Ann Megalla – Award Winning Documentary Film | Television | Digital Producer

A First Timer’s Experience at MIPTV 2018

With over 10,000 delegates descending on Cannes including 1,480 exhibiting companies and 3,600 buyers from 102 countries MIPTV is as relevant as ever in this new age of storytelling.

Despite the torrential rains Cannes put on a magnificent MIP conference and as a first timer it was an opportunity to get my feet wet in an international market.

As the recipient of SPA’s Ones to Watch 2017 Mentorship Programme and Internship Award, I was fortunately given a rare opportunity to attend this crème de la crème event thanks to SPA and Reed MIDEM.

Over six days I attended a combination of MipDoc, MipFormats, In Development, CANNESSERIES and MIPTV. It represented the largest gathering of industry executives, providing unparalleled access to global trends in programming and new technology including digital formats, 4K, Ultra HD, VR and AR.

My first takeaway for emerging practitioners: you can’t imagine what it’s like to attend an international market, it’s essential to get a feel for the program first-hand. It was the biggest event in my television career to date. Being in the company of great Australian producers including Brian Cobb of Cobbstar Productions and distributor Anthony Mrsnik of Escapade Media, I came to realise MIP has launched many successful Australian careers and continues to sell high-quality content destined for the international market.

Secondly, meeting with television and digital entertainment professionals from all over the world is an amazing opportunity but also overwhelming. A specially designed ‘How to MIPTV’ Programme is the secret to an enjoyable and rewarding mip experience. The afternoon included a session with The Pitch Doctor followed by a discovery tour of Palais exhibition floors and networking event.

Thirdly, wear comfortable shoes. Putting my best foot forward each day was a must for building solid foundations from a product, creative partnership and business point-of-view. I was on the constant move between keynote presentations, first-look screening and pitching competitions. Producers gave great feedback on my slate and had several positive meetings with commissioners and distributors that are harder to access back home.

A big ‘thank you’ to Tony Iffland (ABC Commercial) and Caroline Spencer (Fremantle Media, AU) for their time and inside knowledge, and Natalie Apostolou for making my first MIPTV experience so enjoyable and memorable.

What I can say to fellow emerging producers is go for it! The international content business is an unbelievably exciting place to be in right now.

The Power of Storytelling in Video Marketing

This article was originally published in Market Smartly Magazine March 2017 Edition. 

Harnessing the power of video and sharing compelling visual stories direct to the consumer has become a powerful medium in online marketing. Not only can video serve to provide higher attraction to your businesses’ promotional campaigns and influential ideas, video can also help you drive deeper, more satisfying relationship between your brand and its audience.

And the most recent statics show that marketers are reaping the benefits of sending innovative video content directly to a user’s device. For example, marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users and 92% of mobile video consumers share video with others.

Video marketing won’t automatically get attention for your business, even the best videos have no guarantee they’ll be popular. Successful videos however do happen to have a few rules and structures in common. This guide will introduce what those things are to help you better craft your stories and increase the success of your video marketing campaign.

1.Begin with the end in mind

Think about your audience and what you want them to know about you. Establish, share and live your purpose or vision. Don’t get tied up in corporate jargon. Fun campaign videos can bring pain-points to life and humanise your brand. Product demo videos can quickly educate audiences and build trust in your offers.

Make sure your video brand is compatible with your overall brand strategy. If your viewers sense a disconnection between your brand and the video content, you run the risk of being perceived as inauthentic.

How to apply:

• Define the purpose of your story with consistency of style and tone that have emotional connection and meaning.
• Work with stakeholders to agree on the video strategy before moving on, it then becomes the filter for all your decision.

2. Be true to the platform

You must take into account that each platform features unique attributes that need to be considered when creating content for that platform. Formalising marketing values you hope to achieve with video typically falls within three values: Brand awareness, lead generation and online engagement.

You should think about what you want achieve with a single piece of content, or whether you’ll have better success splitting and targeting with different kinds of video content spread across different platforms.

For example, Facebook Live is a useful tool to demonstrate a first-glimpse at a new brand offering, or engage with your fans with a live Q&A session, you are adding a sense that everyone is sharing in a unique and finite experience.

Alternatively, if your brand needs to make inroads with Millennials, you can dive deeply into Snapchat, reaching over 45% of the 13 to 24 demographic every day

How to apply:

  • Select multiple platforms for wider distribution
  • Make sure the videos and platforms are aligned with your customer’s viewing behavior, demographic and interests

[Small business behind-the-scenes videos can tell stories that strike a cord with customers. Client: Corcorz Hair]


  1. Take audiences to new places

Product explanations are important, but they don’t always make the most compelling stories.

One of the great powers of video marketing is the ability to take the audience somewhere they weren’t expecting, such as giving them a behind-the-scenes look at an organisation, or a glimpse into the life of a lead figure in a company. Alternatively, involve customers by featuring their success stories, or let your partners talk about their businesses and why they work with you.

This kind of content helps you forge a special connection with the user because they feel like they are gaining intimate access to something that not everyone gets to experience. What’s great about this is that it allows you to engage with your fans by rewarding them for their loyalty with special access. It also provides you with an opportunity to tease content that will draw in a new audience.

How to apply:

  • A story is only as strong as the people within it. Always ensure you have one strong character to lead your story.
  • Stick to one clear benefit message for your brand per video.

[Charities can lend themselves readily to purposeful, emotional storytelling for a successful fundraising campaign. Client:  Communify]


  1. Leave a lasting impression

Resist the urge to do a sales pitch. Instead, take the time to understand what your customers really want and focus your brand story on delivering that message to the customer. Tell them a good story, they’ll love you for it.

Remember, viewers have short attention spans so keep your videos short and simple. As you build your video library and measure viewership, you’ll start to see whether there is demand for longer in-depth videos.

Your video should immediately convey its value and answer that “why should I watch it?” question playing on your audiences’ mind. Should they watch it because it will make them laugh, because it will inspire them to act, or because it will teach them something new?

You can use social media to take your audience on a journey with your brand and show them how they fit into the narrative. One way to accomplish this is to make your stories interact so that social media users can contribute to the creative process and deepen their bond with your brand.

How to apply:

  • Hook them from the get go. You have to capture attention within the first 8 seconds. So you better kick it off with something captivating and even a little unpredictable.
  • Dedicate the last 8 seconds to a strong, reward-focused Call-to-Action that capitalised on your viewer’s investment of time and attention.
  • Collect data on how your videos are watched and how viewers engage with them. Check the duration of views, repeat views and drop-off rates. That data helps you know whether your videos are working.

[Product teaser launch for lifestyle and entertainment magazine brand Indulge. Client: Queensland Magazines]

 Of course, telling stories is an ancient tradition. In the digital age, advanced video storytelling techniques used in online marketing allow us to move away from product-led content to a more emotionally-led connection with our audience.

Although it is tempting to jump on the bandwagon and produce content and set goal later, you’ll likely abandon your video marketing efforts. Whatever you hope to accomplish with video marketing, it should be defined at the outset before your launch your next campaign and be used to measure and tailor your strategy.


7Ps for launching a Video Marketing Strategy

If my last post “3 Ways to Add Video to your Content Marketing Mix” did its job, you’ve already decided that your organisation must start using video to engage your audiences. It helps generate new leads and nurture the ones you have; and it’s measurable, so you know whether your video content is working.

But how do you get started? I’ve seen businesses large and small stall their efforts before they even got off the ground simply because they didn’t know what the first step should be in building a video marketing strategy.

Let’s remove the guesswork from the equation and take a look at what you should consider as you embark on this important and fruitful journey. The rewards are so worth the investment that you don’t want to let uncertainty get in the way.

1. Product. What stories do you want to tell (not sell)?
For most organisations, there’s no shortage of potential video content. Think about your audience and what you want them to know about you.

If there’s only one rule to stick by – stay away from sounding too sales-y. If consumers feel they are watching a sales pitch, they will probably leave immediately.

A good first video is an explainer about what your company does and who you are. Then you’ll want to create videos for every step of the marketing funnel. It’s said that buyers do more than half their product research independent of vendors, so you’ll want to provide videos for every step of that journey.

Fun campaign videos can bring pain points to life and humanise your brand. Product demo videos can quickly educate audiences and build trust in your offers.

Interviews with thought leaders and customers can inspire audiences and quickly build trust in not only what you do but also why you do it. And as buyers engage directly with your sales team, personalised videos can help bring the human element back into the digital selling process.

2. Price. Everyone worries about budget.
Every organisation is trying to do more with less. However, you don’t have to spend tens of thousands to hire a dedicated video team.

Ideally, you’ll produce enough content for different stages of the customer journey and release a new video every couple of weeks. That may sound excessive, but you can dedicate the right resources without breaking the bank.

If you can only invest in one dedicated hire, a videographer is a good place to start. A strong videographer can shoot and edit all of your footage and produce at least one short video per week from about $1,200.

Quality is important, but so is authenticity. Your viewers will be more impressed by your smart, funny and helpful videos than whether the lighting is just right.

3. Place. Where people can view your content?
First and foremost identify the key platforms for your video distribution plan. The best strategy is to use multiple channels: your website, YouTube, Facebook, and e-newsletters to reach targeted audiences. And always explore new channels for your video marketing efforts.

YouTube is great because it performs well in Google search results. Plus, it’s free. But you sacrifice control. YouTube could refer your viewer to unrelated or, worse, competitive content. Make your phrases are specific; you want to use your keywords in your title, tags and descriptions.


Example of key-wording for our client Corcorz.

Facebook’s biggest strength is their community. They know the ins and outs their community, and work on ‘interest choice’, which means Facebook targets interest-based content to the community. Create video content that is tailored to fit your dedicated fan base and give them something to look forward to and respond to, rather than video content that is meant for a general audience.

4. Promotion. Make the first and last 10seconds count.
Did you know that 20% of your viewers will close your video after 10 seconds or less? Your video needs to be brief and too the point. Use your headline and video description to inform viewers what to expect.

And if your viewer to the finish line, reward them with a call-to-action. This can be visiting your site, signing up for a newsletter, leaving a comment, or offering to take up a special promotion. If you have their attention, now is the time to take advantage of it.
As mentioned in my previous post, with interactive video, you do not have to wait to the end of the video to engage with your audience.

5. People. Not just Products.
Product explanations are important, but they don’t always make the most compelling stories. Interview members of the C-suite to put a human face on the company.

Involve customers by featuring their success stories. Let your partners talk about their businesses and why they work with you.

6. Process. Keep Videos Short.
As any filmmaker can tell you, editing is one of the toughest steps. All that content you shot is great. Everything your company does is amazing. You couldn’t possibly do it justice in one minute.

Unfortunately, viewers have short attention spans so you have to keep it short, especially in the beginning. As you build your video library and measure viewership, you’ll start to see where there is demand for longer in-depth videos.

7. Performance. Prioritise Measurements & Analytics.
Measuring performance is the only way to know whether your videos are successful. Don’t settle for vanity metrics such as the number of views. That won’t lead to more leads and deals.

Collect data on how your videos are watched and how viewers engage with them. Check the duration of views, repeat views and drop-off rates. That data helps you know whether your videos are working.

Want to chat about how AM Multimedia can help you with your video marketing strategy? Great! Contact 

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3 Ways to Add Video to your Content Marketing Mix



Did you know the average daily video views on Facebook alone are now 8 billion?(source).
That’s a staggering number of eyeballs glued to the visual content, and this has a major impact on video content marketing, social media, and online behaviour. At AM Multimedia, we take a closer look at 2016 video trends and share some useful tips on how we integrate video into our client’s marketing mix.

2016 is well an truly the year of video as marketers leverage small screens to reach consumers as video has become a powerful tool for brands looking to communicate more easily to their customers. In fact 52% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content wit the best ROI and by next year 74% of all internet traffic will be video (source).

You do not have to be a large company to use video. Small businesses can increase lead generation, improve customer engagement, and build greater brand awareness to the right customers, in the right context, with the right content.

Here are 3 ways AM Multimedia integrate video for our client’s marketing strategies:

  1. Video Micro-Moments Encourage Engagements on Social Media

Video micro-moments are what users are looking for to answer basic questions about products, services, processes, or events. Adding video into a social media marketing plan can transform the way your customers, and potential customers, understand your product.



64% of consumers are more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it (source). Video micro-moments is an easy and affordable way to define your brand’s purpose, give your users content to answer their product questions, and help your potential customers find your product through the purchase journey.

  1. Video to Boost Email Open Rates

While email is still one of the top marketing resources for businesses, it can be hard to make your messages stand out, let alone get click-thru once someone has opened your email. However, using video, marketers can increase open rates and get in contact with the right people with the following strategy:

  • Using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19%, click-through rates by 65% and reduces unsubscribes by 26% (source).
  • Make sure videos aren’t too long. Decision-makers have limited time and you’re lucky if you’ve managed to convince them to open your email in the first place.
  1. Interactive Video to drive sales

Shoppers who view video are 1.81X more likely to purchase than non-viewers (source). So why not harness the opportunity to make a sale from the video itself?

The difference between interactive video with versus a passive video is the ability to connect with real people at any point in the video’s timeline with touchable screens.


Most interactive videos start with YouTube, but businesses are starting to realise that YouTube will not be enough to capture the need for interactivity within videos. Businesses will have to move their videos to the private sector for a complete interactive video solution. To know more just ask

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David Lynch – Between Two Worlds – Press Conference

A thrilling day filming conversation with iconic film director & visual artist David Lynch at the launch of his exhibition ‘Between Two Worlds’ at Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.   For nearly 50 years, Lynch’s innovative, influential and distinctive artistic output has been integral to his overall creative vision. Developed closely with Lynch, the exhibition includes over 200 works illustrating the artist’s wide-ranging oeuvre – drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, mixed media, music, film and video. A must See.

The West End Magazine, Jungle Love Festival

Launching Jungle Love Festival @ the Motor Room in Brisbane’s West End on Saturday 2nd August 2014. Just a taster of the vibe to be expected at the festival in November.  Video Specs: Shot on Cannon 650D, 17-55mm F2.8 lens, Edelkrone Slider Plus.

Film by Ann Megalla
Additional Photographs by Sam Navin
Artists: Blu Art Xinja, Barek Art, Cherie Strong.
Music by Desmond Cheese


Fine art, i-doc and virtual exhibition: bringing together a new frame of mind.


As we are encountering the next generation of documentary film-making specifically designed for the web, interactive documentaries or i-docs, are making the experience of film watching online a richer and more rewarding experience than ever before, so is there a place for merging fine art, filmmaking and exhibition in an interactive online gallery?

 My area of enquiry is how the narrative experience enhances the way we conceive and interact with traditional forms of fine art and documentary storytelling in a digital space.

Currently I am producing an arts documentary, a biographical portrait on accomplished Jordanian-Lebanese artist Rafik Majzoub. The project is a pilot interactive gallery that aims to merge traditional arts and film-making into a digital narrative. My aim is to publish a series of well-crafted short stories addressing personal, social and historical themes, whereby, allowing our audience to delve deeper into the artwork and participate in bearing witness to the human condition through Majzoub’s audio-visual narrative.

My objective is to explore how to engage with new audiences in new ways with traditional forms of art, exhibition, and documentary production; to create an interactive space that promotes accomplished artists who seek through their work to penetrate our hearts and minds, awakens empathy, challenges status quo, and instigate change.

This relatively new interactive experience I am tapping into is brought to us by pioneering digital organizations that are making your computer and the Web the new frontier of film-making. By no means are they attempting to replace long-format linear storytelling but to co-exist cohesively for a deeper immersive experience between the audience and the subject.

My i-doc titled Rafik Majzoub: Memoirs of a Screw will be crafted into an online gallery space, which to achieve requires working outside regular web formatting, but made possible by adapting open source software HTML5, a Web-native video platform, with multimedia software such as Mozilla Popcorn (further discussion on technology will soon follow).

Innovative i-doc labs I am drawing on are taking shape across the globe and The Living Docs website serves as the main hub for such collaborations. These labs are shaping the landscape and possibilities for filmmakers, digital designers, coders, and audiences alike to build interdependence in the online storytelling experience.

Two crafty examples that demonstrate the possibilities in merging fine art, film-making and virtual exhibition are Guernika, pintura de guerra, (CCRTVi 2007) translatable as “Guernika, war paint” and Gallery of Lost Art (Tate 2012).

Pertinent to these similar interactive experiences is the non-linear narrative design to stimulate a walk though the online ‘exhibition’ space to gain new perspectives on the artist and the artifact. But the two experience are very different in handling subject matter: one being about an existing Picasso masterpiece, the other, an art collective by highly accomplished artist that no longer exist, however, are brought to life again.

Both examples defy the boundaries of the canvas and deliver a richer experience, through intimate testimonies from its creator(s), influential persons, art historians, theorists, and social media responses in ‘one click’ environment. Archival images, films, interviews, and essays are laid out for visitors to examine, revealing the evidence relating to the artworks.

In the case of “Guernica, pintura de guerra”, alongside the production of the traditional documentary by program producers “30 minutes” of TV3, digital counterparts CCRTVi developed three interactive documentaries that users could watch on three different platforms: web, digital terrestrial television (DTT) and Media Center.  The contents of the documentary explore the interactive format and allow the viewer to extend their experience beyond the conventional documentary.

The three applications provide information about the history and travel of “Guernica,” an iconographic analysis, composition and conservation of the painting, and biographies of people who have maintained a close relationship with this Picasso masterpiece. This allowed viewers to access, in an interactive way, a large amount of information: analysis of the picture, documents, interviews, biographies, games and more.


The Gallery of Lost Art is also an online exhibition, but tells the stories of modern and contemporary artworks that have disappeared. Destroyed, stolen, discarded, rejected, erased, ephemeral—some of the most significant artworks of the last 100 years have been lost and can no longer be seen. Jennifer Mundy, curator of The Gallery of Lost Art, says:

‘Art history tends to be the history of what has survived. But loss has shaped our sense of art’s history in ways that we are often not aware of.’

‘Museums normally tell stories through the objects they have in their collections. But this exhibition focuses on significant works that cannot be seen. It explores the potential of the digital realm to bring these lost artworks back to life—not as virtual replicas but through visual evidence and the stories surrounding them.’

Jane Burton, Head of Content and Creative Director, Tate Media, says: ‘The Gallery of Lost Art is a ghost museum, a place of shadows and traces. It could only ever exist virtually. The challenge was to come up with a way of showcasing these artworks and telling their stories, when, in many cases, poor-quality images are all we have left of them.

The result is a new way of looking at art: an immersive website in the form of a vast warehouse, where visitors can explore the evidence laid out for them. Soundscapes and documentary films add to the rich content experience.

The cleaver twist to the Gallery of Lost Art is that the site was only live for exactly one year, and like the artworks within, were destroyed and lost forever.

Drawing on these two case-studies the philosophy of art is now arguably much more translatable online for larger audiences than ever before, and the underlying innovations which made immersive experiences possible are continuing to influence major museum and gallery websites around the globe.

We cannot ignore that there’s been a jibe in the art world for a while now that fine art hasn’t found a way to reach beyond the small and insular clique of curators and handful of collectors and loyal followers, but I do believe this attitude is about to change with digital storytelling and arts world colliding, bringing new opportunities to connect, participate, exchange information in a new pattern, making you laugh or sigh or simply look in awe.

Such innovative virtual exhibitions will not only bring us closer and deeper into the arts world, but hand-in-hand, give us better user interface and user experience. Encouraging viewer statistics for Gallery of Lost Art indicate wider audiences are exposed to interactive narratives and want to interface with art in new kinds of ways.


A New Kind of Popcorn Movie: Documentary Filmmaking Re-Imagined for the Digital Future

Rafik Majzoub: Memoirs of a Screw. A Web Documentary.


In the eastern neighborhood of Dora in Beirut, a place with too many shades of grey for our own good health, there lives a splash of colour in the form of a slight-fragile artist from Jordan, Rafik Majzoub.

Now in his 40s, Majzoub’s tale begins in the early ‘90s post-war Lebanon, where a naïve 19 year old college drop-out is looking for his place a world that is also grasping its new found freedom. Little did the self-taught artist know that his paintings and illustrations would illuminate the dark & murky corners of an embattled soul – not just of himself but of a lost generation.

In a unique interactive web documentary, we dissect the he anatomy of this cult-like figure, fleshing out Majzoub’s compulsive persona, coupled with the twisted & tormented mentality of post-war Lebanon and “Raw” artistic style such as that of Brooklyn subway artist turned gallery darling Jean-Michel Basquiat.

 Majzoub’s artistic expression however stands alone when integrating personal, public and political themes, cutting through any false façade to expose the imperfections of life.

By taking the chances he wanted, speaking his mind and creating artworks that no one before him had ever done in the Middle East, Majzoub rouses a mobilising sentiment amongst Beirut’s underground culture, causing a rift throughout the arts establishment, and a name to be reckoned with among contemporary Lebanese artists.

And unlike Basquait, Majzoub lives to tell us the story; taking you on a personal tour through 20 years of his works, giving you a rare insight into the originality of his artistic process and life journey. He describes the near-fatal car accident at age three that set the course of his life. Dropping out of design school in his hometown of Amman and moving to the embattled city of Hamra, West Beirut struggling to earn his keep as a self-taught artist.

We taste Majzoub’s first fame as a truth-intoxicating, whisk-drinking, bad-boy artist the establishment will find hard to swallow, yet hard to ignore. The Outsider’s subsequent death defying drinking habits and conflict with loved-ones leaves Majzoub with little else than a shadow of his former self in rehab and a sketchbook filled with rants, embarrassing digressions, drawings and scribbles that in a sane world should never see the light of day.

Beyond the whiskey mania, we delve into a sobering, deeper state of mind, an interior labyrinth, where Mazjoub’s caricatured portrait paintings and illustrations are a metamorphosis of himself, charged with his phobias, rejections – the enemy inside.

The outpourings of Majzoub’s personal story, imagination, and imagery are of the kind that should be viewed while listening to the hallow voices of Tom Waits and Nick Cave. With disarming honesty, and a voice that is intimately his own, Rafik Majzoub brings us the essential life story to date, frank, fearless and true.

Today, in Majzoub’s studio-home we find a screw-like figure, a recluse, buried in his chair hunched over his sketchbook; still perplexed in a labyrinth of his own neuroses, charting the feelings and events of his life. He undergoes a self-examination without concession, tenderness or false modesty, trying to get to the bottom of the very same question that’s on our mind “who really is Rafik Majzoub?”


This is an online biography-exhibition created with Rafik Majzoub to explore the breadth of his works over the course of 20 years.

Artwork is presented in an online “gallery” space made up by a series of short-films narrated by Majzoub incorporating media fragments. These include archive painted artworks & illustrations, photography, press articles, reviews, essays, eye-witness accounts. Visitors are encouraged to piece together their own personal view of the work, the context it was created in, and its lasting impact.

The interactive gallery is laid out for visitors to examine and contribute to an important part of Middle Eastern art history, giving fresh insights into the art movement of early 1990s in Lebanon and beyond.


With your contribution, you can enhance the story-experience by adding more fragments, links and areas of inquiry by re-tracing real locations, places, events and linking people that were part of Majzoub’s world and the arts movement of the time.

Visitors Blog area will be integrated into the main site where new work is encouraged to be added weekly and users are encouraged to contribute to an open forum to discuss such as: A. Rafik Majzoub’s art and themes around public memory and art making; B. What does it mean to be an artist in the Arab world now at a time when threats of violence, manipulative politics, and devaluation of values is invasive throughout the region? C. Discuss and debate the constitution of Outsider Art in the 21st Century.

The project team and curator also regularly post and are available to answer any specific questions.


I am looking for partnership to explore the unique possibilities that the web can offer to documentary creators in re-imagining storytelling. I believe that the ethos of the web – collaboration, constant learning, and iteration — offers a fundamentally new way of producing documentary.

You can support this emerging field in a number of ways:

Project Support: I am looking for support from people with idoc producing experience to mentor & collaborate the over-all project in best practices, sharing their experiences, their challenges and victories. Narrative design, social media, crowdfunding and marketing implications that follows.

Web Designer / Code Sharing: The explosive growth of the web owes itself to the ability of others see and share how the web is put together from a designer’s and coder’s point-of-view. We not only learn how to create original new work but are given a shortcut to creating new work by building on that of our peers.

Production Funding: The documentary world is changing as the role of broadcasters shift and audience’s attention is fractured. New methods of supporting the art of documentary must exist on the web if this fledgling genre is to thrive. I welcome production funding through our online portal Kickstarter, grants, festival and lab opportunities.


Director/Producer: Ann Megalla
Curated & Narrated by: Rafik Majzoub
Deliverables: x5 interview webisodes + interactive gallery
Platforms: Web, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo, Tumblr, Blogs, Press.
Audience: Fan-base, Curators & Galleries, Artists & Art Historians, Educators & Students
Regions: MENA, France, Canada, USA.

Documentary Filmmaking and its Digital Future

I am about to dip my toe into the vast pool of the future in interactive documentary (idoc) and the world of online filmmaking tools and practices with a goal to produce rich-media content, engaging storytelling, and eye-popping design. But for those traditional producers like myself who are about to embark on this new frontier, where to begin scoping an environment that fosters idoc interaction, discussion, and learning?

Laura Almo, contributing writer of IDA explains in her article a New Kind of Popcorn Movie: Documentary Filmmlaking Re-Imagined for the Digital Future, a growing presence online is developing a rich pool of expert advice and latest industry practices at our fingertips.

Professionals experimenting and discussing latest idoc projects, tools and practices such as, Living Docs, and TMC Resource Kit and the ever-expanding consortium of organizations, are making our computer and the Web the burgeoning new frontier of filmmaking (see extensive resource list).

The Living Docs website serves as ground zero for idoc collaboration. The experimentation has been going on in little pockets all over, but Living Docs centralizes the evolution of this experiment. Root around the website and you will see examples of filmmakers experimenting with this new form, as well as blog posts, tutorials and announcements of upcoming events.

HTML 5 and Mozilla Popcorn, the open-source software, are at the digital heart of the Living Docs Project whereby filmmakers are interested in ways the Web could advance non-linear, user-generated storytelling. What could you do in the medium of the Web that you couldn’t do in film or TV? Popcorn fits right in with Mozilla’s philosophy, which is to make the Web as open as possible. The belief is that the Web will be a better place if people see it as a canvas-something on which they can make, hack, re-create and customize themselves: “The Web is not something people have to passively accept, but rather it’s something they can actively build,” says Mozilla’s Moskowitz

Almo writes: The technology is still new, and at this point everything is prototypes and experimentation. The prevailing ethos: Fail early and fail often. At the moment, there are two main kinds of interactive, Web-based media projects: those that are Web native in their very construction such as Hollow (use Google Chrome browser)


and the Highrise series



And traditional feature-length documentaries that have some kind of interactive component around them such as Alma where you can watch the film in its entirety, or you can click on individual modules.


However, giving the viewer the ability to click a button that takes them out of the narrative makes some traditional filmmakers nervous. As filmmaker James says in the Living Docs Hackathon promo video: “When you’re a filmmaker, you want to put people in a theatre, lock the door and make them watch your movie start to finish without any distraction. So the idea of having y

our movie work in a different way, which is all about interrupting the flow, is a tough one.”

This is a slice of the future, but have no fear; the traditional long-form documentary isn’t going anywhere. This is a different kind of experience, and an opportunity for filmmakers to think more broadly and my hope is that filmmakers at all stages will look at this as a new possibility, rather than as some kind of challenge to the way they’re doing things now.

People have pondered what the future of traditional documentary filmmaking may be now that digital technology has taken such a dominant role in the craft of storytelling. There is space for long-form and online interactive documentaries to co-exist.

“People want to interface with media in different kinds of ways,” says Ingrid Kopp, director of digital initiatives at Tibeca Film Institute “Sometimes they want to be passive and sometimes they want to be active and sometimes they want to click on things and sometimes they don’t. I think the best projects are the kinds of projects that allow that to happen, or at least give a range of options.”

Extensive iDoc Resources List:

Lens on Life in Lebanon Goes Live


Lens on Life in Lebanon Goes Live

23 August marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition in 1791. In the world today, International Labor Organization reports, slavery-like conditions still exist for an estimated 20 million people and we put the spotlight on Lens On Life in Lebanon, a photographic-essay and multimedia initiative by young migrants, women and men, working within the limitations of the Kefala [sponsorship] system – a form of modern day slavery.

No child dreams of becoming a maid or a manual labourer. But driven by poverty, political instability and war, waves of Africans and Asians take on such work every year in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East in hope for a better life and to provide for their families, often away from the support of friends and family.

In Lebanon, migrant workers clean our homes and help raise our children. They build the offices we work in and tend to the food we eat.  Yet employers are known to violate the kefala system by interpreting their responsibility of these migrant workers to be ownership.

It is a situation faced by the 200,000+ migrant domestic workers – mainly women – who find themselves behind closed household or factory doors in vulnerable conditions including: passports confiscated to prevent freedom of movement, physical and psychological abuse, no legal recognition to dispute unfair trade or treatment, and unable to marry and found a family.

Male migrant workers, the majority manual labourers and hired help in small businesses, are also subject to the kefala system, which has long rooted racist ideologies dating back to the times of slave trade and European Colonisation of the Arab world. Viewed as unworthy by bourgeoisie Lebanese society, many male migrant workers live in fear of harassment by employers, Lebanese police and soldiers.

Adopting laws against the kefala system does not automatically translate into a practical abolishment, often because of the strength of traditional attitudes in Lebanese society and its legal systems. Such strong social stigma combined with lack of human rights initiatives means that many migrant workers today are at the mercy of their employers & recruitment agencies. Invisible to the outside world, the majority of migrant workers are silently subject to discrimination and abuse with the threat of detention, unpaid wages, arrest, and deportation should they demand their rights.

Reframing Perceptions: Agents of Positive Change

Indeed, it is also difficult to see any hope for the migrant worker in Lebanon who is caught in this predicament of servitude. And while it’s not uncommon to see news headlines reporting on migrant workers dogged by exposés into their dark realities of the abusive employers, racial misconduct, and suicide scandals, we know little of the migrant worker’s story, as they see it: their views of the country, their lives here, and the dreams that inspire them.

Lens on Life in Lebanon attempted to answer these questions through a unique participatory photography workshop and exhibition held at AltCity in Hamra, Beirut in Dec 2012. Fifteen migrant workers, majority from Sudan and Ethiopia working as maids, cooks, and hired-help, offer a glimpse into their everyday lives to illustrate alternative visual narratives away from the “shock-value” depicted in mainstream media.

This hard-to-reach group barely surface in the public domain, the lucky few who do manage to get time off work attend free language and computer classes at AltCity on Sundays hosted by Migrant Workers Task Force (MWTF). The project facilitators were therefore able to teach fifteen migrant workers in simple skills in photography using their mobile phones and PhotoVoice storytelling methodology to build an awareness-raising, visual campaign by focusing their attention to the positive contribution they make in their community. The objective of using non-threatening visual narratives is to breakdown social barriers and gives these ‘faceless victims’ the respect they so rightly deserve.

“We know little of the migrant worker’s story, as they see it: their views of the country, their lives here, and the dreams that inspire them.”

The multi-lingual workshop was taught in English, Arabic and French to ensue activities were clearly communicated and culturally appropriate for the participants. Providing translation between facilitators and participants ensured that the students could discuss subject matter, take photos, debated which ones to select, and write captions and titles for their images.

To ensure one’s safety, the use of personal mobile phone cameras was the preferred method of capturing images. This small, unassuming device is a powerful tool for non-obtrusive image capturing without drawing unwanted hostility and suspicion by onlookers in places where picture taking is uncommon.

Individuals came back to class each week with a range of experiences, a visual autobiography focusing on the small pleasures and joyful moments of daily life.  Beyond the alarmist news headlines of violence, trauma, and suicide rates, these photographs are the means to convey a message one would not expect from the migrant worker – the intimate spaces, people, and perspectives that they wanted to share of their lives.

Despite the fact that migrant workers are left to fend for themselves due to little or no protection from labour laws, their governments or recruitment agencies these images, as a collective narrative, these images create a space to articulate and validate cultural diversity, resilience, self-worth.

“I am very happy with my new photography skills, I poured my soul inside-out through my photographs.”

Such unseen realities of the migrant worker, even though a rare minority illustrates a deeper level of understanding about individuals forming strong social-cultural networks, perusing meaningful work opportunities, applying themselves in education, making much needed economic contributions to family members back home and within the Lebanese community.

Lens on Life in Lebanon highlights the small but important victories of the migrant worker, these triumphs of human spirit.

A Multimedia Approach to Advocacy:

Following the success of the Lens on Life in Lebanon workshop and exhibition, the visual collective is now part of a permanent online gallery Lens On Life Multimedia produced by the programs’ co-facilitator Ann Megalla. Her hope is that by sharing the participant’s stories using words, pictures and videos will spark more interaction between host and migrant communities, strengthen links that already exist, and build bridges where there are none.

Working with the participant’s images, unreleased video interviews, and formative research including infographics and accumulative report extracts, the producer’s intent is to illustrate a dynamic, holistic view of migrant worker issues in Lebanon integrating the migrant community, key NGOs and grassroots stakeholders, and social media dialogue.

The legacy of Lens on Life Multimedia is to ensure that members of the community, institutions, and agents of change will use the site as an effective, sustainable tool for advocacy. At it’s core the website is an initiative to mobilise local and international community to get informed, spread the word, raise a voice to challenge societal views, and governing bodies, that have shaped the current system that fails to protect our migrant workers and remedy their grievances.