Owners and Audiences

The big topic on my mind as far as this week’s readings go was this weird notion of ownership, and what happens when your own work gives birth to other works as a direct consequence. Of course, there are varying degrees to where this happens – you can’t exactly compare modders to fanfiction writers to people who pirate and distribute music. But these all fall somewhere on the same spectrum, which is one that ends up being very relevant to myself and other content creators who sometimes borrow, adapt, and remix material that’s already floating around out there.

A big issue that YouTube’s wrapped up in right now involves copyrighted media, the extent of fair use, and the distinction between stolen goods and recreated work. It’s a realm of vague distinctions and misclaimed ownership that I don’t really care to get into myself – I just want to make content that people enjoy. But that doesn’t really make me exempt from the issue, either. Out of the five or six videos I’ve got up on my YouTube channel at the moment, around four of them have been marked as “contains Copyrighted Content”. Mechanically, this just means that I can’t ever monetize the videos that have been flagged – which is fine; my channel isn’t exactly at the stage where I can even begin to think about monetization anyway. But I thought the terminology used on these copyright notices was a bit funny. I can’t quite remember what it is verbatim, but it was something along the lines of “(so-and-so record company) has opted to allow you to continue using the copyrighted track”, which I can’t help but think is oh so gracious of them.

Really, thank you for letting me use the minute or two of sound that plays in the background of what’s actually going on in my video – the backdrop to where all the real work that went into producing some of these clips went. No, I’m seriously flattered.

I understand the legal backdrop behind all this, but just as a statement, I can’t help but be slightly irritated at the little “c” symbol by my videos.

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Gathering Some Materials

Seems we’ve got a little more direction as far as this project goes now that the group’s actually managed to meet, collaborate, and touch base a little in person. Now comes the tricky part. Over the weekend, I need to compile a rough script and get it out to the others before Monday, when, hopefully, we can start to collect the clips and b-roll we need to comprise this video.

As far as creative commons goes, though, I’ve been doing a bit of looking around via their search engine to find things that we could potentially include in the video. I definitely stress the word potentially,  being that it may be a bit awkward to include a picture and a separate not-recorded-by-us video in there, but music at the very least is definitely something that needs to be there.

http://ccmixter.org/files/djlang59/37792 – I’ve been looking for something in the vein of ambient tracks, something mellow and not too distracting to put into the background. It’s a bit of an odd thing to pick, being that I usually lean on music to cut my clips to the beat with, but that doesn’t seem like something we’ll be shooting to do stylistically here. So something mellow but not snore-inducing is going to have to do. I may end up looking around on SoundCloud more later.

Rutgers University Book Store

Here’s a generic royalty-free picture I found off Flikr. It’s in the general vicinity of the Career Services building…maybe we can try and incorporate that into some kind of photo montage? Like I said, flashing images on the screen isn’t going to be a main course of action in this video. As a matter of fact, I’m going to try and avoid using it if at all possible.

And here’s a clip under a creative commons license. I SUPPOSE if push comes to shove, we can cut some b-roll from this, though. I’m not a fan of the idea, but for the purposes of this blog, it’s an option.

Pleasant Surprises

It’s been a bit of a slog, but it was much easier to wrap my head around exactly what I wanted to do for this project when I started. I mentioned in my last post that I didn’t want to keep our presentation as some bland straightforward fact recital – and it was such a relief to hear that my group wanted something in a similar vein. It seems though, after giving it some thought, that we can achieve that by approaching this with sort of a more personal spin. Tell it from a sort of student’s point of view, but steer away from the notion of hard narrative with it.

I kept this in mind while working on the ten slides I needed to contribute towards my group’s storyboard effort, trying to use my slides to sort of depict a student expressing a particular passion they have in the arts (because my group is fixating on the arts, communications, and entertainment cluster) and walking the viewer through how utilizing the advising and counseling services offered by career services can help them with a lot of the hassle that comes from wanting to get into a particular career field, and having absolutely no experience in how to begin.

As such, the storyboard slides focus on depicting the scenes of the student practicing their passion, intercut with scenes of them speaking to a career advisor and the like.

The idea is still a bit loose, even after the storyboard, but I feel as though I’ll have a better idea of the endgame once we bring our slides together and collaborate.

 

 

Creative Direction with a Non-Creative Project

Consider me thoroughly stymied.

Coming off of the midterm project and moving into the final is a bit of a transition – we’re essentially shifting from a project with absolute creative freedom to one catered towards the needs of a client. Which means we’re allowed our artistic chops, but to an extent.

Which is fine – not every project will be a personal one. The main issue becomes, then, exactly how to strike that balance. My group has expressed want to not remain strictly in the realm of a static interview, and I’m entirely on board with that. I know that we have the limitation on us right now that we’ve just got to prevent this video from turning into something narrative driven, but I’m not sure I can be happy with what I put out if the end result becomes too stiff.

I do know that one of the clusters available with Rutgers Career Services is “Arts, Communications, and Entertainment” though, so maybe we can use that to our advantage? Use the subject matter to somehow give us enough leeway to produce a video that isn’t straight interview? It’s something that would allow the three of us to work to the best of our ability.

I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.

 

The Creative Brand – A Blog Post for My Leadership Class

 

I made this video as sort of a joint venture – I wanted to see what kind of story I could weave using limited resources, and I had a project due for one of my courses. The general idea was to create a video that worked towards the function of a blog we also had to create for the course – something that made concrete what the blog was for in video form. Naturally, since my blog functioned as more of a showcase of my creative work, as well as a place for me to vent my thought processes and tell stories, I decided to make a video that tried to prod at what was the essence of my brand of storytelling.

In the end, the takeaway message was really something to the effect of “create a story, no matter what you are, no matter what you do, no matter what you have”. And that’s great. But in the process of doing my Leadership Credo assignments for this class, I’ve sort of realized that’s half the equation. It’s the process, and not the driving force. It’s not the core.

This Leadership Credo assignment begs the question of what my brand is, and how do I exhibit the qualities I’ve selected for my own credo through it.

Let’s get into that.

The Brand

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I define my brand through my work. And my work gets made by going anywhere from abandoned warehouses to quiet local cities, taking pictures and video, and piecing what I take into a story somehow. 

My brand has always been a tricky one to pin down. I’m studying English right now, staving off the constant question of, “Oh, so do you want to be a teacher?”

Because my immediate answer is “Not in a million years”.

I’ve always been a writer, the question has always been in what I want to do with that. I’ve worked on novels on and off, I’ve given dedicated journalism a go, I’ve tried reviewing things, and I’m currently a casual blogger, dabbling in photography and amateur, indie film work. Though the mediums are different, it’s clear that my field is a field of creatives – populated by the artistic-minded, the content creators of our day. We convey ideas through the creative medium and sway our audiences in more indirect ways – through consumable media that still is very much thriving in the modern day. My personal flavor is that of the storyteller. I reach my audiences through accessible and compelling narratives, and do so in a variety of different forms. I can write evocative prose, take an eye catching picture, and weave film clips together into a halfway decent plot, and I really tried to exhibit my brand through the video project at the top of this blog – tried to merge the three skillsets I have in order to create one cohesive whole – and I believe that I achieved that. It’s a simple video that I think exemplifies a sort of homey, down to earth, humble, honest take on storytelling that’s present throughout my body of work.

 

The Credo – Passion, Creativity, and Honesty

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To me, there are three things that need go into any sort of creative work I take on – three things that need to go into video work, photos, or writing to make their effect lasting.

But like I said, that brand is really only half of the whole – the drives are as important as the products that come forward as a result. And when I ask myself what drives my creative work, the three things that I often find myself boiling down to are always passion, creativity, and honesty. These three things are constantly working in conjunction. They keep each other in check, and promote work that is exemplary of any leader in the greater field of content creators that I strive to belong to.

The driving force, naturally, is passion. Passion describes a whole-hearted personal deliverance; a pouring of the entirety of ones self into their work, whether it be a three line poem or a feature film. It is a defining trait of someone doing what they love, and not just carrying out tasks as part of their occupation. This is a necessity, as there is nothing mechanical about the creative process. Everything from the creation of an initial concept to the development of that concept into a completed narrative cannot be replicated in half measures – if anything less is given, the lack of dedication will show immediately through the quality of your work. Passion is the merging of drive and vision, and must exist at the core of any content creator trying to share their own personal art with the world.

Passion then gets focused through creativity – something that  honestly should go without saying as a necessity for people working in a creative field. As a core driving force, passion goes a long way. But creativity creates pathways through which passion can express itself. The purpose of creativity is to make avenues for passion to thrive in. Think of it this way – driving enthusiasm is nothing without a form for it to take. Creativity allows those in my field to actualize those forms – to create poetry, or short films, or YouTube videos, or photo galleries that enable a communal experiencing and sharing of their passions. It enables the transition from passion’s shapeless ideas and drive into something that can be clearly communicated to the all-important audience.

Creativity, then, is tempered through honesty – something that works in multiple tiers in both the context of this credo and the creative process as a whole. Naturally, it’s not traditional honesty – as something of that sort would be impossible to many people in the field. Creatives are often intimately involved in the realm of fiction – something that is the farthest thing from honest truth, more often than not. But the kind of honesty that’s important here is personal honesty – the understanding that the narratives, messages, and conveyances sent forward by their work are in line with their own personal visions. In many aspects, honesty in this case is very much like passion. Both deal with a sort of deep connection with one’s work, but passion is more oriented in the space before and throughout, while honesty is more observable after. Honesty defines if one’s creative work is compliant with one’s passion, and a lack of personal honesty destroys that connection, and as a result, destroys the core of one’s work.

 

In The Context of This Class…

All of these things play into achieving a very specific sub-category of competency detailed in this course – namely Ruben’s idea of “role modeling” as described in his Leadership Competencies Scorecard. It works towards the idea of defining what goes into creating work that would come from a kind of creative leader – the kind of work that people call on for inspiration, act on in kind, and cite as a constant source of emulation? This is really because leadership in the creative field functions in a manner that’s a bit different from fields that have established hierarchies, structured ladders to scale, and titles to achieve. I’ve always believed that in the realm of people who make things, tell stories, craft narratives – you’re constantly just in a flux of making it and currently in the process of making it. While there are hierarchical structures that define the more set in stone leaders in occupations within the field – directors, lead editors, publishers – there isn’t much of that as far as personal work goes. There isn’t much of that when it comes to creating content. The age old “classical view” of organizations that says “organizations are machines”, “workers are engineers” just doesn’t really apply in the slightest as far as creative teams go. I think that a more accurate way to look at it is to consider the notion of “co-activation” as discussed by the course, where leaders act to create new leaders, instilling on them the tools and skills necessary to thrive in their fields and go forward to co-activate more leaders from there.

The notion is similar in the creative realm. The point has never been to establish an audience, or delegate tasks to a body of lesser writers. It’s always been to communicate and inspire – to hope that what you do through your work is enough to drive others the way you were driven to do your own work.

 

Games as Art

To start out with, here’s my screencast from last week. It’s a rougher project than I’d like, to be completely honest. First my actual microphone for recording voice – complete with a pop filter for some extra clarity – decided it didn’t want to play nice with my computer anymore, then my entire first run through didn’t save properly, and then I had to edit

I’m much more used to taking part in the editing process with something a little more evocative – something with a story. It was hard to get attached to the process and the finished project here mostly because I didn’t quite connect with the subject matter, but that’s really besides the point. I had to get reacquainted with the process of cutting clips down and condensing and replacing – something that’s definitely going to tie into a lot of the projects I’ll be producing in the future.

Now, on to today’s topic – games.

There’s no denying that games are very much a mainstream medium now. They’ve come a long way from being solely perceived as a recreational activity for the social pariahs of the world – taking precedence in the modern age as something just as applicable to storytelling as novels and film are. Interactivity allows for audience engagement on a nearly unprecedented level – and that opens the door for some scary avenues of connection between a player and any particular message a game dev might want to send.

And believe me – the devs are well aware of this.

It goes beyond simply ham-handedly telling a player to feel a certain way. Any developer can draft a dramatic cutscene, hire people to create brilliant character models and set pieces, tack on an amazing orchestral score, and hope that makes an indent on memory. But to me, conveying meaning involves something a lot more implicit. Conveying experience isn’t as cut and dry as throwing money at your development team.

One of my favorite games to date has to be Metro: 2033 – a first person shooter set in a post apocalyptic Moscow, where humanity has been driven to the deep subway tunnels underneath the irradiated city to eke out their existence. It has all the hallmarks of your typical post apocalyptic shooter – gritty environments, rough and tumble characters, lots of shooting (despite what little ammunition people seem to have stockpiled).

But I remember one moment in the game where you come across a small boy shaking a corpse, begging his uncle to wake up and keep moving – that the monsters will reach them if he doesn’t. You move in to comfort him, and although the child seems to perk up rather quickly, there’s something endearing about the way he asks if you have a gun and climbs on your back, telling you that he’ll keep watch for you.

You end up escorting this boy through the grimy tunnels, running into all manner of sharp-toothed monstrosities as you go along, but eventually you reach this open space, smack in the middle of what looks like an old crossing section for subway trains. There’s this wide hole in the ceiling, and sunlight is peeking through from somewhere high in the distance.

And from your back, the little boy says, “That’s…the sky, isn’t it? It’s like a painted ceiling! I’ll….I’ll be famous! I saw the sky!

It’s a simple moment, but one that hits hard – one that conveys the feeling of dread and despair that are so ever-present behind the screen, all by fixating on a single moment of innocent optimism. The player is drawn into the stark contrast between the created world and their own, and the difference is made jarring in that brief instant.

 

I Put On My Best Radio Voice, Fam…

Shooting for the indie radio show vibe with this one. Don’t know if I hit it or not. I’ve messed with Audacity before, but it’s like the professor said – it’s a finnicky program. I had all sorts of issues with volume peaking randomly and the software actually recognizing the recording mic that I’m using, but I think it pulled through in the end. It was great pulling music into the mix, here. I’ve only ever used Audacity for poetry reading stuff before – it’s good that I’ll have the skill under my belt for the future.

Anyway – for this week, I found this Nostalgiacritic review on channelawesome.com –

I almost clicked off at first – I’m actually a pretty big fan of Stephen King stuff.

But fanboying aside, this video is pretty standard fare as far as online/YouTube review shows go. It features a number of clips taken from the movie that pop up between Doug Walker explaining the highs and lows of Dreamcatcher from 2003. You can sort of think of these kinds of videos as visual essays – you’ve got Walker providing the meat of the analysis, while the intercut videos provide evidence backing his points. The methodical layout is hidden pretty well underneath the witty timing, Walker constantly cracking jokes at the movie’s expense, and the skits created by the crew that establish a lighthearted overtone for the entire video. It seems like a complex product, but most of the effort (aside from the skits) goes into the formulation of the script and the assembly of the video. The actual clips of Walker – again, save for those in the skits – are all taken from one angle, minimally edited – straightforward. And yet the video is effective because it cleanly packages analysis, opinion, proof, and entertainment in one package – an easy and accessible format that’s practiced by a lot of online reviewers on YouTube – Jontron and Zero Punctuation’s Yahtzee, to name a couple.