Monday, December 29, 2008


Got a newsletter from Powderhouse Hill recently that reminded me of the power of this medium (these media). Our little Powderhouse Hill, which we coined as America's Smallest Ski Resort last March got on the media list on December 26. When everybody needed that little story to make us feel good. Thought I'd re post it here from our YouTube account.

We've had modest success with virability. Our biggest player, to date, is a five-minute clip we crafted about Bode Miller with selections from Bode NAKED, CRASHING, LAUGHING, BREAKING STUFF, you know, a basic day. We didn't post the clip but a commercial outfit put it up on YouTube and GoogleVideo to drive traffic to their site. As we were not capitalizing (at that time) on such posts we let it run and see what the numbers were. Got to about 50,000 before it was pulled for the copyright violation that it was (of our rights). We'll soon be returning an updated version of this and other clips, but not before we understand more about how and why to drive traffic.

During the 2006 Olympics we had about 500,000 visitors to our Seeing that traffic come and go I vowed that we will know more about how to harness interest, not just how to get it.

And that's the big adventure we all have to learn. I don't know whether it matters if Andy Warhol was right or not that "In the future [aka NOW] everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes."
Having seen how fame has treated Bode and many others, fifteen minutes could be a relief.

Getting our audiences to know who and what we are is key. But the other key is being something REAL. That's what drives the numbers. And that's the prospect of this media. We can get audiences inside the experience.

But virability is not just about being good and true, bad and interesting. It's about appealing to a wide swath of people at a particular moment. And finding a way to connect.

So email your friends this Powderhouse YouTube clip. I just posted it and there are 0 views. The url is above. I've got to think that a clip with nobody naked, no explosions, no fights over the rope, and just the minor controversy of the bald-headed claim/question of "America's SMALLEST resort" is not going to be too viral. But virability? Like a lip-syncing middle-aged dancer!

Here's the url which you can get (or the embed code if you want to paste in a clip). You can watch the clip, copy the url or get the embed code at YouTube:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Break

The holiday break began a touch prematurely when I got the flu on Tuesday and spent Wednesday on the couch, less potato than wet rag. I did get out of the last minute shopping spree that is my typical practice.

But today it's back to work and the job at hand is a re-release of our Bode Miller film, Flying Downhill. We're focused on a version for Europe and looking to integrate those things we've been talking about for years. We opted for self-distrubution and though we had offers I'm sure that we would have made even less had we accpeted the offers we received.

Beacause building sales is all about esablishing contact with your customers and there is a direct way to do that with the web. The issue is, of course, getting the expertise to present yourself well and to keep the follow-through that let's your audeince know who and what you are and what you've got.

I've always been a creator and not a marketer which takes other ideas and audiences and plugs them together. But I, like so many other film and media makers, are realizing the creativity available directly on the web.

But its like learning to be a filmmaker – at least how I learned – which is by putting images and sounds together and learning from others. Takes time, process of creation, results, relearning, creation.

This very blog is a way to train and learn by experience. And for me the adventure is getting feedback, learning how to promote sites, learning how to make sites more compelling.

For our new Flying Downhill site we'll be using more short clips on YouTube. We invite you to comment on the clips, send them to friends, post them wherever appropriate.

The good news is this can be done on the couch, or in the office, or like today, at my office at home. And at the heart of this work is the heart of our work: being alive today and responding to what we see and hear, reflecting it back to one another in a fresh and honest way. It's about us – all of us – and how we go through our world together.

December 26, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bald Guy 025 The 236 Diner

Bald Guy is hungry again. How about a local diner. He's heard of the 236 Diner. But where in the world is it? And do they have meatloaf?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bald Guy 024: Simply Green!

Bald Guy continues to drive, but at least he can handle a little of the guilt by looking for a conGREENience store. What's congreenience? Watch and learn.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Woven Voices Gift

Artist and friend Sarah Haskell just came over with a gift of a beautiful prayer flag woven from messages she has received from around the world. Here's the handover.

Spinning Fast

This is for my son. He had one of those great lines this morning and I told him I'd spin it into a blog entry.

"You get very dizzy because the world is spinning very fast." -Miles Lee-Rogers

I have been dizzy, lately. Absorbing how to do this new stuff, tools to communicate faster, maybe simpler, but new, more, connected. Each day I'm learning basic stuff about how to connect with others through Facebook, Blip, Google tube...

I had a meeting with my web guy on the Bode project and he said how kids should be your testers. How easy is it to get stuff from your site. But adults should be asking the same question. How do we allow others to connect with us?

We had half a million hits on our Bode Miller Flying Downhill ( site. But how many come back? How many return to do more than satisfy a random curiosity? In re-doing the site, in re-releasing the film in Europe, that's what we want to be ready for. One of our clips was put onto YouTube by someone else. We let it fly, let it stay there and before it came down 50,000 people had seen it. We need to find a way to talk to those people. As the world spins we've got to find a way to deepen our connection. Understanding is the way I get less dizzy.

But the world keeps on spinning and we've got to keep learning. Thanks, Miles, for letting me know why I get dizzy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

BG 022 Insulation

Sometimes the climate change solutions are not in your proverbial backyard, but in the literal front yard. So found Bald Guy when his neighbor started blowing shreds into the attic.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Social Media

What is social media?

It's media you catch from other people.

When I was about four years old (It was the 1963? NY World's Fair) I grabbed a hold of my parents' home movie camera and recorded what I saw. It's like my kids jumping on a computer and hitting the keys till the right thing happens – or till something that makes them happy happens. Or picking up one of our digital still cameras and clicking their world. Life is happening all around us. Right now. And that life is reflected in my kids' eyes. By what they see, hear, record.

But then it's put onto a hard drive, uploaded and shared. And it is part of that great exchange of ideas and perspectives. Interchangeable with others.

What we do as creators of social media is to drive up the value of the exchange. We create a context for the media to keep it from being a random act of sole observation. We connect one person to another.

That's social media.

Amelia and Midnight by Miles

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 020

A new day for Bald Guy? You betcha. Cause today's climate change solution is votin'.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Media & Social Media

Is it New Media or Social Media?

Both work, but in our media the social aspect makes much sense. Our media is about people and how they relate to larger structures. We are our culture; and our culture is us. They're in a dance, both individual and societal.

Have you received a web video recently? Have you clicked on it? I did. I was brought (or I went) to the donation section of the Obama site, and then to the video. In this case it was a behind the scenes look at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The important point is that the video is related to the cause and the DNC and Obama teams are leading in a vital way. Leading with stories. And leading by connecting those stories to data (like my email, address...).

The same day I received an email from Michael Moore talking about how vitally important this election is and how his message is going out to 1 million people, and how that million can reach 5 each... That's the story of social media. A simple message can be passed one to another. I've got to bet his "free download" of the profile of the 2004 election, SLACKER UPRISING was and is a big part of that list of a million. He gave it way for free and got one huge load of emails. Now he's using that power.

And all this is social.

And not just us pinko, whacked out radicals. Many of them are foaming at the mouth Fox-fed radical anti-radicals.

It's social and we better realize who we're talking to and how we're talking to them.

What the Obama folks (assisted by many including MoveOn) have done masterfully is presented stories – long and short (though clearly more short than long) and tied those stories to more than one indivdual and what drives them. They've linked those stories to us. And created an internconnected social web of interests.

It's what we need to do – what we're beginning to do – in regard to climate change, human rights and the many daunting issues that need us to see the world in a new way.

That's the promise. I'm with Obama's network of change. I'm a fan of public financing and public TV. But there's a new model of social networking and social media. It's a powerful force.

The NYTimes ran a story this morning about Obama, tired, at the end of a day, end of a long campaign. He's seen in his plane, taken from outside through a round window, he's on his cell phone. And in the dark on the outside of the plane is a portion of the text: It's powerful force.

Monday, October 27, 2008

NoworNever 010: Biodiesel on the Farm

Can a New Engalnd Farm be the center for postive climate change? Dorn Cox and researchers at the University of New Hampshire see the small scale of a New Englnad farm as a measurable way to look at a climate change solution. Can there be power from the flower?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Presenting at NHFF

Heading into Portmsouth to work with a small group of students who are part of the NH Film Fest's media workshop. I'll bring my newest tool: a Canon Powershot A530 digital still camera that I'm using to shoot video. I fits in my pocket, stores to flash drive, downloads via USB to computer AND looks pretty damn good.

One thing I like is the slow frame rate (10fps). This works well for web video, which is often stuttery regardless. And also the fact that the digital still backdrop is a series of still frames. That's what film is. TV is (has been) 30 frames per second, each of which is broken into 1/2 frames (or fieldes). These subframes are stitched together via INTERLACING. But digital stills are full frames, ande so, when shown in succession they have much more the feel of film.

But back to the other good thing about this little camera. The video image size is 640x480, good enough for web video. I shoot. I plug the camera into a computer (I use a powerbook so iphoto automatically downloads the video), I translate (export) the movie onto my media harddrive, I import the clip into an edit program, edit, export, post and review.

So time to go do that.

Oh, yeah. One other little issue. Have something to say and say it, show it, do it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

BG 019 Bald Guy on Climate Change

How do we count the ways of change? In this selection Climate Counts show how we can vote with our dollars by learning of the carbon footprint of the companies where our dollars go.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 018

When the Kittery main dump needs power, now can now look up to the heavens. When the wind blows, electricity flows. And Bald Guy was there!

Bald Guy on Climate Change 012

Does a bald guy need a haircut? Does a pig need lipstick? Lets see at Micheles where bald guy gets cropped.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Casey on Campus!

This is made in partnership with Clean Air Cool Planet.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 016

Bald Guy met Steve Garfield at the NH Mediamakers meetup. Time to make a video blog entry! In the car Steve talks about how climate chnage and the new media landscape fit together. Over a bridge to somewhere.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 015

If the solutions to climate change are in our own backyards, what solutions can Bald Guy who has his own backyard find? Let's just see...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 011

Bald Guy goes to Epping, NH to see what frugal yankees do when its time to fix the town halls boiler.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Casey on Campus

Casey is looking for solutions to climate change. But what's a student to do? So many choices, so little time. But thankfully she's got Clean Air Cool Planet and their carbon calculator to help.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 007

Bald Guy gets his vacation! But meanwhile climate change keeps lighting those candles. Not to worry, Bald Guy's got his cell phone to call it in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 009

Bald Guy comes back from vacation to hear about tornados in the land of snow. What other changes are afoot?

Bald Guy on Climate Change 006

Even in a carbon constrained world everybody likes a good road trip. Bald Guy and Producer Melissa Paly head to the University of New Hampshire to learn about Clean Air Cool Planet's Planning Tool and Carbon Calculator.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 001

What's a poor guy making a series on climate change to do? Make a shorter series on cilmate change and bring in those who have pulled their hair out over the topic. And do it every day. These short videos are about Bald Guy looking for solutions.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bald Guy on Climate Change 001

What's a poor guy making a series on climate change to do? Make a shorter series on cilmate change and bring in those who have pulled their hair out over the topic. And do it every day. These short videos are about Bald Guy looking for solutions.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Joe Rogers Award for Independence 2008

Monday night was Awards Night for Work Inc. Work, Inc. is a sevice provider for people with disabilities and psychiatric disabilities in Massachusetts. My uncle, David Rogers, presented the Joe Rogers Award for Independence to Paul Baxter. It was an exciting night at the IBEW hall, across the street from the site of Work Inc's new facility in Dorchester. The evening was also groundbreaking and by next year the new location should be good to go.

We showed a video for the event that features the seven nominees for the award. The nominees are Paul Baxter, John Carideo, Robert Collier, Alan Miller, Robert Ouelette, Grace Smith and Maura Sullivan. The award honors independence and each showed a side of the quality that was so essential in Joe Rogers' life.

Here's the video:

And the video from last year:

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Back from four days in classrooms learning – i.e. filming – about kids learning. It's one of the new things in education – formative assessment – and I was skeptical if it was just the latest thing or something. Turns out it really is something and really turned my head when I saw it work.

The best case was a fourth grade (I think it was fourth grade, but it all went into one, after a number of classes) math class in wich the kids were just cooking along in some formative exercises. The formative part is the kids and teacher assessing what they know. It's meant to be a quick snapshot which then moves into pushing the boundary of what the kid's know.

Very cool stuff and shows me how far the classroom can go in a short time.

The great fringe benefit of the job is that I got to stay with my sister, Nancy who had just moved to Columbus with her husband, Rich. They were in the center of all the school's we visited, and only two blocks from a real town center. Not a strip mall, but a real place. Glad to see we've still got some of those real places around the country.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

5 Point Film Festival

Just read Bob Lefsetz post "Doing Business." Bob's been on the changes in the music industry since napster and has provided insight into the changes, we in the film world are now seeing full-on today. Music led the way as digital audio is smaller than video clips. But download for video and streaming is here, and the changes to the industry and culture are revolutionary.

One aspect of the change is related to this blog and how we present our work to one another. As with so many changes it spins to both more and less mediation. On the one hand we – filmmakers – have more opportunity to present ourselves and our work to our audience. But, we also are even more dependent on others to present our work. The new paradigm is about partnerships, about finding alliances and interests and using them to get our work more known.

I was out at a new film festival in Carbondale, Colorado, the 5 Point Film Festival, showing a new version of Flying Downhill, our profile of Bode Miller. It was the next chapter – I'm calling it the second life – in this ongoing saga of one of the most extraordinary performers working these days. The cut I showed is based on "The Skier's Version" which we first constructed in 2004 to be more like a Warren Miller film – episodic as opposed to narrative, jammed with music, each piece of which becomes a theme in itself. Episodes are about: explorer, faller, family back home, the roots... What was fun about making this cut is that the episodes could stand alone. In a narrative there is an underlying structure that makes constructing the film a complicated puzzle, where specific pieces must go in specific places to support the whole. No hassles like that in episodic media. Film too long? Throw out an episode or two. Too short, throw in Bode free-skiing in Bella Coola, or being a superstar in Europe.

This kind of modular constuction suits posting short clips very well. It's not about previews from our film, it's about moments in time, episodes in the world our film inhabit.

In my films I become part of a world. I invest in the people and place that has hooked my interest. I form a relationship with character and the specifics of what makes this character tick. It is particular.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Universal Design for Learning

I shot a long day yesterday. It was a conference with a name almost as long as the shooting day: Universal Design for Learning: Tipping Points from Research to Practice. It was fascinating material, very much inside a specialized niche, but related to so many other cultural movements. And just the fact of shooting a long day – though tiring and hard work – is rewarding. And that's more to the "Universal" aspects of this: how the niche defines the norm.

Much of my work is back here in my office. Long term projects, long presented and crafted. And it feels good to get out into the field – really another foreign field – and get rewarded (aka PAID) for doing that. And that's how work can be rewarding and fulfilling.

The content of much of the conference was about how the classroom will be, increasingly, a place where universal design elements will serve all children, including those with "disabilities." Some of the most exciting moments – speaking, of course, subjectively – were when web based technology enable all students to access content. Linked together it can become social networking. As we – with our climate change project, and our continued outreach towards individuals with disabilities and their supporters – move towards a way to link interests, we are part of the niche becoming universal. The niche becomes more universal (or it can become so) as it becomes more accurate in its reflection of the human needs and aspiration of the niche.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Margin and Independence

.64 at the first interval.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Uncle Joe


More than twenty years ago I began a film project on my uncle. I thought he was cool and interesting. He had lived over half his life in an institution with a label of what then was called "mental retardation." But he got out of the institution – Fernald State School – and found his rightful place in a community south of Boston: Quincy, Massachusetts.

He had challenges, but faced them with a free and indomitable spirit. The film I made about Joe, simply titled, My Uncle Joe, was released in 1991.

We lost Joe in February, 2005 when he was struck and killed by a small truck while he was crossing a street. He was heading home after dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.

I've been working with Joe's brothers to create a site dedicated to Joe's independence. There will be this show site and a related web site, All will present stories of people who, like Joe, tell us something about how our world works and who we are. It will be about struggles and triumphs. It will be for people labeled with disabilities and poeple who help them, as well as people who just want to know more about what makes us all tick.

So here we go. It starts today.

Bill Rogers

February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Picture This Film Festival

Was pleased to accept an award from the Picture This Film Festival for FRONT WARDS, BACK WARDS in Calgary this past Saturday. I only wish I could have made it there in person. It seems like a grass roots fest, for people with disabilities, celebrating the individual with a people-first perspective. And an honor to be recognized by them.

The challenge in creating work that is honest about disability is that you have to form a complete, often complex relationship with your subject. We can certainly say that disability is only a definition – a state of mind that can have little to do with the capabilities of a person – but then there's the reality of the personal experience. With my Uncle Joe, who was labeled "mildly mentally retarded" I often sensed frustration at limitations, real and projected. An ongoing issue was not being able to drive a car. These limitations are real. A driver's license and car are freedom in America.

We can and do create false divisions between "us" and "them." Having spent a long time making and learning about people with disabilities and the place where such people were defined, I've found the dividing line between ability and disability to be malleable, personal and cultural.

An example of this idea is contained in the title of our film, and the title I wanted to give it. We ultimately went with the title Front Wards, Back Wards because it refers to the varying shades of disability (or not) that were lumped together at the institution. The title I wanted was Idiots, Simpletons & Fools. It was vetoed by many people who were concerned of the obvious negative connotations for people so labeled. I liked it precisely because it points to negative labeling, and implicates those creating the labels. But it is not for me to judge the effect of negative labeling, so I would have had to overcome the objections to try to command more attention. Many other filmmakers would have done so, and either I'm a wimp or I listened.

And that points to the two realities that intersect with disability – my perspective as maker and your perspective as viewer. Both relate to the important reality of the subject. It's about how we all meet in images and experiences – as all play out in images and sounds. Is the experience true? Is it real? Is it significant? Glad to get a recognition from the Picture This folks that they thought yes.

Here's the letter I sent in acceptance of the award:

I am so pleased to accept your award for Front Wards, Back Wards. Making this film has been long and often hard. Hard waiting for funds, hard waiting for doors of access to open, hard to go inside a place where human beings never should have been. But my personal experience in making it was easy in comparison to those who lived, forgotten, behind Fernald’s walls and places like it.

In my early days researching this project I found a note – in crayon, scrawled – it said “I want to go home.” Who was that person? What were the conditions of his or her life?

When I got tired because of the hard work, discouraged because the work is long, I remembered that note and the stories of Vic and Joe and Patti, and remembered that they were the ones who had it hard. And from that perspective my job was and is really easy: listen, look and tell others.

This project is about the first institution for people defined as mentally and developmentally disabled. It’s about how institutional walls acted to contain people. And to contain we have to define – what’s in and what’s out. Working on this project, working on a project about how containers define those we contain showed me that it’s not only the disability that presents the problem but our, to borrow your festival’s title, our picture of it, our notion of disability and the conditions of the humans whose lives with disability we see and define.

But I also wanted my audience to spend time in a place where we cannot simply explain away disability. It is not the case that we can say that disability is MERELY a state of mind. When someone needs to be fed, moved, even in a sense spoken for, as is the case of one of our films stars, Patti Hillis, there is a disability, a particular experience that requires an adjustment from “normal” experience. Patti confronts us with a way of relating with the world that is markedly different from most others. But in showing her distinct experience, we can see that familiarity. She wants to go out into the air, and feel a spring breeze on her cheeks.

So thank you for your recognition of stories like Patti’s and the complex web that it weaves with others. It feels like a recognition of the spirit of that person who said, so we could hear it, years later, but loud and clear, “I want to go home.” I imagine that person looking out one of Fernald windows, wondering and hoping we can hear. Your festival now has heard that voice as you’ve welcomed many others. Thank you.

-Bill Rogers
Producer/ Director Front Wards, Back Ward