and fiction, motion graphics and the pro filmic, essays of life and the poetry of cinema. Each piece is a signature of a style honed from their visual digital ribonucleic strands.

Last Monday (5th, March, 2012) in a generous devotion of his time, Rausch spoke about his film making style, techniques and his centre of gravity.

Much of Last Minute with Oden has been amply documented on sites like HD Pro, so here's a synopsis, before the main course where eight Masters students, from Nigeria, Netherlands, Yemen and Palestine put questions to the director via a skyped interview.

Plot and Story Last Minute with Oden

James Wood aka Woody, a close friend of Elliot is distraught. The ultimate moral question is upon him. His dog, sick with cancer is going to be put down, a very personal matter, but Elliot convinces his friend to document the journey on a a freshly unboxed Canon 7D.

Within the film, Oden's fleeting doe-eyed gesture at camera, friends biding him good bye: "tell Jesus we're coming" create deep empathy. And then the build up to its finale is matched in anxiety within the story, as much as a plot line using Woody's pained cycle ride in the rain enveloped with a haunting score.

Within the roll call of mentioned film makers, what's remarkable about this film is its turn around time. Shot within a couple of hours, edited within four - less than a day's work- uploaded for a million plus people to reach for a hanker chief.

Rausch's modus operandi is less the film maker,  more the anthropologist. He doesn't shoot himself preferring to observe and direct. Neither does he push at relationships with the camera, but principally finds meaning within people.

This has always been an enduring trait of great documentary makers, and photojournalists such as Yannis Kontos, who I have worked with  - the art of procuring whilst being invisible.

The amazing Amy Purdy  an inspiring woman, also a double amputee, cues a story which according to some critics was too simple, but Rausch finds purpose and profoundness in its simplicity.

Q and A Masters Students
When I saw that it was like someone hit my face, says Nigerian-born journalist Ruona studying documentary at the University of Westminster. She wanted to know about Rausch's motives in playing with silence in his movie making.

As Oden was being put down says the director, the crew, two other cameramen fighting back tears were being directed through hand movements.

I try and get away from talking head and B-roll coverage Eliot replies, adding he eschews archive footage in the way it coheres to classic documentary.

Jody Q and A with Rausch
People coping with tensions in their lives and resolving internal conflicts was another student's theme. Jody questioned how Rausch delineated between his subject, Woody, as a character and friend and also victim.

This and many answers can be found on the audio of skyped interview below.Whilst Master student Lena from Palestine wanted to know how a director mediates reality without overtly influencing events.

This was a masterclass in creating docs in the tao of Eliot Rausch, but also in understanding the new intertexuality culture of film making.

They're a breed who with digital tools create their own pro impressionistic stories, acknowledging selflessly a need to share in thinking of others, and that their work is open for re-interpretation - an  immanent quality of the new elliptical directors.

David Dunkley Gyimah is an international award winning videojournalist and Knight Batten Winner, who is completing his PhD that covers new cinema. He is a juror for the UK's highest TV Awards, The Royal Television Society and an Artist in Residence at the Southbank Centre. His work can be found on his site