Ever dreamed of voicing a fluffy canine in a dreamy Wes Anderson film? Well, he offered you the chance….for $50,000.

Featured image from Flickr by Paul Hudson - Free to use under all Creative Commons. 
Available at: Isle of Dogs set pictures by Paul Hudson

130,000 still photographs, a team of 670, and a whole Isle of Dogs. It’s no doubt that Wes Anderson’s new film has become a labour of love with many. But what also made Anderson’s film a huge team effort, was his use of crowdfunding to widen his network even more. Have you ever used crowdfunding before? Have you ever donated to your friends’ three-legged 1k races? Ever donated to a school friend’s up and coming band? Or even donated to a film foundation? Well done if you’ve done all three, you philanthropist. You’ve taken part in crowdfunding.

Oscar-nominated director Wes Anderson utilized crowdfunding to fundraise for Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation – a charity aiming to restore old films. Not only did Anderson set out to raise awareness for his new film but also used Isle of Dogs encourage this crowdfunding mission. Wonderful Wes ended up raising a quarter of a million dollars. That’s a lot of dollars. And that’s a lot of crowdfunding, too. Crowdrise, the company founded by Mr Edward Norton nonetheless, gave a platform to raise money for Scorsese’s Film Foundation. The Foundation aimed to combat the insufficient funding problems that they face, with only 800 being restored since the foundation’s beginning in 1990 – this may sound a lot initially, but this is only a measly quarter of the films that applied for restoration. That means 2800 films have applied in total, hashtag quick maths.

And even though the Foundation receive help from film big boys, Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, the Foundation is still stuck struggling. The Foundation states it generally costs a mighty $50,000 to $450,000 for restoring a film, so it’s not cheap. This struggle unfortunately rises with the ever growing number of films that are in need of restoration. With moving image being found in a bountiful of environments, there becomes the misconception that film that can be found on a variation of platforms are also protected. But shock horror, they’re not. The Foundation states that the original elements that create even a decent film, still possess the ability to deteriorate or become lost. Preservation is a continuous cycle and requires the need to be upgraded every few years to catch up with fast-moving technologies and digitalisation. These hurdles and hindrances therefore require a lot of money and provide an even bigger incentive for Anderson to contribute to the cause. The digitized domain we live in is a mighty big problem and has therefore encouraged the Foundation to centre towards independent filmmakers, and documentary creators who struggle most.

Anderson viewed these struggles and created varied prizes for his Crowdrise donors as it’s all about those initiatives, guys. One incredibly lucky winner would win a trip for them and a plus one to London, to meet Wes, a tour of the Isle of Dogs set, receive a miniature figure from the film and even record the voice of a canine character in the film. I have never wanted to practice woofing and barking so much. Every $10 that a donor would give to the cause, would mean one entry to winning the grand prize, whereas donors could buy the grand prize for a whopping $50,000. Other prizes that could be won included a DVD signed by Wes, and other winners a signed Wes Anderson Collection book.

Film preservation had always been a key adoration of Wes Anderson, and the concept of the film becoming a charitable platform by its future audiences is nothing short of exciting and fulfilling. The audience are also rooted in the film’s production, quite literally in providing a voice for the film too.

Anderson’s relationship with his audience grows closer, and becomes more rewarding. But moving from just boundaries of a video box, harmonizes a stronger bond between audiences and art philanthropy – a move forward for our creative industries, don’t you think?

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Does NESTA’s Manifesto For A Creative Economy serve any purpose in the era of Facebook data harvesting?

Credit: pixabay

A Scary Scandal

In 2013, NESTA created ‘A Manifesto For The Creative Economy’ where they made ten proposals. One of these was to create an open internet by monitoring market abuse and addressing concerns swiftly. However, the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal could suggest they have failed in this proposal. In light of this event, we must question if NESTA’s proposals have any real influence when this blatant abuse of the internet went on for so many years?

Cambridge Analytica uses data, in their own words “to change audience behaviour”. For four years, they were able to harvest Facebook user’s data, from their birthdates to their interests, and even their private conversations. They accessed user’s information through an app which was used through Facebook. This data was consequently used to target users based on their personal information. Shockingly this information was used was to target people with political messages. One of the company’s clients were none other than Donald Trump, whose campaign to become the president involved using this data. The company boasts about their influential achievements in a video on their website, which can be seen below.

It was not until March 2018 that the actions of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook became public. A former employee of Cambridge Analytica spoke out against the practices, and also gave evidence to the British government.

 

What Could Have Been Done?

NESTA’s ‘A Manifesto For A Creative Economy’ had proposed that Ofcom should be given more power to monitor activity on the internet to act as a ‘warning system’ for potential abuses of power. To do this Ofcom would coordinate with the Information Commissioner’s Office on data protection issues. However, this clearly wasn’t executed in the case of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Does this not show that the Manifesto has had no effect on the future of the creative economy?

The Manifesto made it clear that NESTA were aware of the potential breaches to people’s privacy on social media sites, and that these could result in users being targeted. Thus, why were there not precautions to ensure Facebook could not underhandedly obtain 87 million people’s private data?

This form of data harvesting is illegal in a number of countries including in the United Kingdom. Cambridge Analytica are currently being investigated by many European countries, in addition to America. However, this is too little, too late. NESTA should have played a role in protecting the creative economy, however the Manifesto failed to highlight the corruption which was taking place on the internet. How can the creative economy continue to thrive if there is no safeguarding in place to protect it?

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Action taken by countries is too late                                                                                                                       Credit: Pixabay

The Future

The digital economy is worth £118 billion, this figure is set to increase in the years to come. It is an important part of the creative economy, therefore it is essential the internet is an open and safe space. Facebook alone has 2.2 billion users, it is essential that their personal data is protected.

NESTA acknowledged in the Manifesto that it is ultimately “for the Government to decide” if there were going to be further steps taken to protect the internet. Does this prove that NESTA has no real power to influence the creative economy? It does point to the fact that one of the key voices about the creative economy is not helping to sustain it. Therefore, unless something is going to change, we must ask will the creative economy continue to thrive?

All photos taken from pixabay.com, licensed under the creative commons zero (CC0) license

 

In the age of Instagram is photography a dying industry?

Credit: pexels

Everyone is a photographer today, armed with just a phone and an Instagram account people can create phenomenal photos. From its creation in 2010, Instagram has enabled the ordinary man to edit photographs using tools which, in the past, were only available if you had a subscription to editing software. IBIS World reported a 1.1% increase in annual growth for the photography industry from 2013-2018, this figure is insignificant in comparison to the 11% increase across all industries. This leads us to question the future of the industry.

 

The Smartphone Invasion

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High quality phones such as the iPhone X  are able to capture phenomenal photos                                                            Credit: pexels

Deloitte’s annual Mobile Consumer Survey found that four out of five British adults own a smartphone today. Therefore, people are able to capture high resolution photographs at any time. Last year, the iPhone X launched with a 12 MP camera and telephoto lenses to capture incredible quality pictures. With such impressive cameras available today, anyone can take pictures without the need of a professional.

In fact, the iPhone X has been compared to professional cameras. One reviewer, iJustine, even said that many of her high end cameras do not compare to the high resolution and speed of the iPhone X camera. You can see her full review below.

 

The Age Of The Amateur

In his book The Cult of the Amateur, Andrew Keen argues that the rise of these ordinary people capturing photographs is killing our culture and economy. He calls these people ‘uninformed amateurs’. But with such amazing photographs taken by ‘amateurs’, how can Keen believe that the job of the ‘trained expert’ is still needed?

Instagram allows individuals to edit a photograph before sharing it online. You can adjust the brightness, contrast, structure, colour, saturation, as well as being able to use a number of special tools on the picture. This helps transform ordinary photographs into exceptional pieces of art. Whereas in the past these tools were only available to professionals, now even my ten year old cousin can use them.

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An image I was able to create using an IPhone 6 and my Instagram account                                             Credit: The author’s own photo

You can also share your pictures around the world on Instagram, meaning the need to have photos printed by professionals is now extinct. This combined with the multitude of environmental campaigns which are constantly reminding us not to print unnecessarily makes printing a thing of the past. Of course some people still want to print their photographs, but developments in home printing have made it possible for people to print their own high-quality photographs at home.

 

User-Generated Content

A dominant part of the photography industry is photojournalists, they have always been responsible for capturing the image of a story, as it is said ‘a picture captures a thousand words’. However, since the dawn of the millennium there has been an increasing trend of news rooms incorporating user-generated photos instead. For newspapers and news programmes this saves them money as many people are excited enough by the prospect of their photo being used that they do not want to be paid for it. Leaving professional photographers out of pocket and at the top of the rubbish heap.

 

A Dying Breed

In the past, without a professional photographer it was impossible to capture a moment. This is not the case today. Photography is certainly not dying with forty million photos being posted on Instagram daily. However, the amateur photographer is taking over, which brings the future of the photography industry into question. Just ask yourself would you hire a photographer today, or snap your own photos and save the money?

All photos taken from pexels.com, licensed under the creative commons zero (CC0) license, or owned by the author.

TV shows vs. Trump: How popular culture is battling ongoing social and political injustice

Many have compared the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States to a dystopian scenario coming to life. In fact, after Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway first used the term ‘alternative facts’ the sales of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, which features similar alternatives to truth as a mechanism for manipulating the masses, skyrocketed and shot the book to 6th place on Amazon’s best-selling list.

In this time of traveling bans, deliberate misinformation, walls and meaningless slogans, however, we see a new kind of resistance forming and slowly making its way to people through their screens. Professionals from the film and TV industry have openly criticised Trump’s political views ever since he ran for office, but now they’re incorporating this criticism in their work and through this, into popular culture.

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Image source: Universal
The formula “Make America great again” has become well known to producers and scriptwriters and was even referenced in the slogan of the dystopian action horror film ‘The Purge: Election Year’ – “Keep America Great” (which Trump wanted to trademark for his 2020 election campaign, yes seriously)

TV shows, as the most flexible scripted medium, have been the first ones to adapt to the current political situation and reflect it. These are some of the storytelling metaphors the television show industry is using to portray the Trump administration’s policies and views:

Hyperbole

  • In these scenarios reality is greatly exaggerated, usually dystopian, but remnant of current events in the details of the storyline.

Watch: Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – a 2017 TV show adapted from Margaret Atwood’s book (the sales of which also shot through the sky the day after Trump was elected). It’s set in a future, where the government can freely exert power over women’s bodies and this is considered normal. The eerie references to problems such as rape culture, slut shaming, locker room talk and abortion laws are unmistakable, especially in a country run by republicans, who want to regulate women’s rights over their own bodies.

Parody

  • Laughter is said to be the best medicine, especially in the face of a potential authoritarian dictatorship. Political comedy has thrived on Trump’s statements, interviews and tweets, all the while using humour to inform viewers (and presidents) on serious topics.

Watch: HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ season 4. Despite being one of the many shows to offer social and political critique, ‘Last Week Tonight’ has differentiated itself from the bunch in its latest season. In the episode ‘Trump vs. Truth’ John Oliver not only talks about the president’s habit of publicly sharing unverified and untruthful information, but also offers a potential solution to the problem. The show sponsored and ran a series of ads featuring a cowboy who shares important facts that the president should know (such as what the nuclear triad is) during the morning cable news, which Trump regularly watches.

Contrast

  • Instead of fuelling the hate fire that Trump is spreading by criticising him, some have found that the best way to put it out is to uphold and promote its opposite – acceptance, and are trying to portray this on the small screen.

Watch: Starz’s ‘American Gods’ – a fantasy TV series based on the 2001 Neil Gaiman book. The story revolves around the battle between old and new gods, but its underlying message is in the diversity it portrays. It’s essentially a celebration of different cultures coming together and the power that their combined diversity brings and it’s set in a country, where politics are actively trying to undermine this exact diversity by instilling a fear of otherness in people and setting up immigration bans.

Whether TV shows will have any influence over the general opinions of Trump’s politics, only time will tell. However, I believe it’s good that they’re becoming a platform, which addresses social and political injustices and spreads awareness through popular culture.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comment section!


Cover image personally edited using pictures by tiburi, PublicDomainPictures and OpenClipart-Vector on Pixabay, all credited under CC0 Public Domain.

Team Doodles

A quick entry this week – just a record of some of the team doodles that were captured during seminars.

Seminar Round-up #1: What is culture, anyway?

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With four seminar groups running each week you’d expect the nature of the discussion to vary between each group. For this reason I will aim (if I have time) to write a short seminar round-up each week in the form of a 500(ish)-word blog post; not least to enter into the blog-writing spirit that forms part of this module.

 

Video Games and Star-Signs

My first task for everyone in the groups was to meet and greet their neighbour in class and find out some key, important data to report back to the group. This data consisted of: name; star-sign; favourite video game. Unfortunately I failed to record this data systematically, meaning that I’m currently unable to provide reliable statistics on the astrological range of participants. I can state that there did not seem to be a single Aquarian amongst those in attendance; there were also a disproportionate number of SIMS fans, many of whom seemed to be Geminis. It would be unscientific to draw conclusions at this early stage in the research.

Show and Tell / The Museum of Curious Objects

Since part of this module’s remit is to prepare you for life outside university, when you’ll be applying for jobs, internships or further study, it’s good practice to learn to speak in front of an audience or panel. It’ll help build your confidence! And it’s all about good storytelling.

So… to this end,  you are asked to bring an object to class one week, and tell us about it. Just two or three minutes. It could be a meaningful object from your childhood, or a random object with a story attached to it, or anything else that prompts you to tell a tale.  At the end of the module, all these storified objects will be curated into an exhibition –format yet to be decided.

Several of you have already bravely volunteered (with a little encouragement) to show and tell next week (w/c 6/2/17)…!

These are:

Tuesday, 12.10: Alyssa and Vicky

Tuesday, 3.10: Jasper and Dimana

Wednesday, 9am: Sean

Wednesday, 10am: Temi and Alice

Clearly, this promises to be VERY exciting.

By the way – if you have a strong resistance to showing and telling in class, or will feel overly self-conscious/anxious about it, you might prefer to do something different, or present as part of a pair – let me know if this is the case.

Discussion: What IS culture anyway?

This week’s key questions were: what are the pros and cons of thinking about culture and creativity as ‘industries’? And beyond that, what IS culture, anyway? We thought about ‘culture’ as lying somewhere between ‘the aesthetic’ and ‘the anthropological’ – but found that these categories weren’t necessarily distinct.

Some of the ideas discussed included culture as national identity; ‘high’ and ‘low’ aesthetic culture; hip hop (rapping, mixing, breakdancing and graffiti) as original remix culture; what does it mean to be ‘cultured’ and have ‘cultural capital’ – both personally and collectively (nationally).

One group disputed whether or not ballet and going-to-the-pub-on-Christmas-Eve constituted British culture… the debate continues.

Oh, and we also thought about ballet. Clips are below.

Until next time…!