tech technology media reviews breakthrough documentary film video youtube sookie 416style television Susanne Jespersen visual researcher photographer writer


A Wannabe Publicist's Libre Confessional

My boss has been dangling the carrot, or should I say title, "Director of New Media", in front of my face ever since the word mobisode was first heard (it’s a mobile episode for those media newbies out there). Working in television, one constantly hears how mobile technology is going to a) change the world b) make us rich, or c) inundate us with more crap content. Take your pick. So far, it's only the broadcasters and rap stars who sell their ring tones that are making money from this technology, not the independent producers like the one I work for. Doesn't mean I'll stop trying to make it happen for them, it's just that my current belief is that mobisodes and podcasts work best as a promotional tool, not as stand-alone content. Frequently I visit the itunes music store's podcast section to see what's new and exciting. In hotspot number 6 this week is Jack Black's Nacho Libre Confessionals. "Exciting!" I thought, as I bypassed everything else and started downloading Jack's podcast, essentially proving my theory that it'll be blockbuster entertainment that will continue to drive demand for mobile entertainment. I watched a few spots of Mr. Black in his photo-booth-like set staring in his rather strange way at the camera as he told us nothing we'd never heard before. Kinda lame, I confess. I love Jack Black, so am I missing something? Am I not getting the joke? Something tells me the studios don't care if it's funny - it's Jack - off-the-cuff - making people relate to him - see a new side of him - feel engaged in the creation of the film. It's cheaper than a publicity tour, it gets people's attention and drives the branding home. So why would they care that it's really just more crap content? They'll make their $100 podcast production budget back a thousand times over. Amazing! Even though the podcast made me want to fall asleep, as a wannabe publicist, I think it's marketing genius.


Survivor Panama: No More Exile

Sunset in Pearl Islands
Originally uploaded by PanamaJack.
Does anyone watch Survivor anymore?

I've always felt an affinity for the show since chasing a classified ad seeking TV crew to a remote town in Queensland, Australia, and finding out better timing may have landed me a gig with the popular CBS show.

We all loved in when it began, and it's continued to impact the type of programming we catch on the tube everyday.

However, I wasn't sure when I started watching this season that I'd get into this 12th season. Somehow I did get sucked in. Exec Producer Mark Burnett brought something new to the game, stranding contestants to Exile Island, effectively changing the dynamics of the game.

Yet, I think the reason I got drawn back into the show had most to do with the casting. I liked almost all the players. This can't be underestimated. I stopped watching last season when in the final few there was no one I wished to win, no one I cheered for.

In the final four of Survivor Panama: Exile Island were Cirie, Danielle, Terry and Aras, all extremely likable and capable characters. It was Aras, my pick for first place, who took home the million dollar prize.

Jeff Probst, our dimply host, makes the show worth watching too, but I have to ask, don't you think he looked like Spock from Star Trek in the final episode?

Of course, it's the stunning scenery that brings the show alive as well, and I don't think we'll be disappointed when CBS takes it to the scene of the historical "Mutiny on the Bounty", Cook Islands, for unlucky season number 13.


Public Broadcasting - From Eh to Zed

Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, always seems to take a lot of flack, mostly because the public realize it's their tax dollars supporting the organization. Some think they should spend their funds to support more regional programming, or more Canadian drama, while others think it's just important to be a commercially viable station.

CBC produces some great shows: Rick Mercer's Report, The Hour and until recently, Zed TV. Sadly, this innovative program, which gave the opportunity to any regular Joe or Jill to submit short programming, has now been cancelled. No reason given. I was proud of ZedTV, and have been following CurrentTV, an interactive US channel that Al Gore modeled on the CBC's Zed. If others are emulating ZED, surely it's got potential for great success.

However, there have been some recent changes at CBC, one is the hiring of Hollywood Exec Producer Fred Fuchs (credits include The Virgin Suicides and The Godfather), but it was VP Richard Stursberg in Playback magazine who summarized the CBC's strategy by saying "While CBC is a Crown corporation and therefore not operating for profit, our programming still must reach Canadians in large numbers to be viable creatively and financially. It makes no sense for us to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars in licence fees and promotional expenditures on programs that are not appealing to a significant numbers of Canadians."

A ZedTV exec once told me they pay about $400/minute for licensing material for the show, that's some of the cheapest programming one can buy. Given the niche audience they were reaching, and the attention Zed garnered from international broadcasters for its innovative approach, it seems to me like an extremely viable endeavour. I'd like a much better explanation for destroying the bridge between public content creators and this public broadcaster, when it seems demand for short form content is on the rise worldwide.


A Passionate Earthling's View of Home

canadian shield
Originally uploaded by 416style.
Former astronaut Roberta Bondar calls herself a passionate earthling, something you might expect from a woman who has seen the world from space. Some of us talk about how traveling to a unique place in the world can or has changed our outlook on the world, so you can only imagine how it's changed for Roberta Bondar.

I met her once, when I was sitting in the basement of the University of Western's Kinesiology building helping conduct a student election. It was just she and I in the desolate space. Looking up at her in awe as she came down the narrow hall, she smiled at me and said "What a stark existence it is in here". She seemed to sum up so much in those words. Secretly always wishing to be an astronaut myself, I took them with the profundity they offered.

Seems Bondar has a fascination with places stark in existence, she's been photographing barren Canadian landscapes recently. She's exhibited them at the ROM and now coinciding with the Contact photography festival, has some of her extreme landscapes on display (until June 30th) at the First Canadian Place gallery in Toronto, open 11am - 2pm.

Picture at right is mine. I'd say it's not quite her style. Not so much barren, either. The little tree sprouting up in front of a blue sky seems more hopeful than any of her works, sadly Bondar’s press releases don’t offer up any enticing landscape shots for photo enthusiasts. You’ll just have to trust me that she’s got an eye for this sort of thing.


Creative Commons: The Future Is Friendly

Looking to the future I realize that what would make me happiest is writing and practicing photography. I've made some minor gains in the writing field, getting published in some technical and local papers and magazines, and today I feel I've made some in-roads into photography. Though I've been playing on FLICKR for some time and can find my pictures all over the web, borrowed by travel sites, commercial websites and more, somehow it is once one gets into print that one feels ultimately more satisfied. The great thing about FLICKR is that the user can not only share photos with the world, but also decide how (and with whom) photos are shared. Beyond that, FLICKR has teamed up with not-for-profit organization CREATIVE COMMONS, which allows users to connect a few different licenses to their work. I've given mine an Attribution 2.0 license, which means that others may copy, distribute or display the work, make derivative works and make commercial use of the work as long as they attribute the work in the manner specified by me, the licensor. Seems like a fair option. We are living in a world that will continue to be defined and shaped by how willing people are to share with one another.

CREATIVE COMMONS' founders understood, when they developed the site, that clear and concise communication is key. For content creators there are several licenses to choose from, and for content acquirers, you can search for works to be used for commercial purposes or works that allow for modification. We're all familiar with the battle begun by music sharing, but what about giving props to pioneers like the Beastie Boys, who offer CD's of their music in Wired magazine for others to adapt and play with, or who send out 50 video cameras into the crowd for concert-goers to document their own experiences, and then create an "open-source" documentary. Brilliant! CREATIVE COMMONS licenses apply to all sorts of media: video, music, photography and text. So when a young Hungarian writer named Istvan contacted me today about how to credit me for the photography he'll be using on the cover of a book he's publishing about electronic music, I realized I'd chosen to do the right thing by sharing my work with others. I sent him a friendly email back suggesting the credit and he said he'd send me a copy of the book. Quick and simple, all thanks to CREATIVE COMMONS, where the future is friendly.

from this (image by sookie):

to this (image by Istvan):


The Truth About The Sexes

timmy thought he was hot shit
Originally uploaded by fubuki.
Canada's W Network is airing a great half-hour tv series produced by Telefactory called The Truth About The Sexes. Want to know a little more about the rules of attraction? Why we are attracting to some and repulsed by others? Brain chemistry offers up some pretty interesting answers. You'll surely be surprised. Catch The Truth About The Sexes Wednesdays at 10pm and Saturdays at 6pm throughout May.

From Turtles to Troubled Times: Hot Docs Festival Wraps in Toronto

deep in thought
Originally uploaded by 416style.
Hot Docs wrapped its festival yesterday, handing out a slew of awards to filmmakers from around the globe. The last documentary I checked out, The Chances of The World Changing, didn't garner any recognition but there was tough competition with industry veterans like Werner Herzog submitting to the festival.

The Chances of the World Changing was a melancholy look through the eyes of troubled NYC writer Richard Ogust, who, years ago, rescued a turtle from an Asian food market. His passion for saving turtles grew until he ended up with over 1600 turtles in his Manhattan apartment, many of them on the endangered species list. His life and ability to help the creatures spiraled downward, facing eviction, charges from wildlife authorities and declining resources to finance the $100,000+ a year venture.

The documentary takes us along for the ride, leading us all to hope that this man's dream of opening a herpetology institution on a farm in New Jersey would make all his struggles eventually seem worthwhile. We’re always told we can make our dreams come true, so can’t we? In fact, the filmmakers reveal at the screening that they had pictured Richard’s final narrative on the grounds of the turtles' new conservation area in NJ.

However, Richard makes his final remarks from Coney Island after some devastating realizations about this life's work and dreams. It left me with the feeling that the filmmakers had seemed intent to take us on the hard road from the very start, deciding to leave out every spark of life, every new egg hatched, every glory that Richard achieved along the way. In the end, it's Richard who reveals the narrative we’ve clung to all along, ”It's not the process he admits, it's the end goal”, and without achieving your dreams it makes the whole process worthless. I can’t say I agree, Richard made some amazing headway and I think he should be recognized for that alone. However where he failed, or where others failed him, was in raising the funds necessary to make the Herpetology Institution a reality.

As a turtle lover myself (see my 13-year-old turtle pictured above) I found it extremely hard to digest the lack of attention given to species who are falling into extinction, mostly because no institution exists that cares enough. The Turtle Survival Alliance does offer some hope but has very little funding to work with. If there is anything you can do to help, please visit: