I paste, below, the photo I posted on twitter through instagram, of tonight’s AVID reception.

I have also typed up my notes to Day 1 in my iPad’s Evernote App, and here they are. Enjoy!

This is a record of my notes, taken during the UFVA 2012 sessions that I attend.

Session 1A (Plenary), 8:30-10:15amImagination is the 21st Century Technology

Peter Sims, Keynote Speaker

Bio and Info taken from UFVA 2012 Program

Peter Sims is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur. His latest book is Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, from Simon & Schuster: Free Press. Previously he was the coauthor with Bill George of True North, the Wall Street Journal andBusinessWeek best-selling book. He also worked in venture capital with Summit Partners, a leading investment company, including as part of the team that established the firm’s London office.

 Peter’s keynote talk will address…

What do Thomas Edison, Chris Rock, and Jeff Bezos all have in common?

Answer: An understanding that the biggest ideas spring forth from a series of small discoveries, reworked to achieve a great result.

Based on over 200 interviews with successful creators and innovators, Sims demonstrates that the kind of linear problem-solving and fear of failure we were conditioned to embrace actively thwarts creativity. Whether it’s Steve Jobs or architect Frank Gehry or the “braintrust” at Pixar, there is no complete plan or vision at the outset. Rather, through a process of trying and failing in incremental ways, they gain critical information as they go from one small, experimental step to the next – which eventually lead to extraordinary breakthroughs. These so-called “little bets” helped spark the ideas that led to companies like Twitter and blockbuster movies like the Toy Story franchise. We can learn to think and work like those we think of as geniuses – failing fast to learn quickly, trying imperfect ideas, focusing on finding problems rather than solving them, and practicing highly immersed observation – to turn our own little bets into big successes.

My notes:

Peter Sims, while teaching at Stanford, stumbled into Stanford d.school – it wowed him

Contrary to popular belief, there are usually a lack of big ideas at founding of big companies. Those come later …

  • Pixar started as hardware company, then hired John Lasseter as designer (after he was fired from Disney) to make short films to showcase the hardware
  • Then, company was sold to Steve Jobs (The Pixar Touch is a good book)
  • Running company required faith, since it was bleeding money, but …

Little bets (experimental innovation), on unknown, lead to big bets (planning), on known

These are things you can afford to lose in order to lead to big opportunities

  • Discovery = afford to lose
  • Planning = expect to gain
  • Experimenting vs. Planning

Hewlett-Packard’s HP-35 calculator in 1972 is another “little bet”

  • 100 small bets, 6 breakthroughs: 6%
  • Make small bets that lead to innovation, then bet big

Mozart = prodigy, vs. Beethoven = experimental innovator

Jerry Seinfeld – failure vs. affordable risks (see the documentary Comedian)

  • Discovery requires making mistakes, taking affordable risks
  • For the people who want to create, you have to put yourself “out there”
  • Is it failure, when you fail as you’re trying to create?

The Onion headlines – 600 possibilities, 18 headlines: 3%

Frank Gehry (see other documentary- Sketches of Frank Gehry)

  • Not being afraid to say, “that is so stupid-looking, it’s great”
  • He works in a very collaborative environment
  • Playfulness
  • Shoots down illusion of the “auteur”
  • “Failing forward”

Experimental innovation

MUSIC = experiment, play, immerse, define, reorient, iterate

Fail quickly to learn fast – go from “suck to non-suck” (Ed Catmull)


  • PIXAR = “plussing” – best ideas can come from anywhere vs. …
  • HiPPO Phenomenon (Highest Paid Person’s opinion counts most)
  • PIXAR = “black sheep” = this revolution will be improvised

What can you do tomorrow?

Panel 2H, 10:30am-12:15am: Documentary Working Group Panel

Michael Raniger, Moderator

Mark Freeman, San Diego State University


  • Ethics
  • “Truth”
  • Risk

Book recommended: A New History of Documentary Film by Betsy McLane

Film recommended: No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos


Going to school has replaced apprenticeships of yore (not much time)

UFVA journal has very little about teaching (but much abiut history and aesthetics) – shouldn’t there be more in journal that focuses on film/video TEACHING?


  • What must you teach, what must you ask for? [Les Blank’s Gap-Toothed Women]
  • How to get students get out of comfort zone (talking head + b-roll)?
  • Is it helpful to identify student clichés? What should we do about it?
  • How to avoid cliché – make them make film about someone who is at least 10 years older or 10 years yiunger than them (use distance)
  • How do we help students identify dramatic potential in everyday situations? Create dramatic tension
  • How do we get students to film in the “present tense”? Take risks? [Unpredictable outcomes]
  • How do we get students to have empathy for the subject? (develop empathy by having students introduce their classmates)
  • Try to have more people on the crew so that the director can spend time with subject before the shoot begins
  • How do you avoid the “mission/project-driven” schedule?
  • Spend time asking students what they want out of life. That will help them figure out what to ask of subjects. Maybe have them write about the subject … to help them process, reflect before and then after.

Restrictions help with creativity

Early pitching helps with navigating later critical feedback

Investigate the International Documentary Challenge: http://www.docchallenge.org/


  • Recognize drama in real life and catalyze it – don’t shoot it as just a “surveillance camera”
  • How do we teach ethics?
  • Use documentary to teach filmmaking and its rules (blend lines between fiction and documentary)
  • How to ride the line between journalism and profile.
  • Documentaries are constructed just like fiction, as soon as you make the first cut.
  • As far as ethics go, you have the editing process to see it through and decide where you want to go: Vernon, Florida, is good example to use.
  • Difference between empathy and sympathy (Bart Weiss)
  • Maybe have someone else edit your film
  • Think laterally around the subject


  • How should we prepare students to represent others, and to look outside their own age group?
  • Define the audience ahead of time? Know what the primar target audience? Specificity changes direction of film.
  • Eavesdropping exercise? Go out an listen to people in real life situations, and then create situations from these

Aubrie Campbell Canfield, from www.actualitymedia.org, was attending session – it looks like a great organizations for educators to work with.


  • Any special techniques for teaching students to give and receive feedback?
  • Are there any internet techniques? Online = google docs-type thing?
  • Maybe have groups give feedback and have the group “secretary” give the feedback.
  • Having a working proposal at the beginning helps give the film a backbone, otherwise the filmmaker can be destroyed.
  • Learn to be a diplomat – be supportive, but know what you want to say.
  • Maybe have the crit session with the filmmaker NOT present.
  • Show a lot of films for common reference. Have students watch films that are stylistically or thematically related to their own projects.
  • Don’t have a private audience …
  • Should we require a public screening of all work? Let them know from the start that there will be a public screening, if that is so (in such screenings, they always realize that film is too long and the sound is terrible)


Panel 3H, 1:30-3:15pm: Best Practices in Film and Academia

Joe Wallenstein, USC, Moderator – Safety and Student Filmmaking

Karen Carpenter, California State University Northridge – A Holistic Approach to Production Safety Training

Linda Brown, USC – Safety Is Safety Is Not an Afterthought: Incorporating Best Practices in Student Productions

Ted Wachs, NYU – Safety Crash Course (For Students with No Production Experience)


www.csatf.org (Safety Pass Program)

www.safetyontheset.com (Warner Bros.)

SAFFE is also good (http://www.safefirefx.org/)

Safety Course + Production Management Course

  • Scheduling
  • Budgeting
  • Location Scout
  • Risk Assessment
  • Day-to-Day


Student Production Handbook

Students attend safety seminar, and then they get a code for semester


General safety rules that apply to all productons, and some that apply to only some

Build semester to semester – what you can’t do at first vs. what you can do later (beginning to intermediate, etc.)


  • NYU’s safety program came about because of a student fatality
  • Safety also for equipment that the school does NOT own, but which we know students rent
  • Start as early as possible
  • Attempting to follow industry safety standards
  • You want to be PROACTIVE vs. REACTIVE
  • When looking at safety issues, consider the simple “small solutions” (closed shoes when standing in water, buddy to spot you on roof, scissors lift shouldn’t be used in winds over 15mph, etc.)
  • These safety issues help the students make better movies (get to do more takes and focus on creativity)
  • It also helps with insurance (what “risk management” needs to know is, are you in command of your shoot?)

SAFETY WORKSHOP: Tell the students, show the students, make them do it, make them teach it to someone else

JOE WALLENSTEIN – www.joewallenstein.com

  • You can’t ask too many questions about students’ shoots, you can only ask too few
  • You want to be “bondable”
  • Documentaries are not a “get out jail free” card
  • Member of the audience who has good safety manuals at his own school: David Price, Victorian College of the Arts
  • FILMSKILLS safety modules – some like them, others think the online aspect is not as good as hands-on workshops.

Screening 4A, 3:30-5:15pm

I went to this screening because I thought the films – all documentaries – would be interesting to me. I also thought that it would be nice to see how the respondents and filmmakers interacted, since I am both screening a film and responding to a film tomorrow.

But sadly, the filmmaker of the first film on the schedule didn’t show up (she was supposed to have a respondent), and the respondent for the second film was a no-show, as well.

So I just watched these two films, below, without respondents …


They weren’t terrible films, though neither was a perfect fit for me.

I thought the story that the director of the first one told about the making of the film was more interesting than the film, itself, which was limited by his insular (family-only) approach to telling the story.

I thought the second film was a very aesthetically unique portrait of the lives of these two women who died lonely. The film has some technical glitches which still need to be addressed, which I mentioned (such as the timing of the paint brushes and the sound design), but it has a lot of special touches which I enjoyed.

Here are the films:

30 Years (12 mins.)

Richard Lile, Columbia College Chicago

Josh’s mother, Venita Loring, remembers what it is like to realize you are the mother of a murderer. Despite the viciousness of her son’s crime, she still sees Josh as a kindhearted, likeable young man who ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’. However, Josh’s incarceration over the past decade has pushed Venita and her family
to the brink. With twenty years remaining on a thirty-year sentence, Venita continues to search for relief and a sense of normalcy in a life that has become anything but normal.

Leftovers (25 mins.)

Michelle Citron, Columbia College Chicago

Norma and Virginia lived together in Chicago for forty-five years. They died one after the other alone in their home, the vibrant lesbian community of their youth long gone. Leftovers explores the unforeseen trajectory of lives lived at the margins through the snapshots that Norma and Virginia left behind.



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