Friday, October 17, 2014

#Student.You - Cinema Journalism psycholgical film in University

This is my personal project yet. A psychological film about Masters students wrestling with the ideas and concepts that shape knowledge.

I was their supervisor and enjoyed working with them. And I hope they enjoyed the experience too.

#Student.You from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Great Interview. Publish I could die. Ethics in digital

Sabeen al-Nuaim ( not her real name) was at ease speaking on camera. She smoked a cigarette in between the pauses describing her filming days in Syria. 

She had recently recorded a young woman torn by shrapnel hurriedly being placed in a battered car which sped off to a makeshift hospital 20 minutes away.

Sabeen, reminiscing about the event and the horrors of videoing in one of the world’s dangerous spots, questioned her work exposing atrocities that often put her life in danger in Aleppo.
Yet, she said, she was compelled to record because these stories needed telling.
We wrapped the interview in Adana, four hours drive from the Syrian border.
A week later in production, we received an email from Sabeen in broken English explaining she could not be profiled in our documentary. The risk was too great to her and her family’s safety.
In spite of a release form and that she was an eloquent speaker with a clutch of amazing stories to tell which made our documentary, we dropped her contribution.
In an age where discretion seems an unwieldy sentiment against fame-seeking and that privacy or secrecy seems arcane when the fruits could be twitter fame, some codes of conduct should remain.

It’s journalistic ethics, but more so it should be about common decency — understanding that your actions could result in someone’s death.
The rise in social media though threatens this basic action. More recently, a well known British television journalist spoke to a group of out Masters students revealing aspects about his work which could imperil his safety, so we had the student’s adhere to Chatham House rules.
The rule states, in a bid for open discussion, that:
When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.
While links such as The BBC’s Twitter users guide to the law underline the growing concerns in social media, the idea that personal privacy is seen as a thing of the past poses a problem.
Snapchat, instagram — the ability to take a picture of anyone in public does not come without risk.
Many Christmases ago I was filming homeless people receiving a warm meal from a local charity. My camera lingered on a man. Minutes later, while still filming, I heard mumbled to me: ‘Do you like hospital food?’
It took a while for his message to sink in, but what he was saying was he had rights too.
Probity and integrity — hall marks of old fashion journalism have more currency today than ever and with cameras aplenty.
For the sake of a picture or story how many of us would betray the confidentiality of a source, or shrug our shoulders at our interviewee’s concerns?

Monday, October 06, 2014


I'm in the midst of redesigning viewmagazine. tv, with what I hope are some exciting new links. Here's the front page.

The University of You -Digital's impact on you

It’s no revelation we all want to be like someone. Caravaggio really wanted to be Leonardo Da Vinci. Popes wanted to be monarchs. Ronaldo would like to be Pele and Britain’s Prime minister fancies himself as Margaret Thatcher.
Young boys imprint on their fathers, daughters on their mothers — generally. And you, you want to be like the the person with the best twitter feed, or Linkedin ranking.
On the web, populist articles spout how to get the best social media feed, how to be the best instragramer, how to be this and how to that!
It’s not enough to be you anymore, you have to be her or him — with the nom de plume. Same face different mask.
I’m just as guilty. In my lectures I ask Masters students to look for the exemplar in the field and study their methods. But I add at some point break away; become you — again.
When I started as a broadcaster, I imprinted upon Sir Trevor Macdonald. Clear diction and enunciation and an inflexion that emphasised the power of speech.
I interviewed security chiefs e.g. ex-head of the CIA, created 'Obama's 100 Days' video with a live orchestra at the South Bank Centre, coded and built websites, and recently shot a film on training young Syrian journalists near the Turkey-Syria border -- not enough.
But if our idols where once our guides, today they manifest as nicotine craves. We would no sooner slay those we could admire, because frankly we see ourselves as better than them.
Deference has given way to a maniacal streak of impersonation. What ever happened to you? The English poet and painter William Blake said 'The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge.'
We simply cannot get enough, and the more we acquire, the more humble we should become. Often, we don't.
You with the imperfections, you who gradually and methodically got to where you did. You who knew you could do better, but had values.
On twitter we all want to be heard, we chirp noisily across the canopy. We’re incessant twitchers — looking at our feeds. Our attention spans wane after 5 mins. Video is 6 seconds, and news 140 characters.
The X-factor popularises public humiliation and a gladiatorial baying of blood. Intolerance, unBritishness, is now packaged as de rigueur --for the sake of TV ratings.
Strange constructs become a cultural norm. Where in the human evolution of speech did 140 characters define how to converse? There’s no power in diversity. To be different is to be isolated. I’m black, you’re white, it doesn’t matter — salute Michael Jackson. But it’s also what makes us different.
All these phenomenon are people-made. The Tories bash the poor; Labour sneers at the well-off. In a land of common sense, common sense has become a commodity; reflection, an anathema, foresight and wisdom — a daft concept.
But we can still recover lost ground. An empathy of understanding, a recognition that imperfection exists, if not welcomed, and that time is a friend, we should handle deftly.
Stop, look, listen. Be You! Become the university of you. Become the person in an era of opportunity to be that unique voice — YOU.
David next speaks at an International Business Summit in London. His PhD examines a future immersive emergent story form.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A day in New York - David Dunkley Gyimah in New York

I was in NY for 3 days presenting at CUNY's Reinvent TV. Armed with a go pro, googleglass and my D5 I took these pictures. 
I have annotated them with film themes, to give them connotative  meaning. I wonder which one you think works?

David @viewmagazine 


A film in which Gary Stones, an Internet Engineer has five hours to find a hacker, otherwise his account and anyone connected with him will be wiped clean. He's tracked the hacker to a building opposite him.


A young actress must steady her nerves to deliver a presentation to the UN amid threats from trolls they'll release personal pictures of her on the Net.


Jenny moves to New York to find fame and fortune, but the inevitable pace of the big apple induces a crisis, which can only be solved by finding herself literally - as she is bipolar.

7.49 am
Stanley's faustian pact is not going to plan. A year ago, he was given $10,000 on the proviso he would stand in the road for 20 seconds at exactly 7.49 am.


This is where it all happened in the 1970s. Leroy, a successful music producer traces the seeds of a track by Spanky Wilson, that defined an era.


Today Jimmy Fallow will make the biggest spread bet on the exchange. Thousands of miles away it will start a chain reaction in a property crash. Then Jimmy develops a conscious.


Maria plans a social experiment to show he has more diverse friends in the real world than the virtual - even though she is a virtually made up.

Manhattan overnight disappears. Where have all the residents gone?


A traffic cop seeks a career in Westerns, but has to prove to movie bosses she can draw her side arm in record time


When the phones go down, the Internet goes down, how do people meet up with each other, when they've never met before.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Journalists - tell your stories in amazing captivating ways. LET GO OF THE PAST!

She was singing near the town square in what was a beautiful day. The smell of fresh garlic from outdoor cooking suffused the air. 

Behind her a few boys gathered as is their want on street corners, probably discussing football and Ronaldo's form.

Her eyes widened to the lens with her infectious smile she is prompted to sing. It's a song about freedom -  a catchy melody, whose words you don't need to master.

Seven, eight...11 seconds later. Without a hint of what to expect, the implausible happens. A menace is visited upon the 13-year-old girl and surrounding people.

I have told you enough thus far to ruin your intake of the film, five minutes of which I show at the end of this post. I am aware it's  a spoiler. Normally I wouldn't but I am making a point.

with old acquaintance Travis Fox
Yesterday presenting at CUNY's #ReinventTV - gathering of innovators and journalists to discuss how to reinvent TV, I had a precious five minutes to make this point, But without a film.

Reinventing TV
I am a journalist, and a senior lecturer. I study film form and cognitive behaviour. I do this to understand how to tell a story so the effect is immanent - lasting.

As a TV journalist, I could have shown you the scene I have discussed to take you into the film. As a skilled TV reporter I could have said: 'what happens next is not for the faint hearted'.

But I have still ruined the moment for how you should perceive the film. The discovery must be your own.

In the 1960s television conceived amazing way to tell complex stories. Just before the 60s, the reporters job was to ask questions in the field and hand the film over to a commentator and scriptwriter. 

The reporter played no other role. Thank goodness for common sense. In the 60s heavyweight US media figures like Frank Reuven popularised the 'Integrated package'.

It was transformative. Within two minutes your could tell literally any story. Television invented an art form, which today still takes some time to master. It's not to be sniffed at.

Except today, the frame that penned the package to a structure has come under strain. 

Why does every report have to be under two minutes? Why does every report require a reporter? Why does every report suffocate me with facts, such that a minutes after the reporter, I'd be hard pressed to tell you what it was about. Why don't I care about what I have heard?

The package like any art-form needs a reboot.

However, within television firstly no one has the answer to what that may be. Secondly, any digression from the package is seen as breaking a fundamental tenant of journalism.

It is as if, journalism cannot grow, cannot mature, is not  bold enough to take risks, cannot figure out how to tell you the audience what's happening in a way that you care.

Why? Because, the juggernaut that drives to TV is managed by those wedded to its legacy. But I want to tell you a story! I am still a journalist ! But I want you to care.

So I tell stories in the richest vein possible, bound by the professionalism of the craft, and deliver 11.30 seconds into the video.

At 11.30 seconds in Stephen Soderberg, arguably one of the finest story tellers around tells you how I see story telling. I knew this before Soderberg's talk, but he explains it in a way that gives it cred.

If photojournalism is the art of telling a story with pictures, videojournalism is the art of telling stories through cinema.

It's not a fudge. It may be your inability to understand the art of factual storytelling, that differs according to the story, the content, and my approach. It is not adhoc. It is saying I would like you to see this and be affected.

Is that not the job of journalism?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Re-making television in the new age

I know what you're thinking.

Old picture, huh!

Some of you might know the figure. It's Kennedy.

To some that may not mean a whole lot. It's an old picture.

We live in a world where old is antique. A decade is a century. A year, an eternity. The moment is now.

Don't worry. It's a generational thing. In the seminal 1950s film Rebel without a Cause showing the rise of youth angst, the antipathy to things old, like parents is visibly on display.

So here's what I was thinking when I chose this image. One of the people, the producers, who created this film featuring a future president...imagine that, today trying to film Obama before he became president... was Robert Drew.

Robert Drew was a former pilot, before he became a journalist. Then in the 1960s around the age of 40, he invented a new film language, and a new camera, and a film that fundamentally shaped the world you and I occupy.

Yep, an old picture...

Last month, the great Robert Drew died aged 90. He was a generous person with his time and I was lucky to interview him a couple of years ago, tapping that huge mind, mining history.

So what has Robert Drew got to do with Reinventing TV?

I could tell you that to invent the future, you need to understand the past. It's true but a bit glib.

But listen to this story. It's what I gleaned from listening to Drew.

I'm seated now with my mac, my googleglass, peering out of the window looking at squirrels scurry around playfully. Oh and my cupa tea.

Imagine it's 1960. Some fifty years ago. Television is a rare thing. Drew has an idea. A decade earlier, only a handful of people had television sets.

It was too expensive and nothing of note was on. But gradually people started to buy this box and place it squarely in their room. The habit of huddling around the radio listening to radio shows was transferred to TV.

It's fair to say, at the start of TV, executives were fairly innocent. At CBS, a few twenty-something year olds tasked with developing the medium couldn't believe the freedom they had.

All the grey men in suits would leave them alone. Television was a bit like the Xbox -  a plaything.

Then one day CBS's young turks have a fright. The boss joined their morning meeting. Advertisers too were willing to pay big bucks, because they'd realised something.

By stealth, a new medium had wormed its way into the heart of people's lives, in the middle of their social space - the living room.

It's like placing a fox in a pen of chickens. 

Powerful people and bodies realised they could speak directly to their electorate and influence hearts and minds.

Forces set up to regulate television would soon give way to the powerful.

In 1960s, Drew, an innovator, pioneer and all around American, got a chance to play a part in the new television. He would summarily be passed off.

What and how?

The forces behind TV had come to recognise its social and political importance.  And they were not going to cede control to anyone, even someone who wanted to make TV better.

Instead as Drew told me, they took his equipment and made off to reinforce their ideas.

Today second to the Defense industry in the US, television, as part of the news and entertainment industry is a multi-billion pound industry.

How do you reform it?

The Internet!

Somewhat! But so far no! 

This is not about tech, it's political. It's about competing for a space in your living room, in your home, in your comfort zone.

How do you reform television?

Jeff Jarvis, an inveterate innovative media speaker and professor at CUNY university in New York has invited 20 people to look at this.  I am honoured to be one of them. 

If you're in New York or want to tune into find out, I look forward to it. Here's the full list:

Joe Alicata, Vox; Jim Brady, Stomping Ground; Mark Briggs, KING 5;
Scott Cohen, Steve Alperin, Vocativ; Adam Davidson, NPR; Adam Ellick, New York TImes;
Adriano Farano, watchup; Fred Graver, Twitter; David Dunkley Gyimah, viewmagazine;
Jenni Hogan, Tagboard; Jeff Jarvis, CUNY; Tom Keene, Bloomberg; Robert King, ESPN;
Sean Mills, NowThisNews; Riyaad Minty, al Jazeera; 
Matt Mrozinski, TV News Storytellers, WTHR; Mark Piesanen, TouchCast; Tim Pool, @Timcast; Michael Rosenblum, rosenblumtv;
Fred Seibert, Frederator

Monday, September 01, 2014

An ill five-year old, his family and the state—an unfolding story of Ashya King and journalism's role

An ill five-year old, his family and the state — an unfolding story of Ashya King.

This morning I watched patiently a father speak about his very sick child.
The video does nothing fancy in shot cuts. It is the story within, the content which is compelling and which one of my film mentors Noell Carroll would claim is the cinema.
Ashya King, a five-year old has been diagnosed with cancer. He has been receiving treatment in a hospital for which his father expresses gratitude.
The time line and narrative is all over the Net. The boy was taken by his parents from Southampton hospital, driven to Portsmouth port where they crossed the English channel to France and then on to Spain.
What we largely know has been the result of mass media journalism. We know the doctors are concerned. A battery-powered feeding devices will run out of battery-life soon. The boy’s life is in grave danger. His family are Jehovah Witnesses, we’re told.
There is a history, reporters allude to of Jehovah devotees resisting medical aid. Though several reporters refute this based on speaking to close family and friends, it is the white elephant in the room.
There is no white elephant in the room.
However, your thoughts turn to a white elephant. The act of saying it’s not in the room does little to help. Lawyers are often rebuked by a judge for introducing evidence in a case, when they might know it is inadmissible. But is has an effect, however much it's refuted. The family’s religious background appears to be similar example.
The parents are ‘on the run’ by implication of journalism reportage, deranged, uncaring; the police mug shots feed into this narrative.

Ashya King’s parent taken from BBC Report

We’re made to ask why are they doing what is a thoroughly inhumane thing to a five-year old. In the absence of any knowledge, we hang onto the journalists’ expertise. They are after all professionals in words, meanings and constructs.
To the audience, the symptomatic reading is that family are the abusers.
Until that is you watch this and when you do, you realise large swathes of information you learnt earlier amounted to speculation, supposition, nuanced narratives that philosopher Jurgen Habermas talked about in his public sphere of discourse. This is where institutions dictate the terms and to which mass media is beholden. The viewer is but a passive player.

In the video, the battery-powered device is still working, the family have a supply of feeds. They, the family are not on the run. In fact as they put it they are running to save their boy’s life? The father wants to do everything to save his boy’s life. The perception is not one of a deranged father.
How could reporting have got this so wrong, front-loading the narrative with officials discolouring the family’s intentions?
Reporters will argue, we reported the facts and what we had. This video becomes new information. If you look and listen carefully to the news today the wheels of accountable journalism should turn a full 180 grinding- gear degrees. It’s never the journalists’ fault.
Arguably, they the authorities, medics and police know better. That is what we as a society have learned to accept, and more often than not via tacit knowledge, the ‘abduction’ of a young boy in these circumstances raises dark thoughts.
But that is not the case here, and is the starkest reminder yet of a world, where dominions, though still respected, are not exclusive repositories of knowledge. And that a newer type of relationship between the citizen and the state should come to fruition. The people of Ferguson know this all too well.
We know that much from journalism. There have been times when the citizen outdoes the professional journalist as Eliot Higgins, known as Brown Moses has amply shown.
In an age of accessible specialist knowledge, it has not become unusual for people to lean about once obscure medical conditions, or intractable laws.
This is the situation that has shown itself watching this video.
Could mass media journalism have have presented information, factual, as it in a different way to the status quo?
Could they have been more critical of authorities?
Could they have sought a more humanitarian angle: Ashya’s story without the formal journalism packaging of 30-second soundbites buttressed against authority figures?
The role of professional journalism is needed. This is not an out and out criticism of its form, more a pressing need to critically review story dissemination and construct.
Without YouTube, specifically, which came online a decade ago, this family’s harrowing story would not have been known in this detail so soon. Naveed the brother of Ashya makes a point. They ( journalists) are editing the videos, so come back to his account for regular updates.
How many television stations will today air the whole ten minutes of the father’s statement? Very few if any. Perhaps the mentioning of two Doctors impugns their reputations to thwart professional journalists from running the full video. 
Perhaps we need a new form of television that bridges the social community benefits of citizens, with the mass media of television. Either way, this case opens up a dialogue to examine journalism language and construct in an Internet age.