December 8, 2014

New Media Storytelling Shines at Made in New York Media Center Demo Day

Growing up in the late 1980’s, I remember being fascinated with the development of new media formats and obsessing over each new technology breakthrough. I was a Max Headroom kind of kid so as you can imagine, I was over-the-moon when I successfully negotiated with my parents the receipt of a “portable” VHS recorder (it was the size of a small backpack). And I was absolutely mesmerized by my Commodore-64 AV computer with floppy disc, microphone recorder and 64-MB of memory.  My heroes were film directors like Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas, Wells and I thought I was going to make my movies from my desktop in my bedroom.  Problem was that my ambition was always one step ahead of the actual technology. It turned out simply recording my voice and playing a star wars video game was about as far as I went with that early equipment.

As an English and Film major at Wesleyan University, I was privileged to learn the fundamental language of film-making by cutting films by hand using a wind-up 16mm camera. While I loved the immersive, fragile and tactile art of working in this traditional mode, I was eager for breakthroughs that could remove cost, labor and friction from the experimentation process and open up access to this very exclusive and privileged medium of expression. So you can imagine my dismay when I was not one of the lucky students who could afford to make a senior film. Had things been different, could I have been the next great filmmaker from my alma mater, like Michael Bay or Joss Whedon?  While perhaps unlikely, it was this set-back resulting from the mechanics of the medium that sent me on a completely different professional path.

Fast forward to the present (and more years than I’d like to admit) as I stand in Brooklyn's Made In New York Media Center by IFP, and I am electrified at the current rate of change in the creative toolkit for video and interactive media. MINY Media Center was launched specifically to drive the convergence of technology and the arts and empower the next generation of storytellers, whether they be artists, innovators or entrepreneurs. Since opening its doors one year ago, MINY Media Center has held more than 300 events and 100 classes, serving 25,000 people in its media gallery, theater, incubator, classrooms and community member spaces.  

The MINY Media Center recently hosted its second Demo Day event, in which five selected incubator members presented their projects – ideas that have been developed by local startups and mentored by entrepreneurial and pitch experts. As noted by TechCrunch, MINY is also supported by the Mayor’s office of Media and Entertainment, the Economic Development Corp and the Independent Filmmaker Project, so the event drew a cadre of politicians, entertainment industry veterans and influencers from New York’s arts and technology communities. The presenters covered a lot of ground, from hacking gender equality with High School students and “snackable” video sharing, to news aggregation and media archiving. The winning startup Playmatics delivered a bold vision of re-launching iconic narrative proprieties into the modern era through its innovative touch-motion comic storytelling platform.

As part of a commitment to support technology entrepreneurship and education in the greater New York area, Verizon is a founding sponsor of MINY. And fortunately for me, the team at Verizon Ventures is a huge MINY supporter, as we work closely with startups and entrepreneurs, pushing the edge of innovation and the technologies that are paving the path to how information, art and culture are experienced.

I marvel at how far we have come, as I look back at the great opportunities and challenges I faced in pursuing my creative dreams and juxtapose that to what is now possible for the average High School student at the touch of their touchscreen, just decades later. Today’s youth will all be programmers, filmmakers, designers, and reporters. Media and coding are the new liberal arts, the new art class, the new music elective given to anyone and everyone who is fortunate enough to have access to a computer and the Internet and has an inner voice they are brave enough to share.

It is fair to say that I am going to be as active as I can in helping drive this democratization of expression. There will be more noise and chatter to sort through as the gates are bent and bashed. But as we discover our next voices to inspire, reflect, educate and touch, we realize that they may come from down the block, across the world or even from inside our own homes.

Over the next few years we’ll see a revolution that eventually flips the traditional media model. I’ve lived through it in the music industry where we are still in the early days on transformation. What comes next is Hollywood unbundled, virtual and digital. For the people and by the people. OK, it’s a bit of a rosy view and I’m glossing over quite a few thorny issues along this road. But I am also incredibly excited for what’s possible and Verizon’s role in enabling this revolution. Will it be FiOS Quantum live game-casting and live-editing million dollar establishing shots with high definition wireless drone cameras for the cost of spare change today? Or 4K video delivered by our Digital Media Services platform over 5G/XXXXLTE and beyond that are coming tomorrow?

This is the greatest time in history to be an aspiring amateur.  You have incredible tools at your disposal and access to diverse audiences across global networks.  The classic challenge remains what you have to say and how to say it, but your opportunity to be heard and to collaborate with others to hone your message and craft has been revolutionized.  As has been said many times it turns out, there truly are eight million stories in this city and I am thrilled to play a small part in a nerve center like MINY Media Lab, to help aspiring artists, innovators and entrepreneurs share theirs.

Tags: New Media , New York Community MINY Media Center , Art , Technology , Entertainment , Storytelling , Tom Constabile