Get Uncomfortable: A 48-Hour Film Project Report

I got an email from my friend, Mike Fleisch, a couple weeks ago inviting a group of friends to do a 48-hour film. Or something like that. Between work and a baby at home, I don’t have a lot of attention span left. It sounded cool, but I wasn’t sure I could square much time for it.

But it turns out that the 48-Hour Film Project is a real thing. Last weekend, 28 teams in Cincinnati made a film in 48 hours. That is, they got assignments on Friday evening (genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue you must use). They had until Sunday evening to write, shoot, edit, and output everything related to their 4-7 minute film. Want some music in your film? You’ll have to record that sometime over the weekend.

It’s a crazy project. I’ll try to show up for crazy. I got over to the meet-up around 8 p.m. and spent the next 7 hours spinning story ideas that met the requirements (drama, a magician named Tom Rococo, a fan, and “What have you done for me lately?”). We also talked about what we’d been up to. One of our crew gave a poetry reading the week before, and we’ve done a Poem Depot type thing at Northside’s Second Saturdays a couple times (watch the video). Mike knew a magician. That was our start.

“The magician and the poet” suddenly became completely understandable as our main characters. We talked about who they were, pitched backstories, looked for conflict and decision points, what happens. Then we split off for 15 minutes and individually wrote up a story outline with these two characters. They had things in common and divergences. It got late, and several people had to head home. The three of us still there at 2 a.m. quartered some sheets from a legal pad and described the main scenes. Our story had a plan.

Seven hours later we were filming the first scene. As we shot, and crew members came and went, the story changed. We’d forget to shoot a connecting scene before an actor left, or we’d realize while filming that we wouldn’t have time to use much-if-any of that scene. When one plot point changed, it changed others too. As the story developed, we could see the story’s climax better and steer toward the strongest version of it we could find.

The critical final scenes were shot Saturday night, but I wasn’t there. I was home with the dude while my dear wife went out with some friends. I’d volunteered to try to create some music and planned to do that while the dude was sleeping. I’d heard Eliza Rickman at Chase Public (the crew’s space) recently. She played solo but accompanied herself with a loop pedal. I thought I’d try to do something similar in Garageband.

It turns out I only had an hour to work. Dude’s been teething, so he woke up upset and couldn’t get settled enough again to be put down. I was able to record one repeated bass-like vocal line, doubled (two recordings of the same notes). For percussion I tapped on a glass jar with a wooden spoon and added a shush from rubbing two of the dude’s wooden puzzle pieces together. It was about 40 seconds long.

In the morning I edited down the takes, picking parts that kept the beat the best. I looped them out so that the total “song” was about 1:30. I also saved versions with just the glass jar, and just the glass jar and puzzle pieces. Between all the parts, hopefully there were usable bits. Here’s the “music” I made:

I send the files to Mike, and my work on the project was done. Other stuff happened, Mike did an enormous amount of editing, and the film got turned in under the deadline. (Cue exhausted sigh.) I’m not a “film guy,” and I’m not close to turning to a life of film. That’s why it was a great project to join. On the next blog post, thoughts on short-order creative projects.

How Do You Do It?

If you’ve been to a conference of any kind, you’ve probably been in this session: The Tour. At The Tour, you see lots of photos and read plenty of lists off the screen. You may even see a video with a techno soundtrack as a miniature tour within The Tour.

I tend to check out of these sessions pretty quickly, if what they built isn’t something really new or unique. If I can understand what you’ve done by visiting your website for 10 minutes, I didn’t come for The Tour. I want to know how you built the thing you’re showing off. How did you get funding? How did you decide how to spend it? Do you have one-time or ongoing funding? How did you decide how to set your goals? How did you identify your audience?

To be fair, these are difficult questions, and they’re often pretty personal questions, too. But just because they’re local questions or issues doesn’t mean that they can’t be instructive to others. Sometimes these are the key questions others struggle to answer. All your funding came from one very generous family? I can’t replicate that, but maybe I will consider grants differently if I see that that’s funding my project in other cities. (That’s a good thing to mention to possible funding orgs, too.)

Like one of the speakers this morning said, I’d rather try and fail than not try at all. Similarly, I’d rather hear specifics that I might not be able to apply than get The Tour and walk away with nothing but pictures.

#CILDC Day 1 Keynote: Innoventing

Jeffrey Phillips, VP of OVO Innovate on Purpose. Already sounds like one of the programs we’d have at the library, right? His talk was about innovation, not innoventing (which is a word made up by Jack Donaghy, Alec Baldwin’s character on “30 Rock”). 

If the speaker’s title alone makes you want to striking a finger-gun pose, hey me too. And thinking about the range of libraries SWON represents, I want to shoot those finger-guns up in the air. Lots of our libraries don’t have an Executive/Middle Manager/Staff setup like a Fortune 500 company. So I don’t think there’s a direct translation for a lot of his ideas to libraries.

But I do think we need to build innovation in to what we do. That is, we need to create processes around innovation. How do we describe new ideas? What vocabulary goes with them? How can we allow ourselves to entertain questions that don’t match up with answers we have in place already? How do we discover new trends and look for ways to build off of them? Without processes, these activities will come as a surprise. We won’t be sure how to respond to them. And coming up with a way to respond will burn energy that should go into the idea process.

Building processes builds a culture that accepts and searches for innovation. If we create a way to talk about it, we create value for the process. And we need to talk about it. It’s great to see front-line staff on Twitter, talking about the new ways they’re engaged with patrons and technology (to barely begin a list).

We need library leaders, whatever their title, to be vocal about changes they see and changes they want to drive forward. This doesn’t need to take place on Twitter, but it needs to take place where people can see it. That is, not just in board meetings or private conversations. If you want this to be part of the mission of your library, show it by telling people about it.

The next session’s about to start. To quickly end, this process-building isn’t up to each of us individually. Let’s work this out together.

Start Up: Twitter

“Start Up”

You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it, seen it in action once or twice. Maybe you’ve even made it to the sign-up page, but you hesitated at the thought of signing up for yet another thing you might only try twice. This is the first in a series of “Startup” posts, written to give you a reason to give a specific technology a try. The idea is to describe a way that technology can be immediately useful to you. Ready?


Yes, you should be using Twitter. You may already be on Facebook, but Twitter is a different kind of social media site. Twitter makes it easy to make connections you can really use:

  1. It’s easy to participate in conferences/events you can’t attend in person
  2. Easy to interact with peers you don’t know yet
  3. Easy to keep up with trends and news

1. It’s easy to participate in conferences/events you can’t attend in person

When the 2011 Internet Librarian Conference took place last month, I had no chance of getting out to Monterey, California to attend. But I had heard that some sessions would be available live via streaming video. The conference’s main page included a stream of comments on Twitter using the tag #IL2011. Enter that as a search on Twitter and any tweet that includes this tag will appear.

As Lee Rainie from the Pew Center began to speak (you can watch his talk and view his slides here), viewers from around the country wrote tweets about the session. Some viewers’ tweets took the form of outline notes, recording main ideas or quotations. Others commented on the session, adding their own perspectives. Others added links to research that Rainie cited or to examples of his ideas or findings or even counter-examples.

Twitter users refer to this as a backchannel conversation. It can be challenging to keep up with the main speaker and the backchannel at the same time, but it can also provide some of the additional information that often comes with attending an event in person.

2. Easy to interact with peers you don’t know yet

“Attending” events on Twitter is also a great way to meet peers. For a start, conference speakers often share their Twitter name. They are easy to immediately follow, especially if their session hit home with you. The backchannel is also a great source for people to follow. Look for people to follow who share helpful comments or questions or links. Be generous; follow lots of people.

Following is a good start, but it’s important to interact as well. A conference is a great setting for this because you’re with a group of people who are hearing new ideas at the same time. Even though you each bring your own background and ideas, you can respond together. Ask questions by replying to someone’s tweet. Read their profiles and, if available, look at their blogs and websites. And from the other end, when you’re searching the web for information, look for a Twitter account to follow.

3. Easy to keep up with trends and news

After the conference or event is over, people will pretty quickly stop using its hashtag (#IL2011, for example). While that conversation dies down, the people you follow will keep on posting. These may be personal posts about that day’s challenges, or it might be a new development in the library world, or it may share news about an upcoming conference that you could attend online. Keeping up with this news is easiest if you log on to Twitter frequently. The brevity of tweets, by their nature, makes it easy to quickly catch up with what’s been posted since you last checked.

Continue to cultivate the list of people that you follow, and you will have built your own agency of citizen journalists. You can join in the conversation, too. Do your own reporting, share your favorite sources or newest strategy, and you’ll find people following you too.

If this has you curious about engaging with Twitter, I would encourage you to start by finding an event that will use a Twitter hashtag. In my experience, it’s much easier to get started by going to a place that has lots of activity around a message you can hear, at the same time everyone else is hearing it. Being engaged in that initial conversation is exciting in itself, and it gets you to start trying to use Twitter within a context that’s useful right away.

So ask around about conferences. Visit the websites of organizations you belong to or organizations you know to hold events. Create a Twitter account. Find a backchannel. Start up.