Web Video

Audio/Sound, Good Read, Instagram, Web Video, Worth Watching

Worth Listening: An Interview with Steve Bumgardner

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This is an interview by BorrowLenses with Steve Bumgardner, filmmaker for Yosemite National Park and the Yosemite Conservancy. Bumgardner producers a great web series called Yosemite Nature Notes, telling stories about the vast landscapes and wildlife in the park. His goal is to give people a new way of looking at the natural world in hopes to re-open minds about what is out there and why we should care about it.

From YosemiteSteve‘s Instagram:

Yosemite Steve

Multimedia, Web Video

Faces of Farm-to-Table

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As I continue with my hops farming and craft brewing video project, I’ve been doing a ton of research on food, farming, and sustainable agriculture – and the people behind it – as profiled via video. One of my favorite series I’ve found so far is Food. Curated. by Liza de Guia.

Today she debuted her latest story, from the Bell & Anchor farm-to-table restaurant in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. It encompasses exactly how I feel about living in Brooklyn right now – that I’d rather be out of the city and in the woods, on the farm.

One of my all time favorites from the series is from last summer in Montauk, NY on Long Island. The founders of Montauk Shellfish Company talk about their passion for great seafood, sustaining the ocean, and simply supporting their families.

And my first introduction to Food. Curated. was through this video – the first attempt at a farm-to-keg pumpkin ale by Captain Lawrence Brewery of Elmsford, NY and Katchkie Farm.

Documentary, Multimedia, Web Video

The Craft of Craft

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Builders, sculptors, craftsmen – a growing video trend presents the art, the stories, the experience behind making a living making things by hand. These first person told short films celebrate entrepreneurership, the go local movement, human ingenuity, and remind us what it’s like to do what you love and love what you do. Now more than ever its important to learn about the people who are diversifying local economies and show the connection between workmanship and quality products.

Josh Vogel: Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Company

This video by The Scout Magazine about wood sculptor Josh Vogel focuses solely on the philosophy behind his work. Trees start out as living things and as he carves the wood into something new, layers of time are peeled back and something new about life is discovered.

Shaped on All Six Sides: Emerald Marine Company

Somewhat similarly in this video by New Canada, boat builder Andy Stewart talks about the satisfaction of turning something with a living, storied past into something new. Stewart’s passion for boat building comes from knowing that for thousands of years mankind has made boats to explore, trade and create progress. He also feels connected to that past through the generations of building wisdom passed down to him.

PROFESSIONal: Salt Lake Sheet Metal Works

This video is part of Vita Brevis’ Films PROFESSIONal series exploring the role of small businesses and craftsmen in an ever changing American economy. Neil Youngberg is a metal fabricator who took over his grandfather’s metal works shop. He looks back on the successes and setbacks of his life and work.

I love these videos because they are slow and timeless; simple, but the narratives are complex; and they showcase the craftmanship of good filmmaking alongside the inspiring stories. There are also entire video series dedicated to exploring the craft of craft like Made by Hand.

WAKE Projects, Web Video

Trust the Process

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For the last 6 months I’ve been trying to recover from a hand injury – 2 surgeries and lots of physical therapy later, I’m still a long way away from being back to normal. During this time I started going to Park Sports Physical Therapy in Brooklyn and ended up working on a video project with them. I met a handful of other patients with injuries ranging from a total shoulder replacement to tendinitis to an ACL tear. I really enjoyed hearing their stories about setbacks and successes during the process of recovery. It’s amazing how badly you can hurt yourself in the split second it takes for an injury to occur, and even more amazing how much time (and patience and perseverance) it takes to undo the damage.

My favorite thing about this project was the challenge of telling compelling stories, but in the setting of a private company. We wanted to communicate Park Sports’ vision that “therapy is but a first step on the road to wellness and healthy lifestyle.” They are helping their patients recover from their immediate injuries, but providing education and support for preventing injuries and taking care of their bodies in the future. I approached the videos and interviews the same way I would for any other story – trying to leave any notions of testimonials or promos out of it and just trusting in the process. Watch all the videos here.

Interactive, Web Video

Show Me The Ways

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I stumbled onto this amazing project from Wisconsin Media Lab via a tweet from MediaStorm. The Ways is an educational video series about Native American cultures from the Central Great Lakes region, specifically designed to be used in the classroom.

The four videos released already are awesome. They are colorful and bold, beautifully shot and tell really interesting stories. My favorite is “Powwow Trail,” told by a college student from the Lake Superior Chippewa tribe who plays in a traditional drum band and is a powwow singer/dancer. Arriving in his UW-Madison gear like any other guy, he then transforms into costume blending contemporary style with customs. Young people carry on their culture by participating in traditional ceremonies, teaching even younger generations to appreciate their heritage, but also finding new ways to make it their own.

A similar project was developed previously by the same producer/photographer team of Finn Ryan and David Nevala called Climate Wisconsin. It also has beautifully done videos and a sleek interactive website designed to bring climate change education into schools. These pieces are more heavily done with still and stop motion photography with a great mix of sound that makes you feel like you’re right there. I really like the story about the need of the logging industry in Wisconsin for economic purposes as well as – what you wouldn’t think of – environmental.

The Ways still has many more stories to come and it looks like they’ll be rolling out as they are completed. I love the idea of bringing these really thoughtfully created videos and resources into the classroom – its a wonderful change of pace from the static content kids are used to and (hopefully) they won’t be able to look away.

Interactive, Web Video

Bear Witness: Video = Change and Impact


Yesterday I went to a great workshop at The New School (part of the Mobility Shifts conference) put on by Witness, introducing their new Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit. Witness is an international human rights organization dedicated to training activists how to use video for social change. In the workshop, we discussed future trends of video, cool things organizations are already doing, and what Witness hopes to achieve with their toolkit. Here’s my takeaway:

First, we talked about an overview of video advocacy and Witness’ methodology of why or why not to choose video. The most important concept being: video is not always the right platform for getting your message out. Here’s their top 5 questions to ask yourself before beginning a video project:

  1. Is the video made for a reason, not simply about something?
  2. Is the video made for a specific audience?
  3. Does the video have a clear and doable request for action?
  4. Does the video have a strong message and is it the best message to move the audience?
  5. Will the video be seen by the intended audience?

Next we looked at a few case studies of both great examples of interactive video campaigns and also how those techniques were used as the basis of Witness’ toolkit. Interactive video is very clearly where video advocacy is headed in the near future. While watching video is a moving experience in and of itself (and orgs and activists should keep making them via any technology they have access to), adding interactivity leaves users with a stronger impression and far greater impact. Prime example: Drop The Weapons, a UK based organization advocating for anti-violence, brought “choose your own adventure” storytelling into the digital age with their very popular Choose a Different Ending campaign.

Now a few years later, they’ve once again developed an effective, engaging video campaign, this time built right into a Facebook platform. Who Killed Deon is a murder mystery that puts you in the middle of a London party. Things start to become unsettled, there is a bit of chaos, its clear that there’s a “situation” and then suddenly Deon winds up dead. There is a cast of characters and your job is to figure out who the culprit is. You can click on videos of the various suspects that re-tell the story through each one’s perspective. It has a phenomenal appeal to young people, on a platform they understand and its a conversation starter where they are empowered to form their own opinions and engage with each other (not to mention learn a thing or two about anti-violence).

While both Drop the Weapons campaigns are basically short films, shot via camera with actors and scenes and use YouTube’s annotation tools – on the other end of the spectrum of interactive video is flashed-based animation. Urban Ministries of Durham, a North Carolina based org that provides support to the homeless, developed a project to combat stereotypes of homelessness. Spent is a game (living on its own site) that challenges users to make it through 1 month as an unemployed single parent with only $1,000 left in savings. It puts you in different scenarios where you must choose between purchasing health insurance or buying food, paying rent or paying for transportation to work; asking you to prove that you could make your money last until your next pay check. News flash – its not as easy as it seems.

Finally, we went through the development of Witness’ toolkit. Based on the org’s popular training sessions and book, the open source toolkit is an interactive e-learning experience for planning out a video advocacy project. It helps you determine your message, your target audience and your distribution plan, plus provides you with expert Witness advice and support along the way. Case studies are included for reference depending on your issue area and the type of video you’re making. And the interactive components incorporated throughout the site are there to help make the whole process itself more engaging – because as we’ve learned: allowing the user to feel empowered and in control is going to lead to their own greater impact.

Non-Profits, Web Video

Telling the COAL Story

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Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that the US coal industry is heading downhill due to decreasing demand, higher costs, and tougher environmental regulations. Meanwhile, natural gas – a cleaner power source alternative – is quickly taking over, with trend reports indicating that it could be a permanent shift.

In July, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated an unprecedented $50 million to the Sierra Club, a national environmental protection agency, to boost their Beyond Coal campaign. The funding will allow the project to grow from 15 states to 46, and hire about 100 new staff for grassroots and social media efforts. Though not a new issue, the announcement has once again put coal into the spotlight as well as public interest. I have seen a surge in talk surrounding the issue and campaigns against it. Its been argued that compelling stories about environmental issues are few and far between – most orgs can’t find a way to stray from tradtional, cliche models. So I wanted to talk about a few  visual storytelling techniques that have taken plain old lumps of coal to a whole new level.

Sierra Club: Beyond Coal

With Mayor Bloomberg’s help Beyond Coal has been able to build a very comprehensive campaign illustrating the hazards of coal on people and their land, but also offering several clean energy solutions. From its launch in 2002, it now has its own website independent from the Sierra Club – which unfortunately removes the Sierra Club from being directly correlated in a sense – that is clean, colorful and bold, just like the coal-free world they believe in. The campaign has very successfully capitalized on Mayor Bloomberg’s donation – and reputation – by putting him in the forefront as a spokesperson, however still keeping the youthfulness of the site (which is critical considering the strong supporter base of young people + environmental issues). The intro video is colorful, fast-paced and effective in bringing together media, politics, public figures, grassroots supporters, and the issues themselves (essentially saying “This is a big deal, pay attention!”) in under 3 minutes.

Earth Justice: An Ill Wind Blows
An Ill Wind is a 5-part short documentary telling the story of the Paiute Indians living on the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Nevada. For decades, the Paiute community has suffered health hazards, and in turn, a lower quality of living as a result of the sandstorm of coal ash that drifts from a nearby power plant.

The 5 videos are housed on a mini-site within Earth Justice’s main website and embedded in a great interactive map of the Moapa River Indian Reservation. The entire film is just under 8 minutes, but splitting them up into shorter videos is a really effective way to break up the issue and make it more digestable for viewers, not to mention allowing viewers to choose which parts to watch instead of starting the longer video, losing interest and clicking away before it ends. The story itself is compelling because it puts you in shoes of the people who are effected by the coal plants – people who are just trying to live their lives in health and peace like you or me. The mini-site allows for additional resources and more ways to get involved with the campaign without directing traffic elsewhere and losing the sense of Earth Justice’s ownership. And the map is a creative visual piece to really give the viewer a bird’s eye view of the land, the environment, and the proximity to which the Paiutes live to the coal plant – and therefore, an instant visualization of the entire issue at hand.

UNC: Coal: A Love Story
Powering a Nation
is an on-going project of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism. For the last 3 years it has used experimental journalism techniques to “investigate the political, economic, and scientific tensions behind US energy through advanced reporting to engage citizens and inspire informed decision-making.” The 2011 project is an interactive film called Coal: A Love Story, which received 2nd place in the first ever World Press Photo Interactive Multimedia Production competition.

It also lives on a simple, but beautifully designed mini-site with interactive components, a blog, and additional resources. The parts can be viewed together as one film, or separately broken up into topic areas. Each part leads into the next, so it works best to watch it all at once.

Because Powering a Nation is a journalism project, both sides of the issue are covered – families in defense of the coal industry because its their life, their living, their livilihood, but we also hear from others who are suffering the health hazards of black lung and asthma, and communities who feel oppressed by the polution taking over their neighborhood. Its less about offering a solution and more about allowing us to see perspectives that may conflict with or challenge our own.

All three projects are great examples how differently a single issue can be shaped and illustrated. A common theme, however, is connecting the issue to people – we all share universal values and if you give your viewers something to relate to, it will no doubt move them. But keep it unique too – what is your org doing that no other org is? How is your story different? Whose voice haven’t we heard yet? There are many sides to the coal story – tell them all.

Non-Profits, Web Video

Pushing the Envelope: Growing is Forever


I wanted to do a summer/outdoor-themed post, so I pulled a video from the vault that I’ve been meaning to talk about.

The National Parks Conservation Association released this video with their quarterly magazine National Parks earlier this spring. “Growing is Forever” is a visually stunning, poetically written piece about conserving redwood forests in Oregon and California.. and so much more.

Rob Sheppard, editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine and author of The Magic of Digital Nature Photography has said that nature photography is not necessarily about presenting nature as is, but its about creatively capturing the feeling of awe and wonder from experiencing the earth. Jesse Rosten’s beautiful photography could not hold more true to this. As an outdoor enthusiast and amateur nature photographer myself, this video makes me want to scream conservation of those forests from the rooftops. I have been to Forest Park in Portland where some of this video was shot, and it is every bit as pretty and inspiring as Rosten has portrayed it in his film.

Further, this video was made for a non-profit, but there is no mention of that organization or a campaign. There is no fundraising ask, no action to take, and yet its still a phenomenal film that effortlessly pulls at heart strings. As far as environmental and conservation strategy goes (which is hard to make stand out from the crowd and get people to listen to since there are an overwhelming number of orgs out there doing similar work), the trees and forest are presented as the living, breathing life-forms that they are. They take on an almost human quality and you couldn’t dream of a better argument for taking care of and protecting what’s left of the natural world. Its a perfect example of how far non-profits can actually push the envelope of web video.