TED Talks 2006-2012


I launched TEDTalks in 2006.


You can  shuffle  through a few of my favorites (because people often ask): Misha Glenny, Hans Rosling, Bill Gates, Bonnie Bassler, Joi Ito, my list goes on…


As TED’s founding “Director of Film + Video,” I helped introduce TEDTalks to the world – prompting the organization’s transformation from a conference with a digital presence to a major media platform and global community. After building an entire video infrastructure from the ground up, I spent half a decade continuing to supervise the direction, production, and creative direction of our Peabody Award winning video series of ideas and inspiration from TED’s roster of acclaimed authors, architects, rockstars, astronauts, knights, and Nobel laureates.


Before that, TED existed strictly in the shadows of the public eye, starting off – way back in 1984 – as an invitation-only, prohibitively expensive gathering of a few hundred absurdly accomplished smarty-pants people. When I came on board, twenty years in, 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 charged with defining the aesthetic of TEDTalks, establishing standards for how to 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 had 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 a doc I produced about the stress of speaking at TED or hear some of my secrets to shooting TEDTalks.