The 2012 Media that Matters Conference

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On Saturday I attended the 2012 “Media that Matters” Conference that was organized by American University’s Center for Social Media.  There were a few speakers that I thought were really inspiring.  Michael Collins showed some clips from his documentary “Give up Tomorrow” which highlighted the case of a man who is mostly likely innocent and ended up on Death Row in the Phillipines.  His film helped to put and end to the death penalty in the country after it began getting widespread publicicity.  Will Sylvester, the producer for a project called “The Question Bridge” showed some clips from his project of video interviews that explored black male identity.  Sylvester had an interesting idea of presenting the videos as art installations and setting them up on miniature screens in different places.

But, on the whole, I didn’t see how the conference was directly related to class.  It was clear that the talks were geared towards people who were already making it as documentary producers and were looking to network and find sources for funding their films.  For someone like me, who is just trying to nail down the basics of how to take good photos and produce videos, it didn’t offer any advice on style and technique.  I feel like by the time I get to where the other members of the conference are the media landscape will have changed again and there will be new revenue sources, while today’s grants may have dried up.

I also feel like, for being a conference that was supposed to be about connecting media and social change, they put up a lot of barriers that unnecessarily kept out community members, students, and aspiring filmmakers.  The way I see it, there was no justification for the $100 for non-students and $50 for students price tag.  In fact, I talked to a lot of other attendees during the break and didn’t meet any who were students who were there simply to learn and not required to attend.  It would have been a lot better investment of money for those that were interested to use their money for purchasing equipment instead.  Much of the video material that was screened was already publicly accessible online too.

The conference could have done a better job of incorporating media other than film that addresses social change.  There are a lot of creative things that are being done with video games, graphic design (like infographics), and radio.  I know that a woman from Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) gave a talk on Friday night.  But, on the whole, it seemed like film dominated  the conversation.

So, in the end, I think the School of Communications really missed out on an opportunity to connect students and the work they’re currently doing with the larger media community.  The bagels were pretty tasty though.

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