Arianna Huffington speaks at the SVN Fall ’09 Conference

Conscious Planet Media has just released the first of its monthly conference speaker series. Taped at the Social Venture Network Conference in Fall 2009 where Arianna Huffington was the keynote speaker. I was tremendously inspired by her insights and have grown to really respect her as one of the most important thought leaders of our time.


Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of twelve books. Click here to watch more videos by Conscious Planet Media.

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The 2009 SVN Innovation Awards

If you were the founder of a socially responsible business that’s still in its early years, what would some of the most valuable resources to you be?

Would it be having an experienced mentor to guide you through building that strong foundation and avoiding common mistakes?

Would it be getting prominent promotion on a website that’ll be viewed by many other leaders of social ventures for increased recognition?

Would it be gaining access to a network of like-minded individuals where you gain tremendous opportunity for collaboration?

How about all of the above? Sound good to you? That’s what the winners of the SVN Innovation Awards 2009 received. Take a peek at how things went at the ceremony where we celebrated the next generation of inspiring leaders.

Produced by Conscious Planet Media

So here’s the good news. You have the opportunity to be a part of it all next year. Details on applying for the 2010 awards will go up on the SVN website. I don’t qualify for them yet, but if you do, it’s definitely worth a shot. I don’t work for the Social Venture Network, but the time I spent at their last conference was a truly positive experience for me. And well, good things should be shared! :)

To read more about this year’s winners, click here.

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Filming at the Social Venture Network Conference

My trip to La Jolla, CA last week to film at the Social Venture Network Conference was both tiring svnlogoand inspiring. Thanks to Conscious Planet Media, who were visionary sponsors of the event, my fellow filmmaker Karl and I had the chance to fly there to cover the event. I knew, from editing footage of their last conference back in Spring, that it was going to be an extraordinary experience brimming with opportunities to talk to and learn from some of the accomplished people in the world of socially responsible business. I was simply bursting with excitement!

We hopped onto the 5.30am flight from O’Hare and hit the ground running bright and early as soon as we touched down in San Diego. I was blown away by the beauty of the Estancia, La Jolla as our cab pulled up in front of the lobby and we were greeted by their friendly staff. And yes, hello 70-degree weather! ;) But as much as I’d have loved to enjoy the resort, we had a lot of setting up to do. We whipped out our lights, set up both cameras – one on a riser, the other on a spiderpod – and ran a sound check. All set and ready to go!

evan shapiroSpeaking at the opening address that night was Evan Shapiro, president of IFC tv and the Sundance Channel, who spoke of why diversity in the workplace is essential for sustainability. I like how he takes this challenge on by working with students. “When you are hungry you can’t go plant a seed,” said Evan, indicating that we can’t wait till we post job openings to start looking. The key is to start instilling an interest in your future workforce when they’re still young. When we had the opportunity to tell him about how we wanna create positive social change with our media and asked how we might extend our reach, his advice was that we needed to make our stuff entertaining. Entertain your audience first, then feed them the socially conscious message second. Hmm. Shall keep that in mind for future projects.

The breakout session with Amy Goodman, news journalist and host of the award winning news amy goodmanoutlet Democracy Now!, was also very relevant to what we do. She spoke about the importance of having independent media because we are too often denied the truth when we watch media funded by oil companies or other big corporations that play gatekeepers for what gets reported. True that, Amy! Independent media companies like CPM, who’s extremely careful about the message we put out and what kind of companies sponsor our events to make sure we stick to the mission. All in all a great session! Glad her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, came free in our goodie bags. Shall look forward to learning from it. Even though i was able to get in close proximity to her because i hadta put a lavalier mic on her, she couldn’t stop to chat as she was whisked away quickly outside to avoid the big crowd jostling to meet her.

arianna huffingtonThe keynote speaker for the event was Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post, who’s also written 12 books. She was a lady of intelligence and grace, and spoke with a fiery passion against what bothered her most about things going on in the mainstream media. She ridiculed the amount of coverage that was given to balloon boy, saying “create a giant balloon & put all the homeless children in there. Then, the media will care.” She stayed on briefly after the speech to talk to people, but politely turned down my interview request, saying that she had to leave soon because her daughter was sick. I respect that though… with a schedule like hers where she’s speaking in a different state at different events almost everyday, it’s no wonder she had to rush off. When i asked an SVN organizer how early they had to book Arianna to come speak, she said it was more than a year in advance. Woah.

Also pretty awesome was the SVN Innovation Award Ceremony where 5 winners were selected from a pool of emerging enterprise leaders for their great work. Read more about the winners here.

All in all, it was a tremendous learning experience for me. It’s incredibly humbling just being in the same room as 300 of the world’s movers and shakers. I cannot wait to edit a great video from the footage we’ve gathered. And I definitely hope for the opportunity to return to the next SVN Conference! :)

Teaching at Cabrini Connections Video Club

If you’re given the opportunity to spend time in a classroom with a handful of 14-17 year olds as a guest teacher, what would you do with that time? I’d want to grab the golden opportunity to touch and inspire young lives, to be that spark in helping them dream big. But what if you only had all of just 90 minutes to do it?

Film Club Oct 05 2009 002My colleague Karl and I were asked to guest teach video editing at the Cabrini Connections Video Club. And even though i’ve taught people editing previously at Mediaworks, it was usually one-on-one, and they were college students. As first-timers teaching in front of an actual class of students, we were naturally nervous.

There were also a couple of challenges we had to overcome. You see, Karl and I were fortunate enough to learn to use editing software in big computer labs and fancy projectors that allowed us to follow our instructors step by step. However, with the limited resources of a nonprofit organization like Cabrini Connections, where they only had 1 ancient mac that (barely) ran Final Cut Express, it was clear that we would not be able to teach the kids in the same way we were taught.

Another challenge we faced was overcoming what is known as The Curse of Knowledge. Often, we become so used to the things that come to us naturally, that we forget what it was like to not know. How do we put across these complicated editing concepts in a simple manner? Stories. Stories and examples always help. After a week of prep and a lot of thought, we came up with our lesson plan and handouts.

We got through concepts of the individual frame and how meaning can change drastically when you splice together different images. We got a little technical with continuity editing techniques too. Getting to use YouTube videos and clips from movies really helped to illustrate our points better. Film Club Oct 05 2009 001

I think they really enjoyed getting some hands-on editing practice and making their own editorial decisions the most. I remember enjoying hands-on sessions the most too, back in the day. Karl and I decided that the best workaround was for us both to bring our laptops to class and split the students into 2 groups. We’d then individually guide the students and ask them to take turns deciding the arrangement of 4 shots taken from one of Karl’s old college projects.

You should have heard how excited they were. Even though the plan was for Karl and I to be the ones actually using Final Cut to execute their editorial decisions, one of my boys rushed to take the hot seat in front of my laptop and started clicking away happily. “Ah, you’ve used this before, haven’t you?” I asked. He replied with confidence, “yeah, my school has macs.” Another one of my girls, after peeking over to see how Karl’s group was doing, said with such pride, “theirs looks good, but ours is gonna be better!” Ah, the spirit of competition. :)

At least 1 of the girls, Melissa, has expressed interest in going to film school in future. I would love to help her gain some awesome set experience before college sometime by inviting her to a Northwestern student film set. I can imagine how thrilled she’d be!

Those 90 minutes whizzed on by all too quickly. And while I don’t think we managed to get across anything that was particularly as life-changing as i had hoped, I still think we all enjoyed the session. I think it would take a little more time to be able to instill in them how they can use their video-making skills to do something positive. It blows my mind how teachers do this on a daily basis. Respect!

Thanks Michael and Brad for asking us to come teach. Thanks Karl for tag-teaming it with me. It was such a great experience!

To read more about the Cabrini Connections Video Club and the great work they’re doing, check out their blog here.

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