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Posts Tagged ‘new media’

When I was in the eighth grade, my buddies would come over almost every day after school to my parent’s apartment to play the board game, RISK.  It became a ritual and soon the topic of conversation between us, each day at lunch and recess.  In fact, one time three or four female classmates came to the apartment, pleading for us guys to give up the game and spend some time with them.  We said, “no way!”  Ah, the decisions we make!

I’ve always been a fan of games, the more complex the better.  I’ve played board games, cards, Dungeon and Dragons.  I enjoy the social interaction, the elements of fantasy.  After all these years it shouldn’t be a surprise that I would take my filmmaking experience and put it to use in video games, but it wasn’t until last year when my company, Unconventional Media produced the live action portions to the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need for Speed: Undercover” that I really began to understand the tremendous possibilities of video games and interactive storytelling.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo, simply known as E3, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Presented by the Electronic Software Association, this is the event where new games and gaming inventions are unveiled each year.  The roll-out was impressive, the technology amazing.  I was in awe of the big LED televisions displaying such realistic, spot on graphics.  However, what really caught my attention this year is the amount of immersive game play devices being released.  Nintendo introduced a device, the Wii Vitality Sensor, that clips to a player’s index finger and reads their pulse into the game.  This is the same company that has been so successful with the Wii Fit, which helps a game player lose weight by bouncing on a board that feeds the movements into game play.  Basically, your movements are the game characters movements, so if the game requires your character to run or jump, then you, the player must do the same.  A hell of a workout.  Ubisoft Entertainment introduced a competitive, more serious fitness title, “Your Shape” that actually customizes the workout based on body type.

However, the Project Natal for the XBox really knocked me over.  You’ve got to watch the YouTube video attached to really understand the interactive possibilities.  You can fully immerse yourself into a virtual world.

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As I wrote in this blog last October, after the “E for all Expo,” the philosophy behind my company, Unconventional Media, is to deliver a fresh angle for new entertainment, incorporating movie storytelling into game play.  This seems to be a growing, exciting trend in the business, although much of it remains tied to feature film releases like “Batman,” “Watchman,” “Harry Potter,” etc..  I do admit it was fun to stand next to the original Ghostbusters Ecto-1 vehicle, parked outside to promote the Ghostbuster Video game. I believe with the immersing technology of virtual game worlds, we can create storylines to form a new kind of entertainment.  It’s like my fictional screenplay, “Press>Play” as reality.  We enter the story, virtually.

Since I’ve always enjoyed the social aspects of game play and find the solo aspects of most video games a little lonely, like playing Solitaire, you’d think I’d be a big fan of online gaming. I’m fearful that getting involved in games like “World of Warcraft” and other multi-player online activities will become such an addiction that I’ll never go outdoors again.  Hell, I won’t even play “Mafia Wars” on Facebook.  However, after viewing the EA and LucasArts upcoming release, “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” a multiplayer, online game based on the franchise, but set in a different time period, I may be hooked.

After a couple of days of the loud noises and visual attacks of E3, I had to make an escape. I sat down with some friends and played “Joan of Arc,” a good old fashioned board game.  The game takes place during the 100 year war between England and the provinces of France.  There are castles, battles, land grabs, even the plaque, but there are also alliances between players, negotiating between teams, the human element.  I miss this part of game play in video games.  Sometimes, it just feels like it’s you against the machine.  I like the social interaction. Maybe, I’m just a board game geek.  Anyone up for a game of RISK.

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tuckerwallmoniter

Tucker Stilley has always shown an interest in quantum physics, but his “Virtual Artist in Residency” at The Monte Vista Projects Gallery is the first time I’ve seen so much work by one artist dedicated to the scientific theory.  It’s like a visit to SpaceCollective.org with paints and music.  Curated by his fellow Massachusetts College of Art classmate and friend, Sam Durant (who has a great show of his own “This is Freedom” at the Blum and Poe Gallery) this is an LA Times critically acclaimed, must see presentation that has been extended until May 3rd, 2009.

I’ve written about my brother-in-law’s amazing work on this blog before when a showcase of his video art was presented at the REDCAT in 2008.  Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2004, Tucker no longer has control of his limbs, so he uses a reflective bindi-dot on his forehead to control a complex system of computer technology.  The “How We Do It” video explains the method behind the creation of his on-going hyper-signal artwork, “The Permanent Record of NewJack_Rasputin.”

In the program notes for the Monte Vista, Tucker writes, “I feel it is logical, my own nervous system failing, that I would spontaneously generate an alter-ego, tear a hole-in-space and try to escape.  My situation warrants immediate and drastically uncompromising self-metamorphosis. An exquisite new aesthetic unfolds when you are standing on the deck of a burning ship. Being paralyzed amplifies the uneasy link between intent and action and brings into question the true meaning of this place and time that we occupy…and of what our ultimate audience might prove to be.”

If this is a blog about Unconventional Media, then Tucker’s pirate avatar, NewJack Rasputin is leading the charge, wielding a sword.  First stop at the gallery should be a read of the comic book, written and created by Tucker.  It is the backstory of NewJack Rasputin.  It is as cryptic as most of Tucker’s work, requiring close scrutiny.  Each reading I discover new thoughts and true life personal history.  Most of the comic book is available to view online at Tucker’s site, www.TuckerStilley.com.

There is a virtual media experience where gallery visitors and online viewers can interact with Tucker as he works.  The viewer has the experience of being inside the computer, looking at the artist’s “frailty and strength.”  Online, no matter where you live, you can catch Tucker making art – most days around 2 – 9pm, Pacific Time (Note: if you hear “crickets” he’s not at his console).  I’ve never seen the webcam technology put to better use.  As we watch we could become part of his next work.  At the gallery, there is a “keyboard” below the computer screen encasing over 465 used, reflective bindi-dots.  To the left of the computer are his recent brain scans.  Symbolic representations of the time Tucker has used just the turn of his head to create his art.  Above the brain scan are redefined photographs of three talents who also had ALS, Mao Tse-Tung, Leadbelly and Charles Mingus; now all with Mickey Mouse ears.

In one corner of the gallery is a collage of xeroxed photos and 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of printed words stained with red wine and tea.  (I’m in one photo, can you find me?)  Since the disease has made it difficult for Tucker to speak, the sentences, to friends, family and medical staff, read like poetry and haiku, a real understanding to the artists present psyche.  “T.O.E. (Theory of Everything),” a scroll of inkjet print outs and xerox photos overlaps one end of the word collage.  This is an older work, (which I’m proud to say I own a signed reprint copy), from his early days of computer art.  More stuff like this can be found at his website.  It’s a strong piece to have in the exhibit, not only because one image on the scroll shows Tucker drawing with his hand, when he could, but it also evokes the theories of time travel and quantum physics found in much of the recent works, many with “Time Weave” in the title.  One example, “Time Weave 63-11 Roberta” is a great representation of a person being in more then one place at a time.

The color prints of computer generated art, some of it originating from super 8 film footage or old photographs, much of it requiring viewing at different distances to fully understand the scope.  “Gimpcon Auto-collage, Self Portrait” looks to be a collection of patterns and shapes until you step back far enough to realize it is a portrait of Tucker wearing sunglasses.  Same holds true with “Last Wine Stomp at Dressle.”  My favorites of manipulating visual images into color were the “3-D Hawaii” series and “Midnight Nude at Noon.”

The “Ghost Photo” collage series reminded me of some of the first photographs from the last century that we’ve been researching for the New Orleans Paraplex documentary or stills from old silent films.  I also really liked “El Morro,” a freeze frame shot from one of Tucker’s short videos.  In the video, a big tire tube appears on the beach in a seven second circle of life at the edge of the Pacific.  In the still frame, the tire is frozen, peering out to the horizon, like a cast member from “Lost.”  Speaking of “Lost,” a shout out must go to the poster at the entrance to the gallery.  This is from a conceptual art piece Tucker did a few years back covering telephone poles with posters of an Iquana-lizard man lost like a neighborhood dog.

It’s an incredible show.  If you can’t make it to Los Angles, so much of Tucker’s art work can be seen on his website.  And just like his art, there are many “Easter Egg” surprises to explore and lead you to his music, video and other art.  It is a real interactive website.  Also visit “All Hands on Board,” a social networking site of friends and fans of Tucker Stilley’s work.  It is also another portal to his “Hole in Space” webcam.  For me, he is a mentor to the real possibilities that can be achieved with new media, new technology and new ideas.

Monte Vista Gallery
5442 Monte Vista Street
Los Angeles, CA 90042

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820-afidiff09_laurel_cs31This last week I’ve been in the editing bay cutting down the video we shot of the Conscious Entrepreneur Experience workshop presented by Kim Castle and W. Vito Montone of BrandU.  I previously wrote on this blog about the amazing experience, but as I look over the footage something new is resonating.  A discovery that the importance of any business is to give back and mentor the next generation.  That’s how good ideas stay fresh and grow.

I never thought about teaching, other then the occasional workshops that I lead for One on One Film Training or at the Maine Media Workshops (formerly the International Film and Video Workshops), but as I get older I’ve started to realize how much I enjoy the mentoring process.  Maybe it’s because my parents were teachers or that my children are now young adults and no longer require as much guidance, whatever the reason, I enjoy sharing the experiences that I’ve had in over twenty years in the film and television business.  Hell, it’s probably why I’m writing right now.

Lately, I’ve been asked to sit on some media panels and every time I’ve not only enjoyed the experience, I’ve walked away with new contacts and some bit of new information.  Last week, I was asked by the posthouse Secret Headquarters to share my experiences as a producer using the RED camera on “Need for Speed:Undercover” and the Panasonic 900 on the documentary “Houston We Have a Problem.”   Not only was the food great and the folks at Secret HQ terrific, but the other panelists Sandy Collora, Drew Brody and Mary Liz Thomson had so much to offer about their own experiences.

I had the same feeling a few weeks earlier when we premiered our documentary, “Houston We Have a Problem” on March 27th at AFI Dallas.  The film, directed by Nicole Torre of New Angle Media is about the Oil Barons, Wildcatters, and roughnecks and their long struggle to feed America’s ferocious oil appetite.  A real inside look into the energy culture and just how our country became so addicted to oil.  The good news is the city of Houston and many of the oil honchos believe we must go “Green” for a secure domestic energy future.  AFI Dallas posted an interview on Vimeo.  The film played very well with great reviews on KERA (local Dallas PBS station) and even on IMDB.  I was asked to be on a panel about documentaries and the changes with online media, joined by “Rock Prophecies” director John Chester and Pete Schuermann of “Haze;” monitored by online SpoutBlog writer Karina Longworth.  The end discussion grew sticky with what is considered fair use in docs.  Once again, I enjoyed participating and learned some new things, as well as met some great new contacts.

I was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t serve on the panel at NAB when I was asked by PixelHead Network for Promax.  They had interviewed me a few months back at a Cinema Innovators Event about  my company Unconventional Media and our commitment to New Media.  I’m not going to make it to NAB this year because of memorial plans for a recent family loss, but really would have loved to share my production  experiences with a larger crowd.

I know that there are a lot of people exploring a new career for themselves as a “Life Coach.”  I’m not interested in that and don’t see that as a fufilling role.  To be honest, I’m not convinced many of these other people (some friends) should take that role either.  However, if someone wants some guidance, I’m open to help.  Some folks don’t believe they have the time in their business to assist others.  I think they’re wrong.  There is an interview with Joe Sugarman on the upcoming BrandU DVD.  Joe created BluBlocker Sunglasses and ran JS&A (forerunner of  Sharper Image), a highly successful mail-order company in the 1980s, the largest supplier of innovative electronic products in the U.S.  He pioneered many of the sales and marketing techniques widely used today, as well as introduced household products like the calculator, cordless phones, and digital watches to the world.  He declares that the most important thing in a successful business is helping a fellow human being.  It’s not how we usually imagine business people thinking, but as my own production business grows, I’ve come to realize it is the only way to think.  I’ve always been into helping others, I thank cutting this BrandU DVD is helping me understand why.

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It’s a lot of time and energy to keep up your profile on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, Ning sites and dozens of other social networking sites. However, if you’re trying to make a living in the creative arts, be it an independent filmmaker, musician, artist, then you’ve got to look at it as part of the job.

Here’s just one recent example with my short film “Travelin’ Trains.” A few weeks back I notice Greg Sarni has become a Facebook friend with my sister Lindsay Mofford. Now I remember Greg, not well, but I remember drinking beer and hanging out with him at Emerson College. We reconnect, become online friends. On his Facebook site are photographs and notes about his days running the Boston Blues Festival. I mention “Travelin’ Trains,” my short blues film about a boy in search of his father in the Depression-era South. It’s full of traditional, acoustic blues. He wants to see it, especially because one of the stars is Chicago Bob Nelson.  A few years back, Bob collected the Blues Trust Lifetime Achievement Award. Greg is a fan of his music and makes mention of the prize and film in his online newsletter, Blues Trust. He also adds the Cacchi link where you can see my film for free.  The film gets a jump in views including a recommendation on Twitter by the famous Ash Grove bar in Los Angeles. I see the text and Twitter back that we need to do a documentary on the history of one of the most important folk clubs in the country. Discussions and developments begin. Thanks Greg.

Do you see where I’m going with all this? At Unconventional South in Nashville, we are constantly talking to an incredible roster of talented musicians who know that the old ways of creating an audience no longer apply.  Brian Adams knows this and is developing the network television series “Stone Cold Sober in Music City” with an online home base. You can read more about that venture in a previous blog.  We’ve also been exploring that with Billy Falcon, his daughter Rose Falcon and The Sowing Circle on Ustream.  A wonderful write up at indiemusictech.com covers what a musician has to do these days to get their music heard.  It was also a big issue of discussion at the SXSW music conference as referenced in Wired magazine.

Mashable.com is a wealth of information of guidelines, with success and failure stories of what works for artists and entrepreneurs. The write up about Ning job networks and entrepreneur networks are two of my favorite resources. How do I know when there is a new article? I follow them on Twitter. When a new story is online, they’ll put a link on Twitter. I can access it if I’m interested. This process is exactly the same for all us artists. You release a new song, photograph, film, art show and let people know it is there. The fans decide if they want to access it or not. They hear or see it and your network spreads the word. If they’re not spreading the word then something isn’t grabbing their attention.

Now everyone has their own set of rules of what and how they want to communicate via the web. I use MySpace mostly for listening to new bands and keeping track of gigs via bulletins. I reserve Facebook for my actual friends, mainly because I’ve got some friends on there that I’ve known since Junior High School.  I’d rather not share those old stories with someone I just met at a networking event. In those cases, I stay linked to the business contacts, new and old, via LinkedIn. And for me, Twitter is all about the RSS feed. I’m following you because either I like what you have to say, play, write or communicate. If you’ve got a suggestion, I want the link. I hope those that follow me feel the same way about my “tweets.”

Now I know there are dozens of other social networks including “Ning” sites like my Brother-in-Laws site, All Hands on Board, which can be very specialized. I just don’t feel like I need to be on all of them.  It might look like some sort of desperate need to be noticed. You see, there is a fine line and only you can decide what is needed to get the word out and what is too much.  We each make our own rules and that, my online friend, has got to be one of the greatest things about social networks.

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sowingcirclegroupsmallA few weeks ago Jeff Seckendorf and I were interviewed at the Cinema Innovators Event by the PixelHead Network.  We talked about Unconventional Media and our commitment to New Media.  I also discussed the video streaming we’ve been doing at Unconventional South.  I can’t tell you how excited I am by our upcoming event  on Saturday February 28th at 8:30 PM,(Central Standard Time), 6:30 PM (PCT) presenting Billy Falcon and The Sowing Circle live on a national video stream.

There has been some great recent posting including Mashable.com and Dorkmuffin on the best outlets on the internet for new musical artists, definitely worth checking out.  However, neither mention live internet streaming, which gives the opportunity for anyone in the country, and sometimes the world, to be part of an audience seeing and hearing a performer live.  I enjoyed the last stream Unconventional South uploaded of Billy and the Sowing Circle so much, I was hung over the next morning.  That’s how real it felt, just like I was sitting at the Blue Bar in Nashville from my living room in LA.

This time things will be a little different, it’s an informal house party.  Since we are still experimenting, Michael Catalano of Unconventional South, will be flying solo with camera and sound.  It will be an intimate, uncut live performance.  If you read my post on “Stone Cold Sober in Music City” you know one of the things I love in James Szalapski’s film, “Heartworn Highways,” are the scenes of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and others sitting around the living room, playing music, drinking, smoking and espousing the importance of back-to-basics country.  I hope this video stream Saturday night will evoke that same feeling.

The “Sowing Circle” is a conceptual night of music Billy Falcon started two years ago.  Billy is a well established musician and songwriter, mostly known for writing over 12 songs for Bon Jovi, including most of the hits.  To Billy, the Sowing Circle is “at its worst a lot of fun, and at its best, it’s something tribal.  Unplanned and unrehearsed; it’s gifted singers, songwriters, violinists, guitar players, sax players, trumpet players, percussionists… coming together for the love of the music and nothing more.  Audiences are not merely spectators, they become part of the experience, with musicians sitting next to them and microphones set up for them to join in at will.”

Mix in some Dead, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Hank Williams and Phish and you only begin to understand the Sowing Circle.  Tune in for this is a rare opportunity to not only hear, but see some of today’s most prolific and talented songwriters and performers including Billy’s wonderfully talented and beautiful daughter, Rose Falcon, present their music in the most honest and direct way possible.  Join Billy, Rose and all their visiting guests this Saturday, February 28th, 9:30pm EST, 8:30pm CST, 6:30pm PCT by following this UStream link.

This weekend, on the West Coast, the fun doesn’t stop there.  On Sunday, March 1st at 2:30pm, the short film I produced “The Sacrifice” is playing at the Beverly Hills Shorts Film Festival.  Written and directed by Diane Namm, “The Sacrifice” recounts the gripping tale of 13-year-old Esmee Johnson on the day in which cult leader Rev. Dobbins comes to take her as his wife.

The Sacrifice” was shot on Super 16 film, the multi-talented cast includes: Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield, Friday Night Lights, X Files); Darby Stanchfield (Mad Men, Jericho); Jon Lindstrom (Must Love Dogs, Right on Track, and General Hospital); Richard Riehle (Office Space, Grounded for Life) and Molly Quinn (Castle, A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis) ).  Ivy Isenberg was the Casting Director.  I’m so glad to see the film continue to get festival play.  A great weekend ahead, indeed.

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The PARAPLEX opened today, January 24, 2009 in New Orleans.  Sadly, I was unable to attend the opening.  Too much bills and paperwork to get through here in Los Angeles, but do plan to get down real soon.  The high tech PARAPLEX includes  paranormal art galleries,  hands-on interactive psychic testing exhibits, a simulated séance room , a Ghost Experience Simulator and its own on-site theater for workshops, documentaries and feature film screenings.  The PARAPLEX is located at 4800 Canal Street in the heart of New Orleans, in a  completely remodeled, 14,000 square foot historic mansion built in the late 1800’s as a private residence and later became a funeral home.  Many believe the location to be haunted and with our arsenal of cameras of varying formats, monitoring and recording all paranormal phenomena 24/7 and documenting interactions between the mansion’s “resident entities” and PARAPLEX visitors, we may finally get a ghost on camera.  This has been an idea for over twenty years for my friend, parapsychologist Dr. Larry Montz of ISPRUnconventional Media is already in pre-production on some documentary ideas and television series built around the location.  Parapsychology and paranormal research is now an integral part of our culture and the PARAPLEX will cater to the millions in their quest for information and experiences within the paranormal realm.   The continuously evolving PARAPLEX is destined to become a premiere attraction internationally, offering a signature blend of interactive paranormal education and entertainment.  Very exciting indeed.  Great news story at WDSU – Channel 6.

The PARAPLEX ANNEX, which I visited over Halloween last year and wrote about here, is located at 718 Orleans, in the French Quarter.  A mini-museum it also serves a full slate of paranormal events including Ghost / Parapsychology Expeditions, Psychic Boot Camp, UFO & Ghost Hunters Nighttime Swamp Investigations and the exclusive new tour, Anne Rice’s Vampires & Other Supernatural Beings.  I’ve already started cutting a documentary from my last visit on these expeditions.  Best place for updates is at NewOrleans.com

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Catholic Church of Elvis

Catholic Church of Elvis

The Sundance Film Festival of 2009 wraps up this weekend.  I almost went this year.  I even purchased a festival pass, but after watching the Inauguration Tuesday on television, I don’t think Park City, Utah was the place to be this week!  Of course, I didn’t know that last month when I changed my plans to attend the festival.  Family and work commitments forced me to pay out the 20% cancellation fee.

I will admit, I was also a little disappointed that none of the three films I produced were accepted this year into the festival.  Yes, I did fantasize about walking the slope of Main Street with three Sundance Premieres.  I suspected the quirky, very funny, but very low budget, DVD indie feature “Tales from the Catholic Church of Elvis” written, co-directed and starring Mercy Malick was not really the kind of film the Festival schedules anymore, especially when it’s still a work in progress.  And we did receive a wonderfully supportive letter for the uncompleted documentary, “Houston, We Have a Problem” that I’m producing with Producer/Director Nicole Torre.  The film is about the oil crisis from the independent oilman’s perspective and their exploration into alternative sources of energy.  Sundance’s loss, the issue is too important for us to wait a full year to resubmit.  The big surprise for me was that the terrific short film “The Sacrifice,” written and directed by Diane Namm and starring Chris Mulkey, Darby Stanchfield, Jon Lindstrom and Molly Quinn, didn’t get in.  It’s “Big Love” gone bad.  Maybe the issues of incest and polygamy were too close to home.

Of course, I’ve never really had great luck with Sundance, even back when it was the USA Film Festival in the mid-80’s.  It was one of the few festival’s that rejected “Travelin’ Trains.”  I’ve entered my script “Press>Play” a few times, both for the Screenplay lab and the Producing lab, never being accepted.  We’ve had a little more positive feedback for the project “Witness Trees,” but mostly because of the involvement of American Indian visual artist/musician Sandy Corley.

I know this reads like I’m very jaded about Sundance, but I’ve always believed in their mentoring philosophy.  What I find the most exciting these last few years is how they’ve embraced new media to communicate and educate.  You really no longer have to go to Sundance to enjoy the festival.  The homepage has videos and audio podcasts each day from Park City.  They’ve now added on Itunes short festival films and podcasts of panel discussions.  It’s a great resource for anyone that is considering making an independent film, in fact these days, (since hardly anyone is buying films any more), it might be the best part of Sundance.

The Sundance Festival website now has a section entitled, “Storytime,” for people to write memories of past festivals.  Fascinating, to see how things have changed through the years.  I’ve got my own memories, some very good.  My first time at the festival was in 1989 for just one day to see the screening of “Daughters of the Dust” directed by Julie Dash.  We had all worked very hard, for little money, on that film and really wanted to see how audiences would react.  I was the Location Manager and was extremely proud that the film won Best Cinematography that year.  In January 1993, I bought a pass to the festival for the first half, but stayed for the full 10 days.  I had been involved in the very early stages of prep for Victor Nunez‘s film “Ruby in Paradise,” produced by my friend and “Travelin’ Train” producer Keith Crofford.  When the buzz started to build for the film and I had the opportunity to escort a beautiful, young actress named Ashley Judd to screenings, I decided to stay.  A wonderful week of films capped by “Ruby” winning the Grand Jury Dramatic award.  I had such a great time that I went the following year with unpleasant results.  I had no pass, was just another filmmaker looking for attention, couldn’t get into any parties and froze my ass off.

I avoided the festival for over 10 years, partly because I moved to Los Angeles and didn’t see why I needed to go to Park City to make contacts.  In 2005, I had some cash and decided to go just for fun.  Things certainly had changed.  More venues, more people, more advertising and more traffic.  I shared a condo with DP Marty Ollstein, caught dozens of movies, sometimes 5 in one day, (I’ve since decided 4 is my limit).  Heard a great debate between Werner Herzog and Frederick Wiseman on the definition of “Cinema Verite”.  Saw people I kept promising to meet up with in Los Angeles, saw some old New York friends and made many new ones.  Saw an amazing concert by Yo La Tango.  I even went snowboarding.  My one and only time.  Even on the Park City powder, I feel that throwing myself up and landing directly on my back, on concrete, would be more pleasant.

This year, I’m there virtually, checking out the resources available online, catching some short films and staying warm.  For Unconventional Media, maybe that makes more sense.

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