Saturday, October 15, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame - Not This Time Thanks



A producer from Caught on Camera — what looks like a popular show put on by MSNBC contacted me recently to inquire about the footage I shot from my back yard just over a year ago of the San Bruno Disaster. I thought he was interested in licensing the footage but then he asked if I would talk about my experience of filming the days events that I caught it on camera — ON CAMERA (with his crew). So, just to make this very clear — I caught a tragedy on camera, so his crew wants to catch me on camera talking about what I caught on camera — it certainly offers one more example of the feedback loop in media. To further the feedback loop I should have offered to catch on camera, the MSNBC crew catching me on Camera, because I caught a horrific event on camera.....

Instead I said, what angle are you telling the story from? The MSNBC producer paused for a beat, then made some pleasant remarks and the whole filming ordeal sounded quite breezy and noble and grand. Trying to be a pleaser I said, OK. Behind that OK I thought, well, what the hell, he's got fireman, local folks and a reporter who all agreed to be in the segment he's shooting. How bad can it be?

An immediate sense of dread hit me.

I then went and watched a segment from the show available online called "Fury," and it went something like this:

Enter young man who caught an event on camera (who happens to be a filmmaker and happens to have a mild daze in his eyes that says, YES I am ON CAMERA how cool is this!!)and he says something like: So my friends recommended this great restaurant and we went there and it was a really good time! Then he noticed an argument that he could tell was about to escalate so he took out his phone and started recording.

We viewers then enjoy some shaky low resolution footage of a fight about to break. (And then comes that litttle voice in your head, Fight, FiGHT, FIGHT)

cut to comment from restaurant manager: we found the two guests to be beligerent and using language that was not appropriate!

cut to: an entertaining scene where a fight breaks out and fists, chairs, as well as barricades become weapons of hurt!!

There is an admitted thrill to watching this material, its raw quality offers a satisfying appeal to the inner voyeur. I flipped to another segment called "Crash"and found myself enjoying as truck after truck drove under a bridge too low for their dimensions and found their tops peeled off much like a can is opened by a can opener.

I knew then I could not be a part of this show.

Still I agonized. Am I missing the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol proclaimed we will all be granted in this modern media age? Why don't I want to be on this show? If I put it in pure marketing terms, it doesn't fit my brand. If I put it in new age terms: I DO believe media is a feedback loop, what we put out influences thought, and THUS what is put in, and if we begin broadcasting media with heart and love and presence,  we may find the world subtly and artfully changing. If I put it in terms I emailed to the producer: I don't want to draw attention to myself. Yet, that's not exactly true. I don't mind if some of my friends notice I did something with all my heart and succeeded or failed, but I do mind if my friends attach me to a show that focuses on the outrageous, violence, disaster, etc... No no no thankyou.

Sitll I had to think about it. Which led me to further imagine, what exactly is my media policy for myself? If Fox News asked me on, do I say yes or no?   If Oprah asked me on, do I say yes or no? (YESSSSSS! Oprah, any time, any day)  Shouldn't I have a media policy? Please also allow me to acknowledge the complete presumptuous egocentricity of this thought process, still, I don't want to blow my 15 minutes of fame on any old raggy show. (Sorry MSNBC, but really! We can all do better!)

So this time I'll say no to my 15 minutes of disaster fame (why did I even consider it?), still...Oprah, anytime you want to call I'm ready, I have some really cool colleagues and friends I want to introduce you to who are doing amazing work.... and I'm a small part of that movement.... ring anytime! DO!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ohlone Dazzle at the Ethnic Dance Festival



Over the last weeks I've filmed at the Ethnic Dance Festival for the Ohlone Profiles Project, to document what everyone is calling the return of the Ohlone. At each event the folks like Ann Marie Sayers or Corrina Gould remind us that they never left, they were just driven from their original home in the bay area and now their history is finally being recognized in a beautiful way — let this just be the beginning!
June 3rd at city hall, Mayor Lee presented Rumsen Ohlone Tribal Chief Tony Cerda with the Festival's annual Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award, which was followed by a presentation of song and dance. Last weekend the tribe was at the Yerba Buena Center (YBCA) where they performed, and at the evenings close held a healing ceremony for their ancestors who are buried below the YBCA and the Yerba Buena Gardens.

If you haven't checked it out, the World Arts West Ethnic Dance Festival features bay area dancers performing dances from their culture and as Alastair Macaulay at the New York times puts it, "what other city in the world has anything like the ethnic dance festival." It is truly a unique and powerful experience with dances from around the globe. This years dances originate from places like Peru, India, Lebanon, Hawaii, Mexico and yes, right here, San Francisco's original people, the Ohlone. If you are looking for a meaningful event for your fourth of July weekend check out the Coastanoan Rumsen Tribe's performance among other dancers at the YBCA Novelluss Theater on July 1, 2, or 3rd.

If you want to learn more and follow the latest Ohlone News, check out the Ohlone Profiles project. You might want to check out this bit of local while you're here (why not, go for it!):

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 3rd Film Benefit

On Tuesday, May 3rd, a handful of people gathered in a grand room in the heart of San Francisco to watch outstanding indie films from around the world —Saudi Arabia, Australia, Hungary and the US—all to benefit youth programs. The line up was demanding, and amazing. We screened 15 short films back to back in the historic building owned by the Elks on Post street. The Elks are an organization that my partner in organizing the film evening (and member of the Elks), Roger, likes to point out, offer the most scholarships in support of education after the US government. They also like Elks, A LOT. Little, elks are woven into the fabric of the rug and stuffed Elks adorn the walls as if they are watching over the humans comings and goings with mild amusement. (Those silly humans, what are they doing now? Why it looks like they are screening films and using the proceeds to help provide scholarships for youth at Urban Services YMCA or TILT and other such grand ideas. Not bad, not bad.)

For many filmmakers it was the first time they had screened their film and/or the first time they had talked about their work before an audience. JR Stone from Kron 4 showed up to moderate the discussion after the screening and he was a natural on the microphone. DJ SIC filled the house with nice beats to start and round out the evening. Those stragglers who'd stayed the whole evening and beyond, ended up at the bar in what felt like a scene from cheers. Misfits, artists, film enthusiasts, friends, fans. We were all there to celebrate how it all starts — humbly, simply, yet with quiet dignity and great intention.

To all the filmmakers out there who sometimes throw up their hands in frustration thinking — I must be crazy — keep working. To all the artists out there who break down sometimes because there is never ever enough time for doing the art you love — keep working. For all those out there with a dream, that can at times seem impossible — keep working. Keep taking one step at a time. It is your dreams, the beauty in the moments you work on what you love that make this world tolerable at all. Continue to spin moments of flow, to weave imagination and magic and bring to life your unique gift that you have to offer this world. And thank you, THANK YOU for doing so.

Check out the photostream on Flickr here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Environmental Groups Call to Use Grand Canyon as Landfill and saveMilwaukee


In light of new permits in favor of uranium development at the rim of the grand canyon environmental groups have decided to trade the grand canyon for several other areas cited to have high biodiversity and breathtaking views, including Detroit's old tiger stadium, Flint Michigan's factories and Milwaukee.
Noted environmentalist Mr. Knox Browert is cited as saying, "The grand canyon is an ideal location for landfill such as the piles of radioactive waste associated with uranium mining. It's up to 6,000 feet deep in places and 277 miles long." When asked about analysis that went into the decision, he commented, "As environmentalists we have to pick our battles. Protecting the former Tiger stadium and Flint's factories is a no brainer, but we had to think hard about Milwaukee. It came down to the fact that the art museum just reminds us of Sydney's famous opera house and it IS by the waterfront, so we voted to trade in the Grand Canyon. I never really liked the Grand Canyon anyway. Most true environmentalists don't. It's just a line in the sand."
Arizona's tourist office agrees. Recent polls show nature tourists are unhappy with Arizona's politics of late and many have black marked the state after its introduction of anti-immigration bill, SB1070, so Carlotta Purse, director of the office has hatched a plan, "we're chasing after a new market -- sacred landfill tourists -- this brand of tourist will be interested in watching and smelling the accumulation of landfill and hazardous uranium tailings overtime." Several artists have also stepped forward and expressed interest in documenting the sacred landfill in a long running time-lapsed recording. "At the rate we're going," notes Mr. Browert, we could fill it in 20 years and then move on to Yellowstone's geysers. They're so hot and bubbly they may just ingest the trash like a beast."

BTW: this is a satire, (in case you didn't catch that), but we aren't too far off from it, inspired by AD and CS and MK and LFH (you know who you are).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

BAVC Producer's Institute Video Report Back






I am so so so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in the BAVC Producers Institute with our team at Sacred Land Film Project (SLFP), Toby, Jennifer and Quinn and our partner Dorothy Firecloud from the National Parks Service. As I blogged here for SLFP, the producers institute is an intense new digital-media boot camp leading to a project presentation before a packed house at the The Center in San Francisco.
For 10 days our team was immersed in learning about emerging new media technologies, how to harness them for social and environmental justice, how to nurture and grow communities, and how to motivate positive action using these exciting new tools. Topics ranged from alternate, augmented, virtual and hybrid digital reality, web 3.0, the “intelligent web,” data visualization, interactive mapping, to twitter strategy and crowd sourcing. We were surprised to learn that we are no longer filmmakers, we are “screen content producers!”

Check out the video report back on our work here at BAVC's website AND the radio stream on PRX.