Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Live Blogging @ iWDMS Part 4 - Day 2

Some rough notes on the final panel of the final day of iWDMS (with usual disclaimer for typos, etc.).

OMDC: Play
Panelists: Claudette Critchley, COO, Big Blue Bubble
Valerie Fox, Director, Ryerson Digital Media Zone
Ana Serrano, Founding Director, Digital Media Lab, CFC
Diane Williamson, President, Digital Wizards Inc.
Moderator: Kim Gibson, Program Consultant, Industry Development Group,  OMDC

This panel is basically an overview of some of the projects & organizations the OMDC is involved in - sort of a platform for promoting the organization and raising awareness of the types of things it funds, supports, etc. Linkages to industry, academia, media archives, think tanks, etc. Useful if you're thinking about getting involved with them or applying for one of their funding opportunities.

Claudette Critchley: Big Blue Bubble - est.2004 - closing in on 100th game developed, mostly mobile: cell phones, NDS and now iOS. E.g. Dark Incursion -3D game; Burn the Rope; Home Sweet Home - casual game series on multiple platforms. Some of the largest game companies in Ontario are in London (other than Ubisoft in Toronto). Conference coming up in November - half of which will focus on development. Minors in videogame development, lots of talent in Ontario to feed the industry.

Valerie Fox: Digital Media Zone (DMZ) @ Ryerson, est. 2010 - aimed at helping young innovators (students - current or former, and other) grow new business/markets (?) and create jobs. Undergrads, grad students and alumni (also entrepreneurs and people from other universities and colleges) with amazing ideas - DMZ helps to turn these ideas into young companies - giving spaces, support, etc. From 6 or 7 to 34 companies (note: only 6 out of 34 founded by women). the idea is that they can begin there and then grow up and out (leave the DMZ once they've become big enough to make it on their own).  Free space (and resources) in exchange for commitment to be open with ideas, findings - goal of the Zone is to foster collaboration and "cross-pollination" of ideas and expertise. Idea has to have a plan, prototype, commercial or social value. [Note: check out "Shape Collages"]

Ana Serrano: CFC Media Lab - currently located at MARS. est.1997. Was with Don Tapscott's think tank, brought in by Norman Jewison etc. to create an "electronic cottage" at the CFC originally focused on enabling technologies for film. Became a proactive initiative aimed at seeding talent (e.g. storytellers and other Canadian creatives)  who could work towards creating/anticipating/understanding/shaping (etc.) new ways of storytelling in/through interactive media & other tech. 200 alumni who have started their own companies (e.g. Stitch Media). Shifting their focus now that these activities are being taken up by other orgs (such as DMZ) - for instance toward curriculum development and collaborative university programs (e.g partnership with OCAD), as well as collaborating to produce company accelerators (re: commercialization of interactive products). Current expertise in building prototypes. What they're missing (or Canada is more generally) is getting those products marketable, globally. Focus on sustainable, viable business plans, etc. Take the risks the private industry can't bear. Some examples of their products: First user-generated content storytelling project - the Great Canadian Story Engine. Locative cloud music service. Game that uses brain waves to move the story along. The future is now.

Diane Williamson: University of Waterloo-Stratford, particularly REAP (research entrepreneurship acceleration program) - new program, external to course of study, paid research position drawing students from across disciplines. focused on interactive digital displays. Working with GestureTek [yay!], and others. Work with tech to find new uses, new market, and collaborate on new research [so...using students for R&D???].

Of possible interest re: industry/academia partnerships:
OMDC's Entertainment and Creative Cluster Fund
Research Grants

In all of these initiatives, female representation is above average but not great. 25% at Big Blue Bubble; 30% at DMZ (mostly producing content - only 6/34 companies started by women, only 10% involved in tech work); 30% at CFC - women are not starting their own companies out of there either; Waterloo research program - 50/50.

Live Blogging the iWDMS - Part 3 - Day 2

As before - filled with typos, spelling mistake and maybe even the occasional mis-attribution. This is live blogging - it's messy!

LUNCH & LEARN - WIFT-T Industry Study Presentation

Panel Discussion between:
Susan Annis, Executive Director, Cultural Human Resources Council
Lynda Brown-Ganzert, Vice-President, Nordicity
Shelley Simmons, Director, Chocolate Liberation Front
Madeline Ziniak, National Vice-President, Rogers OMNI Television

Susan Ross, Partner, ISM Access; Chair of the WIFT-T Industry Study

Susan Ross: Representation in media industries lagging behind the rest of the workforce. Haven't seen great gains since previous studies - and in broadcasting, even a decline in women's participation.

Madeline: Unfortunately sees it as a trend - not on the radar - feminism is no longer an accepted word. Sea change in broadcasting generally, which she sees as not as sensitive to the importance of having women on board, in executive positions. 20 years ago, management would make an effort to have better representation (of women, other excluded groups) on short lists for positions - no longer the case.

Susan Annis: Advocacy groups are being silenced - not participating, not being funded, etc. It seems so obvious that we need that kind of balance for our cultural products to reflect the entire country, it's not rocket science. No need to get lost in the rhetoric of feminism, could potentially just be a numbers game (me: hmmmmm).

Linda: The idea of equality falling off the agenda found throughout. Several years ago, there was funding and support and curriculum to get girls into math, computer science, etc. Not so much anymore. If tech skills aren't being fostered at home, or elementary school, may not get it anywhere (or in time).

Susan (moderator) - technical side?
Shelley: From the interactive side - sees more women in technical roles, making casual games - but certainly not still dominant. Thinks there's a real potential for women to make games for women - don't see this as much.

Susan (moderator) - dismayed by the stats showing low take up rate (17%) on business training among women in film and tv sectors. how critical is business training.

Susan Annis: business skills aren't often why people go into the film and television industries - they want to direct, produce, write, etc. but business skills are really key - important to know them, know how that aspect of the industry works. WIFT has been taking a real lead here - holding workshops, etc. on production accounting, etc. These are key areas the industry has identified as important - a real need here - Susan says not limited to women.

Do the business skills open up doors? Madeline says not as much as they'd like to see - so another gap between skills training and application (opportunities for application).

Linda: recommends "just in time" training - quick and short that can respond to immediate needs, in lead up to a specific opportunity, etc.

Shelley: refers back to the summit's recurring theme of taking risks - and points out that there's a need for dispelling the myth around risks - revealing the repercussions, which often aren't all that bad.

Susan (moderator): Need to address the glass ceiling - we've shattered a layer, there's one more layer to go (executive level). not seeing movement amongst women. other than ruminating and training, what's left to do?

Madeline: mentions tokenism as a trend. Women work harder in attaining the positions, volunteering, trying hard to break through and get a network going. What do we have to do? Doesn't want affirmative action, but wants corps. and orgs. to take out the excuses for not looking at women for positions. sees a lot of old boys network that no one is talking about - people getting hired without going through the regular interview process. need to dispel certain cultural misunderstandings (e.g. perceptions about women and aggression - not being aggressive enough, or too aggressive, etc.).

Linda: Almost need to leap frog into issue of women on boards. On a board, women are empowered and have responsibility - can take action at this level to ensure that women *are* being considered for jobs, that hiring processes are fair and transparent, that diversity is on the agenda, etc.  [me: good stuff]

Madeline: reiterates the need to be more vocal - take a stand. trend away from that - just don't see or hear it anymore. needs to be reinvigorated.

[Me:...Gotta say, Madeline's comments are refreshing and overall quite awesome. the continued emphasis on women getting more training, more of the "right" kind of training, is sort of frustrating. Are women really the problem? I want to hear more about challenging the old boys' network...which I'm not sure an extra accreditation or accounting knowledge can really stand a chance against.]

Susan - moderator: Work life balance comes up again - a tired phrase, but nonetheless important finding of the study. Is there a level you can reach in an organization where you can have more freedom to have a "life"? In creative industries - with production schedules - is there a happy way to have both life and a career?

Linda: Time shifting, supportive co-workers. Work-life balance is a fallacy - there are moments/glimpses of it, but constant changes and shifts involved. Need to change the pitch - accommodate more life in the way work is structures, how employees are chosen and managed (and retained), results in a better workforce, better business, reputation, etc.

Shelley: Also need to encourage that men take parental leave - be more open to men taking this time as well - normalize the idea that this isn't (and shouldn't be) just something that applies to women. Clearly applies to men as well. [me: yes!!!!!]

Susan - moderator: Future - what's next - what would you like to see?

Susan Annis: Won't see a return to the 80s. All need to work together. Can't wait to see what will happen in 5 years, thinks men and women are understanding more and more that "we're in this together".  [me: btw: this here is a response that many of my undergrad students used to have when faced with current stats about inequity in employment/pay rates, etc. they'd say the study was outdated - even if the stats were only a year old - and that things were changing, and that men and women didn't feel that way anymore, so the statistical evidence was temporary, etc. Just sayin'! This is a pretty common reaction. Part of the problem?]

Madeline: this should be a signal - a pressure point - for organizations to take this and address it - to better reflect and prioritize diversity. need to take a leadership role in equity employment, etc. Ties this into business/economics - better for the market, which shouldn't be used as an excuse to not take risks, entrench in status quo, etc.

Shelley: would like to see this conversation back on the radar. comparative studies to show that there have been plateaus and lack of change.

Linda: wants canada to be global leaders in some sort of agreed upon standards for equitable employment.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Live Blogging iWDMS Part 2

Making Media that Matters Panel
Moderated by Andra Sheffer, ED, Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund

Jill Golick, Screenwriter/Digital Creator, Story2.OH
Years ago, TV producers told her that boys won't watch stuff with girls in it, but that girls would watch programs with boys (*can't remember the source, this is from one of the foundational books on kids' tv from the 60s or 70s)*. Today, they're still telling her the same thing. The continued belief in this gender segregation ignores how smart and insightful kids really are. Her work tries to represent kids that are more like real kids - mentioned Ruby Sky PI.

Katerina Cizek, Filmmaker in Residence, National Film Board of Canada
Documentary linking new media/social media, participatory media and film - currently working on one that focuses on high-rise living. Made one a couple of years ago for tracking the global handy cam phenomenon (*think Burma V.J.*). Describes Out My Window - the lives that people create out of the cracks in the grey concrete of the high rise. Doing action research through documentary filmmaking - peer researchers, getting people who live in suburban high rises to record their own experience. Many of their findings defied expectations - e.g. broadband penetration, which is supposed to be linked to income, was very high (80%??). Cizek argues that the most important question: What are people doing with these digital tools - in the peripheries and hidden places of our cities. Wants to better understand the city at its edges - the ways in which digital tech reconfigure, etc. (e.g. always on Skype with family members from country of origin, etc.).

Kirsty Hunter, Managing Director, The Project Factory UK
Presents the documentary film How to Start a Revolution her team was involved with on Gene Sharp - who wrote a highly influential guide to overthrowing dictatorships, links back to what's going on today. Tracking the patterns and "guide book" that revolutions around the world (Egypt, Syria, etc.) are basing their actions upon (e.g. english signs, non-violence). Online tracking has found increased traffic to Gene Sharp's works immediately preceding big massive social movements. Her group has launched a site, and are working on an app. Running a campaign alongside a television broadcast exposing the UK property scandal - media aimed not just at informing, but at instigating public action and law reform. She says her company is interested in "Ideas that hopefully affect change".

Jill Golick: Getting girls into tech, working with her daughter (?). Created a series that examined things you could do with your computer - set your Facebook settings, etc. Independent Production Fund call for web series - Golick pitched an online girl detective series (hadn't been one in awhile - live action for kids - maybe Harriet the Spy?)...which became Ruby Sky P.I.  Trailer takes on the whole email from a Nigerian prince requesting money transfer assistance scam. Wanted the kids to look like real kids (not TV kids) - light makeup, if they didn't brush their hair that morning - don't fix it, mix of purchased wardrobe and own clothes (actors'). Another episode focused on banning plastic water bottles - on the website included a real petition which was sent to parliament, etc. - also sell reusable (metal) water bottles.

Sheffer asks where is Canada lagging behind when it comes to new technology?
Cizek: mentions the mobile device issue - people from other countries are used to really cheap mobiles, and come to Canada it's a shock + barrier.
Golick: also ties in to making shorter programs (to watch on mobile devices).
Hunter: doesn't know - hasn't been here enough. But mentions Twit_Knit as a cool thing someone is doing in the UK, converging crafting and social media in innovative way.

Sheffer asks about media/tech convergence
Golick: Arab Spring - protests, etc. Showing films in different areas - say that documentaries don't work, but fiction (??).
Hunter: use of BBM in the London protests.
Cizek: Technology is just one piece of a larger social puzzle.  To a later question also mentions the tension between open source/participatory design and traditional models as a key consideration (in thinking about how tech will develop, role it will play, etc.). Also links this to later comment about the need to get more people into programming, design of technology, as key part of open source convo.
Golick agrees that keeping open source alive is crucial.

Sheffer - who is developing the new tech we're seeing (besides Steve Jobs).
Golick: explosion akin to the music scene of the 60s. Many different people, but people who want to color outside the lines
Cizek: many different industries, from military to various other. Emphasizes user appropriations (and re-appropriations) for new, humane uses - media industry has a role to play here.
Hunter: need to look outside regular toolkits. They've been experimenting with using chat bots inside games as characters - who adapt their responses to you. Taking bits of tech and adding them to your arsenal.

Live Blogging @iWDMS

Here goes my second attempt at live blogging from a conference - proceed with caution (many typos, clumsy paraphrasing and unfinished sentences ahead).

iWDMS Panel: Beyond Primetime: The Battle of Push vs. Pull

Norm Bolen - Chairman, Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA). Lots of money in traditional media, clear regulation on what they need to invest in CanCon - ensures that a % of revenue will be spent on canadian content.Ad market for tv has bounced back very well. CTV transaction, Canwest - pumped money into the broadcast system. Big bulge of money being invested in canadian content - US financing on prime time drama (Flashpoint, Rookie Blue) - right now. Really good for Canadian producers...but why haven't we seen an explosion in digital content to reflect this? Says that Canada is more risk averse - less capital/investment available - Canadian Media Fund (CMF) is really key in the financing of a large proportion of canadian content...existing financial model hasn't really worked, wasn't much incentive for producers (limited return on investment, limited rights, etc.). New "terms of trade" deal - formal, measurable, enforceable and now a requirement for broadcast license. Key element re: digital content - in all deals now being negotiated there's a revenue sharing agreement on digital rights/conversion content - 50/50 break down. This is going to change things significantly - from push to pull, young creators not interested in traditional media, etc.

Thinks we are reaching the day when it will be almost impossible to even imagine regulating digital content on the internet. Harder and harder to differentiate the pieces - not sure regulation will be the solution to the CanCon dilemma. As a country we need to find a way to contribute more online - we don't have a Canadian platform for digital content - is this an area that we need to look at, develop.

Samantha McWilliams, Legal Counsel, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC): Netflix - reached 800K subscriptions in its first year in Canada - estimates it will reach 1million at the end of Q3.

Rita Cugini, Commissioner, Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
Pay-per-view has a very long history - the climate/technologies are changing, but there is a history (or background) there to consider. The CRTC will be holding industry consultations over the next 3 weeks on the opportunities, challenges, threats presented by over-the-top services (such as Netflix) - and try to devise some solutions. Are these services "exempt" - should they be regulated? enforce CanCon requirements? require them to contribute a % of revenues to Canadian productions? These are some of the questions they will be considering over the next little while. In the meantime, Canada has become the poster child for over-the-top services (other countries are waiting to see what we'll do).

Q from audience: UltraViolet - online rights locker (US based) that also deals with distribution on all different platforms. Consortia incl. 64 major players in the US and Canada - launching imminently. btw: Netflix is part of the consortium.

Christina Jennings, CEO, Chairman, Executive Producer, Shaftesbury Films
Doesn't think that Canadians are risk averse. But traditional broadcasters are falling (have fallen) behind. Canada has a lot of money right now (for media production) and everyone knows it. The risk she sees has more to do with US investment coming in and taking over - Canadians should take advantage of these opportunities. We need to watch what's going on with the over-the-top services and what the CRTC decides to do here, need to watch the digital space. Canadian experimental fund - breaking ground that no one else is doing, and she links this back to the foundations of Canadian media (that media, broadcasting and Canadian content have always been considered important). Talked earlier about creating a digital game for a television series watched primarily by older audiences - the game failed, and she points to this as an example of a mistake to learn from. Need to match the digital content/app to the audience's needs, likes, etc. Not try to force things, or just latch onto the latest trend. New app for tween girls on a making-of-the-band-style drama/comedy series Totally Amp'd - series made from the app up...might launch on iTunes, then get picked up by broadcasters for their websites (webisodes), and then the question becomes will it move to traditional media. Interesting! Using online to create an audience - alternative to "using a brand" (e.g. adaptations of a known character or book series, etc.).

Norm Bolen: Significant amounts of money being raised by consumers and fans of content through micro-financing, crowd sourcing (Kickstarter etc.). Younger people especially, engaging in this not to make money but to support content they care about. Rejection of traditional media, production standards, etc. Digital content creation is going to come out of these newer models, these types of producers and consumers.

Christina Jennings: It's all changing, but points out that amazing things being made online (movies for $1 million) aren't necessarily making money for the creators involved. Need to break open, cross barriers with the traditional broadcasters (they have all the money after all) - who will ultimately be the ones to push us forward. (I think she means into a sustainable industry model). Also points to the need for curation of all this user-generated and independently produced content - a role she feels can be filled by traditional broadcasters, producers, etc. To start to curate, highlight, select (sort of what broadcasters have been doing all along) - not just showcase tie-ins to their current (traditionally modelled) programs, but original digital content that fits into their overarching "brand" or vision (e.g. CTV, YTV, etc.).

Bolen: Youtube has channels that already serve this function = new curation models, that he thinks will become increasingly important. Some of these will become dominant, successful models (a la Huffington Post for news). Points to comedy as a key area where this is taking place.

Cugini: Regulator - what should the role be (earlier asked if there even should be a role)? These are questions CRTC is asking itself. Don't have funds - can only require that funds flow in certain ways (e.g. CanCon funding), but even then, there are so many questions and uncertainties involved right now. Thinks that linear, traditional broadcasting is probably not going away in our lifetime - but asks 'what are broadcasters doing to embrace and compliment the digital'? Are they being as innovative as online broadcasters? From this it sounds like the biggest concern here is ensuring -- or at least supporting as much as possible -- industry success.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

This Week: Arthur Slade talks "From Hobbits to HTML" at Lillian H. Smith

"Hobbit Hole" ©2009-2011 ~Legacy0 on devianArt

I've posted this already on the Children's Cultural Texts & Artifacts blog, but wanted to be sure that word got out to a broader audience, as this event promises to be a really compelling one. Arthur Slade, Saskatoon YA author and Governor General Award winner, will be speaking at the Lillian H. Smith branch (TPL) this Thursday (Oct. 20, 8pm), on the future of YA/children's publishing and his own - pretty innovative - move to ebooks. Here's an excerpt from the TPL announcement:

The 24th annual Helen E. Stubbs Memorial Lecture
Arthur Slade: "From Hobbits to HTML" 
Art Slade is one of Canada's most versatile authors, whose award-winning work ranges from realistic historical fiction about the Great War through steampunk, graphic novels and fantasy adventures. As a young reader, Art was influenced by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Ray Bradbury. Now an established author, he explores becoming his own publisher through ebooks. Is this the future of children's writers?
There's also Facebook page for the event. As for finding out more about the author, he's all over the interwebs: there's an official Arthur Slade's website, sites for the various different books/series, and Slade's livejournal blog Writing for Young AdultsAnd if you haven't had a chance to read any of Slade's work yet, the books themselves are available in every format imaginable (including iBook, Kindle, etc.), are magnificently affordable, and you can even find free sample chapters online. I just downloaded the first of his Northern Frights series, Draugr, which has the creepiest first line ever ("Grandpa was going to murder us"), a perfect fit for these dark and stormy October nights.