My I-Docs session in March 2016. Diversity, creativity and creative fight clubs.
Just about the time the web was gingerly putting its first foot forward in the media, I joined a TV station. It was 199os (seems like yesterday). Pulp Fiction was f***ing with cinema-goers’ mind and Kurt Cobain joined, sadly, the 27 club. I’d just come back to the UK after two exhilirating, but equally mind-melding years in South Africa. Apartheid was dead, albeit officially in name.
At the station there were 30 of us who dared to believe we were the Avengers. We would and could shoot, produce, direct and edit films by ourselves. The media industry called us every crass they name they could summon. As 18–35 year-old we were derided back then as yoof TV. But those thirty — with creative lead in their training from consultant Michael Rosenblum and editorial and pastoral support from management e.g. Nick Pollard when the station went through changes — were amazing.
In that gene. In that group were the seeds of a bold $70m creative experiment, which is unlike anything you’ve possibly come across. Only when looking back critically and re-interviewing many of its talent e.g. Bafta winner Dimitri Doganis for part II of my PhD, did it become apparent.
I naively believed the group would mirror the new society; merging tech with a radical can-do ethic and a fearlessness towards re-aligning traditional burnt-out ways. This was the new society! But like an apollo craft re-entering earth in a steep trajectory, the groups hopes would be dashed, bouncing of the atmosphere and society into oblivion.
We were so close, even inched in a few changes. Historians may draw comparisons with the 195os when industrialists clawed back their capitalist initiatives from social engineering governments, or the late 60s when authorities literally muzzled anti-war movements.
Here’s what the Thirty had or reflected:
· Out of the thirty new journos, a quarter of the talent were from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Just under that number were women. Diversity, as a creative force was key.
· They decided what the stories, the agenda would be — for a while — thus broadening interests. How did they get it right and wrong?
· They transformed the idea that one person could do everything — empowering a nascent citizen journalism. But just because you could work on your own, didn’t mean you worked on their own. Cognitive dissonance was a positive trait.
· They were one of the first groups to do low cost reality TV. MTV was the first with this format.
· They upended part of the grammar of news making. More on this at my talk.
· They showed that to get great ideas, don’t muzzle them. In fact there were more than the fair share of creative fight clubs. Tension was an area that required managing.
· These are some of the things the Thirty achieved, which dovetails into recent exciting revelations in research. But you will not know of this story, or understand how relevant they are to today. You see they understood the tech revolution, but that this also required a new thinking discourse. I mean what would you have done with £50 million?
See you at i-Docs. Do come and say hello :)