When Rebecca and I were in the early stages of planning The Videoblogs, we met at one point with Gary Chou at Orbital in NYC. We’ve come to treat that meeting as a special one, because Gary listened to our plans (which we’ve mostly followed and are still following) but challenged us to see if we couldn’t take them a step further.
By now, if you’re a reader of this site, you know that we’re making The Videoblogs to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health in America. And while the hope is that the film itself will become a part of that conversation, Gary’s challenge helped us address a lingering feeling that we weren’t quite taking our plan far enough, in terms of creating a project that not only sparked conversation but encouraged an interactivity that more closer mirrored today’s rising tech-enabled general culture — and its positive potential, more than its dangers.
We’re leveraging and addressing, with The Videoblogs itself, new technologies and new technologically-affected ways of living. And yet the overarching thematic message that we’re seeking to put forth with the story, in these terms, is that we can reach out through the screen to connect, not only virtually, but as a gateway to more of the real-life interaction upon which the human spirit fundamentally subsists — even as technology is making the rest of what goes into subsistence easier and more accessible.
In concrete terms, Gary pushed us to consider how we could take our message and apply it to an active, real-life, two-way solution. The idea greatly appealed to me, as I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the broadcast-only structure of legacy long-form storytelling. And Rebecca took the challenge head-on. After some back and forth with Gary, we started working to plan The Videoblogs Dialogue in parallel with the production and release of the film.
It took some time to get going (we’re bootstrapping indie filmmakers after all!), but now it’s here. And I’m very excited and very proud and thank Gary and Rebecca for their roles in making it a reality.
Special thanks also to Paul Gilmartin, Grace Parra, Ashely Esqueda and Alice Spivak for lending their time to the contest and the cause. Their early commitments to serve on the jury for The Videoblogs Dialogue helped us gain momentum in the early days of planning, and even though it took some time to get the contest together and now launched, we continue to remain grateful for their help.
And of course thanks also to:
Project UROK, an official partner in the project, and an organization that does amazing work encouraging people to talk more openly and honestly about mental health
Co-sponsor Seed&Spark, a forward-thinking company that helps empower film and media storytellers, and promotes community and interdependence in the independent film industry
And co-sponsor Big Vision Empty Wallet, a film and media incubator that encourages and supports filmmakers working in today’s tech-enabled environment and champions diversity in storytelling
More below. But all the information, including how to enter the contest, can be found on the site for the film. I look forward to seeing what entrants submit. Let’s (safely) talk about this stuff.
The Videoblogs Dialogue is a user-generated video contest, in which participants submit their own videoblogs (3 min or less), pertaining to themes of mental health and/or personal struggle. Participants aged 18-24 are eligible to win a $1,000 Cash Prize and Mentorship package, to be put towards the creation of their own short film on mental health. Anyone age 18 and up can enter for the chance to have their videoblog included in the closing credits of The Videoblogs.
We’re running this contest to contribute to a greater dialogue about mental health in America, and to encourage tomorrow’s artists, filmmakers and performers to bravely engage with what have classically been labeled as difficult subjects (depression, anxiety, trauma) with an ultimate focus on hope.
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Host/Actress/Writer Grace Parra Also Signs On as Juror for Video Contest Centered Around Mental Health and Personal Expression
(New York, NY) – Brooklyn-based indie filmmakers Michael DiBiasio and Rebecca De Ornelas are delighted to announce Paul Gilmartin (The Mental Illness Happy Hour, TBS’ Dinner and a Movie), Ashley Esqueda (Senior Editor, C-NET TV, Tomorrow Daily), Alice Spivak (OnTheRoad Rep, How to Rehearse When There is No Rehearsal), and Grace Parra (“The Collective”, Pretty Strong Opinions) as the first four jurors for The Videoblogs Dialogue, formerly known as “Phase 2” of the filmmakers’ overall initiative to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health and to advocate for the positive use of technology for personal expression. Bios for each juror appear below.
The Videoblogs Dialogue is a user-generated video contest aimed at helping tomorrow’s filmmakers and performers tackle difficult subjects with an ultimate focus on hope. It’s also a way for DiBiasio and De Ornelas to pay it forward, by ultimately mentoring younger filmmakers in the creation of their own work on these subjects.
DiBiasio explains: “We’re making The Videoblogs because we want to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health, particularly in America. We think this is needed, and we think there’s plenty of evidence that it’s needed. Beyond that, as people who have benefited greatly from taking the important step of admitting we needed help — we want more people to know not only that it’s okay to do that, but that it may be in everyone’s best interest that those of us who need to are able to reach out without fear of judgment.”
“Still, we realized that just making a statement with the film wasn’t going to be enough. The film itself is about reaching out through today’s communication technology as a bridge to more community in real life. Taking the responsibility of that message seriously, we determined to come up with something more engaging.”
De Ornelas adds: “As you get older and progress as an artist, it’s not enough (at least for me) to just make statements with your art, like: ‘Here’s me! Here’s what I think! Hope you like it!’. Your responsibility changes and grows to something greater than just saying things. We want our work to be part of a dialogue. That connection through art, we feel, is exactly what artists are seeking, and that’s what we are hoping to establish with The Videoblogs Dialogue.”
Gilmartin, Esqueda, Spivak and Parra will join other jurors (including high-level contributors to the film’s funding campaign on Seed and Spark) in selecting finalists for the contest, from which an ultimate winner or winners will be chosen by DiBiasio and De Ornelas. The filmmakers will then mentor and assist the winner or winners towards the creation of their own short film about mental health and reaching out via technology.
In recognition of the possible hurdles that may come up as potential entrants attempt to craft their submissions, DiBiasio and De Ornelas crowdsourced the production of sample videos from a network of colleagues. Here is the latest sample:
Written by Asmara Bhattacharya
Starring Kari Nicolle
Shot by Alex Hollock
Directed by Rebecca De Ornelas
The filmmakers also reached out to NAMI-NYC (National Alliance on Mental Illness, New York City Metro) about The Videoblogs Dialogue, and the organization would like participants to know that:
NAMI-NYC provides support groups and is available to direct people towards any care they may need in dealing with any difficult subjects. Please call their resource helpline at 212-684-3264 or visit their website at: http://naminycmetro.org. Entrants outside the NYC Metro area are encouraged to call The National Information Helpline: 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264).
The preceding message will also be delivered to all entrants in the contest and will be posted as the first comment on every video for which comments are enabled (at each creator’s discretion).
Paul Gilmartin co-hosted TBS’ Dinner and a Movie from 1995 to 2011, and has been a stand-up comedian since 1987. His credits include Comedy Central Presents: Paul Gilmartin, numerous Bob and Tom albums, comedy festivals and the Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He is also a frequent guest on the Adam Carolla podcast, performing political satire as right-wing Congressman Richard Martin.
Paul was thrilled to be diagnosed with clinical depression in 1999 because it meant he wasn’t just an asshole. By 2003, he realized he was still an asshole and an alcoholic. Since 2003 he has been sober, mostly happy and a tiny bit less of an asshole. He leads a happy life in Los Angeles with a patient, loving wife and two spoiled dogs.
Ashley Esqueda is a geek of many talents: She’s currently a Senior Editor at CNET, hosting the futuristic and fun daily talk show “Tomorrow Daily.” She previously created content for other high-profile online publications, including G4, Technobuffalo, The Escapist, and more. She has a penchant for all things tech, ranging from mobile technology to video games to pop culture, offering a wide variety of knowledge across various topics.
In addition to hosting, she has written a variety of articles, scripts, and punchlines for many outlets, including two consecutive years as co-head writer for The Geekie Awards, an awards show celebrating indie creators in nerd culture. She also sits on the board of Take This, a non-profit charity dedicated to mental health advocacy for gamers and geeks.
Ashley serves charismatic and witty realness in the tech scene, and has charmed celebrities, CEOs, and consumers on red carpets, trade conventions, and the streets. There’s nowhere she won’t go for a laugh, especially at her own expense. In her spare time, she is the Queen of an unnamed island nation and enjoys including one outrageously false fact about herself in her bio.
Alice Spivak began her acting career at an early age, joining Actors’ Equity in 1956, Screen Actors Guild in ‘59, and AFTRA in the early 60’s. Having trained at the HB Studio with Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen, she was made a teacher there in 1962, and taught on their faculty for fifteen years. Since that time, she has been a popular free-lance acting teacher and coach in NYC, currently teaching Advanced Scene Study Classes while also serving as Aristic Director for OnTheRoad Rep, founded in collaboration with her advanced and professional acting students.
She has acted extensively off-Broadway and in regional theatre (receiving the Joseph Jefferson Award in Chicago in 1975 for Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite). On television, audiences have seen her more recently in Law & Order, Sex& The City, Law & Order CI, and as a regular performer on Sidney Lumet’s 100 Centre Street. as well as television commercials and voiceovers. Her more recent film appearances are in The Waiting Game and Find Me Guilty. and Only The Devil Knows You’re Dead. She has also been seen in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories and Another Woman. Two of her favorite movie roles were Jenny in Privilege by Yvonne Rainer, which premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1991, and Louise, an American tourist, in An Electric Moon, written by Arundhati Roy, directed by Pradip Krishen, and made in India.
She has coached on numerous feature films, Broadway shows, regional shows, TV mini-series, pilots, etc., receiving technical credits on quite a few, including The Fan, Buck & The Preacher, Harem, Now & Forever, etc. She also taught Film Directing Workshops and was a recipient of the Indie Award by The Association of Video and Filmmakers in 1977. In 1981, she was on the faculty of NYU Film Grad School, teaching the course, Directing Actors. Spike Lee was her student there. In 2003-4, she again taught this course, this time at Columbia Film Grad School. She is co-writer and director of a short film comedy, Working For Peanuts and the author of: HOW TO REHEARSE WHEN THERE IS NO REHEARSAL – ACTING AND THE MEDIA (Limelight Editions), which has received glowing reviews.
Grace Parra is a Mexican-American writer/host/actress based in Los Angeles. She’s originally from Houston, TX and graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Political Science. Screen credits include: How I Met Your Mother, Zeke & Luther, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Farah Goes Bang, The Bonnie Hunt Show, Greenberg, and many more. You can catch her in commercials for HONDA, OLAY, COFFEE BEAN, BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD, HOME DEPOT and several others.
She’s presently the comedic host of NUVO’s “THE COLLECTIVE” produced by Jennifer Lopez. On the side, she writes and hosts the brand-new PRETTY STRONG OPINIONS WITH GRACE PARRA, where she created her very own political comedy series in the vein of The Daily Show, presenting a POV on all the political and social topics that differ wildly from your Stewarts/Colberts/Olivers. She also hosts live talk shows in LA including PARRA’S PINATA PARTY and “The Really Late Morning Show,” interviewing hundreds of celebrities and creating sketches for sold-out shows on a monthly basis. She created and starred in the webseries FRIDA KAHLO, JUNIOR MARKETING EXEC, a semi-finalist in the 2013 New York Television Festival, and was a cast member in the prestigious 2013 CBS DIVERSITY SHOWCASE.
Grace is also an accomplished TV comedy writer, whose credits include ABC’s Work It, TBS’s Glory Daze, and Disney’s Jonas LA. She recently developed and sold a pilot to MTV produced by Jennifer Lopez and Nuyorican Productions.
You guys really enjoy competition. I guess that can be healthy. Sometimes? 🙂
Seriously, thanks for making our Hometown Battle contest (Cranston Rules!) such a success.Over the past few days, we’ve eclipsed 40% funded for The Videoblogs. But we have just a little over a week left to meet our goal.
Today, we have another friendly competition for you.
I apologize in advance, because today is probably going to get out of control. Everyone remember this is all for a good cause 🙂
Today is The Battle for Artistic Supremacy
Actors vs. Writers vs. Filmmakers vs. Comedians
Now. I know what you’re thinking. How does it help to ask a bunch of equally “financially challenged” professionals to contribute?
Valid point. But I have counterpoints…
Outside of friends and family (but often included in that group as well) no group is as supportive of the arts, percentage-wise, than other artists. This is not a knock on non-artists by a stretch. I think it’s just a little easier for artists to understand just how hard creative pursuits can be. Which is fine. We’re all in it because we want to be.
This campaign isn’t just about the 20K we need to shoot the film
It’s about an idea. One we share with Seed and Spark, which is why we’re working with Emily Best and company rather than another platform.
This is about community.It’s about banding together en masse. I don’t expect any fellow artists to able to contribute more than $20 today.
But that amount was carefully selected. So was the $10 and $5 incentive level.
Today, we’d love to bring in 50 contributions between $5 and $25. More would be great, of course 🙂
What we really want people to do here (a lot of people) is take a leap of faith and buy a copy of the movie before it’s made. We’ve tried as much as possible to make that an easy decision for you. And, again, I promise we’ll deliver a great film to you.
Rebecca and I together probably know hundreds of Actors, Writers, Filmmakers and Comedians. Between the rest of our team, I’m sure we know hundreds more.
It’s beyond moving when we get large donations like the one we got this morning that put us over 40% funded (with a little over a week to go). But, last night, we also got one for $5 that moved me in equal measure
Because that person did what they could AND for that I get to send her my book. Which I love to do. A piece of my soul went into that little book. I don’t know how or why it happened but it did. And the feedback I’ve gotten from those who have read it has been heartening.
So, yes, today is a friendly competition. I will be representing The Writers. We’ll probably win. But that’s not what this is about 🙂
This is about making a statement that small movies (and other projects) about difficult issues — have a right to exist.
If even half of the hundreds of fellow artists who read this today pick up a copy of that book and then share this post — that will push the needle on our campaign forward significantly.
The same rules apply as the last competition. Every dollar counts towards the total. The losers have to admit defeat, and declare the supremacy of the winner, in a video.
Each contribution represents one point. One dollar counts as much as one hundred for the competition.
The hometown with the most points at midnight wins. We’ll announce the winning town on Tuesday.
The prize for winning is bragging rights, and exclusion from…
The punishment for losing is that all three “losers” from The Videoblogs team have to records a videoblog while holding a sign that says “Cranston Rules” (because Cranston is going to win). They also have to admit out loud that “Cranston Rules”.
Yes, I am already playing a little dirty with all the Cranston boasting. But for now I have the mic, so…
Are you guys in, or what?
All you have to do to participate is to contribute.
We really want to show all of you the film. So why not contribute what you can, TODAY, and at the same time show us which hometown really rules? 🙂 A download of The Videoblogs is only $10, or grab a DVD for $20.
Here’s an individual incentive, for first-movers…
I will mail a signed paperback copy of my book, AND a DVD of Sex and Justice, to the first contributor from EACH hometown. Respond to a Facebook post from a member of our team with #VideoblogsFilm so that we can identify you.