PPE 2012: Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur on Cross-Platform Storytelling
For the PhotoPlus seminar “How to Evolve Projects Across Media Platforms,” partners and spouses Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur took the audience through some of the multimedia projects they’ve worked on together. Kashi, a photojournalist with VII, and Winokur, a writer and filmmaker, first collaborated on magazine articles. But as they noted numerous times throughout the discussion, it’s important to think about all of the different outlets where you can show your work, and focusing just on print is not sustainable because commissions from magazines are dwindling. They added that being a single skillset photographer is an idea that is starting to fade away.
Winokur began the seminar by taking us through “Bring It To The Table,” her current project. This personal documentary video follows Winokur around the country as she asks people to literally “sit at her table” to discuss politics. She started the project by raising $30,000 on Kickstarter, which Winokur said helped build an audience of about 280 people who are now invested in its success. She has since recorded a number of conversations between herself and different people on the political spectrum. She is now at the point where she’s trying to find distribution for the Web-based series. Social media has played a crucial role in getting the word out: Winokur has been posting short clips of footage on Facebook and Twitter in order to draw people back to the site bringit2thetable.org. Her strategy is to repurpose the material and post it where people are already interacting with content. The challenges remaining are figuring how to get people to see the series and how to monetize it. Winokur noted that “Bring It To The Table” has received a lot of “earned media” with many publications writing about the project itself, but no media outlets have been willing to show the final Web series in its entirety.
So how did Winokur evolve from a print journalist to a filmmaker? We discovered the answer when she and Kashi took us through their first multimedia project, “Aging in America.” The series, which they began around 17 years ago, was initially conceived as a book and exhibition. They financed the first four years of the project themselves, and later got assignments and commissions for the work; they also licensed some of the images and received grants. About halfway through the seven-year project, they met Brian Storm, who was then working at MSNBC. He offered to do a multimedia piece about the series, which consisted of stills and audio. This sparked the idea of recording Winokur’s interviews with their subjects on video. This resulted in over 100 hours of footage, which also included some b-roll. They turned all of the material into a one-hour documentary, which aired on PBS and is still used at universities across the country as a teaching tool in programs like nursing, medicine and psychology.
“The Sandwich Generation,” which focused on Winokur’s father, who was suffering from dementia, was a natural next step for the duo. They partnered with Storm again, who by this time had formed MediaStorm. It would be the first time that Kashi and Winokur turned the camera on themselves as they documented caring for the elderly man. It was also the first time Kashi would shoot still and moving imagery with a cross-platform project in mind. The final result was a multimedia work consisting of still photos, video and audio.
Other projects discussed during the seminar were “Curse of the Black Gold,” a stills and audio project about oil in the Niger Delta; “India’s Fast Lane to the Future,” a stills, video and audio project done as a five-part series while on assignment for National Geographic; “The Leaves Keep Falling,” a project about the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam that consists of stills, video and audio, and was done on commission for an NGO; and “Three” and “Photojournalisms,” which are multimedia extensions for two books that Kashi published.
Some of the tips given by Kashi and Winokur about multimedia work were:
• Always think about the end goal when shooting stills and moving imagery for multimedia work. They recommend being aware of the narrative you’re trying to tell when capturing both.
• As print resources continue to shrink, consider partnering with NGOs and other organizations as a way to disseminate work you are passionate about.
• Consider how publications want to extend printed articles via their websites and tablet editions when pitching ideas.
• Conduct your audio interviews first in order to get to know your subjects and establish the narrative that the multimedia component will follow. It’s also the fastest way to get educated about the topic.
• Don’t try to shoot all of the video and still imagery yourself. Kashi noted, for example, that on the National Geographic assignment he focused on the still images while his fixer recorded the video footage.