by Bob Silvestri
Media @ The Bleeding Edge
According to Che Guevara, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein

Thank you.

First I’d like to thank Janet Rose for this honor and for making all this possible. Thank you Janet.

And I’d also like to thank Samantha Campbell and the Campbell Foundation for helping to bring so many of the speakers here today. The Campbell Foundation is truly a visionary funder. Thank you Samantha.

When Janet asked me to this keynote I told her that “I don’t speak, I talk.” But we’re going to give this a try.

Okay, so I think I’m supposed to talk about film.

The theme of this festival is “Living in Harmony.” And I’ve been thinking about this the past few weeks, and wondering how exactly does that happen.

So to help answer that I thought I’d start off with a quote from a famous film director – Che Guevara!

Che Guevara said, and I quote: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”

I think that’s essential for anyone who wants to make difference and change things. We have to start with what we love, what we want to save.

But is passion enough? I don’t think so. To succeed I think we also need great ideas and we need money.

Most filmmakers, when they think about money, think in terms of “funding.” But I think “funding” is just professional begging.

In the for profit world we don’t think about funding. We think in terms of “finance.”

Finance, in my definition, is the art of making people want to give you money.

A lot of filmmakers think in terms of “zero sum thinking”, which is the belief that there’s only so much money or audience to go around and we’re all fighting for it.

But I think we should think in terms of “wealth creation”, which is that money is a plastic phenomena and that wealth is expandable.

At their annual shareholders meeting a few weeks ago, the CEO of Starbucks said that “classical economics has it all wrong. Starbucks has proven that ‘supply’ creates ‘demand’.”  Who would have believed that anyone could succeed by putting a coffee shop on every corner -- especially when there already were coffee shops on every corner, much less have people line up to pay $5.00 for a cup for it when they were paying .50 cents a cup.


Zero sum thinking makes no sense in world where Americans spend a half a billion dollars a year on BBQ Sauce!


So it’s all about “values” and “personal choices.”


We’re living in historic times.


We’re the first generation in human history that will not pass the world onto our grandchildren virtually intact. The past 50 years have been witness to environmental destruction and species extinction of unprecedented proportions.


·          Ninety percent of the world’s fisheries have collapsed.

·          Habitat losses are happening everywhere along with the loss of wildlife in them.

·          Water resources are being depleted around the world. Within the past ten years the Indus in Pakistan, the Rio Grande, the Yellow River and the Nile have all failed to reach the ocean – running dry hundreds of miles before their destination.

·          And we’re introducing thousands of new chemicals into our world every year, without any idea of the impacts.

·          The list goes on and on.


If you’re making media about wildlife and issues surrounding it, all this really matters.


But we have to be aware that we are in a “war of ideas.” And in that war we’re up against formidable opposition. Because today media and culture are inseparable.


Every year multi-national corporations spend tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars on messages which are antithetical to our shared goals and beliefs. Goals about…


·          Conservation

·          Preservation

·          and Sustainability.


And what do these corporate messages say? They say things like:


·          Consume constantly

·          Think only of yourself

·          Live for today

·          Vanity is the highest human endeavor

·          Forget consequences

·          You deserve to be decadent

·          And of course, “sex” is the most important thing -- all the time!

Okay, so they’re right about one thing.

But the point is that in this war of ideas, they have nukes and ICBMs and we have rocks and sticks. This means we need to work smarter and get more bang for the buck. And we need to find new ways to ‘finance” what we’re doing.


But where will these new methods come from?  To help answer that I’d like to turn to another famous film director – Charles Darwin.


If you ask most people about Charles Darwin, they’ll probably say “survival of the fittest.”


The only problem is – he never said that. What he said, to paraphrase him a bit, was that the “best adapted mutation will thrive.”


Now sometimes that favors “competition”, and sometimes that favors “cooperation and collaboration.”

I think we’re entering a time when competition is starting to see “diminishing returns.”


I think we are heading into a time that favors “cooperation.”


Cooperation can produce new ideas, new kinds of partnerships and new strategies. And in a war of ideas, this can give us an important edge.


We see all this “expressing” itself through new technologies…new cooperative business models. But technology isn’t enough. We also have to examine our beliefs.


To help do this I want to turn to someone I like to refer to as the “ultimate Hollywood party animal”--Albert Einstein.

Einstein said:  "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."


What he meant by that was that we should challenge our assumptions… the so-called “facts.”  But I think he was talking about television ratings and focus groups.


I think ratings are the death of creativity. I think ratings are the death of the advancement of civilization. And they always lead us to the lowest common denominator.


But more importantly, ratings can only tell you about where you’ve been not where you’re going.


There’s a term in the technology world called “emergence.” It says that large groups of people can make better decisions and organize things better than small groups of experts.  And we’re examples of this phenomena in places like –


·          MY Space, which had 60 million registered users in less than two years.

·          And in blogging -- a new form of journalism.

·          And web casting of media by companies like –

o         Undergroundfilm.org

o         Microcinema.com

o         Jaman.com – a server based pay per view service for independent filmmakers.

o         Blinkx.com

o         Submedia.com

o         Newgrounds.com

o         YouTube.com (* 150 million users in less than two years after launch)


Together these sites have hundreds of millions of participants.


·          And in “Anime” -- which is taking existing images and putting them to music. It’s estimated that as many as seventy five to one hundred million individuals are participating in this form of media, worldwide.


·          And cell phones, which may be the new network.


All these are forward looking…. They are the “Bleeding Edge.”


This is where the new audiences are. This is where future revenues will come from and the ways to “finance” it all.


I’d like to show you an example of this kind of new media…. A video clip. It’s called “Store Wars.”  Store Wars cost $35,000 to produce and it has been downloaded ten million times. Think of the leverage of that.


That means people chose to view it ten million times. They sought it out. There very few filmmakers here who can prove that their films have been viewed ten million times or even one million times. Unlike ratings, where a television may be on but we have no idea if anyone is actually watching, these are real numbers.



To view the clip go to:  http://www.storewars.org/pressroom/


Store Wars was produced by Free Range Graphics and I want thank them for allowing me to show it here today.


These are the kinds of things Environmental Media Fund is working on.


Okay, so back to “Living in harmony”  -- the theme of this festival.


In the film Grizzly Man Werner Herzog said: “The common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder.”


A real Pollyanna! 


But there’s truth in that.  If there’s any hope of “harmony”, we’re going to have to make it happen. And we need to do it before too much of our world is lost.


So, I guess, what my talk here today is about comes down to a simple request… a plea for “content”… the truth… the good news with the bad… whatever that may be.

A request that we put our hearts into our work – let our hearts guide us - even at the risk of the personal costs.

Because it’s important for the next generation…. and for our souls.


Thank you.

Copyright 2005 Environmental Media Fund, Inc. All Rights Reserved