Twitter, Tumblr, iPad, Tweet

If you’re a fan of 1970s spy novels, you probably know George Smiley, the main character is John Le Carre’s novel-turned-movie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The book’s adapted screenplay is now vying for Oscar gold. George is a retired intelligence officer recruited to find a mole. Like any spy novel, it’s full of twists and turns, red herrings and dead ends. One clue, one revelation, one discovery leads to yet another question.

In this case, it leads me to this question: Why are we so enthralled by movies? If you don’t think we are, consider how much Oscar discussion is going on right now…..think of it as Twitter, Tumblr, iPad, Tweet.

We are captivated by movies. None more so than today’s students who are incredibly video saavy. Film studies, in fact, has been one of the fastest growing majors across the country for a decade or so. At JMU, the always popular and cutting edge School of Media Arts is churning out videographers every year into industry careers that, their professor tell them, “don’t yet exist.”

Much of the growing influence and interest in movies and film is its ubiquity. We are surrounded by it, largely due to technology. Film is —literally — at our fingertips.

Case in point: According to Wikipedia, after the iPad launched 21 months ago, it sold 3 million devices in 80 days. By the end of  2010, that number had jumped to 14.8 million. Recently, Bloomberg’s Peter Burrows reported that Apple is worming its way into business. Burrows wrote that iPad seems to be the mole that is burrowing (sorry, couldn’t resist) into the corporate world. The iPad, Burrows observed, “has become a standard business tool.”

While technology is changing business, it is changing us as well. Psychologists tell us that social media is altering the way we interact and technology is transforming how — and how fast — we communicate. Platforms like Vimeo and YouTube have wrestled film out of the hands of big studios, giving independent filmmakers a place. New technologies such as High Definition are sinking in price. Creative 3-D graphics are more available to independent filmmakers who continue to increase their market share, as films move from studios and theaters onto laptops and iPads.

We are all filmmakers or partakers of the craft. Who today doesn’t have a camera phone that takes videos or who, at least, hasn’t laughed at a YouTube video. Widely quoted, it is said that we absorb 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see and 50 percent of what we see and hear. And that brings us back to the impact of film. Because of film’s ubiquity, availability and popularity, it is a potent medium of change.

Most of us can point to a movie that has changed our lives. For me, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird. You’re thinking of one that changed your life, right? For others who stand on the other side of the camera, like JMU alum Steve James (’77), film is the means for delivering a powerful message and changing others’ lives. Right now, Steve’s documentary  The Interrupters is changing minds about inner city life. Sadly, however — and perhaps as a commentary on Hollywood’s fickleness —  it was overlooked by the Oscars this year.

Last summer, SMAD major Peter Jackson (’12) made a video to promote the work of Every Orphan’s Hope, an organization building homes for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Zambia. And last summer as well, SMAD students  interned in Los Angeles, preparing the enter this powerful world of influence. You can read about them on JMU’s website.

The ability to reach millions of people with an uploaded video is a stunning opportunity. When such an opportunity is coupled with a sincere and honest desire to improve the future for others, to solve problems, to rally forces for positive change — and when it falls into responsible, compassionate hands like those of Steve or Peter — it will change the world.

To learn more about Steve James and The Interrupters, visit
Peter’s video is finished and you can view it here
And check out SMAD at Here you can read about how video has changed the lives of two alumni — to the tune of a million dollars.

About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to Twitter, Tumblr, iPad, Tweet

  1. grahammb says:

    Don’t miss this!
    After the story “Hello Hollywood” ran in the last “Madison” magazine, we received a note from John Lynsky (’89) who sent us a piece written by fellow alum Dale Schalow (’90). Dale was one of JMU’s first SMAD L.A. interns. It was quite an experience, and we want to share some of it with you.

    My JMU Internship: Summer of ‘89
    By Dale B. Schalow

    So, here I was, a young ambitious junior at JMU in 1989, ready to take on the world with a combination of my love for music and technology. My talent was playing piano and trombone along with electronic keyboards, programmable computers and synthesizers.

    After a couple of meetings and debates with undergraduate adviser and Professor, Rich Barnett, who would soon also become JMU’s Dean of Music/Arts Department, I planned to move forward with an official summer internship project before my senior year.

    I ended up choosing Los Angeles, given my focus on opportunities in music, film and TV. I was instructed to meet with my local sponsor when I reached L.A. Everything changed when I arrived in L.A. and received a phone call from Dr. Barnett. I was told my internship sponsor had recently taken a new position with another company and was no longer in L.A.

    Talk about a predicament! No longer in L.A.? What was I supposed to do?

    I began making cold phone calls from my hotel room using the metro-L.A. White and Yellow Pages. Within a week I had gotten lucky. It took speaking with about 20 companies, but eventually was able to line up interviews with two film production companies on my own.

    First interview: Marianne Maddalena, producer for Wes Craven’s new project called “Shocker.” She introduced me to others on her staff and thought that meeting with Wes’ new project composer, Bill Goldstein, may be a good fit since my resume showed experience with PCs, keyboard, samplers and digital audio. “Bill’s a technological thinker,” she told me. Not to mention the fact he was the theme music composer for the big hit TV show “Fame” that won numerous awards in the early 80s.

    I called Rich back at JMU with the news. “Keep me posted and great work!” he said. I met with Bill a few days later at his home studio located just off Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills. “Can you work for free?” was the first thing he asked! Of course, knowing who this was, and that Wes Craven, creator of “Freddy,” was behind the whole project, how could I say No? After showing me his cutting-edge electronic music studio as well as the new free beta-test equipment he was working with from Emu, Yamaha and Cakewalk software, I agreed to begin work the following week.

    My initial duties working on “Shocker” were to run errands for Bill. Eventually, my role was more listening and giving some input on segments Bill had put together on the computer, and then delivering the master tapes to the post-production studio (top secret stuff). Occasionally, I was allowed to push buttons on the machines he used to compose the music. Since he used beta-versions of equipment and software, it was all experimental stuff. Anything I could work on helped me to be more professional with my talent.

    One day Bill turned to me to say he had a meeting that day and that I could take lunch early. When I asked if I could assist with the meeting he simply said, “You’re welcome to hang out until the meeting starts.” I did and good thing too. Low and behold the meeting was with Wes Craven himself.

    I stopped working with Bill early August. The films I worked on went to screen months later, even watching “Shocker” at a local theater in Harrisonburg.

    Needless to say my internship experience wasn’t typical. But, it taught me that no matter how tough things may look at first, there’s always a silver lining waiting. Cheers to all of the highly ambitious go-getters out there today looking to do an internship that will make the difference of a lifetime!


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