Conversations at the INC: John Kennedy, Documentary Filmmaker and Social Justice Advocate

04 June 2018 By Zach Waddle main 0 Comments

Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of being present at John Kennedy’s talk. The good news is that you can watch it! There are so many ridiculous videos out there on the internet that will likely be preserved for posterity. I’m thankful for that, but I’m most thankful that among those is a video like this. John is a documentarian and a social justice advocate, but what these titles fail to adequately express is that he is such a compassionate person. He is working with the non-profit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to produce documentaries that give different people and communities the opportunity to share their stories. He’s extremely passionate about listening to people and letting them tell their story straight from the heart, and he’s very adept in becoming completely immersed with his subject and organizing their journey so that it can be presented to the world in the most authentic and influential manner possible.

 

Conversations at the INC: John Kennedy - Documentary Filmmaker from The New Media Incubator on Vimeo.

 

Now, John will tell you that he isn’t the most articulate speaker, but he doesn’t have to behe isn’t the storyteller. What he’s doing is listening to the story being told, letting it be told by the people who have lived it, instead of trying to dictate it to fit a predetermined narrative. “[I]n that space, […] I clench my chest around my heart and then I slowly release it,” he explains. “I try and do anything I can in the interview space to like unshield myself, open myself up for this moment, for this story, […] and giving that energy and that space for that storyteller to know that I’m there with them while they reveal.” It's in those inspiring moments that he says the very air quality changes around him.

 

An audience member asks John what advice he has on combating the manipulation of stories. His reply, however, seems to contradict the points he'd been making: he says he does, in fact, manipulate the story. “You watch this video and it rolls out, hopefully, in kind of a natural narrative.” He points out that while his work may appear to be presented organically, each video has a hook. He openly admits that the purpose of the hook is to play on your feelings and draw you in and, I must say, he does so in a way that still feels natural.

 

He offers the audience a breakdown of his approach for each story. “It’s going to lead off with an interesting statement that catches your attention," he explains. "It’s going to then go straight into humanizing your main character. [...] It’s just me looking for these hooks to manipulate your emotions- It just is.” Next, he discusses adding in the element of danger from the story to show the viewers what the storytellers stand to lose. His honesty about the intentional manipulation of emotion is what allows his work to retain its integrity, preventing the story from becoming sullied by a forced narrative.

 

It really can't be emphasized enough that John understands the importance of authenticity. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, it’s so easy for potentially magnificent things to end up feeling homogenized by the time they reach their audience. It is truly unfortunate when a piece feels that contrived and shallow. Aside from big companies trying to toe the line, I don’t think most people intend to bring down the quality of their own work. I believe this to be a result of what John mentioned about an interviewer going into a story with their mind already made up as to how it’s going to unfold or, at least, how it's going to be presented. While some of John’s advice such as being true to yourself and keeping an open mind may seem cliché on the surface, if you’ve watched even a moment of his work you’ll see that these are important, but often overlooked truths that will ultimately determine the quality of your work.

 

This information has been brought to you by the word LISTEN.

Conversations at the Inc: Jon Umstead, Entrepreneur and Author

24 May 2018 By Zach Waddle main 0 Comments

Jon Umstead is a business consultant and Wright State University graduate who recently spoke at the New Media Incubator on Conversations at the Inc. He is the author of Business Is Art: And Science, Gut Instinct, Hard Work, and a Certain Amount of Luck and is the creator of Plan Canvas, a software geared towards assisting people in finding success. Jon opened with a quote: “It doesn’t matter how you define success—it’s critical that you do.” He added that we’ll be seeing a different take on that statement later.

 

Conversations at the Inc: Jon Umstead from The New Media Incubator on Vimeo.

 

Our guest speaker began by revisiting his early creative years. My attention shifted momentarily back to his attirethe Batman t-shirt peeking out from beneath his smart blazer struck me as an indicator of an easygoing personality. Directing our attention to an image of himself as a child wearing a Batman mask, he soon explained that he was sporting the shirt to pay homage to his background. Batman was always a childhood hero of Jon's, and he often wore the mask while embracing his imagination as a child. He warmly offered that creativity and his imagination had always been very important to him; given the emphasis on “Using Creativity at Work” later in his presentation, it is obvious that it would continue to be so long after the days of a Batman mask-induced nose infection.

 

High creative times brought Jon a great sense of fulfillment; playing in a band while working as a programmer, amongst other things, was a great time for him. Utilizing his creativity in the workplace and at home allowed him to feed his creative side. However, when the time eventually came for him to make some difficult career decisions for the sake of his family, things did not go as he had hoped they would.

 

Low creative times were very hard on him. I fell into a couple of roles […] where I didn’t apply a lot of creativity," he explained. "I was just doing the task. You know, whatever I was supposed to do, that’s what I did, and I wasn’t very creative about it. I’d also simultaneously hung up being creative at home and so it just really wasn’t very personally fulfilling during those years.”

 

Luckily for Jon, he found a brief period during those harder times in which he ran a company. This allowed him to utilize his abilities for creative planning and problem solving, and brought him the creative satisfaction that he’d been lacking. Such an opportunity had a profound effect on him: “It’s probably the best education I could have ever had in my entire life.”

 

He referred back to the quotation from earlier and finally offered his response to it: It really doesn’t matter what you create; that you create is critical. He advised not to worry about how well your creation will do at the outset, because ideas lead to other ideas. Write it down. Talk about it. Think about it. Use whatever options and outlets you can to explore your creativity!

 

If I could sum up his speech in one word it would undoubtedly be: CREATE. It may not be easy not to worry about how it will be received, but Jon's advice is absolutely correct. When I initially heard this bit of wisdom some time ago, I felt a sudden relief wash over me. Just trying to force myself through such anxieties to produce something can be a miserable process sometimes. Sure, it is more important how YOU feel as the creator, but let’s be seriousthere is a nice, warm feeling when someone else enjoys your work as much as you do. However, ultimately it's about creating. I think that if you’re willing to entertain your creative side, you’ll likely be able to make your creativity something worth entertaining.

 

Jon engaged his audience and even offered a free copy of his book for their participation. In retrospect, I wish I had spoken up or attempted to respond moreit cannot be understated how valuable such knowledge is. He truly understands the importance of such knowledge, which is exactly why he offered to speak to us. He spoke of subjects such as marketing strategies, planning goals, and using your creativity, whether at work or in your personal life.

 

Interested in trying out Plan Canvas yourself? Jon offers a free version for individuals! You’ll need to answer a few questions to begin working together to establish a plan. A plan for what? Anything really. You can work on a plan for your career or regarding your current job, or you can make personal and family plans. He also offers spiritual planning! Do yourself a favor and give him a try. Sure, he’s an easygoing creative thinker, but he’s also a very insightful and focused individual who understands the value of embracing one’s own creativity.

Exit Max, Enter Zax

15 May 2018 By Zach Waddle main 0 Comments

I think that Max Milligan was absolutely correct in that the best has yet come for this place that they call the Inc. I have been fascinated by this department since I first learned of it. However, before I can put over how cool this internship opportunity is, I must tend to something first. Customs dictate that I should introduce myself. Well, I’m Zach Waddle. I’m a creative writing English major preparing to graduate at the end of this summer semester. I have been at Wright State since the summer of 2014 and have had the opportunity to take some great courses that have genuinely helped shape who I have become.

 

For me to tell you who I have become, I feel it would make the most sense to begin with telling you who I have been thus far. I became a dad shortly after I joined the Air Force as a vehicle mechanic. After being medically discharged, I left Parts Unknown and returned to Ohio. I spent a few years trying to readjust to normal life before enrolling at Wright State. With no idea how any of this worked, as I’d never considered college an option during high school, I jumped headfirst into college, registering for courses without any real thought other than what course requirements I had to fill and what sounded interesting. Although I’d been a terrible high school student, the Air Force did well in correcting that for the most part.

 

I chose creative writing as my focus because it is something I have enjoyed doing since high school. I’m drawn to every aspect of creative writing because it consists of expression and communication which have always fascinated me. I love exploring those aspects through writing, but also through digital media and I absolutely love when writing intersects with digital media. I’m self-taught when it comes to Audacity, Photoshop, ImageReady, video software, and web design software such as Dreamweaver (is that even a thing anymore?). I’ve also been sporadically tending to a small YouTube channel for a year or so which has spurred my interest in different aspects of digital communication such as advertising.

 

Luckily for me, there have been plenty of instructors at this school who make sure to challenge their students. In fact, that’s how I ended up here. Although I was initially reluctant when Dr. Hall first mentioned an internship, I can truly say that I’m glad I have this opportunity. I am eager to see how far I can push myself and I couldn’t think of any better place to do it. With the support of the New Media Incubator and the highly-talented team that keeps it going, there’s no telling what can be achieved. Well, that’s where I’m at now. I can’t be certain where I’ll end up, but I’m certainly heading in a good direction.

Part II: Reflections of Max Milligan, Inc. Intern

29 April 2018 By Max Milligan main 0 Comments

*This interview between Dr. Ashley Hall and Max Milligan has been edited and condensed for clarity and word count goals.

Dr. Hall: How did you first hear about the New Media Incubator?

Max Milligan: I think I first heard about it after [Dr. Ashley Hall’s] Basic Media Writing class. I was asking her if she was going to teach Advanced News Writing. She said she was not sure but the New Media Incubator was about to open and that I should check it out; it’s going to be very cool there.

How did you go from hearing about that to being recruited and becoming an intern?

Since I took that class, Basic Media Writing, I had various other classes – I think two – with Dr. Hall and one with Dr. [Jennifer] Ware, where we used the [New Media] Incubator to have class meetings. And for Dr. Ware’s Performance for the Media class we would do various projects and work in the studio and whatnot.

What was your motivation or your thinking coming into the internship?

My initial motivation was that I [needed] three final credit hours and Dr. Hall was looking at my transcript and said that everything looked pretty good but that I needed - I could use - an internship. And there was an opportunity available for a writer for their new team of interns.

So, that kind of leads into the different kinds of projects you’ve worked on since you been here. Can you tell me a little bit about those?

I began with some technical writing, which I had zero experience with, but I would later find out with other classes how important that is to the field of work that I’m going to be jumping into soon. So, I was very grateful to get some experience with that even though it was like only two [written pieces]. I [wrote] sort of how to use the cameras in the Inc. and how to transfer that data onto - data and footage - onto the Macs located in the Inc. The other technical writing [piece] I did was just a basic rundown of how to use the soundboard.

Since then I’ve just been writing various blog posts. Some my own sort of creations and then quite a few were journalistic pieces that I’ve gotten training in in other classes.

Can you talk a little bit about how you’re able to use the training that you received in other classes in your work as an intern here? Do you see that connecting at all?

Definitely. Dr. Hall’s Basic Media Writing class and Ray Marcano’s Advanced News Writing class, that was essential to my experience with interviewing the interns here. I actually interviewed Ray Marcano himself for a profile. I interviewed five people for the Wright Brothers Institute video, including the directors of this space Dr. Hall and Dr. Ware, and it was actually the first time I interviewed that many people for a single story. And thinking about it, I really had seven sources because the beginning information [in the article] came from a meeting me and Dr. Hall went to with various people, but the two main voices [were from Wright Patterson and Wright Brothers Institute].

What have you enjoyed about working at the Inc.?

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other interns and Dr. Hall and Dr. Ware a little bit more. Abby I’ve had in other classes and Anthony and Amanda in a prior class. Just getting to know them, and Brad another intern, has been interesting. They’re really good people, I’ve really enjoyed that.

A funny story about Anthony was I took Digital Media and Writing in the Fall [2017] semester and that was the first time I was in a class with him and I really didn’t know him too well. Dr. Hall wanted us [students] to do a sound remediation type project. And I was under the gun to get it done because I don’t have that [audio] software on my laptop. So, (laughs) I think it was due like by the weekend and that Thursday I had to complete it or otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get it done in time. I had the script and everything ready and I needed somebody to read the script [and do the voice-over]. K-Dean [another student] volunteered for it and so did Anthony. And I really didn’t know what to do. I just knew I wanted to get it done. So, we went into the studio and Anthony, being the humble guy he is, had K-Dean just sort of take the lead on that. But he was just trying to show me all these different audio software’s and equipment I could use and I was thinking to myself, “This is really nice man but I only have 30 minutes left for this class and I’m just doing it on my iPhone.” (laughs)

Everybody in this internship are just really good people.

 

Part I: Reflections of an Inc. Intern

29 April 2018 By Max Milligan main 0 Comments

The morning of the day I got sick I’ve been thinking. It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that, I know. But lately I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.

Image result for tony soprano

American icon Tony Soprano said this in the very first episode of the greatest television show ever made, The Sopranos. Soprano is ostensibly talking about life in the mafia yet over time some critics and fans have come to think of this quote from Soprano as the creator of the series, David Chase, commenting on the American Dream.

No, I’m going to get into something that heavy with this post even though I quoted it in a paper for my creative nonfiction class, taught by the tremendous Christopher DeWeese, which discussed said heavy topic. What brought that quote to mind for this post was that as I was writing that paper my internship for the New Media Incubator was about to end.

In many things I do or see in my life that quote pops into my head and it seems applicable quite often. And that can be depressing.

But doing this internship for the Inc. has made me see that quote and realize it isn’t true in all instances. I agree with Soprano that it is good to be in on something from the ground floor. I was as part of what Dr. Ashley Hall calls the “O.T – the original team.”

Bradley Weng and Hannah Baird were the original interns and did such a great job that it allowed: Anthony Davis, Amanda Harris, Abby Umstead, holdover Bradley Weng, and myself to form that team. It’s something I’m very proud of because it directly involves the second part of that quote - the feeling that the best is over.

Working in the New Media Incubator has given me such experience that I now feel confident that I can write in a real-work environment. All the interns feel that way in pursuit of their own career goals after working in the Inc. Everyone worked extremely hard this semester. The next group of interns will find that being in this space breeds innovation, creativity, collaboration and competition (which I’ll get to). So, there is no way the best is over. The best is yet to come for the Inc. For any students wanting to work here, I cannot recommend it more.

I see the Inc. eventually becoming its own thing outside of Wright State in the years to come - not just the space underground before you to Dunbar Library - able to stand on its own with reverence.

Dr. Ashley Hall and Dr. Jennifer Ware couldn’t have been better mentors for us and they’ll continue in that role as the Inc. co-directors. If you want to get in on something near the ground floor this is the place to be.

And as I made mention with the word competition, this place encourages it. Writing this post will be my 15th and final one. With each word I am adding to my word count, now creeping over 16, 000. From what google tells me, that’s as long as a novella.

Before I leave you with another quote by another American icon, runner Steve Prefontaine, meant to light the fire and challenge whoever replaces me as the writer for this awesome space; let me say this – thank you Dr. Hall, Dr. Ware, Anthony, Amanda, Abby, and Brad. You all are great and I felt like we all raised the bar for the next group. Good luck to whoever that is, you’ll enjoy working here.

Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.

 

The Many Hats of Amanda Harris

26 April 2018 By Max Milligan main 0 Comments

Amanda Harris wears a lot of hats. Viola player. Guitar hero. Brainstorming magnet. But her two most recent endeavors might be her most meaningful yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harris is a senior finishing up her Communication Studies degree. That major is what led her to taking and excelling in a class taught by Dr. Ashley Hall. But it was Harris’ French minor and semester ending project that proved to be the catalyst for her recruitment as an intern.

 

“I was recruited based on my final project for the Digital Media and Writing class. At least I like to think that’s why I was recruited. [The project] deals with how we teach foreign language here at Wright State. When I was doing that final project I really wanted to trouble the rote learning we use surrounding foreign language. It’s kind of like memorize, regurgitate, and then forget it. And there’s not a huge focus on foreign language. That’s something I really wanted to look at and change. The New Media Incubator could actually help with that.”

 

Harris is collaboratively in-tune with Jean-Michel Lamoine in the French department having been a student under his tutelage. “He’s just a great instructor. He’s hilarious,” said Harris.

 

This close connection between the two allowed her to broach the topic of collaboration. Talking about budgets affecting Wright State, Harris and Jean Michel noted that it was especially hindering the foreign language department.

 

“We were comparing the American students to French students, because in other countries – especially European countries – it’s strongly encouraged to learn a second language. We were just kind of talking like, ‘Why is that?’ and we just ended up collaborating. I was like, ‘Well, I am going to write this paper and I have a really cool idea…’ So he just ended up working with me and giving me the okay. He was just like, ‘Yeah, definitely use my classes as a kind of guinea pig.’ ”

 

A lot of research was completed by Harris before her complex, intensive project would unfurl within the Inc. confines. Anxiety swelled up within Harris in the days before the French students would arrive. But her steadfast refusal to succumb to that stress, along with an unshakeable belief in the overlap of academic disciplines, proved too strong to disturb.

 

“I think it’s important for students to learn a variety of different things. That’s why I chose a communication track because it gives you such a breadth of knowledge. Intersectionality is something personally that I’m very interested in,” Harris said. “You can apply skills like knowing how to operate [the Inc. studio] cameras. You never know when you’re going to need a skill. Even if you have a basic understanding of [Adobe] Premiere, it’s not a complicated program. I have tried to learn those skills and pass it on to the French students.”

 

Incredibly, Harris felt she was essentially a novice at the outset of her internship in regards to using the video-editing software Adobe Premiere, the studio, and its control room all located in the Inc. Like always, she learned as much she could from an instructor (Dr. Jennifer Ware) and on her own, emboldened by an inquisitive mind. And while Harris says that she’s still by no means a master using these various types of equipment, her skills and knowledge have expanded so much that she taught her French students to use the equipment themselves.

 

“For foreign language specifically, the project I oversaw, deals with [French students] final presentations. There’s one for the 1010 classes, one for the 1020. The 1010 [students] were recording short biographies about themselves entirely in French. And the 1020 [students] were encouraged to work in group of three to five people and they did just a short skit [in French]. They had complete creative license in that. One of my favorites was the Family Feud [skit], the French version of Family Feud,” Harris smirked. “And beyond that they were also learning French while also learning all these editing skills with [Adobe] Premiere, [learning] how the studio works. By their third and fourth recording sessions they were, ‘Okay. Let’s get mic’d.’ They knew the process and I think that’s an important part in the intersection of different disciplines is knowing how everything works.”

 

A lot of Harris’ research is primarily concerned with is Higher Pathway learning which investigates rote learning – memorization, regurgitation of information, and then forgetting it once the test is over.

 

“There’s always going to be students just looking for their grade, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone’s not going to be like, ‘Yes, French!’ or ‘Yes, Spanish!’ or ‘Yes, German!’ There’s always going to be students using that as stepping stone towards getting their degree. But as for the positives there are tons. I’ve witnessed students that in the beginning of the semester their pronunciation wasn’t good or maybe - especially for the 1020 students - weren’t necessarily engaged in 1010. But now they’re like, ‘Wow. I’m learning so much more this semester.’ And I like to think that I helped a little bit in that and that the Inc. helped especially.”

 

Harris started in the orchestra in the fourth grade playing the viola. She can read music but mostly plays everything by ear. Her musical diversity has expanded enough that she can now play guitar, a little bit of drums, a little bit of piano, and a little bit of base. Her two main instruments are guitar and viola. From 2010 to 2012 was in a band.

 

“Anything with strings I can kinda figure it out,” said Harris.

 

The innate ability to expand her repertoire has allowed Harris to try on a new hat in a producer-like role. This semester she has come to know Tarik Woods. Woods is a student at Wright State. Along with a team of fellow students, he has been filming a talk show, Words with Woods, inside the Inc. studio.

 

“[What] I’m very interested in is covert and overt racism. And Tarik spends a lot of time interviewing young, black Americans. He does want to branch out into a variety of other topics and other people he’d like to interview. For me, it’s very important we give people a voice, marginalized groups. And I think the Incubator is a perfect space to do that.”

 

Now Harris has increased her contribution to Woods’ show to be almost like a manager. She started out by just making sure Woods and his team was using the equipment properly but now is trying to enlarge his platform. “He’s super, super talented with a super talented team. He wants to touch on some topics that are close to my heart that I’m very passionate about.”

Collaboration is instinctive in Harris. Perhaps it’s due to her musical background? Being a springboard for ideas is something she loves.

 

Abby [Umstead] usually comes to me a lot and says ‘I have this idea. Let me talk to you about it’ and I say ‘Okay, lay it on me.’ Anthony [Davis] will come to me every now and then. It’s usually with character voices,” Harris laughed. “And they’re always hilarious. It’s just a creative space and that’s what I like to do - create ideas.”

When asked about how it’s been working under Dr. Hall and Dr. Ware, Harris can’t help but provide some of her own levity. “Awful,” Harris cackles. “No. I’ve worked at a lot of places. I’ve worked for good people. I’ve worked for bad bosses. They are absolutely the best people I have ever worked for. They care about what you’re doing. They care about what other people are doing. And they’re excited about it - they’re realistic about it - but they’re excited about it.”

 

Harris hopes to expand her already impressive academic resume by going to graduate school, possibly studying digital media and digital rhetoric. “Just because the things that our co-directors Dr. Ware and Dr. Hall do right now, those are the things I want to do because those are things for me that matter. I want to create these deeper levels of understanding in students.”

Amanda Harris has already proven she can hit the right notes in music, her collaboration with Jean-Michel, her brainstorming sessions in the Inc., and her important work with Tarik Woods.  Next on her list: composing her masterpiece.

The Voice of Anthony Davis

25 April 2018 By Max Milligan main 0 Comments

What should you do when you need an outlet to channel your creativity? Speak in voices not your own or work in The New Media Incubator (Inc.)? Anthony Davis does both.

 

Davis is a junior at Wright State in the process of getting his English degree with a Creative Writing focus. He first encountered the Inc. attending co-director Dr. Ashley Hall’s Digital Media and Writing class. “I just fell in love with the space when we were in here during that class,” said Davis.



Davis previously worked a job on campus with a title he only remembers being called “student worker.” Although he was paid, and fairly well at that, to him there is no comparison between that position and working at the Inc.



 “I’ve loved being an intern here. [The campus job] was an office job. It was pretty much the antithesis of my creatively driven brain. I haven’t gotten paid at all to be here at the Inc. but I’ve been happier in doing my day-to-day work. ”



As the interns, directors, and the casual bystander in the Inc. can attest, Davis is always doing voices of some kind. This creative drive swirls around his brain and manifests itself even during the most mundane of tasks or days. Inhabitants of the Inc. have come to the realization they might be addressed by a Scottish character if the mood calls for it. The galvanizing moment in Davis’ life when he realized his talent for voices could be a career occurred close to three years ago surfing around YouTube.



“I found a show called Critical Role on Twitch TV that is still going every Thursday night. And it’s a group of professional voice actors that took their home game of Dungeon and Dragons and put it on Twitch for people to watch. I love fantasy and they’re such amazing storytellers but through that show I discovered that voice acting was a career that I could be doing. It was something that I have been kind of doing myself, not even as a hobby, just something that I would do like a tic almost. I would just make voices and talk to myself because I didn’t have many other kids in my neighborhood growing up. So, a lot of the time I was by myself playing,” said Davis. “This show was really kind of an epiphany for me that this was a career that you could have specifically, not just say Alec Baldwin being in Boss Baby like a big time Hollywood actor just taking a break from being in front of the camera. There are people whose entire job, who have an enormous list of IMDB credits, is just using their voice. They never show up on camera. That’s just incredibly appealing to me.”



Working in the Inc. affords Davis the chance to learn aspects of audio and visual production that goes into making his hopes and dreams a reality.



“I have aspirations to do work in this type of field. I want to be a voice actor specifically learning all the different kinds of equipment and learning how things happen behind the scenes. It’s both fascinating and rewarding for me.”



In high school and middle school Davis created fan-made music video edits. “I learned how to balance audio from the original footage and music, being able to cut in between the two to create a more cinematic effect.” Davis worked on a few student films in high school as well. “Of course we didn’t have any real high-tech equipment, [like] most of that stuff I’ve been introduced to in the Inc. I’ve learned how to use [mobile] mics here. I’ve learned how to set up boom mics connected directly to the soundboard. I’ve used the cameras to a certain extent.”



While audio expertise is not even close to the only reason Davis was recruited to the Inc., it was a factor. Davis was confronted almost immediately with an audio problem affecting a video for The Greentree Group the team was working on.



“Dr. [Jennifer] Ware told me, ‘We’re working on this 25th anniversary video and our sound is messed up. Go fix it.’ ”After the initial pressure Davis was feeling, in addition to being a newly minted intern, he eventually solved the problem. “I also did some voice over for that video as well as helping with a little bit of the behind the scenes post-production part of it.”



Davis works on many of projects in the Inc. like providing voice work for students in Dr. Hall’s Digital Media and Writing class or advising them in creation of their own content. When Wright Brothers Institute and Wright Patterson recruited the Inc. to craft a promotional video for the Air Force Commander’s Challenge, Davis looked through creative commons, public domain, and open-source materials to find just the right audio or sound effect clips.



“I’ve worked as basically a royalty-free sound scavenger,” mused Davis.



“I just generally keep the Inc. running like all of us do. I just lend a hand here and there. I’m pretty much willing to do anything they need me to do,” said Davis. Davis has had involvement in many projects he doesn’t mention by name because he remains humble and doesn’t want to take what he describes as undeserved credit. Obviously, being the resident voice and sound guy – another designation he avoids laying claim to – his contribution is integral to the Inc. His contribution also extends past the tangible because he just generally lightens up the environment with his demeanor and light-hearted humor. Davis feels the same about those he works with.



“I’ve never had a job before where I liked literally everyone that I work with. It’s so easy here. There’s no tension, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like I’m coming here and hanging out with my friends and doing these projects that are fun to me.”



The gratitude of good feelings Davis has given and experienced goes up a notch bordering on reverence when discussing the impact Dr. Hall and Dr. Ware have had on him. “I can’t ever express how grateful I am to both of them. So many doors have been opened up. I feel like I don’t know what I ever did to deserve it – infinite gratitude,” admired Davis. “They’re the first people that have taken my aspirations seriously and really believed that I could achieve them.”



So, does Davis think the Inc. is an essential component of Wright State in practical terms outside of the mutual admiration society? “Absolutely. Because this space is really the catalyst for me really believing I could actually do the things I want to do. This place is my first taste of creative success, creative fulfillment. And it’s really been an incredible driving force of positivity and hopefulness for me for the future. I just hope more people become aware that we’re here, more people come in and realize that they can do things they didn’t know they could do like I did. I hope [the Inc.] gets to become little more of a household name at Wright State and more people learn about us, so that more people come in here and more people get the same sort of valuable experience that I’ve gotten here.”



Hearing Davis speak it’s clear as Bermuda waves that the Inc. has made his career aspirations close enough to touch. The kid who loved Lord of the Rings and Avatar: The Last Airbender hopes to inspire those with his own voice now that he’s an adult.



“I love being in character. I love the idea of creating something that might mean as much to somebody else as some of the things I grew up with –some of the fictional properties – that I grew up with meant to me,” wondered Davis. “Being a part of and creating something that can mean something to someone like me when I was a kid it pretty much what keeps me going.”



The light and voices Anthony Davis brings are infectious. The New Media Incubator knows it. So will generations to come.



Just listen, like he did.

 

The Unplanned Legacy of Abigail Umstead

13 April 2018 By Max Milligan main 0 Comments

 

Tom Hanks brought Abigail Umstead to the New Media Incubator.

Abigail Umstead

 

On April 19, 2016 the iconic actor came to Wright State to dedicate the ‘Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures.’ Yet after this dedication Umstead would be given a glimpse of the work space that would provide her with one of the best experiences of her life. And weirdly enough it’s located impossibly close to the ‘Hanks building – just underground.

“I was there when Tom Hanks came to the University to talk, and almost in the same breath, I watched his presentation outside of the Tom Hanks building. And then I went to class and my teacher at the time, Ray Marcano, was like, ‘Tom Hanks is doing all this cool stuff. But also there is the New Media Incubator (Inc.), we’re gonna go down and see it.’ So, [the Advanced News Writing class] went down pretty much as soon as it opened,” said Umstead. “It was really cool from the beginning.”

Little did Umstead know but she would be working as intern in the Inc. two years later.

Umstead, a senior, is getting ready to graduate with a degree in Mass Communication and a minor in French. But she was struggling to find three credit hours to fulfill her degree.

“I didn’t really want to take some random class. I wanted to do something I knew would have meaning. So, I was asking for advice and Dr. [Ashley] Hall was like, ‘Actually, one of our interns is leaving. We could use you,’ ” Umstead said thankfully. Dr. Hall gave Umstead a few days to think it over but that wasn’t needed. “Pretty much as soon as the words came out of her mouth I was like, ‘Yeah. That’s what I’m going to do.’ ”

Hannah Baird was the intern Umstead would be replacing and they happened to be friends, so the connection to the Inc. was already firm. It didn’t hurt that Umstead had taken media related courses under Dr. Hall and the other director of the space, Dr. Jennifer Ware.

An introductory news writing course with Dr. Hall is where Umstead first gained an affinity for media related work.

“[Basic Media Writing] was my first kind of taste of media anything. I’ve always been kind of tech savvy. All my family members come to me for, ‘How does this work on my phone? How do I do this on my computer?’ Getting my first hands on experience working in the media [was in that class],” Umstead said.

Umstead works at the Inc. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And quite frequently opens up the space those three days. “A lot of times I have people sitting outside the door waiting to checkout cameras. That probably takes up the first half-hour to hour of my day,” said Umstead.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her involvement at the Inc. Her average day is never average. Umstead says she is always learning something new. And she feels there is no doubt that the experience she is accruing at the Inc. is going to benefit her exponentially in regards to her career goals.

“I can say that I’ve done a lot more here than I’ve ever done. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of experience I’ve accumulated in the last several months from working with people to networking with businesses. I met the mayor of Beaver Creek last week,” Umstead said appreciatively. “I found out I can actually talk to people in a business-like setting, which is something I’ve never gotten to experience up close before. That was really cool. I’ve also learned a lot about myself as well. I found a lot of confidence in my own leadership skills and team-working skills. For me that is probably the biggest take-away, at least so far. I’ve found the best way for me to lead and get us to where we need to go to get to the finish line.”

Besides establishing a precedent for her own self confidence in dealing with the business world, Umstead is working on a great deal of other projects too, including a promotional video for Wright Patterson Air Force Base, among other things.

“I kind of have my hand in a little bit of everything. I kind of dip my toe in all the projects.  A couple months ago we were working on the project for Wright Patt. Right now we’re working on a video for an advertising business. There are a lot of things [I’m working on]. I’m working on a poster that’s not yet finished. It’ll kind of establish the essence of the Inc.,”said Umstead. “I help with recording in the studio. I’ve hosted presentations. I’ve taught training sessions for using the cameras. Anywhere from yellow to red, green to blue, I’ve pretty much had my hand in it. It’s really awesome.”

The desire for video production was instilled in classes taught by Dr. Ware. Umstead said she loved learning from Dr. Ware due to her teaching style and knowledge.

The Inc. is a space where passion is required to complete tasks according to Umstead. It helps to have other interns with their own unique passions willing to raise the creative threshold.

“I find my niche sitting down, editing a video or brainstorming with team members to come up with ideas for projects. Those are the two things I really look forward to. And the great part is those have to be done almost every day. I feel like I’m always bouncing ideas off of someone or something new we could be trying.”

It’s this collaboration that causes Umstead to reverentially think of what the Inc. has become and the work that’s imperative to fully establish what it could be.

“I want people outside the circle we have created here to know what we are and what we do. We’re here to make things happen no matter how hard it is. I think what we do here is great. I walk into this space - and I know this is true for some other people I have spoken to about it - but I walk into this space and I want to work. I want to learn and to collaborate and brainstorm,” Umstead said. “Sometimes I sit there and I’m like, ‘What else can I be doing right now? What new ideas can I come up with?’ ”

If someone were to ask Umstead if they should become an intern she does not hesitate in her forceful response. “I would say yes. Absolutely. It’s the best thing I have done. I would say this is probably the best thing I have done in my college career. I have learned a lot. I have met a lot of people. And I have gained so many opportunities just from being here.”

While Umstead may paint a picture of paradise in a basement she is also realist. The Inc. may be a space for potential interns to gain a wealth of experience, knowledge, and mental endorphins; it is also a place that requires a deep commitment to work.

“Stay on top of your stuff,” laughed Umstead as she offered words of wisdom to incoming interns.

“No one manages the schedule for you around here. You have to do it yourself and rightfully so, I think. And always be willing to learn. I don’t think that there’s a day I have not been learning something new,” admired Umstead.I really see a bright future for this space as long as people are willing to put in the work. And so far everyone has been willing to put in the work and then some. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. If I didn’t have to leave I wouldn’t. Hopefully I can come back and see what’s what in the future.”

Just like the blue building with Tom Hanks name on it, Abigail Umstead is hoping to leave a legacy through her work. She’s well on her way.

 

Opportunity at Wright State Through Ray Marcano

08 April 2018 By Max Milligan main 0 Comments

Opportunity is everywhere and it’s malleable. Ray Marcano found that out enduring failure in high school and enjoying success years later as president of an acclaimed national organization. You just have to be willing to work. 

Ray Marcano photo

 

Many Wright State students know Marcano as the guy who teaches Advanced Media Writing, Public Relations, and sounds eerily similar to Barack Obama. But when he was just a student himself at the famous High School of Music and Art in New York he was a dedicated musician with hopes of playing professionally. Being around other talented musicians issued him a harsh reality check.

 

“I would’ve been a really bad musician,” Marcano said with a frank smirk. “When I was there seeing how the other students in class were doing I knew that I just didn’t have that kind of talent. So, I needed to look for something else. I had a teacher encourage me to try journalism because at the time she thought I had some potential as a writer.”

 

Greater Dayton, the Fourth Estate, and Wright State students would be the beneficiary of that vocational change. Before arriving in Ohio, Marcano would make a stop in West Chester, New York working out of an “old-style” composing room at 17 and then going to a couple newspapers in Oklahoma. Eventually he landed in Dayton becoming a reporter for Dayton Daily News covering Minority Affairs, later migrating to the Social Services beat and then to Health and Medicine.

 

“The Health and Medicine beat was my favorite. I had an opportunity to actually go into operating rooms and watch doctors operate,” said Marcano. “I had an opportunity to cover a number of the bigger stories in medicine in the area. To me it was the most fun I’ve had as a reporter.”

 

Marcano educated himself on the complex issue of health and medicine by extensively reading about it. The stories intent wasn’t focused on the scientific perspective but instead on the personal.

 

“What I decided to do was I wanted to cover health and medicine from the consumer’s standpoint. What do they need to know? What information do they need?”

 

Marcano enjoyed the thrill of what seeing his name in print meant – accomplishment. The fast pace of journalism is also something that appealed to him. “There is not a THING I didn’t like about it,” Marcano said. “Was it stressful at times? Yes. Did you have to make sure you got every word and everything right? Yes. But there was not one thing I could complain about my time as a reporter. Or in journalism for that matter.”

 

As his skill reached the peak of the profession, Marcano was chosen to lead The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) as president. Besides the prestige, which is substantial, the SPJ represents the intangible qualities of the Fourth Estate which journalists touch with their soul.

 

“[The SPJ] fights for the First Amendment. It fights for the rights of free speech. Free speech as it pertains to the First Amendment and what newspapers and media companies write. And I thought to be elected to that position was an amazing honor and an amazing privilege. When you get to lead a national organization of that stature to me it was just mind blowing I had that opportunity,” Marcano reverentially said.

 

A thirty year career with Cox Media Group numerically shows Marcano’s success. It ended as he split time in Atlanta and Dayton running the company’s national content desk. This long run with the company caused Marcano to want to drive down another road.

 

“I was ready for something new.”

 

He chose to teach.

 

“I had always been intrigued by teaching. That is why I went back to school and got my masters,” Marcano allowed. “When the opportunity became available at Wright State it just dovetailed very nicely with my career. I already had thirty years at Cox [Media Group]. I knew that teaching was something that I wanted to do. It all came together.”

 

A social media class, public relations online, and an Advanced Media Writing class are some of what he teaches. Marcano uses his vast experience instructing all his students. The Advanced Media Writing class is run like a newsroom. It has had multiple iterations. Earlier on each student reporter was required to write nine to 10 stories a semester with a wide range of topic available. But in the 2017 Fall semester he changed the format so students only had to write four stories. Yet they had to be longer and there was just one topic to be covered – poverty.

 

“I wanted people to tackle more meaty and challenging subjects. Prior to that it was ‘go out and write about whatever you wanted in your community.’ That actually served a great purpose because a lot of businesses and a lot of places we wrote about never got any publicity. But the purpose of changing it was to delve into some more meatier topics that would require some better interviewing techniques and some better reporting techniques. It would give a better more well-rounded experience for the students. Not only that – it would also give them a better body of work they could take out when they were looking for their first job and they would have a better portfolio.”

 

His concern for students - evidenced by his reference for a better portfolio – even after they graduate is somewhat unique. But he feels so strongly about it that he helps find them internships through himself and Wright State.

 

“I have a lot of students that come to me and ask for advice on the types of internships that they should pursue,” Marcano said, “And I always tell them the same thing, ‘Make sure you know what you want to do. Make sure that it dovetails with your career aspirations and once you understand that and know that, then chances are I can help you find something.’”

 

Marcano also aids his students in finding their career aspirations by using his most basic journalistic skill: he asks a lot of questions.

 

Lately though the decline of newspapers and general downtrodden state of journalism as a career weigh on the minds of many. Marcano recognizes that outlook but actually sees opportunity.

 

“Clearly there aren’t as many jobs in journalism as there used to be, just like there aren’t as many jobs in factories as there used to be. There are still jobs available in journalism; actually there are quite a few jobs available in journalism. What I would tell [students]. ‘If you really want to be a journalist don’t give up on your dream. You may have to adjust your salary expectations,” Marcano smiles. “’But don’t give up on your dream.’ There’s lots of places that you can go to work especially if you’re not afraid to move out of town.”

 

As for those who question the state of journalism because of “fake news,” Marcano says they’re wrong and uninformed.

 

“I don’t think there’s a fake news epidemic. I think there’s an epidemic of people claiming there is fake news. All they’re doing is using the term fake news to label something they don’t like. And it’s not fake news. It’s news. But they just don’t like it so they call it fake. And I think that one of the greatest threats to our democracy is when you have the Fourth Estate under attack by people for their own personal benefit.”

 

Recently, the format changed once again for Marcano’s Advanced Media Writing class. The topic is a direct result of the negativity fermenting in such things as “fake news” as well as a general disillusionment.

 

“Kindness. The idea came to me for kindness because it seems to me, and maybe it’s just me, we’re in a place in this country where all we’re hearing [or] a lot of times we’re hearing: negative information, negative news about what’s going on in various parts of our country, what’s coming out of Washington, what’s going on in the world. And it just occurred to me that a lot of people forget – by and large – people are very, very kind,” said Marcano. “It’s a way to remind people despite everything that’s going on around us there’s a lot of good in the world.”

 

Kindness is apparent in Marcano as he mentions the prime reason why he enjoys teaching.

 

“The ability to help [students] grow. The ability to watch them as they do something they never thought they could do. And the ability to help them along either in internships or jobs as they graduate.”

 

Opportunity may be everywhere. Kindness may be more prevalent than previously thought. But it’s truly remarkable when a person, who has enjoyed so much success himself through hard work, offers both to others.

Game Studies - A New Wrinkle in Academia

29 March 2018 By Max Milligan main 0 Comments

A poet, philosopher once laid bare a profound insight which portended towards illumination in the minds of those who heard it. But before we get to that, let’s talk about some incredible things happening in the Inc.

File:Video-Game-Controller-Icon-IDV-edit-dark.svg

 

The Inc. is a setting for collaboration and a breeding ground for learning. It’s an environment where videos are produced at the behest of Wright Patterson Air Force Base. It’s a place where momentous workshops unfold. It’s a space where alumni come to speak of their journey after college. And it’s an area where Game Studies is growing from seed to full bloom scholarship.

The “game” in Game Studies is heavily influenced by video games. Normally, this might not be an area of study considered to be in conjunction with academic thought, yet that notion is vastly changing. Video games have evolved from arcades to personal console systems to smart phones all the way to virtual and augmented reality. So, if the very nature of reality is now getting a rebooted definition thanks to the ancestors of Pong, Pac-Man, Mario, and most recently, The Last Dragonborn; then surely Game Studies is an apt area for academia to plant its flag.

Greyson Sanders is pioneering this field of study as an intern and graduate student. He’s been doing it mainly within the confines of the Inc. But recently Sanders (along with directors of the Inc. Dr. Ashley Hall and Dr. Jennifer Ware) went to Kansas City, Missouri to expand his already expansive knowledge of video games and scholarship. He is eager to see how the two intermingle within the modern world in an educational context.

So, if you’re curious to see how video games have shaped and continue to influence the world in a contemporary context, then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check out Greyson Sanders’ Game Studies blog along with the occasional post by Dr. Ashley Hall.

It’s obvious this is a crucial new wrinkle in education waiting to unfold. And as the aforementioned poet, philosopher Vin Diesel once said about video games in the cinematic masterpiece xXx (1:28-1:54):

It’s the only education we got.