Four of us packed into a car, coffee in hand, and sped south into the early morning rain to attend the MCAI San Diego Chapter's first MediaProCamp. It was well worth the trip. The venue was one of the state-of-the-art education centers of the Art institute of California. And what we got was a wonderful day of collaboration with some top professionals of the media industry.
Even at registration, we started making new acquaintances and catching up with a few old friends. I got to finally meet Raegan Matthews, who works at Digital Post in Carlsbad and with whom I must have spoken a hundred times on various MCAI web-calls. These MCAI leadership calls include members from all around the country so she may as well have been in Detroit! Getting to say hello in person and put a face with the voice was fun. And of course, the nature of the business means that we go where the work is. So, I got to catch up with some folks with whom I have shot in the wilds of San Diego County and others I have worked with in the LA area.
The organizers were a team of MCAI members who had done a lot of preparation to make things move easily. As a result, the day went by very quickly. After explaining the concept, attendees (aka, Campers) had a chance to list on a large whiteboard discussion topics they were willing to moderate. The pre-determined categories were Technical, Creative, Business and Miscellaneous. Simple and comprehensive, I thought. Each category drew about six to ten great topics, except for misc., which stood almost empty. Then everyone got to vote on their favorite topics. Top vote getters were assigned a meeting space and given 45 minutes. Organizers had arranged for 4 or 5 meeting spaces, including two of the Ai computer labs. This scene was repeated after each session.
One of the great things about MCAI's MediaProCamps is the professional level of the discussions. While there may have been some media students there I did not see evidence of them. For instance, one session I attended was about sample reels. Now, that could easily seem like a pretty basic, student level topic. But this group was comprised of about 15 professionals, each with an average of 15+ years experience, by my estimation, (OK, my presence skewed the average even higher.) There were editors, directors, cinematographers, actors, educators and executives pulling their chairs into a circle. Many of us were hyphenates. We shared experiences, opinions and practical advice. I got some great perspective and some good ideas.
The variety of topics was impressive. And moderators were uniformly good at getting everyone to contribute their knowledge as well as probe issues we all deal with. Many of the moderators just stepped forward with discussion ideas, like my friend, Frank Forth. He lives in San Diego and does location sound. I had not seen him since a shoot in LA last summer. He co-moderated a discussion about field audio. Mark Schultze ran a discussion about distribution. Steve Douglas, who writes software reviews for Ken Stone's FCP site talked about plug-ins. One of the most popular topics was social networking for business. I found that easily two thirds of the topics were relevant to me. That's an incredibly high percentage, in my experience. In each discussion I attended, everyone contributed to the conversaton. And traded a few business cards as well!
That's another thing about MediaProCamp. It is a fabulous atmosphere for meeting fellow pros and networking.
There were four sessions of about 45 minutes each with four or five simultaneous breakouts in each session. With so much to choose from it was inevitable you may have to forgo one great topic to join in another discussion. So, on occasion, the most popular topics were repeated in the next session by popular demand. Of course, you can guarantee that no two discussions, even on the same topic, would ever be the same. Since the content comes from participants, all of whom are working professionals, it can be as different as the individuals. Nevertheless, the collective wisdom that comes from every one of these discussions is pretty powerful--and valuable--stuff!
The Day was capped off by a keynote address from Media Guru Phillip Hodgetts. He is a true Renaissance Man of the media. If you have ever been to one of his seminars, read one of his books, or his blog or heard him speak, you know what I mean. On this occasion his topic was "Growing An Audience for your Indy Production." Phillip pointed out that a major paradigm shift has taken place. Where once distribution (as well as advertising, promotion and building an audience for that distribution) was the job of a distributor or a network, it now falls to the filmmaker or content creator. Hodgetts presented case histories of creative and successful self-distribution, talked about piracy, blogging, using the internet and tribal marketing, among others.
As we headed back to Orange County in the late afternoon, we almost welcomed the rain and sloggingly slow traffic through Camp Pendleton. It gave us more time to share what we learned and compare notes on the MCAI San Diego Chapter's MediaProCamp. Besides personal and business ideas from which we will benefit, we got some good ideas to apply to the LA/Orange County Chapter's next MediaProCamp in June 2010. The only disappointment? The fact that the Ai Culinary Institute students did not cater the event! All in all, it was a great day!