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    by Andy Beach
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Friday
May282010

Producer's Institute of New Technologies

Today is the kick off of the Bay Area Video Coalition's (BAVC) Producer's Institute of New Media Technologies. The Producers Institute is a ten-day residency for independent producers or public broadcasters with a shared goal of developing and prototyping a multi-platform project inspired by, or based on a significant documentary project. 

I taken part several times in the past as a mentor and I'm pleased to be renewing that role again!  I'll be helping folks with any questions they have around encoding and delivering video over the web, to mobile devices, and set top boxes.  On Tuesday, I'll be giving a talk on forward looking video technologies, including adaptive streaming, new interactive capabilities, and trying to explain some of the guff around all this HTML5 and VP8 business we recently heard about.

But who cares what I'm talking about - its the projects that make Producer's Institute so interesting.  Through the year's I've be involved I've been lucky enough to meet an amazing group of talented story tellers, all of whom are extremely excited to learn about new interactive technologies that will give them whole new avenues for their projects.

This years groups are:

ALWAYS IN SEASON

Project Leader: Jacqueline Olive

"Always in Season" is a documentary that examines how the lynching of African Americans in the United States continued through the mid-1960s, revealing the choices and circumstances that brought tens of thousands of white friends and neighbors out to watch this horrible spectacle. As a native Southerner and African American woman who grew up in a community her family helped to integrate, Jacqueline Olive brings a unique insight into the complexities of race that evolved out of the collective silence of her hometown in Mississippi. At the Institute, the "Always in Season" team will build an island in Second Life, that re-creates Marion, Indiana circa 1930. Visitors will move the SIM as they complete tasks or respond to prompts from automated bots milling throughout the crowd that help them uncover facts about lynching and choices they can make to resist participating in collective acts of evil.

THE BRIDGE PROJECT

Project Leader: Leah Mahan

Leah Mahan's film "Turkey Creek" tells the story of a handful of determined Mississippians who have struggled to save their endangered community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many residents are descendants of emancipated slaves who settled on the Gulf Coast in the 1860s -- they have been stewards of a rich wetland habitat for generations, where they were baptized and farmed, fished, and hunted. Sprawl, spurred by the gaming industry and the devastation of Katrina, mobilized a citizens' movement that has built powerful alliances with national civil rights and environmental organizations. At the Institute, "The Bridge Project" will create a living archive of stories about citizen-led efforts to revitalize devastated Gulf Coast communities and "build a bridge" of tools, resources, peer learning and collaboration for both mobile and web-based environments. "The Bridge Project" will connect the library of digital stories to interactive, multi-layered maps of the Gulf Coast that link to regional and national issues of cultural survival, environmental preservation, and sustainable development.

DOC-IT

Project Leader: Pamela Yates

Pamela Yate's documentary "Granito" is a sequel to "When the Mountains Tremble." The generals of the brutal military dictatorship in Guatemala that appear in "When the Mountains Tremble" are now being charged with genocide for their role in the deaths of 200,000 mostly Mayan peasants. Yates was asked to go back into all her outtakes from the previous film to be used as forensic evidence in the criminal case against the generals. An epic investigative story, the main characters sift for clues and documentation buried in film and print archives, unlocking the past to bring justice in present day Guatemala. At the Institute, the team will develop "Doc-It" for mobile phones that will be used in conjunction with the film to gather video testimonies from victims in Guatemala and members of the Guatemalan Diaspora in the U.S. The project will provide a template and best practices that can be replicated and distributed to human rights defenders in places that have suffered human rights atrocities but have a documentation deficit. "Doc-It" will be used to make audio/video recordings of survivor testimony, tag and index them for Web 3.0 search optimization, and upload them to a central database managed by the Shoah Foundation.

FINDING SACRED GROUND

Project Leader: Toby McLeod

"Losing Sacred Ground" tells eight stories of indigenous people resisting the destruction of their culture and natural habitats. The three-part documentary series gives voice to native people on five continents building a land rights movement to protect their sacred sites, traditional ways of life and spiritual practices, and illustrates great environmental and cultural challenges from the perspective of indigenous elders and activists. Included in the film are the Gamo of Ethiopia, the Que'chua from Peru, Altaians in Siberia, Dene and Mikisew Cree in Alberta, Native Hawaiians, the Winnemem Wintu of California, native landowners in Papua New Guinea and Aborigines in Australia. At the Institute, the team plans to develop a locative media/augmented reality hybrid platform, where users will download coordinates or an address as a starting point, along with an audio guide that will lead them on a tour through an urban or natural landscape. This "geocast" will point out indigenous landmarks along the route, identify native place names, and describe the dispossession of the original inhabitants of the area. The augmented reality app will integrate a visual past and the present in a single location. Users will discover "hidden" or "lost" history and sacred sites long destroyed.

IRAQI REFUGEE MEDIA PROJECT

Project Leader: Jehan Harney

The US war in Iraq has displaced 5,000,000 Iraqis worldwide. Jehan Harney's film "Dream of America" reveals the unfolding Iraqi refugee crisis in the U.S. through the lives of two Iraqis who risked everything to support the US mission. They are now wanted by militias in Iraq as they struggle desperately to survive in America. Filmed in Washington, DC and Baghdad, the verite film follows a disabled father of four and a doctor, traumatized by the war stress, unemployment, family separation and fears of homelessness in America. Through an Arab-American lens, their stories mirror thousands of Iraqi refugees whose voice has been missing from the media and public dialogue about the war. At the Institute, Harney and her team plan to develop character-driven, 3D online games and an English-Arabic multimedia website to create awareness, human connection, and engage the public in conversation about the long-term human consequences of war and social justice for its victims and survivors, refugees in the U.S. and around the world.

JUST VISION

Project Leader: Julia Bacha

"Budrus" is a documentary about a successful Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance movement. Ayed Morrar, a Palestinian community organizer, unites all Palestinian political factions and Israelis, waging an unarmed struggle to save his village from destruction by Israel╩╝s Separation Barrier. Victory seems improbable until his 15-year-old daughter launches a women's contingent that moves to the front lines. They save the village, and push the Barrier back behind the Green Line. In the process, Ayed and Iltezam unleash an inspiring, yet little known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground. At the Institute, the "Just Vision" team will build a multi-layered, web-based interactive television interface for Budrus. It will include curated video portrait/interview content with clickable graphic overlays, active links to NGO web pages and social media, "rollup info panels," drag-and-drop learning modules, links to timelines and interactive content, and embedded web 3.0 semantic search tools.

POCKET POWER POETRY

Project Leader: Roland Leguirdi-Laura

Roland Leguirdi-Laura's film "To Be Heard" is the story of a group of high school students from the South Bronx who use poetry to transform their lives and the world around them. The core assumption of the documentary is that mastery of language - the three literacies: reading, writing and public speaking - is essential to living an empowered and engaged life. "Pocket Power Poetry" is an interactive mobile interface designed to empower young people to "own" their creative process. At the Institute, the team will build a template and a customized android application for youth to create and distribute their own "Poemisodes." The mobile interface will be seeded through an on-line project launch with distribution partners including The Roots, The Hip-Hop Association, The Nuyorican Poets' Café, Urban Word, and Youth Speaks. Also included in the project launch are interactive learning modules, a youth-run video channel, and collaborative editing tools.

THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS

Project Leaders: Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen

"The Revolutionary Optimists" follows Amlan Ganguly, a lawyer-turned social entrepreneur who has made a significant impact in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta by empowering children to become change agents. Using street theater and dance as their weapons, the children have cut malaria rates in half, and turned garbage dumps into playing fields. Now, Amlan is attempting to take his work into the brickfields outside Calcutta, where child laborers work in unimaginable conditions. "The Revolutionary Optimists" follows Amlan and two girls - Priyanka, a teenage dancer from the slums, and Kajol, a laborer in the brick field- as they go about the delicate and urgent work of bringing about change. At the Institute, "The Revolutionary Optimists" team plans to build a portal of networked media that will serve as the centerpiece of a national campus-based outreach campaign. The team will focus on the development of an interactive map of an Indian slum, designed to include extensive geolocated demographic and environmental data, and an interactive global health curriculum.