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April 29, 2011

Are We There Yet? - my #fastbreak talk

I gave a slightly abbreviated version of this talk at Fastbreak this morning at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum. It's a great monthly breakfast event run by Vibewire and a good start to the day.

Are we there yet? Maybe I’m the wrong person to ask. Apparently I’m way out there.

I blame the Web. I got so excited about it when I was at uni. For a while back in 93 I was the only one on campus using it, so it was really hard to explain over beers at Manning Bar. It was years before some of those friends got online and saw what I was raving about. And now they’re all there. But it’s still hard to explain what I do.

After uni I was the 1st webmaster at the National Library. It was pretty sweet - the job description involved about a week setting up servers and then “keeping track of the internet” which I did for a few years. The hard bit was trying to convince librarians that the Web wasn’t a passing fad. A bit like social networking today. Easier to get in hindsight. There were three of us in the web team. Two librarians and me, the geek. And while we built one of the early web sites upstairs, downstairs your library book withdrawal slips, bits of paper, were shot around the building in vacuum tubes popping out in the basement. It was an ancient system but it just worked. A bit like email.

Since then I’ve worked mainly for myself. I love the freedom to try out new stuff. Every year the landscape changes. New ideas. New mashups of old ideas. The first Web years were so exciting. No one knew how things would end. And they really haven’t. We keep throwing ourselves into making new experiences. Some made millions, some lost their shirt, some lost their minds. I was one of the lucky ones. I made a good living in the online business world while dealing with the more tricky business of transitioning from male to female. The dotcom bubble crashed. I had gender reassignment. It didn’t happen overnight and I really resented having to slow down and “sort out personal stuff” while others my age flew by without a gender care in the world. And I assured myself that I could make up the time later on.

I’m in much less of a hurry now. In 2004 I launched my third company, MOD Films - I wanted to kick-start a new kind of film-making with a new format - the remixable film - inspired by gamers and powered by user-generated content MODs or modifications. It was too complicated. Too hard to sell. Too hard to bring audiences along for the ride. I underestimated the simple appeal of YouTube. We’re not quite ready for film MODs.

So here we are in 2011 and really I’m still doing the same as I was doing in 1993. Learning how to best produce products in the present, learning from pitfalls in the past. Exploring options. Last year Mish and I started a Sydney studio MOD Productions and a few weeks ago we did our biggest production - a 13 camera 3D shoot at Fox for an interactive Virtual Orchestra installation that should tour the world sometime next year. It’s a remixable film of sorts but don’t tell anyone.

So if you’re asking yourself Are We There Yet? then maybe you should get off at the next stop. You might have gone far enough for now. There’s no rush. Enjoy the ride.

Posted by .M. at April 29, 2011 01:05 AM

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