Lessons from the production of my favourite three films.
The above is a magnificent insight into the creative process of the Before Trilogy and the bold, collaborative approach taken by director, Richard Linklater.
Ethan starts the interview regaling the genesis of the first movie, along with the way Linklater devolved responsibility of the character plus script development to the actors during six weeks in Venice (a shared creative model which would be replicated in the next two films). The openness and willingness to trust is so uniquely evident in this action from Linklater, although you can still hear the influence of his guiding support, providing them with the courage and reasoning to continue with the project as doubts appear.
Even though Linklater obviously provides the themes and framework, it’s through the joint effort of his associates does the project flourish into beauty. It reminds me of playing in a band (I used to a be a drummer and even in the interview Ethan mentions this as a metaphor – how everyone knows their role against the backdrop of the melody) – the constraints catalyse experimentations and how roles change with the space / atmosphere created (again, just like in a band if someone starts riffing in a different key or to a different beat).
There’s so much to take from the above, from caring about the craft of the shared journey, cherishing artistry, knowing something is important and right as it feel like it’s extracting a toll, how the intimacy created in building something together echoes through to the final product, and how true leadership is collaborative.
As a solopreneur in most of my own endeavours am definitely hungry for these types of partnerships and will take this inspiration to seek them out more.
Last night was the first of five TEDxWellington speaker coaching sessions with these people:
Being surrounded by impressive souls (full bios) was a much needed reminder of the innate brilliance of humans doing superb things (from an initiative to track human rights violations to how to build homes so that the materials can be reused, a programme to teach mindfulness to children to new technology to help diagnose breast health, from ethically built sensors to monitor the health of your home to an ongoing project which cleans our underwater environment, from teaching communities to cook on a budget to an evolving body positive programme for females, from championing the use of menstrual cups for system change to rethinking our criminal justice system).
To feel that warmness of hope and genuine awe seems rare these days in the global gloom which blasts through the news and our other media channels.
Devoting time to remind oneself that the world is not what the media tells you is a must for our mental health. So thank you TEDx for continuing to offer opportunities which lightens the soul.
C2 Montréal (C2) is a multi-award winning and highly produced event which impresses the brain and delights the senses.
From the stimulating interactions to the superbly built rooms / spaces, it positions itself as the most forward-thinking business event in the world although it’s more like a theme-park for corporate folks.
It’s long been on my list to attend and with five others from New Zealand, we got to mix with 7,000+ others for the three days (day one, day two, day three C2 write-ups):
HUGE thanks to C2 for giving a discount ticket price to attract a kiwi delegation which were coming farther than most. Truly helped with making the opportunity accessible.
The Braindate layer facilitates connections between attendees via a simple app interface. Here you can post ideas and areas of work you’re interested in for others to find and then request a 30mins meeting with you. A specific area in the event was created just for this (top right in map below):
Everyone I met was a delight and mostly interested in some public speaking advice.
Lanyards wasn’t just a name-tag but a tool for many things: they light up when a session you have chosen is starting, they can be touched together with someone you met to exchange details (which is then stored in a digital contacts list easy to download afterwards) plus it’s a digital wallet to enable you to pay for things throughout the conference.
The variety of food / refreshments was impressive, being served by either food trucks or offerings built directly into the arena itself. Scanning around it looks like many were local suppliers as well which is a great way to build community.
The couple of interactive sessions I got to experience were superb. From the blindfolded ‘in the dark’ session which highlighted deliciously the challenge of team interaction and communication, through to the ‘breaking down the divide’ visual treat which grouped souls into lighted areas for conversations by answering certain questions on a screen (a more digital version of an exercise I sometimes do in my work with clients, see below):
The showcase interviews with Will.I.Am and Spike Lee were fantastic. Both brought with them a different bank of vocabulary and experience plus both interviewers were great. Other delights was the interview with CEO of Acer plus learning about how Canada are leading the world in legal cannabis policies.
The overall calibre of conversations and general feel of the conference was delightful. It felt relaxed, friendly and ignited curiosity at every turn.
The obvious challenge with events at this scale is access. Attendees could only choose one workshop and lab experience each day (which was booked via the app a week before). Some who were a little late in deciding simply couldn’t get into anything from the conversations I had. And even though there were opportunities to line up to get into sessions you hadn’t booked, from my observations very few got in. More experiences was missed rather than gained from this however I totally appreciate the challenge of serving 7,000+ attendees.
The content of the talks and masterclasses which I did see was ok. The audience for events like this are ‘elite’ and therefore the pitch and tone should reflect in terms of sharing tangible ideas, deliverable insights, applicable models, learned failings etc. or maybe I missed the ones which did.
Was surprised attendees had to pay for all food & drinks via the lanyard (free coffee was supplied by a sponsor I think). Again in conversations with others there was a shared expectation it would be included in the ticket price.
And finally, the Klik app wasn’t integrated neatly with the Braindates (as it opened up in a browser rather than the app itself). This wouldn’t have been such an issue although the wifi there was a little erratic at times. Also, there were no ways to connect to the speakers through the app unlike the delegates. The app was a superb greener solution to a printed agenda although it meant a whole lot of the delegates were either walking or sat with their head down in the tablet glow.
C2 Montréal is a superb experience for those looking to explore a cacophony of offerings in one event. Visually it’s stunning and was definitely highly crafted.
The trip also created an opportunity to connect the Kiwi delegation into the HATCH community at an evening dinner. Lots of conversations and impressive connections followed. A perfect illustration of what the overall trip was all about: creating the space and trusting good humans to add value to each other.
The mission is to build a network of pioneers who share the ability to respond to change, identify opportunities and act on them to better shape our collective creative future here in New Zealand and beyond.
To continue the process of learning out loud, here’s my review:
It was another sold out event with nearly 200 leaders attending from 85 entities (most represented above – in 2017 there were 150 leaders from 70 cross-sector organisations).
One third came from outside the Wellington region (in 2017 it was only 15%) and nearly two thirds have female names (similar to last year which was 65%). It’s also interesting to note the reach in terms of how many humans the delegates accumulatively lead: 7,295 (an average of 40 per delegate).
Taking the feedback from last years event, the intention was to create more reflection time and space to connect. Therefore we had nine speakers rather than the thirteen in 2017, simplified the workshop offerings and added in generous time for morning / afternoon tea and lunch (plus networking at the end of both days – click the above image to download the full event brochure).
What was amazing this year was having five volunteers / event assistants (last year I had two plus some venue staff). Was also more vocal about the aim of the conference beyond the usual learnings and networking, this was about building a conscious and hungry community of leaders who are seeking out creative insights, literacies and skills sets.
Probably one of my favourite parts of this process is finding / choosing / liaising with the speakers. Nearly all of the speakers I had a previous relationship with so the focus was ensuring diversity and nuance to compliment the ‘intersections’ theme.
All but one of the speakers were paid for their time and involvement plus all expenses were covered. This is a continued attempt to shift the culture in NZ of paying for talent at events (which is not the usual). Each speaker got a plus one also.
this was privately funded venture and delivered under the Creative Welly initiative;
financial grant support was secured again from the US Embassy and Australian High Commission who provided funds to cover the expenses for Aaron, Butterscotch and Tim (respectively);
further partner support came from Wellington Chocolate Factory who offered gift packs for the speakers / facilitators, MOJO in providing coffee / tea refreshments for both days for all breaks (plus an espresso coffee from downstairs in their cafe), QT Wellington Hotel donated rooms for our overseas guests (with a reduced cost for others), and finally a small but appreciated discount from our caterers, The Lab.
Overall, the event profit doubled from 2017, a result of applying learnings, smaller venue cost and having less speakers to pay.
Audio and visual (AV services), catering and venue hire are always chunky fixed costs, and this year, there was the addition of some ‘CLNZ’ letters to ensure the stage looked great.
There was also the speakers / partners meal the night before plus everyone who attended got given a printed brochure / agenda, notebook, pen and badge (plus espresso coffee voucher for the cafe downstairs – see ‘partners’):
Other costs were the bar tab for the networking drinks at the end of the first day, We Do (for photography) and Empire Films (for the review video).
Again with last year, as a solopreneur all aspects of the event are produced by me, which includes:
website design / copy;
speakers curation / negotiation / support;
invoicing delegate registrations;
partner / venue / catering liaison etc.
The design of the brochure / agenda was a trade with a local supplier for a couple of delegate spots.
Marketing & Sales
As with last year I produced these little ‘teasers’ as way of promoting the talent on offer. Here are all the Linkedin versions: Aaron, Jo, Melissa, Paula, Paul, Te Aroha, Tim.
Other activities were time intensive in terms of taking time to reach out specifically to folks in my network although it yielded results. The event details got featured in about half a dozen email newsletters of other networks which definitely raised the profile as well.
My interest definitely lies in crafting and curating the experience rather than promoting and selling it.
As the focus was on creating a community through conversation and connection, there were no exhibits or distracting activities other than one: at the beginning of the event the delegates were asked to write down a creative or leadership challenge they are currently dealing with. These were collected in and stuck on one of the walls which became the ‘wall of wisdom’ where throughout the rest of the event, others added their responses to the questions posed.
Also, during the final reflection session delegates were asked to write a ‘letter to self’ – these will be posted early in the new year as a reminder of the experience and commitment they made to themselves.
This year I decided to MC the event. Was very overwhelmed and will be doing things differently in 2019 to ensure the pace is kept solid whilst freeing me up from most of those duties.
As it was the first time in the venue there are lots of opportunities to hone the experience from dressing the spaces and ensuring the flow of delegates are positive. Still gathering delegate feedback although wonderful to see some offering their insights and creative reflections:
Just spent the past two days surrounded by a few hundred ‘innovation junkies’ at BIF2018. The eclectic mix of 32 storytellers echoed the TED format in their variety and structure (each had about 15/20mins to share), and was hosted wonderfully in the Trinity Rep, Providence, Rhode Island.
The broad time given for networking during the breaks and lunch along with the encouragement of MC / Founder Saul Kaplan to add value to each in conversations really amplified into action.
Also, the cross over of the HATCH network (where I attended in 2013, 2014, 2016) added a deeper experience, and was so invigorating to reconnect with this generous and truly special group of humans:
Networks colliding into other networks is crucial in igniting fresh thinking, creative potential and releasing positive energy – just like HATCH and many other TEDx and other events I’ve attended, BIF2018 ignited the desire to stretch myself and also trust my voice in my current efforts.
Truly hoping some of the participants and attendees will also make the trip out to Creative Leadership NZ 2018 at the end of the year (as made an juicy offer through the network).
A two day conference connecting visionary humans into a creative community to solve contemporary challenges.
Just like last years sold out effort, the mission is to build a network of pioneers who share the ability to respond to change, identify opportunities and act on them to better shape our collective future here in New Zealand and beyond.
Held at the new NZ Insitute of Creativity, Te Auaha, on 3rd and 4th December 2018, the line-up is already looking stellar, and includes, cofounder of Masterclass, world’s first female beatbox champion, senior director from Weta Workshop, industry leading foresight practitioner, associate prof in innovation management, president of LIANZA plus CE of NZTE.
This will be another independently produced and financed event delivered under the Creative Welly banner which is “an independent collective – globally minded / locally focussed – providing leadership, action and connections across sectors, with the aim to build the most creative little capital in the world.”
There was a time when the height of technological superiority was how slow the tape deck opened. The smooth, deliberate action hinted at a deeper level of sophistication and created a moment or two of heightened expectation.
All media was slow and on its own timetable, like TV programmes, magazines and newspapers, to consume them meant waiting for their delivery. These pauses in our consumption related directly to the increased intention to savour the outcome.
As we know, the cassette went on to become one of the first portable mediums which influenced a whole set of other disruptive technologies; minituarising hardware which would enable us all to eventually take our music, then media, and now, our online and networked world, with us.
Three decades later, nearly all media is now transient. Fleeting. Immediate. Skippable. Waiting times are mere milliseconds, and even then we guffaw at any buffering icons working to serve us another video of a kid falling off a piano or a cat running into a tree.
Maybe it’s nostalgia relating to being of a generation who knew that watching movies meant putting on a coat and getting out money and the house due to a trip to the cinema or the video store. Or when recording television programmes meant running up or down the stairs and pressing the record button when they were literally ‘on’. Or from the experience of having to wait up to ten or twenty minutes for games to be loaded into my ZX Spectrum etc.
These delays were inherent. Built in. Welcomed even. There was space. Time. Time to create. Reflect. Be.
Technology has decreased patience along with the capacity to accept any empty length of time as a positive factor in the equation of the experience—waiting simply creates another opportunity to gaze into another screen and skip again. Our whole media interaction to the world has become skippable but what have we lost in those moments? What is the cost?
Social media (the industry I gave up this year after being in it for over a decade) has become diluted with “experts” throwing around words like connection, transparency, authenticity, engagement, but there’s fewer voices championing trusting the consumer with making balanced choices, framing content which situates us into the now and championing taking time offline or with others.
This isn’t a one way deluge. We produce more than ever before. We are saturating each other with our requests for attention and validation that our meal or view or opinion means something beyond our own experience of it. The cloud has given us immediacy although it only fogs our view to the importance of discernment. Of choosing better.
All brands and organisations care about is eyeballs. Attention. But it’s the lingering that matters. That’s where the impact is. The video or blog post which creates space and reflection are the ones folks remember.
It’s time to take time back again. To focus on the pauses. To stop hurrying and start living in the conscious(ly created) delays. To start appreciating the slow openers again.
Just in case you’ve forgotten, it’s OK not to:
– have an interest in innovation
– be involved in the tech sector
– be in the start-up scene
– care about disruption
– like the internet
…as long as you’re kind, adding value to the world & feeling good, you’re winning!
Social media no longer has the spirit of unbiased discovery and the foundation of open collaboration it used to.
Gone are the bloggers exploring their voice and building story through a variety of mediums. Quiet are the RSS advocates hungry to curate their own discerning media menus then sharing it through their networks which they build with care. Muted are the excited discourse of connected communities who celebrate learnings of others and champion wonder / curiousity.
Platforms now base their whole business model on distraction and extraction; squeezing users for as much information as possible, repackaging to sell on to others, all whilst positioning only the content it wants its patrons to see which keeps them on the platform and in turn, their shareholders happy (as these are paid for ads). And so the cycle continues.
It’s no longer “social” but “suction” media.
And the permeating enabler is the rise in “smart” technology or any “surveillance device that also does something else” (our phones, computers, wearables, childrens toys, cars, offices, homes, cities). This is the crucial layer which provides multiplying access points without awareness and explicit permission from the user, and certainly without due care to the culture its cultivating.
Watch Cory Doctorow drop some knowledge about the impact of all this (an illustration of how deep the rabbit hole really goes):
Welcome to the suction media age.
In 2016 I launched a little blog focussed on how young people are consuming and creating new media. MediaSnackers (and the complimentary Social Media For Suits, a couple years later) became a business and flourished in their modest ways: in 5/6 years hit the six figure turnover threshold plus was employing a handful of awesome humans as well as enabling organisations to accelerate their understanding and adoption of new / emerging technologies.
In that short amount of time it took me to five continents, put me on stages speaking to tens of thousands of other cool folks and basically rapidly increased my learning by using the technology tools and the social media strategies I was championing.
In 2011 the move to NZ was to take up the position of social media manager for a national education company, an opportunity which included the indication of the same company buying into my ventures with the intention of relaunching it in the Southern Hemisphere. This buy-in never transpired and 18 months later I high-fived out and went back to the freelance life. Both MediaSnackers and Social Media for Suits were put into permanent-pause mode and I picked up social media speaking and consulting gigs ever since all over the place.
Even with employment stints like a year as a business designer or a little longer as an activation manager setting up a city-wide event programme, I still kept the social media services going and have been so lucky with the clients I’ve had, the people I’ve met, the wonderful souls I’ve collaborated with, the skills I’ve gained, and the lasting hunger for learning its created.
I owe a debt to the sector of “social” and it’s definitely been on the whole an enriching chapter.
But alas, the soul has been sucked out of it.
If I had the time and energy the focus would be on advocating for a newer form of social technologies. One which has opt-in/out options already built in rather than hidden due to the regulatory protection which protects its users. Assisting the development of school curriculums to focus on teaching algorithm biases and how to navigate / curtail / complain to platform creators. Learn how to code mobile apps / city infrastructure software which act with integrity and appreciation of the users interest first.
However, my service offerings have already been repositioned with this new site design, and the focus is now on:
creative producing—crafting delicious learning experiences for brands / organisations, continuing with TEDxWellington and also building on the past two independent events (this and this);
speaker coaching—storytelling and public speaking coaching for senior executives and leaders;
Creative Welly—imagine if Wellington was the most creative little capital in the world.
Addendum: This doesn’t mean I’m quitting social media and digital technologies. Will continue to utilise these as tools to humanise the brands and activities I’m working on, to add value to communities I interact with, to learn / curate like a banshee whilst celebrating those doing amazing work. It just means I’m no longer taking paid consulting / speaking gigs on it.
…if anyone wants a vitriolic talk taking to task the ninjas and gurus who have diluted the sector or the smart technologists who need to be smarter, then this is the only ‘social / digital media work’ I’ll now be available for. Anyone brave enough?