TED Talks 2006-2012


We launched TED Talks in the summer of 2006...


My role, as TED’s founding “Director of Film + Video,” was to supervise the initial direction, production, and creative direction of the Peabody Award winning video series of ideas and inspiration from TED’s roster of authors, architects, rockstars, astronauts, knights, and Nobel laureates.


You can  shuffle  through some of my favorites (because people often ask): Sir Ken Robinson, Nicholas Negroponte, Jane Goodall, Temple Grandin, among others...


In 1984, TED started off as an annual, invitation-only, prohibitively expensive gathering of a few hundred highly accomplished leaders, thinkers, tinkerers, and smarty-pants types. Twenty years later, when I came on board, it was still like that: existing strictly in the shadows of the public eye, nobody outside this exclusive environment had ever seen a speech from TED, the most views any online lecture (anywhere) had received fell in the low thousands, and online video ad revenue (everywhere) was measured by increments of thousands of dollars not millions of dollars. That was then – before the big, round, red rug. TED wanted to bring its talks to television, a far sexier medium at the time, so everyone called it career suicide when I advocated going online instead. I was recruited to capture the spirit of the live event and build TED’s entire video infrastructure from the ground up – to define the aesthetic of TEDTalks, establish standards for how we would direct, light, shoot, capture, edit, encode, and package the talks, build and run a video department, and, working closely with Chris Anderson and June Cohen, developing our original funding and distribution strategies. It clicked. Something engaged a shared, primal love of storytelling. Within weeks of unveiling the series, the impact was so immediate and extraordinary, that we scrambled to relaunch and rebrand TED.com as a platform devoted entirely to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” and that’s how people know TED today. (Yes, people had been recording academic lectures for years, but no one before us borrowed from the language of cinema or tapped the power of crowds. That seemed odd to me, because if you think of your own best teachers, they didn’t just affect you on an intellectual level, but on an emotional level as well.) Our style has since been replicated, parodied, and even become synonymous with giving a certain type of speech. There are now thousands of spin-off TEDx events as a result. Our production values continued to grow along with our audience. By the time I stepped down, after more than six years, over 1000 videos had been watched and shared nearly a billion times... online, on tv, on airplanes, even in outer space.


I went from from nobody knowing where I worked to being accused of having the best job in the world, and as I transitioned out to tackle personal projects, my last business cards simply read: “Film Director at Large.” I loved those cards.


My most memorable TED moments involved speakers: spending the night in a hotel room with a brain in a jar; riding in a helicopter with a head of state to deliver computers to kids in terrorist territory; staging a rooftop sword fight between two actual knights – Sir Ken Robinson and Sir Richard Branson – since that’s what knights do; and talking on the phone with actual, weightless astronauts (hurtling 200 miles above the Earth at 17,000 mph – because that's what THEY do) to advise how they might best film themselves aboard the International Space Station.

read more: Wired 2017 > >

Behind the scenes...  


You can see how it feels to be a speaker at TED or pick up a few of my tips for shooting TED Talks.