We Are All Radioactive (2012) crowd-funded doc series
I collaborated with the journalist Lisa Katayama (of The New York Times Magazine, NPR, and the blog TokyoMango) to create a bilingual, crowd-funded, online documentary series about the unprecedented disasters which ravaged Japan in 2011. Please watch and share if you’ve ever visited Japan, have loved ones in Japan ...or like sushi.
In a hidden Japanese surf spot and historic fishing village where fresh water means life for the locals, we captured post-tsunami reconstruction efforts undermined by looming fears from Fukushima’s March 2011 nuclear meltdown.
We traveled to a town called Motoyoshi, about 100 miles north of Fukushima, where a group of surfers have pitched tents on unaffected patches of land and set out to rebuild northern Japan. We gave waterproof video cameras to the residents of Motoyoshi, so they could share their experiences through their own lens. Finally, we spent time with Japanese artists, anti-nuclear activists, government officials, and global experts on radiation to help solve pressing, unanswered questions and to clarify the confusion surrounding this unprecedented combination of disasters.
The future for cause-based documentary production and distribution will likely involve a serialized, crowd-funded business model. As proof-of-concept, we released new episodes each time we hit incremental financing milestones. Chapter One received its full backing within 48 hours and went live on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake. Chapters Two through Seven rolled out soon after.
Random episodes appear above. Click through for all seven chapters back to back.
TED in Space (2011) TED2011 conference intro
Our plan was to surprise the live TED audience with a video greeting from the International Space Station. When my phone rang and a staticky voice calling from orbit asked for advice on shooting in zero gravity even I was shocked. I provided reference images from some of my favorite films emphasizing formal shot compositions and the soaring quality of weightlessness, much as if I was directing on Earth. Even in the icy black void of space, the Japanese have all the best cameras and the Italians make for elegant cinematographers. We transformed the little point-and-shoot project into a two camera production and a few days later, NASA sent over the most precious two hours of footage I’d ever seen! I’d been waiting my entire life to explain how to fly for the camera, only I’d naively assumed my first time would involve heavy, rigged wires or maybe a blue screen not actual, weightless astronauts hurtling 200 miles above the Earth at 17,000 mph.
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TED Conference Titles (2009 and 2010) motion design
We introduce every TED Conference with opening titles created exclusively for the event, and we play a short slate when each new presenter takes the stage. We rarely post these online and usually we outsource, but occassionally I like to roll up my sleeves to try my own hands at directing them. Here is a random sample from among my handmade intros and slates for TEDGlobal (2010) and TEDIndia (2009) and you can click through to watch even more. I attempted to breathe new life into TED’s pre-existing idea globe iconography.
The theme for TEDGlobal in Oxford was “And Now The Good News.” The TEDIndia theme was “The Future Beckons.”
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TED in the Field: One Laptop Per Child (2008) documentary
This is the pilot episode for a follow-up series about what happens beyond the TED stage.
I flew to Colombia for 28 hours with Nicholas Negroponte to deliver laptops to children. We traveled by military transport with Juan Manuel Santos, the Minister of Defense (now President), to an isolated village that had recently been liberated from FARC revolutionaries.
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I Want You to Want Me (2007) art installation
My friends Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar were commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York to make a giant interactive touch screen visualizing real-time data pulled from online dating websites. It’s their project but I made 500 short films for them to include in the piece over one (very intense) weekend, “Rear Window”-style vignettes of people milling about in the tiny, isolated bubbles of their daily lives. The piece was unveiled as part of 2008’s Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit and remains on display in the MoMA permanent collection. This is a photo from the shoot.
Icon Chef: Designer Challenge (2005-2006) event
It’s not exactly filmmaking, but I developed and hosted a remarkable event called Icon Chef for the final year of the touring RESFEST film festival. First, our live audience would select one of three sealed envelopes. Inside would be the treatment for a high concept, fake-Hollywood blockbuster of my own twisted devising. Then, over a single hour, two teams of top tier designers would battle it out to create both the movie trailer and poster for the fake film. It was a mix of design lesson, creative inspiration, performance art, and cooking show! Contenders included heavyweights like Pixar vs. Lucasfilm. Sponsored by Getty Images and Apple. We brought it to LA, NY, SF, Chicago, London, Cupertino, and Singapore (pictured).
The Weekly Pic – Nerve.com (2005-2006) column
When the online dating and “literate smut” site NERVE approached me to write a weekly column reviewing racy online video, I assumed my dutiful role as a professional internet funnyhunter, seeking out obscure up-and-coming filmmakers from across the globe, interviewing them, and curating their sometimes-NSFW efforts much as I had previously done with the New Venue only this time including the occasional exposed nipple. Or two.