Search This Blog

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Latest from Lost blog:

This post first showed up on DarkUFO as someone claiming to be from Bad Robot. I don’t think that there is any credence to that claim, but his take how everything fits together is intriguing.

I don't think this guy worked on the show either -- a writer would presumably not spell blatant as 'blatent'!

This view is certainly less nihilistic than my take-- that the characters Jack encounters on the island are constructs / stand-ins for his own father issues --from Ben to Locke to Sawyer, Hurley, Sun etc and that the island adventures represent Jack working through his daddy issues as he himself is dying. This take makes a nonsense of the sideways-world church scene that many fans enjoyed because it gave the opportunity to say an emotional goodbye to the characters and it offered a redemptive message that in death you reconnect with those who are most important to you. In the nihilistic view, the sideways world church scene is meaningless because it represents Jack reconnecting with people who were fictions of his own imagination. This also means our emotional response to this scene is built on nothing –we are being called on to feel emotional about characters who are in fact constructs of Jack’s imagination, and this may represent the writers’ final joke on the audience – to buy off the Lost audience with a fake emotion for characters who had no existence other than in Jack’s head and to refuse to solve the 6 years of puzzles that the Lost world presented: which again had no meaning other than as a pre-death dream.

Good stuff on here! I can finally throw in my two cents! I’ve had to bite my tongue for far too long. Also, hopefully I can answer some of John’s questions about Dharma and the “pointless breadcrumbs” that really, weren’t so pointless …

First …
The Island:

It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people’s heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a “Protector”. Jacob wasn’t the first, Hurley won’t be the last. However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him — even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so.

Thus began Jacob’s plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn’t do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet everytime he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn’t take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma — which I’m not sure why John is having such a hard time grasping. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interferred by “corrupting” Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben’s “off-island” activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the “Others” killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that’s what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn’t do for himself.

Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB’s corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Canditates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Canidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That’s a question that is purposley not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself. Still … Dharma’s purpose is not “pointless” or even vague. Hell, it’s pretty blantent.

Still, despite his grand plan, Jacob wanted to give his “candidates” (our Lostaways) the one thing he, nor his brother, were ever afforded: free will. Hence him bringing a host of “candidates” through the decades and letting them “choose” which one would actually do the job in the end. Maybe he knew Jack would be the one to kill Flocke and that Hurley would be the protector in the end. Maybe he didn’t. But that was always the key question of the show: Fate vs Free-will. Science vs Faith. Personally I think Jacob knew from the beginning what was going to happen and that everyone played a part over 6 seasons in helping Jack get to the point where he needed to be to kill Smokey and make Hurley the protector — I know that’s how a lot of the writers viewed it. But again, they won’t answer that (nor should they) because that ruins the fun.

In the end, Jack got to do what he always wanted to do from the very first episode of the show: Save his fellow Lostaways. He got Kate and Sawyer off the island and he gave Hurley the purpose in life he’d always been missing. And, in Sideways world (which we’ll get to next) he in fact saved everyone by helping them all move on …


Sideways World:

Sideways world is where it gets really cool in terms of theology and metaphysical discussion (for me at least — because I love history/religion theories and loved all the talks in the writer’s room about it). Basically what the show is proposing is that we’re all linked to certain people during our lives. Call them soulmates (though it’s not exactly the best word). But these people we’re linked to are with us duing “the most important moments of our lives” as Christian said. These are the people we move through the universe with from lifetime to lifetime. It’s loosely based in Hinduisim with large doses of western religion thrown into the mix.

The conceit that the writers created, basing it off these religious philosophies, was that as a group, the Lostaways subconsciously created this “sideways” world where they exist in purgatory until they are “awakened” and find one another. Once they all find one another, they can then move on and move forward. In essence, this is the show’s concept of the afterlife. According to the show, everyone creates their own “Sideways” purgatory with their “soulmates” throughout their lives and exist there until they all move on together. That’s a beautiful notion. Even if you aren’t religious or even spirtual, the idea that we live AND die together is deeply profound and moving.

It’s a really cool and spirtual concept that fits the whole tone and subtext the show has had from the beginning. These people were SUPPOSED to be together on that plane. They were supposed to live through these events — not JUST because of Jacob. But because that’s what the universe or God (depending on how religious you wish to get) wanted to happen. The show was always about science vs faith — and it ultimately came down on the side of faith. It answered THE core question of the series. The one question that has been at the root of every island mystery, every character backstory, every plot twist. That, by itself, is quite an accomplishment.

How much you want to extrapolate from that is up to you as the viewer. Think about season 1 when we first found the Hatch. Everyone thought that’s THE answer! Whatever is down there is the answer! Then, as we discovered it was just one station of many. One link in a very long chain that kept revealing more, and more of a larger mosiac.

But the writer’s took it even further this season by contrasting this Sideways “purgatory” with the Island itself. Remember when Michael appeared to Hurley, he said he was not allowed to leave the Island. Just like the MIB. He wasn’t allowed into this sideways world and thus, was not afforded the opportunity to move on. Why? Because he had proven himself to be unworthy with his actions on the Island. He failed the test. The others, passed. They made it into Sideways world when they died — some before Jack, some years later. In Hurley’s case, maybe centuries later. They exist in this sideways world until they are “awakened” and they can only move on TOGETHER because they are linked. They are destined to be together for eternity. That was their destiny.

They were NOT linked to Anna Lucia, Daniel, Roussou, Alex, Miles, Lupidis, (and all the rest who weren’t in the chuch — basically everyone who wasn’t in season 1). Yet those people exist in Sideways world. Why? Well again, here’s where they leave it up to you to decide. The way I like to think about it, is that those people who were left behind in Sideways world have to find their own soulmates before they can wake up. It’s possible that those links aren’t people from the island but from their other life (Anna’s parnter, the guy she shot — Roussou’s husband, etc etc).

A lot of people have been talking about Ben and why he didn’t go into the Church. And if you think of Sideways world in this way, then it gives you the answer to that very question. Ben can’t move on yet because he hasn’t connected with the people he needs to. It’s going to be his job to awaken Roussou, Alex, Anna Lucia (maybe), Ethan, Goodspeed, his father and the rest. He has to attone for his sins more than he did by being Hurley’s number two. He has to do what Hurley and Desmond did for our Lostaways with his own people. He has to help them connect. And he can only move on when all the links in his chain are ready to. Same can be said for Faraday, Charlotte, Whidmore, Hawkins etc. It’s really a neat, and cool concept. At least to me.

But, from a more “behind the scenes” note: the reason Ben’s not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn’t believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It’s pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church — but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church … and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder — the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ’s ending. And they kept it.

For me the ending of this show means a lot. Not only because I worked on it, but because as a writer it inspired me in a way the medium had never done before. I’ve been inspired to write by great films. Maybe too many to count. And there have been amazing TV shows that I’ve loved (X-Files, 24, Sopranos, countless 1/2 hour shows). But none did what LOST did for me. None showed me that you could take huge risks (writing a show about faith for network TV) and stick to your creative guns and STILL please the audience. I learned a lot from the show as a writer. I learned even more from being around the incredible writers, producers, PAs, interns and everyone else who slaved on the show for 6 years.

In the end, for me, LOST was a touchstone show that dealt with faith, the afterlife, and all these big, spirtual questions that most shows don’t touch. And to me, they never once waivered from their core story — even with all the sci-fi elements they mixed in. To walk that long and daunting of a creative tightrope and survive is simply astounding.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New anti-piracy technology : a threat to "fair use"?

Read this interesting piece in this week's Economist about a new anti-piracy technology developed by NEC. Apparently it can scour 1,000 hours of video per hour and spot copyrighted material in clips as short as 2 seconds. What is missing from this article is any discussion of fair use of copyrighted material, and the nature of "transformativeness". Using copyrighted material for piracy is in a very different camp from using elements of copyrighted works to comment upon, critique and transform them into new forms of creative expression.

Science & Technology

Spotting video piracy
To catch a thief
A new way to scan digital videos for copyright infringement

May 13th 2010 | TOKYO | From The Economist print edition

ONLINE video piracy is a big deal. Google’s YouTube, for example, is being sued for more than $1 billion by Viacom, a media company. But it is extremely hard to tell if a video clip is copyrighted, particularly since 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Now a new industry standard promises to be able to identify pirated material with phenomenal accuracy in a matter of seconds.

The technique, developed by NEC, a Japanese technology company, and later tweaked by Mitsubishi Electric, has been adopted by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) for MPEG-7, the latest standard for describing audio-visual content. The two existing methods do not do a very good job. One is digital “watermarking,” in which a bit of computer code is embedded in a file to identify it. This works only if content owners take the trouble to affix the watermark—and then it only spots duplicates, not other forms of piracy such as recording a movie at a cinema. A second approach is to extract a numeric code or “digital fingerprint” from the content file itself by comparing, say, the colours or texture of regions in a frame. But this may not work if the file is altered, such as by cropping or overlaying text.

NEC’s technology extracts a digital signature that works even if the video is altered. It does this by comparing the brightness in 380 predefined “regions of interest” in a frame of the video. This could be done for all or only some of the frames in a film. The brightness is assigned a value: -1, 0, or +1. These values are encapsulated in a digital signature of 76 bytes per frame.

The beauty of the technique is that it encompasses both granularity and generality. The 380 regions of interest are numerous, so an image can be identified even if it is doctored. At the same time, the array of three values simplifies the complexity in the image, so even if a video is of poor quality or a different hue, the information about its relative luminance is retained. Moreover, the compact signature is computationally easy to extract and use.

NEC says the system could be used to automate what is currently a manual procedure of checking that video uploaded to the internet is not pirated. The technology is said to have an average detection rate of 96% and a low rate of false alarms: a mere five per million, according to tests by the ISO. It can detect if a video is pirated from clips as short as two seconds. And an ordinary PC can be used with the system to scour through 1,000 hours of video in a second. There are other potential uses too, because it provides a way to identify video content. A person could, say, use the signature in a clip to search for a full version of a movie. Piracy will still flourish—but the pirates may have to get smarter.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Making Your Media Matter Conference 2010: Participant Media and its social action and outreach campaigns

John Schreiber Executive VP of social action and advocacy, Participant films, described the social action campaigns/ NGO partnerships that Participant has developed around its films. The first film he discussed was The Informant—a departure for Participant given that it was a comedy about whistle-blowing "a decidedly unfunny and an incredible brave and difficult thing to do". Recognizing this, Participant decided to try do something serious around the film. The action it came up with was to partner with The Paley Center to have a whistle blowing panel including some of the country's most famous informants – this had such a positive response that a film/whistleblowing festival has been curated and will begin touring campuses with Informant as a central piece. Next up he described the novel way that The Visitor has been used – Participant worked with an NGO to use the film to train lawyers in how to represent detainees in bail hearings. He went on to describe the NGO partnership used for the Crazies – the Romero remake horror where biotoxins turn people into zombies. Participant worked with Greenpeace on publicity stunts featuring hazmat suited Greenpeace volunteers at cinemas where film was opening to draw attention to the Hazardous Toxin Bill, currently stalled in Congress, and the power of doing this with a male 18-24 audience who wouldn’t normally hear this message. One of the most impressive examples of NGO/film partnerships to effect change was for Kite Runner. Recognizing that Afghanistan has the world’s 3rd worst literacy rates, Participant partnered with an NGO to use the film to raise funds, create libraries and train teachers in the country: to date 87 libraries have been created and 1000 teachers trained.
As a takeaway Schreiber describes how at Participant they have identified 5 types of social action – awareness, education, action, advocacy and solutions.

Making Your Media Matter Conference 2010: the documentary 'Lioness' and its outreach

Producer/director of Lioness, Meg McLachlan, spoke about her funders and her outreach: Fledgling NYSCA, ITVS, Chicken and Egg provided $100,000 outreach funding for her film on returning female VAs. Since its release in 2008 the film has had impact in: activating a discussion on veteran health care and needs of returning women combat soldiers and is lately being used as a training tool in rural health centers. The editorial decisions that the filmmakers took ie. not taking a line on the rightness of the war gave her better access to subjects, also enabled her to go in with an attitude of discovery, but moreover has also increased the potential partnerships for the film– e.g. women groups, network of women’s VA groups, staffers on capitol hill. For Lionness’ outreach plan, traditional devices have played a bigger part --face to face meetings and bringing returning VAs featured in the film to these meetings has been very important. In getting into the Dept of Defense circles women sitting on these committees have been key, many of them having a military connection, as Vietnam nurses etc, and because of the age of these women, face time was an effective tool-- more so than say, social media. Cultivating these relationships proved to be a key move, through them the Lioness team were able to access the DOD circuit, conferences, eventually got invited onto their panels. In a later development their partners e.g. VA offices, eventually became their distribution partners. They are now at the point where they are starting to break the film into clips and where these are being used as a curriculum in North Carolina primary care health centers. McLaghlan ended with several take-aways: try embed your film into institutions. Be credible with your subjects. Be flexible in terms of opportunities – and cultivate good funder relationships.

Making Your Media Matter Conference 2010: Not in Our Town

This session was a roundtable featuring documentary filmmakers who had created content and a social action campaign around their film. First up, Not in Our Town, a documentary about the residents of Billings, Montana who responded to an upsurge of anti-Semitic hate crimes in their town by taking a stand, through a partnership of religious groups, unions, artists and newspapers people made change – one of most dramatic symbols of this when the local newspaper took decision to print a paper menorah and 10,00 people in the town displayed it in their window. Since then the filmmaker has traveled the country documenting how the film being used – igniting change in communities.
Filmmaker, Patrice O Neill talks about this as a new model – this is not outreach – rather, this is making change by showing how others have done it. She talked about the importance of partners – in her case facing history/ and PBS. There is a sequel to Not In Our Town (as yet un-named) that will focus on the Long Island murder of Marcelo Lucero and the town’s attempt to take a stand against hate-crime directed at new immigrants. She talks about the intent of her work having an impact on her aesthetics -– story told by a chorus: a community of voices – discomfort is part of the landscape. She ended with a plug for BAVC producers institute – this is an intensive program offered by BAVC that pairs a documentary with a team of developers/interactive media designers and together you work to devise/prototype multi-platform tools to support the film and actions. not in our emerged from this – a key feature is of the site is a map where hate crimes / positive actions / facing history sites are plotted, another is the bank of 35 amateur videos that are made available for people to download and use – e.g. Gunn High School – now there have been 200,000 uses of the film.

Making your Media Matter Conference 2010: Ethical dilemmas in making media

Pat Aufdeheide speaking on the Center’s new publication Honest Truths. For this publication, the Center for Social Media interviewed many documentarians on ethical dilemmas that they have encountered in their work. Though there was no common vocabulary and lots of insistence on the particularities of their situation, 3 common views emerged.

- do no harm (to vulnerable subjects)
- give viewers an honest (but not necessarily accurate picture)
- be responsible to your project/contract/vision

These 3 ethical concerns frequently come into conflict with each other.

The center’s study found that the filmmakers didn’t have a good vocabulary to describe these ethical dilemmas. Reactions to this report from the documentary community have been: “I see in this report what is wrong with my field.”

Failure to resolve these issues leads to a ducking of responsibility:
e.g. – “Discovery made me do it”

In the publication, call is made for discussions, code of ethics, standards and practices, and in view of this, the Center has been looking at where such best practice exists. One that has been v. inspiring to the Center is ‘Safeguarding Trust BBC website’ – Do check this out – it’s fascinating.

The site is an interactive guide for independent filmmakers who contract with the BBC – site gives common situations, and the ethical expectation that the BBC has of you. On the site, various scenarios are give for different types of programming, reality, nature etc and potential BBC hires record their decision – the site tells you if your decision accords with what the BBC does and why. At the conference we used clickers to record votes in real time.

Making your Media Matter Conference 2010: Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media

The third session of The Making Your Media Matter conference was a roundtable on new research and tools.
Alyce Myatt ED of Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media GFEM made a case that the biggest take aways from today for social issue media makers should be 1. establish your NGO partners from outset and 2.funders are not interested in your film per se, they are interested in advancing their cause. She pointed out recent changes in funding landscape: 1.Disappearance of big funders who might in the past have underwritten total costs, and 2. Council on Foundation’s recent focus on social justice – shows a real change from older situation where foundations not interested in funding advocacy. This said, a lot of funders don’t understand new media: though this could be changing – Myatt gave an example last year she took a handful of funders to South by Southwest Interactive sxswi --this yr she took 31 funders to sxswi – she recorded seeing tangible change -- funders began to change funding priorities to fund new media. A further change that media makers need to consider, is that today you need to have a strategy not only for production, and distribution but dissemination. Myatt stressed this as distinct from distribution—dissemination being what plans you make for people to make use of your media. Ended with a plug for a new resource offered by GFEM for filmmakers/media makers to share work in progress. She also highlighted a report just released by GFEM report just issued Funding Media, Strengthening Democracy—designed for funding community – the report (available as a download from GFEM's website) makes 10 recommendations for funding in the 21st century. Among principal recommendations is to devise a system where all grants can be viewed in real time. Funding Media, Strengthening Democracy … looks to be really useful.

Making your Media Matter Conference 2010: What Makers Quest can teach us about impact assessment

Jessica Clark Center for Social Media – project manager for future of public – spoke on new models for impact assessment. Talked about a recent action research project that she had overseen. She initially described the process – 1. Conduct 7 summits,in various cities. 2. Invite RFPs from producers for demonstration project where they were asked to use social media for impact: Result 8 multiplatform projects were funded at around $48K —one that really took off was mapping main st – Jessica and her staff were able to use this project to map the ripple of the impact. Read about projects at:

3. Best practice – tease out best practice from the demonstration projects.

What is really altering traditional ideas of impact is the notion of networks / what she describes as ‘publics’… rather than through festivals, networks are the new way that information is moving …networks also changing with the way you engage with your potential audience/disseminators during project construction/production.

Jessica was the first of the presenters to pose the question: Why assess impact?:
Came up with some familiar answers:
- to make sure you are serving your mission
- -benchmarks for strategic planning
- to be engaged with your users

She also described the elements of impact: reach…relevance…inclusion….engagement….influence

Jessica argued that what is now needed for us to assess impact is new tools

- unified social media dashboard
- social issue buzz tracker
- models for impact reporting
- a model for tracking network growth

Lessons learned:

- be solution orientated
- know what you don’t know
- seek partners
- self promote