At Picnic, September 26 I visited a Partner Event named Quality Time, organized by the Stimulerings Fonds where a presentation was given by the Stifo@Sandberg workshop. Stifo@Sandberg started six years ago when designers and filmmakers were paired up with the intention of influencing both artistic practices. In this demo session the best work from the series was showcased. The idea was to engage the audience in a discussion on the future of the media and for the international panel (including Frank Boyd, Katie Salen, Matt Adams, Ferhan Cook and Michel Mol) to give feedback on the presentations. Martijn de Waal moderated the morning.
The three cross media projects presented were Herinnnerdingen.nl (memorythings) van Boudewijn Koole en Ryan Oduber (produced by de Jongens van de Wit/VPRO), BeperktHoudbaar.info van Sunny Bergman en Debbie Mollenhagen (produced by Viewpoint Productions/VPRO) en Kika en Bob van Colette Bothof en Vincent Bal (produced by Submarine/NPS).
The most vulnerable project was Boudewijn Koole’s Herinnerdingen. This project was developed during the workshop and had no previous cinema form. The idea for this project came from a girl of 14, who asked Boudewijn to make a film about her deceased father because she missed him so much. Boudewijn loved the idea, made this one film but wanted to help other kids in similar circumstances too. While working on the project, Ryan and Boudewijn came up with the idea of a public memory shrine on the Internet where children could upload their pictures of deceased loved ones. This became www.herinnerdingen.nl. Kids could put pictures and little stories online. It could only be pictures of things, no faces, and no portraits.
The intention was to make it as easy accessible for children so they could use it at home, they could add audio tracks themselves and send this multimedia slideshow to friends and family members by mail or just put it on the side.
The second project, Over the Hill by Sunny Bergman, is a spin off from her latest work. Over the Hill explores how photoshopped media influences women’s self image, citing vaginal rejuvenation for a young girl as a strong example.
Sunny and Debbie made a forum of the film online: www.beperkthoudbaar.nl. The film attracted a lot attention in the media and the reactions were quite strong. With the site, they tried to build a community around the subject and wanted to continue the discussion. With this aim, they developed a petition accusing the cosmetic industry of making false claims on their products.
Additionally, both a tape and a logo, with the words “photoshop free” were made available on the site: allowing one to ‘tag’ their daily environment.
The last project presented, was merely the biggest one. Kika and Bob is an animation project, which was originally developed for interactive television but also had a spin-off on the Internet. On the television side, there were different points in time where the spectator had to their chosen what to do with the main characters. The cause/consequence of chosen action had no internal logic, so the spectator had to find out by trial and error what would came out of the choices. A wrong choice and the lead character died. www.kikaandbob.com, the online part, tries to lure spectators by a narrative: one of the characters, Tiger the cat is trapped in London in a church tower, while Kika and Bob are stuck somewhere at the other end of the world. The spectator needs to keep Tiger alive by playing games catching fish to feed poor Tiger. Also can the sequels be watches at the site. Kika and Bob is an international co production witch will be distributed in many countries.
The panel discussion centered on how these kinds of cinema/television spin-offs and multimedia productions were located and financed in the changing broadcast landscape.
An issue of interest was the role of TV and especially digital TV as a podium and the continued importance of tv rather than the sole reliance on the Internet. Television seemed still to be the main generator of funding. Broadcasters, public or commercial, could invest the highest amounts of money. As Terry Flew mentioned in his book New Media, an introduction, television is a shared leisure, a lean back medium while computer is a lean forward medium. Funny thought is, while Media and advertisers are still in favor of the first, young people round 10 and 20 years old, an important target group, completely ignore television and are totally focused on the internet where they can be part of the ‘user generated content’. The latest development is clear: Instead of passive spectators, the new media consumer is becoming a user who starts producing content himself. These ‘produsers’ use the Internet to make a perfect persona to present themselves to the world.
One more interesting point brought up by was the difference in lifespan between a film and a site. For a film, once finished, the project is over and it needs no more financial support. A site with a vivid community however is different matter. Sometimes it’s hard to stop sustaining it because responsibilities are developed towards a community. How to finance the moderation and continuation of these kinds of sites and up to what level are the original initiators of the site are responsible for its continuation and content. Ferhan Cook noted that this responsibility could be considerable and also a concern when selling the site. Caring had priority over money, she stated.
This issue is particularly relevant to Herinnerdingen.nl this problem is rising. Since so many children put on the pictures of their loved ones, how could anyone put it down? But maintaining it does cost money, and who is going to pay for this, and for how long? Matt Adams made it clear that he was in favor of the method that when a project became a society issue, simply tax money should be used and governmental organizations should take over. Where a television production ends at a certain point, the online spin-off can still be used by its community and causing traffic. For this problem there is not yet a format where and how to get the money.
Sunny Bergman asked specific advice from the panel in this matter and wanted to know what they would suggest to financially support her website. Earlier she had admitted turning down an offer from Dove who wanted to support Beperkt Houdbaar.nl because Dove being concerned with both Unilever’s association with Dovee and possible lack of independence. Besides this, she suspected Dove’s underlying interest in publicity for commercial reasons.
Adams answer to her question was quiet straightforward: Go back to Dove. Despite the disadvantages, he thought this was the best shot. Another option given by the panel was to try to get the community involved.
The main point was, since the new 360˚ broadcasting there was not yet a new, fitted funding system. Public broadcasters have to prove they are still worth maintaining; money is to be found in different directions. One solution, for example for the Kika and Bob project was, to keep making parts for television and for an international market as a way of generating money. Katie Salem, who said the opposite, gave another solution and suggested that it could be worthwhile to make smaller productions on smaller scale so the financing would not be such a big issue. Cook mentioned the example of Sophia’s Diary http://miss–sophia.livejournal.com. This is a small online diary project with television spin-off. The concept is developed in Portugal and is sold to many countries. They can adjust it, as they need to for implementation in their own environment. In this apparently contradictory movement, where we see productions getting more global and local at the same time, we find an interesting area to research within the media landscape.
Media productions (as in television, documentaries, artworks, animation films, online projects) are in a state of flux and there are no single solutions for its new problems. The panel was concluded it was better to first generate an audience, create a platform, and work out the problems later. Getting attention for the mobile screens is hard without getting the Youtube eyeballs first. So start online and move on later.
Business models need to be discovered. Solutions for the moment seem to be, to work with small scale, locally based projects and a “do it yourself” mentality, that includes blogs and moderation.
Besides this discussion about business models and funding problems, I like to articulate that to me the main gain of these new media projects is the chance to be involved in society criticism and bypass the top down system of the major broadcasters and governmental organizations. Not leaning back but leaning forward is the new attitude towards the media and despite the digital divide; this is more and more accessible for larger parts of the world.