Black Mirror – Best 2016 speculative fiction on Netflix

Monday, 31 October, 2016

Black Mirror season 3 created by Charlie Brooker is now on Netflix and it is a must see speculative fiction (or if you wish, Sci-Fi) show! Two of my favourite S3 episodes are “San Junipero” and “Hated in the Nation” (WARNING: those linked pages have spoilers).

Black Mirror | Official Trailer – Season 3 [HD] | Netflix

Charlie Brooker on Black Mirror, satire and politicians – BBC Newsnight

Charlie Brooker at the Black Mirror Q&A: “We wanted to not always fling you into a pit of despair”


Sarah Rafferty’s Donna in TV series Suits is as good as my mom!

Friday, 15 February, 2013

Sarah Rafferty (Donna) talks Suits

To me, Sarah Rafferty‘s Donna in the TV series Suits personify the best of the best Executive Assistant!

  • The passable Executive Assistant does what you want after asking for your clarifications and help.
  • The OK Executive Assistant does what you ask competently without bugging you too much.
  • The best of the best Executive Assistant knows what needs to be done before you ask and do it so well that you realize he/she has saved you so much time so you can focus on other important matters!

FOX 11 Google+ Hangout: Sarah Rafferty Talks Suits (timecode 5m25s) <== This links jump right to my question for Sarah, who plays the super executive assistant to the lead lawyer Harvey in  #suits !

To me, my mom is one of the most #awesome executive assistant I know of! You ask how good? Well, after the first few years of a manager running the office with her help, the HQ decided to eliminate the manager position and have her run the office without a manager for the following decades! I’ve learned so much from my mom! LOVE you mom!

Thanks +Maria Quiban +Tony McEwing +Tshaka Armstrong at +FOX 11 Los Angeles for the awesome experience!

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Rafferty
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suits_(TV_series)


Connecticut Elementary School Students Interviews & Vietnam Napalm Girl Photo

Saturday, 15 December, 2012

In the wake of Friday tragic Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the broadcast media (CNN, NBC, etc) were put under the spotlight, challenged, and asked: Should traumatized children have been interviewed on air live (or pre-recorded) in tragedy like this at all?  I’ve read the following four articles and I recommend you take a look too,

1) “Kids at Tragedies: Turn Off the Cameras“, TIME Magazine

2) “Reporters covering school massacre slammed for interviewing children“, Daily Brew

3) “Interviewing the children, cont.“, Politico

4) “Conn. school shooting: When children are witnesses, how should media proceed?“, Washington Post

After reading the above articles carefully, part of me felt inadequate to comment. Who am I to comment as I am neither a professor of journalism ethics nor a psychologist.  But in an age where anyone with a Twitter, Google+, Facebook account can comment freely and sometimes forcefully with expletives, I hope my ramblings/observations may shine some light.

1) Referencing this WaPo report, I agree with NPR’s approach in “advising their journalists to get a parent’s permission in writing or on tape before interviewing a child.” To me, parent’s permission and parent’s ability to stop an interview at any time is a most basic requirement. If an interview is stopped by a parent, then that clip (live or pre-recorded) should not be used again, ever. That interview, by agreement between media outlets should be treated as never happened.

2) I would trust reporters on the ground more and not go as far as ABC News. “ABC News also said Friday that it doesn’t air interviews with children live, but records and reviews them before broadcast.” I want to think media outlets send good reporters to report violent tragedies to begin with. They should believe in their reporters enough that they will do their job ethically. The final editorial decision may not help much if the source materials have been gathered unethically anyway.

3) I cannot and will not tell reporters to simply “Turn Off the Cameras“. As long as the tools and methods used by the media outlets are legal, I see it a danger to “freedom of press” if we (the public) start dictating to the media what is acceptable or unacceptable tool to use or report to air. Ideas of no interview “zone” or no interview “age group” (too young even with parental permission), etc are dangerous precedence to set.

4) Some good points were made in WaPo that I cannot fully agree.

Interviewing children in such circumstances, in essence asking them to relive the experience, can increase later emotional and psychological damage, Rebecca Greenfield said. She cited child psychologist Donna Gaffney, who said children need to be with people who love and support them in the first 24 hours of witness something like the Sandy Hook shooting or Columbine in 1999, the previous worst mass school shooting in the U.S.

I see the point made by the child psychologist. At the same time, I feel I must balance the potential emotional impact of the child with the public good of having an interview done right there when all eyes are on the scene of the tragedy. A professional lit at home/school interview with the affected children with their parents sitting besides them a few days later will not have the same impact.

To me, seeing the children speaking in their own unfiltered voices at the scene right after the tragedy is of critical importance. It is not just the “facts” that I am after. I want to know how the children feel. Seeing the children there was painful and very emotional to me but the reporters on scene are not the ones to blame. The reporters didn’t cause the tragedy. They were there to be our eyes and ears, to find out relevant information to allow us, if we choose to, be informed citizens (world citizens).

A wise blog friend once wrote, “Human beings are powered by emotion, not by reason.” He quoted the neurologist Donald Calne, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.

5) Vietnam Napalm Girl Photo

Now let me talk about Vietnam Napalm Girl Photo, the second half of my title. Ms Phan Thi Kim Phuc is “a Vietnamese-Canadian best known as the child depicted in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken during the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972.” To me, the Vietnam Napalm Girl Photo was one of the contributing factor to the end of the Vietnam war.

In June 2012, Kim Phuc told friends and relatives at an event marking the 40th anniversary of the photograph that made her famous, “I never thought that the child who was a famous symbol of war would one day be invited to become a symbol of peace”.

At heart, I am an optimist and see the world is capable of becoming a better place over time (hopefully with a small contributions by me). My hope is the painfully emotional interviews with children right at the scene of the Elementary School shootings may lead to meaningful actions by the American public. What if those interviews with children play a role in turning the American gun culture around? Witness White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Friday repeating the standard & pointless “today is not the day for a debate on gun control.” To the 180 degree change by President Obama a few hours later, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics“.

I don’t normally say this but let me say, “God Bless America” and may you make the changes needed to avoid future tragedies.

Concluding thoughts

Because of the controversy resulted from the tragic New York subway death a few days ago, I came across a quote in The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War that I feel may be illuminating here. The Bang-Bang Club is an autobiographical book about a group of four photographers active in South Africa during the Apartheid period and here is the quote I want to share with you,

Tragedy and violence certainly make powerful images. It is what we get paid for. But there is a price extracted with every such frame: some of the emotion, the vulnerability, the empathy that makes us human, is lost every time the shutter is released.

As an independent reporter who has no formal j-school or ethical training, I have to remind myself if I were ever at the scene of tragedy and violence, I will have to be mindful of what am I doing and why. The price I pay for releasing the shutter or pressing the video record button is a piece of my humanity. While I am being paid to do my job, the “public good” must also justify the lost piece of my humanity.

P.S. Based on all the interviews with children I’ve seen, which by no means is exhaustive, none of them have crossed the “ethical line” to me. In case of tragedy, I find comforting to not set fixed rules but lean on the “I know it when I see it” standard.

This article is cross posted to examiner by me.

Dec 16th update: For the record (via THR),

@andersoncooper In answer to your tweets, no, Of course i will not be interviewing children from the school. I do not think that is appropriate at this time

@katiecouric Traveled to CT today, speaking with #SandyHook students http://instagr.am/p/TPXS_vSZMo/

Dec 17 update: I want to add and mention South Carolina TV Anchor Amy Wood did an insightful audio interview with Kelly McCurry, who was in the first grade when a gunman came into her school in Greenwood, SC and killed two classmates and shot some of her favorite teachers. Here is a very relevant set of questions and answers. (emphasis added)

Amy’s Questions (starting at ~5:22): “What do you think of the media interviewing the children? We have lot of comments on Facebook that are just furious children are being interviewed. Yet those faces are what make this reality to us all. These are the people that have been impacted. And in some circumstances it appears that it was willing. No one was chasing people down the street. But what do you think? You were in this position. What do you think about the media interviewing children in this scenario?”

Kelly’s answers -6:24: “I kinda heard that parents gave permission. But I disagree with that. I don’t believe children should be exploited for the media’s profit and to sensationalize it. Everybody understands the magnitude of what happening there. There is no reason to bring kids into that. And make them relive it. Thats something they should do with a counsellor if need be. With their parents. I really disagree with bringing the kids in.”

I agree with with Kelly that children should not be “exploited for the media’s profit and to sensationalize it” but like I try to argue in the article, as long as the interviews are ethically conducted, important public good can be served by these interviews.


Video chat with Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira (Michonne) at Fox LA

Tuesday, 16 October, 2012

Michonne is a fictional character from the comic book/TV series The Walking Dead (season 3 premiered last night) and is played by Danai Gurira. It was wonderful to have a video chat with Gurira this morning at Fox LA Google+  Hangout.

According to DeAno Jackson, a long time fan of The Walking Dead (both the comic book & TV series), Michonne is a character with a huge fan base and her appearance has been highly anticipated by fans since the show was announced. Gurira said she learned more about Michonne, pronounced “Me-shone”, along the way as she was doing research for the auditioning process. And she realized people anticipating a lot from Michonne but she caught up really fast. And thought that it was really cool to step into the role of where she was really loved, “an entity to herself, so original and fascinating”. While Gurira didn’t have to train for the audition but the team asked about her athletic ability and trusted that they could train her for the role accordingly which they promptly started. Gurira had a very intense six weeks training before the shooting started.

I, from Calgary, got chances to ask Gurira two questions. I first asked (click to jump to that time code) if she ever expect to be in a hit show like Walking Dead, kicking-ass) given her formal training from New York University (an MFA)? And I also got to ask what was her experience like working with showrunner and writer Glen Mazzara and if she has to follow the script strictly or are there lots of give and take? Have a watch of the video to find out.

P.S. This reporter has the pleasure to attend a master class and Q&A with Glen Mazzara, click here for more.

Note: This article is cross posted by me at examiner.com


Digital debate Bell vs Rogers + insights from CBC & Shaw at 2012 Banff World Media Festival

Monday, 25 June, 2012

#Banff2012 Day 1 - pix 05

An interesting debate between Kevin Crull, President Bell Media vs Keith Pelley, President Rogers Media plus — Kirstine Stewart, CBC and Paul Robertson, Shaw Media at 2012 Banff World Media Festival. Have a watch of the debate. This debate is particularly interesting in light of Gary Carter’s presentation at MPJC 2012.


Gary Carter, FremantleMedia, @MPJC2012

Monday, 25 June, 2012

Gary Carter, COO FremantleMedia COO FMX - pix 01

I often write Gary Carter, recently resigned as COO of FremantleMedia, is one of the most insightful TV industry people I know of. I lied. Gary Carter is **the** most insightful TV industry person I know of. And he is generous in sharing his insights. Have a watch of Gary’s speech at MPJC 2012Enjoy & learn what you can.

Gary Carter, COO FremantleMedia COO FMX - pix 02

2013 Aug 20th update: Gary Carter Appointed Chairman, Northern Europe and Shine 360° on 20th Mar 2013

Shine Group today announced the appointment of Gary Carter to the newly created role of Chairman of Northern Europe and Shine 360° as of 1 June 2013. Most recently, Carter was Chief Operating Officer of FremantleMedia Group.

In the new role Carter will oversee the creative and operational functions of Shine Germany, and the Nordic regions’ Metronome group of production companies in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Carter will additionally operate as a strategic sounding board to Shine Group’s off-air ancillary division Shine 360°. Reporting to Shine Group CEO, Alex Mahon, he will travel between all offices from a base in Amsterdam.

One of the international production business’ most respected executives, and closely personally identified with the emergence of the Reality genre, Carter was most recently Chief Operating Officer at FremantleMedia Group. At Fremantle, he was responsible for Read the rest of this entry »


Conflicts in Reality TV and psychological profiling – The Chicken or The Egg – Most fascinating and controversial session at 2012 Banff World Media Festival

Saturday, 23 June, 2012

The Chicken or The Egg - Casting for Reality session at #banff2012 - pix 1

The conflicts in reality TV as we seen in the most recent “old days” were created by show creators’ or casting directors’ gut instinct. They put interesting people or people with opposing characteristics on a show and “hope” for the best.

The Chicken or The Egg – Casting for Reality session at 2012 Banff World Media Festival gave me a deep and insightful insider look of the current practice in casting for reality TV. Psychological personality tests like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) are used to precisely create (I debate using the word “manipulate”) the reality TV casts composition to manufacture the right mix for “fireworks” to happen on screen.

The Good and The Bad

I agree that tests like MMPI-2 will help screened out extreme contestants that should NOT to be allowed on TV in order to protect themselves from potential harm (sometimes self-inflicted). In some sense, even the contestants have probably signed their lives away and give up any rights to launch any legal actions if anything go wrong (an analogy is the forms you have to sign before your parachute jump),  the reality TV shows makers should be more aware and ready to provide help to the contestants when troubles arises. The speakers of the session are aware the duty of care they are responsible of, even though they may not be legally bound to. Have a watch of the follow video clip and share your thoughts.

The Chicken or The Egg - Casting for Reality session at #banff2012 - pix 2

The Chicken or The Egg - Casting for Reality session at #banff2012 - pix 3

Since we are talking about reality TV, Ricky Gervais, winner of the Sir Peter Ustinov Award for Comedy at the 2010 Banff World TV Festival, had an interesting take in the finale of Extras (highly recommended funny comedy). I was lucky to ask Ricky specifically about the finale. Here is a clip.

Official The Chicken or The Egg session description from 2012 Banff.

The Chicken or The Egg – Casting For Reality
Uncovering the characters in reality television can be a challenge as producers search for engaging and genuine subjects. In this behind-the-scenes look at the nuances of discovering incredible individuals to participate in this ever growing genre, you will hear first-hand from a producer and personality expert from some of the hottest reality shows. They will discuss the fine line between creating television that is entertaining, yet not exploitative, that presents the nitty-gritty of real-life drama.
What is the creative process in finding the characters that drive our favourite reality shows?
What are some of the challenges in putting together the perfect ensemble cast of characters?
What is the network involvement in casting for reality series?”

Official 2012 Banff bio for Jonathan Glazier.

“Jonathan Glazier – Creative Director – Entertainment Master Class and Pepper Rafferty Read the rest of this entry »


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