Monday, October 29, 2007

Week 2 Transcript Online

The transcript from last week's live Skype chat with In Your Face author Shari Graydon is now online. You can view it at:

Caution: Answers to the accompanying quiz are included in the transcript!

Thanks again to homeschoolers Meg and Azi, along with their mom, Resa, for joining us!

report on Canzine and more from Hal

Hi everyone out there, Hal Niedzviecki here. This week we're going to talk about how pop culture works and why you should make your own movies, tv shows, songs, magazines and more.

Yesterday my magazine broken pencil put on our annual festival Canzine, the festival of underground culture, and it was a really great reminder of how much amazing creativity is out there. Hundreds of zines (independent mini-magazines), all day independent short film, comics, buttons, homemade clothing and more.

Next year, I want to see your work at Canzine too! So, if you have any questions about the ideas in my book The Big Book of Pop Culture: A How To Guide for Young Artists, feel free to ask. I'm here to talk to you about how pop culture works in our society and how to approach the not-as-big-as-you-think task of making your own stuff!

LIVEbrary Lesson Plan #3: D.I.Y. Zines

LIVEbrary Lesson Plan #3
DIY ZINES: Your Own Pop Culture Machine

(for a colorful, downloadable PDF version, click here)

Media Awareness
Age Range: 9-13
Grade Level: 4-8

- Reading
- Assignment
- Quiz
- Discussion Questions


"Pop Culture and Zines"
an excerpt from the book
The Big Book of Pop Culture:
A How-To Guide for Young Artists

by Hal Niedzviecki,
editor of Broken Pencil magazine.
Published by Annick Press.
Reprinted here with permission.

~ Who Cares? ~

Ever feel like you just don't care? I mean, you're watching
TV or flipping through a magazine and you realize that you
really don't care: about what celebrities are wearing, or
how many cylinders this year's sports car has, or what
grisly crime is going to be solved by a bunch of hunky
detectives in designer outfits.

Sometimes it seems as if there's this whole world of pop
culture that tells you what to care about but has nothing
whatsoever to do with your life.

At the same time, we are constantly told that we should be
original and creative and fantastic. But how did being
original and fantastic come to mean talking about stuff
that we don't care about and pretending to solve outlandish
crimes while keeping our hair perfectly gelled? What's so
great about that?

Pop culture bombards us with stories, songs, shows, movies,
and products that tell us to be ourselves and tap into our
creativity and talent. But when we are creative and
original, we find out that no one is interested unless
we're doing the same stuff as everyone else.

Unless you're trying out for the latest reality TV singing
show, no one wants you on TV. Unless you're some wild and
wacky character with an amazing gimmick, you don't get any
attention. But what if you don't want to be totally brand
new and ultracool and original? What if you just want to be

Creativity is often confused with originality. But when you
create, the challenge isn't to think of something no one
has ever done before; it's to figure out what you want to
say and why you want to say it. Creativity is about
discovering who you are, including how much like other
people you are.

This is a book about creating a space where you get to say
what you care about. This is a book about using pop culture
to communicate how you see the world and how you want the
world to see you. You'll learn how to use pop culture to
create your own TV shows, magazines, websites, songs --
whatever you want.

A lot of people seem to think that just being who they are
isn't interesting enough. But you have the right to be
normal, you have the right to make mistakes, and you have
the right to not want to be a superstar. And most important
of all, you have the right to create your own pop culture
your way, for yourself.

Even if no one ever hears our songs, reads our zines, or
watches our movies, expressing ourselves just because we
feel like it is something we all have the right to do.

So what are you going to do?

~ Broken Pencil ~

I started my own magazine in 1995. I called it "Broken
Pencil" and it's still publishing today. The magazine is
all about how much I love independent pop culture -- zines,
blogs, movies, music, websites, and more.

When I started the magazine, I had only the slightest idea
about how many people were doing creative things and wanted
to share them. Now, people I've worked on the magazine with
are some of my best friends. And I've met creators from all
over the world who produce amazing comics, video games,
music and zines -- stuff I'd never have known about if I
hadn't decided to just go ahead and do something.

What I did wasn't all that amazing, or even original. But
it was what I wanted to do. Because it meant a lot to me, I
worked hard at it and kept it going, and eventually it
started to mean something to other people too. Not because
I'm such an original genius, but because we need, in our
world, more places where people can be creative -- where we
can express ourselves -- without feeling all kinds of

So this book is part of what I started years ago, when I
wasn't that much older than you are now. And even after all
those years, I still need to be reminded that pop culture
isn't just a way to talk about the rich and famous. There's
another kind of pop culture out there -- the kind I started
my magazine to celebrate. It's a pop culture that lets you
share your stories and ideas with people all over the

Not that anyone cares.

But then again, you never know.

~ What's a Zine? ~

A "zine" (pronounced "zeen") is an easy format to self-
publish in. It is basically a mini-magazine. Drop the
"maga" from magazine and you've got zine.

Zines are usually published cheaply in photocopied editions
of a couple of hundred, and they are generally the personal
project of one or two people. Zines aren't made for profit,
but as a way to get ideas and stories out into the world.

Zines developed in the 1930s as a way for science fiction
fans to share their enthusiasm about sci-fi books.
Originally, these mini-magazines were called "fanzines,"
because they were self-produced by fans of sci-fi.

Since then, zines have shrugged off the "fan" label and
developed a reputation as a no-holds-barred format for
publishing. These days, some people publish zines online in
website or "webzine" format. Today, the world of zines
includes webzines, blogs, e-diaries, and other forms of
online publishing.

~ Why Start a Zine? ~

Practically ever since the written word was invented,
people have been using it to get out their feelings, ideas,
and points of view. From the 16th Century on, politicians,
economists, poets, comic artists, journalists, activists,
and philosophers have self-published everything from big
statements on the rights of humanity to fad diets
guaranteed to promote eternal life to guidebooks on the
best way to use your car's engine for cooking your dinner.

These days, with all those TV shows and movies and video
games out there, printing your own self-published zines and
even books might not seem like the coolest method of
starting your D.I.Y. Pop Culture career. But rest assured,
you are taking your place in a time-honored tradition of
freethinkers, rabble-rousers, and dreamers.

There are all kinds of ways to self-publish. Zines -- which
are generally photocopied -- are the easiest to start with.
But you can also self-publish newspapers, comics, webzines,
even books. It depends on what you want to achieve and what
your budget is, of course.

One day you might graduate to starting your own full-color,
glossy magazine. Or you might want to publish a monthly
community newspaper. You might even decide to collect all
the comic strips you've published in your various zines
over the years and publish them in a book.

All those things are possible, but they are hard work. So
why self-publish?

I've got one word for you: freedom. More than any other
independent pop culture medium, self-publishing lets you
create quickly, easily, and without a lot of complicated
technology. If you want to, you can make a zine entirely
from stuff you already have in your house. And to get
started you don't need computers or any kind of electronic
devices at all.

In short, putting out your own magazines, comics,
pamphlets, or wild and crazy thoughts on everything from
garden gnomes to girl-guy relations is relatively easy, a
lot of fun, and a great way to show off how fascinating you

# # #

Copyright ©2007 by Hal Niedzviecki. Excerpted from the book,
"The Big Book of Pop Culture: A How-To Guide for Young
Artists," Published by Annick Press, ISBN 9781554510566
(library binding), ISBN 9781554510559 (paperback).
Reprinted with permission. For more information, please visit Thank you.


Classroom F.P.O.

"F.P.O." stand for "Free Press Organization," a way of
making zines that became popular in the politically-charged
1960s. Here's how it works:
  • Your classroom is going to publish a group zine.

  • Everybody gets two standard-size pages they can use any way they want -- or two sides of one page.

  • You can tell a story, write a poem, draw a picture, make a collage, mash things together, make a puzzle, draw cool-looking fractals, anything.

  • You can cut up old magazines, or print stuff you find on the Internet, or use color and texture and debris. Just remember, your final pages will be photocopied, so much of the color and all of the texture will be lost -- unless you put the color or texture on *after* each copy gets printed.

  • On Friday (or whatever day your teacher specifies) everyone hands in their two pages. You might want to put your name on each page -- it gets a little crazy after this.

  • Next, one person or a team is designated to make enough copies of every page for every person. If you have 25 people in your classroom, you need to make 25 copies of each page. Now you know why so many zinesters get started using the copy machine where they work or where their parents work!

  • Next, a person or team needs to "collate" the photocopied pages. That is, you put the pages in order to make complete zines. Collating parties can be noisy, raucous affairs with everyone passing sheets of paper in a circle. Sometimes you don't want everything in perfect order, so you might turn a page upside down or "shuffle the deck" and assemble the pages out of order.

  • Next, a person or team needs to "bind" the pages into a zine. You can do this with a stapler, a paper clip, tape along the binding, comb-binding, 3-hole punch and put in a binder, tuck in the pocket of a portfolio folder, twine, sew the binding, use ribbon -- whatever seems right.

  • Next comes "distribution," the bane of so many small publishers, but in your case it's easy. One person or a team is selected to hand out one copy of the finished zine to every contributor. Your can make extra copies if you want -- for teachers, parents, the library, or for sale. But a true F.P.O. is sent only to those people who participate.

  • Now you can have a publication party. Everyone gets a chance to admire everyone else's work in the finished zine. You can pass around copies for each other to sign.
Many F.P.O.s are published this way every month. Everyone
who subscribes by sending in money for copying and mailing
costs gets 2 or more pages each month. You have to have
your pages in by, say, the 20th, and then copies are made,
collated, bound, and mailed by the end of the month.

Some F.P.O.s get a little out of control, with people
trading their unused pages to other subscribers. Sometimes
people amass a huge number of pages to publish a single,
long piece of work. Some people subscribe to get the zine,
but never contribute pages. When people stop sending stuff
in -- or the editor gets tired of all the copying and
mailing -- the zine is over. Some F.P.O.s have lasted for
decades as a way to share members' works with each other.


NOTE: Quiz answers are available to teachers upon request from Quiz answers will be revealed during the live Skype Chats and made a part of the Skype Chat Transcripts.

1) Multiple Choice: What does the term "collate" mean?
A. To put into order.
B. You and a friend came in late together.
C. To rub charcoal on a drawing.

2) Matching. Match the letter/term with the number of the best definition for that term.

A. magazine
B. fanzine
C. webzine
D. zine
E. blog

1. an early form of zine put together by sci-fi buffs
2. an online publishing platform often used as a diary
3. a self-published micro publication, often handmade
4. a glossy, full-color publication sold on newsstands
5. an online publication, sometimes called an "ezine"

3) Multiple Choice: Which of the following is NOT a popular method self-publishers use to distribute their zines?
A. Hand-delivered.
B. Delivered by mail.
C. Put on the counter or rack at a store.
D. FedEx next morning overnight delivery

4) True or False. You must have permission from the copyright holder to use artwork from magazines in your own zine?

5) Multiple Choice: What does F.P.O. stand for?
A. Freedom to Publish Often
B. First Push "On"
C. Free Press Organization
D. Freeland Polytechnic Oddatorium

  • Can you name some famous documents that were self-published? "The Communist Manifesto" was self-published and changed the world. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" was self-published; many people credit it with sparking the American Revolution. Ask your librarian for help finding famous works that were self-published and learn enough about one of them to share with the class.

  • When is it okay to use artwork or text you find on the Internet in your own projects? When is it not okay?

  • Tell the class about a zine you found. That's right -- not a zine you made or bought but one you found. The library is probably the easiest place to find a zine. Grocery stores often have free literature racks near the entrance with health & fitness zines or used-car zines or buy-sell-trade zines. Bookstores have lots of zines -- but you can't buy your zine -- you have to find it. So look for the free "litmags" at the entrance to the bookstore. Another great way to find zines is to stroll the neighborhood on recycling day. Talk about the unusual places and strange zines people discover on their free zine hunt.

  • What is the difference between "creativity" and "originality"? Can you give examples of each? What's so great about being creative? What's so great about being original?

  • Do you think anyone will ever notice or care about what you write online or see the images you post on the Internet? Would you feel uncomfortable if you knew people were looking at your blog, but you didn't know who they were? Do you think it's okay for advertisers to watch what you post on the Internet and use that information to target you with ads?

  • Think up some questions for Post your questions on the LIVEbrary Blog at or send them by email to or ask them in the Live Skype Chat with Hal Niedzviecki on Thursday, November 1, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern Time.

  • Think up some questions guest author Hal Niedzviecki, such as what his first zine was called? Post your questions on the LIVEbrary Blog at <> or send them by email to or ask them in the Live Skype Chat with Hal Niedzviecki on Thursday, November 1, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern Time.
Copyright 2007 by Annick Press. All rights reserved. Printed here with permission of the publisher. Please request permission from before posting this lesson plan in any public place. Thank you.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chat with Shari Graydon Right Now!

If you have Skype, you may join our chat right now by clicking on the "Join Now" button in the graphic below. It will ask if you want to launch your Skype application. You must click "launch application" to join the chat. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Q&A Thread for Shari Graydon, LIVEbrary #2

Today begins our second program, In Your Face: What Is Beautiful? The Lesson Plan has been posted here, with a reading, an assignment, a quiz, and discussion questions: it's available on the blog or as a PDF download.

On Thursday, you'll have a chance to chat LIVE with Shari Graydon, author of In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You, from Annick Press. In order to chat with Shari on Thursday, you need to install Skype software and send us your Skype Username.

But you don't have to wait until Thursday to start asking questions. Go ahead, add your questions to this "thread" using the "comment" button on this post. Talk about the ways different cultures see beauty. Do you think tattoos are beautiful? Have you watched the video with Shari Graydon? Does it make you want to ask her a question? Ask it here!

Thanks for Trying the LIVEbrary!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Canzine: The Festival of Zine Culture in Halifax and Toronto

Hey, Hal again. Just wanted to let everyone know that the big festival of zines (independently published mini-magazines), underground film and video, indie comics and more is coming to Halifax this weekend and Toronto on October 28th. For complete info, go to the Canzine page.

Canzine is an opportunity to meet tons of independent creators, listen to readings and discussions, and revel in the general craziness of DIY culture, so hopefully if you're in the area you can come out!

Hello! Hal here...

Hi everybody, Hal Niedzviecki here, author of The Big Book of Pop Culture: A How To Guide for Young Artists.

I'm just back from Vancouver where I spoke to a lively bunch of teenagers about making their own pop culture. There was about 150 of us and we had a lot of fun discussing what pop culture is, where it comes from and why we should make our own. I gave away copies of my magazine Broken Pencil, the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts, to those with particularly enthusiastic comments and ideas.

I was also causing mini riots by throwing buttons into the throng kindly provided to me by CBC Radio 3, a great online and satellite radio broadcast of indie music. So, thanks to everyone who was there, we had a fun conversation, and I'm really looking forward to talking with everyone during the LiveLibrary discussion!

More soon...Hal.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

LIVEbrary Lesson Plan #2: What Is Beautiful?

LIVEbrary Lesson Plan #2
In Your Face: What Is Beautiful?

(for a colorful, downloadable PDF version, click here)

Media Awareness
Age Range: 9-13
Grade Level: 4-8

- Reading
- Assignment
- Quiz
- Discussion Questions


"What is Beautiful"
an excerpt from the book
The Culture of Beauty and You
by Shari Graydon
Published by Annick Press
Reprinted here with permission.

~ The Eye of the Beholder ~

A scene in the move The Gods Must Be Crazy shows a small, wiry African bushman stumbling upon the sight of a beautiful blonde woman getting dressed in the shade of a tree. As the scene unfolds, you hear the inner thoughts of the bushman, who's looking at the woman with a mixture of pity and amusement.

Even though she has Hollywood-style good looks, he thinks she's just about the ugliest creature he's ever seen. She's way too pale -- like something that crawled out from under a rock -- with stringy, "gruesome" washed-out hair that makes her appear very old. And she's much too large -- he imagines he'd have to search the entire day to find enough food to feed her.

Finally, as he watches her put on a blouse made from sheer fabric, he can't understand why she's covering her arms with what looks to him like hideous cobwebs.

Because the world of the African bushman is so unlike that of the woman, what he sees is completely different from what North American audiences see when viewing the same thing. The movie lets us understand his perspective and it challenges us to think differently about some things we normally take for granted -- like what is beautiful.

~ Body Image Goes Global ~

Our definitions of what's gorgeous and what's not vary dramatically from one culture to another. The movie example of the African bushman repulsed by the blonde is just one indicator of this. Contrast North American beauty standards with some of the attitudes found in other countries:
  • In modern, urban Brazil, large bottoms and small breasts are seen as desirable assets.

  • The ideal Ugandan woman weighs about 150 pounds.

  • Native Peruvians and many Nigerians consider especially full-figured women beautiful, whereas the same bodies might be seen as overweight in North America.

  • The French are generally more focused on fashion and makeup than body image, and are disdainful of North America's obsession with thinness.

  • Some African tribes makes deliberate cuts to their skin in order to create "beautiful" scarring.

  • In other countries, young people deliberately wound themselves, puncturing the skin on their face or body with pieces of metal. (Oh, wait a second, those countries include Canada and the United States!)
But North American culture is being exported all over the world faster than ever. As a result, the definitions of beauty held up as ideal in TV shows, advertisements, and movies produced here are being imposed on other cultures.

Now, even in some Asian and African countries, where the vast majority of people have dark hair, skin, and eyes, the models celebrated as being the height of beauty are often blonde-haired, blue-eyed and pale-skinned.

Who benefits from this? Certainly not Asians and Africans. In trying to sell North American products, the media messages end up suggesting to millions of people that not only are they not beautiful the way they are, but they can never even hope to become beautiful, because they don't have the right set of genes to start with.

And yet North America's unrepresentative scrawny ideal is also being exported. Up until American TV was introduced into Fiji in 1995, eating disorders were unheard of there. Three years later, one study found that 15 percent of girls had tried vomiting to lose weight. Our television shows had effectively taught young Fijian women not only to hate their naturally curvy bodies, but also the dangerous techniques that lead to eating disorders.

People who have traveled all over the world will tell you that teenagers in Tanzania have different ideas about what's hot than their counterparts in northern Thailand, downtown Moscow, the upper Amazon, and the highlands of New Guinea.

Even within North America, definitions of beauty can be tremendously diverse. Both Canada and the United States are made up of immigrants from all over the world whose skin, hair, and eyes reflect a rainbow of colors, and whose body preferences and fashion practices have been shaped by dramatically different cultures. It's just that most of the images seen in mainstream TV shows and movies don't reflect this.

But there are signs that our culture could be changing -- even in the unlikeliest of arenas, big business. As one makeup industry executive says, "I'm committed to proving that beauty has no single look. Beauty can be both transvestite or a woman like kd lang without a hint of makeup." (Frank Toskan, founder of MAC cosmetics)

~ Image Reflections ~

So what does beauty being in the eye of the beholder really mean? Basically, that it's up to you -- and me, and him, and them and her... We've all got opinions, and a lot of them clash.

  • Just as it's impossible for people to agree on "the best movie or book of all time," a single definition of beauty doesn't exist.

  • There's simply no predicting. Throughout history and across cultures, people have responded to all sorts of different qualities -- both physical and emotional -- when checking out one another's looks.

  • Tape measures can give you dimensions, but they're almost useless for judging beauty.

  • Most of the images we see in the media reflect only a fraction of the beauty diversity found in the real world: it's like we're being fed a diet of vanilla ice cream all the time, and being denied everything from chocolate and maple walnut to mango and cappuccino -- which many people find equally or more appealing!

# # #

Copyright 2004 by Shari Graydon. Excerpted from the book, "IN YOUR FACE: The Culture of Beauty and You." Published by Annick Press, ISBN 1-55037-857-0 (library binding), ISBN 1-55037-856-2 (paperback). Reprinted with permission. For more information, please visit Thank you.


What is Beautiful Book

Can you think of someone who seems beautiful to you, but who is not what most people would consider "good looking"? Can you find an image of that person to share with the class, and write down on a note card why you think this person is beautiful?

This can be a team project, with each team member finding someone who is beautiful in a different media. One person picks an actor, one a recording artist, one a model or picture from a magazine, one a public figure, one an athlete. They each gather an image of their beautiful person and write a note card about why this unconventionally-attractive person is so beautiful.

These images and note cards can be pasted into a What is Beautiful Book so that everyone can see some of the different kinds of beautiful around us.


NOTE: Quiz answers are available to teachers upon request from Quiz answers will be revealed during the live Skype Chats and made a part of the Skype Chat Transcripts.

1) True or False: Men are friendlier when they think they're talking to a beautiful girl than a plain one.

2) True or False: Women are friendlier when they're talking to men who think they're hot.

3) Multiple Choice: How many people in the United States had tattoos *removed* in 2004? (Ouch!)
A. 10 people
B. 10 thousand people
C. 10 million people

4) True or False. Good looking people earn more than ordinary looking people.

5) Multiple Choice. Of the three items listed below, what do Americans spend the most on?
A. Beauty products
B. Pet products
C. Education


  • What are some of the things you can tell about someone just by the way they look?

  • What can't you tell about a person just by the way they look?

  • Do you think beautiful people are happier than people who are not Hollywood-handsome? Why or why not?

  • What makes a person beautiful besides the way he or she looks?

  • Think up some questions for media literacy activist and author, Shari Graydon. For example, why do people care so much about how they look? Post your questions on the LIVEbrary Blog at <> or send them by email to or ask them in the Live Skype Chat with Shari Graydon on Thursday, October 25, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern Time.
Copyright 2007 by Annick Press. All rights reserved. Printed here with permission of the publisher. Please request permission from before posting this lesson plan in any public place. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Skype Chats Start Tomorrow!

Teachers, students, librarians, homeschoolers -- the "LIVE" part of the Annick LIVEbrary starts tomorrow with a Live Skype Chat with author Mark Shulman discussing Do-It-Yourself Video at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.

To participate in tomorrow's chat, you must send your Skype Username to so that Lisa can let you into the chat. You only need one Skype Username per classroom, although you can have more if you want. If you don't have Skype software installed yet, here's the download link (it's free):

You might need to get your school or library media expert to help you install and set-up the Skype software. It's fairly simple. Steve will answer any tech questions you have. You can email or Skype me at steveokeefe.

In exciting news for Annick LIVEbrary users, Skype announced today an agreement with MySpace making it easier for MySpace users to participate in Skype chats. Starting in November, MySpace users may be able to participate using their Instant Messenger program.

LIVEbrary chats will always be restricted access (you have to register and provide a Skype Username to get in), but this new relationship between Skype and MySpace will hopefully make it easier for students to participate in the Annick LIVEbrary in the weeks and months ahead.

Producer, The LIVEbrary

Monday, October 15, 2007

About Annick's LIVEbrary

At Annick Press we stand up for the things we believe in. We strive to be bold and we talk about issues that matter to youth. We never preach; we never tell someone what we think they should believe and we adhere to the possibility that together we can work for change, even if the prospects of being heard seem remote.

Most of all we recognize that nothing can be achieved through literature if the books themselves fail to stimulate and entertain. As we read, we expand our world view and we recognize different perspectives. We develop critical and analytical thinking. In short, we connect with ideas, other people and our inner selves.

Our LIVEbrary program is about enhancing those connections. Technology allows us to put reader and author in a virtual room to continue a dialogue. Now it is possible to have a conversation with the writer of a book that resonated for you, the reader . You can ask the questions that demand an answer. And you can test out your perspectives with a recognized authority. It’s a remarkable opportunity; one that allows all of us to exchange ideas in an exciting and innovative forum. Is it possible to take a fresh look at media, science, health, history and current events? Absolutely, and we invite you to connect with the people who can take you there. LIVEbrary is going to be a lot like reading a good book: it will be a great journey; one that brings equal measures of satisfaction and inspiration.

We welcome any feedback or comments you might have.

Rick Wilks
Annick Press Ltd.

Q&A Thread for Mark Shulman, LIVEbrary #1

Teachers, Librarians, Students and Homeschoolers -- welcome to the very first week of the Annick LIVEbrary, where students get to interact with authors in a secure environment under the guidance of our Series Librarian.

Today begins our first program, D.I.Y. Video, Solo and Team Work. The Lesson Plan has been posted here, with a reading, an assignment, a quiz, and discussion questions: it's available on the blog or as a PDF download. On Thursday, you'll have a chance to chat LIVE with Mark Shulman, author of Attack of the Killer Video Book: Tips & Tricks for Young Directors, from Annick Press. In order to chat with Mark, you need to install Skype software and send us your Skype Username.

But you don't have to wait until Thursday to start asking questions. Go ahead, add them to this "thread" using the "comment" button on this message. Do you want to know how much it costs to make a movie? How about what kind of camera you need? Do you want to know how to put your videos up on YouTube? Pile your questions here and Mark will answer them, either here or in Thursday's chat.

Thanks for trying the LIVEbrary -- we hope you like it!

Producer, The Annick LIVEbrary

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ads without products or promises - just pictures!

Have you ever seen those ads on TV that feature middle aged men skipping down the street like they just won the lottery?
Or the ones showing middle-aged women confiding in each other in incomprehensible languages?
Or how about the campaign in which older guys from all over the world are shown in their showers, singing at the tops of their lungs?

Do you remember what product the commercials were selling?

All three were promoting a prescription drug for adults. But Canada has laws that discourage drug companies from advertising drugs directly to consumers. So these ads aren't permitted to make any claims about the benefits of the drugs. They can't promise to cure any medical or health problems. They can't use language to convince people they're effective. Instead, they use images and sounds to engage and pique curiosity. And then they flash up the name of the drug, and say "Ask your doctor."

The practice has become really controversial. In my next posting, I'll tell you why!

Friday, October 5, 2007

LIVEbrary Lesson Plan #1: DIY Video

LIVEbrary Lesson Plan #1
DIY Video: Solo & Team Work

(for a colorful, downloadable PDF version, click here)

Media Awareness
Age Range: 9-13
Grade Level: 4-8

- Reading
- Assignment
- Quiz
- Discussion Questions


"DIY Video: Solo & Team Work"
an excerpt from the book
Tips & Tricks for Young Directors
by Mark Shulman and Hazlitt Krog
Published by Annick Press.
Reprinted here with permission.

~ Full Team Ahead ~

So you're the director. In Hollywood, directors make the decisions because they're the experts. At your house, you're the director because you've got the camera. But that's no reason to hog all the fun. If you don't let the other kids share the pleasure, you'll end up videotaping the flowers out back. All alone.

Like most of us, you probably have one or three friends to shoot with. That means people will be doing double duty behind the camera (the "crew") and in front of the camera (the "talent"). Since everyone can't hold the camera, you'd better know what jobs to offer instead.

~ One Live Crew ~

Here's a list of essential roles for making a video. Sometimes just a few people do everything. And if you're going to do everything, you might as well find out what you're called.
  • Writer -- in charge of the story
  • Director -- the visionary who controls and manages the movie's creation
  • Camera Operator -- sets up, operates, and deals with the camera
  • Sound Person -- deals with all aspects of microphones and capturing sound
  • Gaffer -- in charge of the lighting and related visual solutions
  • Grip -- in charge of sets, main props; sometimes helps the camera operator
  • Stylist -- in charge of costumes, makeup, actors' props
  • Talent -- those who work in front of the camera
  • Effects -- creates and executes the special effects
  • Editor -- pulls all the pieces together at the end
  • Producer -- supervisor, also known as "a responsible adult"
  • Caterer -- see Producer
  • Transportation -- see Producer
  • Executive Producer -- a producer who provides funds or very good food
  • Studio Chief -- the owner of the video camera
~ The Talent ~

Who's the biggest ham on camera? The actors are called the talent, but that's no guarantee of actual talent.

"Casting" means choosing the right actor for each part. If there are only two of you, it also helps to be a master of disguise. If your video has a script, encourage your actors to memorize their lines before the shoot. It's all right if they change their lines if the changes make sense for the movie.

TIP: No Hidden Cameras! Everyone in your movie should know they're in your movie. Get people's permission before you videotape them.

~ Going Solo ~

What's that? Your crew is home doing homework? Relax, Hitchcock... solo projects don't have to make you psycho:
  • Keep it simple. Don't bite off more than you can shoot.
  • Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Plan ahead.
  • Travel light. All you really need is a camera, a blank videotape, charged batteries, a charger (just in case), a camera bag to keep things safe, and a shot list in case you want to know what you're doing.
  • Non-fiction videos especially lend themselves to solo shooting: interviews, events, and nature video.
  • If you've got fiction on your mind, puppets, dolls, and hands make surprisingly well-behaved actors. You'll have to do the talking, though. Or, set up the camera somewhere stable and strut your stuff onscreen.
~ Enough Reading! Let's Make a Video! ~

Ready. Get set... grab your camera! Get a videotape that fits in the slot. Find the red REC button. Aim the camera at something. Sooner or later hit the REC button again to stop taping.

Rewind the tape. Match the colors on your audio/video cord plugs with the colors of the jacks on your TV or VCR. Figure out how to get the video to play on the TV. Sit and watch. Cool, huh?

Go ahead and satisfy that itchy recording finger. Let practice make perfect, then come back to the book for your next steps up the video ladder.

# # #

Copyright 2004 by Mark Shulman and Hazlitt Krog. Excerpted from the book, "ATTACK OF THE KILLER VIDEO BOOK: Tips & Tricks for Young Directors." Published by Annick Press, ISBN 1-55037-841-4 (library binding), ISBN 1-55037-840-6 (paperback). Reprinted with permission. For more information, please visit Thank you.


Team Video Project.

Divide your classroom into 5-person teams. Assign each person to one of these 5 jobs:
  • Writer
  • Actor
  • Director
  • Set Person
  • Camera Operator
In addition, every team has a Producer -- that is, "a responsible adult" who supervises the film shoot (and catering). That adult could be a parent or a teacher or a librarian or the person you borrowed the camera from. NOTE: If you can't round up a 5-person team, you can assign two or more jobs to one person.

Your assignment is to videotape a simple process. Here are some examples:
  • making a sandwich
  • mowing the lawn
  • washing the dog
  • giving a wet dog a sandwich on the lawn
Your team has 10 minutes to make a movie. The Writer decides what simple process to shoot and what the actor will do. The Director gives everyone their assignment, keeps track of the time, and tells the camera operator what to do. The Set Person makes suggestions for locations or props -- should we move the desk? The Actor decides how to show the process being demonstrated -- play it for laughs or play it straight? The Camera Operator has one minute to tape. If you have time left, you can do a "second take" and tape the process one more time -- but only for one minute. The Director is in charge of saying "ROLL" to start the taping and saying "CUT!" after 60 seconds of taping.

Next, everyone changes jobs and does it again: you have 10 minutes to make a movie. Then everyone changes jobs until you've had all 5 jobs. In 50 minutes, you make 5 movies and try 5 jobs. Not bad for a one hour class!

TIP: Let the action happen on its own, so it seems as natural as possible.

You can let the camera stay in one place or try close-ups, wide shots, and different angles to help tell your story.

The simpler and shorter the process you tape, the better. Here's what you can accidentally learn by making simple process videos:
  • how to show the individual steps of doing something
  • how to capture a series of nice-looking shots
  • how an actor can change the mood of a scene
  • how a writer can script action, not just dialogue
  • how to work with sets and talent (even wet, hungry dogs)
When you are done, you will have told a short story on video. Elsewhere in our book, we talk about storytelling. For now, just get the feeling. Then plug it in, watch the results, and on each video, notice:
  • who is the director?
  • how does the camera move?
  • what is the actor's best moment?
  • how does the action tell a story or set a mood?
  • how do the set and props add to the video?
Ready for more? Power down the camera and read up.


NOTE: Quiz answers are available to teachers upon request from Quiz answers will be revealed during the live Skype Chats and made a part of the Skype Chat Transcripts.

1) Matching. Match the Jobs (numbers) with the Job Descriptions (letters). Put the correct letter next to each number. I'll spot you the first one:

Sample: 1. Studio Chief -- goes with -- B. owner of the video camera

1. Studio Chief
2. Camera Operator
3. Gaffer
4. Director
5. Sound Person
6. Grip

Job Descriptions:
A. in charge of lighting
B. owner of the video camera
C. sets up and runs the camera
D. deals with the microphones
E. manages the movie's creation
F. in charge of sets and props

2) Multiple Choice. What does the term "second take" mean?
A. You tried twice to get the camera away from your friend.
B. You filmed the same thing twice, in case you flubbed it the first time.
C. You got second pick from the sandwich tray on break.

3) For each person listed below, write whether they are "talent" or "crew":
1. A dog doing a dance for the camera.
2. The person looking for the battery charger.
3. Your friend doing a dance for the camera.
4. The person fixing lunch for everyone.
5. The dog that just ruined the shot of your friend dancing.

4) Multiple Choice. What does "casting" mean in moviemaking?
A. Making a cast of an actor so they can remember where they stood.
B. Asking the crew for ideas about what you should do next.
C. Matching an actor to each role in the movie.

5) Multiple Choice. Besides a working video camera, what is the one thing you must have to make a video?
A. A microphone.
B. A big investor.
C. A video tape.

  • How does working with a team make moviemaking easier? How does it make it harder?

  • How is solo moviemaking easier than team moviemaking? How is it harder?

  • Watch the video of LIVEbrary author Shari Graydon -- it's in the LIVEbrary or on YouTube -- and discuss it. It's only 2 minutes long. Do you notice anything about the lighting? The sound? The set or props? Does the camera ever go "in" for a close-up or "out" for a wide shot?

  • Who are Mark Shulman and Hazlitt Krog? Use the search engine to check them out. Series Librarian Gary Price will be giving demonstrations before each weekly chat.

  • Prepare questions for author Mark Shulman for the live Skype Chat on Thursday, October 18, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. ET. You can post questions on the LIVEbrary Blog, send them via email to, or ask your questions live during the chat program. Advance registration is required to chat.
Copyright 2007 by Annick Press. All rights reserved. Printed here with permission of the publisher. Please request permission from before posting this lesson plan in any public place. Thank you.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

NOTICE: Registration Form Fixed!

We had a little glitch with our Registration Form and missed a couple of registrations. Thanks to those LIVEbrarians who brought this problem to our attention!

The problem has been fixed and the Registration Form appears to be working fine now. Go ahead and try it.

If you have not yet received your confirmation email, please let me know and I'll process your registration by hand and send you a confirmation letter.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Thanks for Your Understanding!
Producer of The LIVEbrary
Coming October 15 from Annick Press

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

SAVE: Instructions for Participating in LIVEbrary

Annick LIVEbrary Instructions
(for a colorful, printable, web version, click here)
Last Updated: Monday, October 8, 2007

NOTE: Teachers & Librarians -- Please print these instructions
and share with the media specialist in your school.

1. Getting the Most out of The LIVEbrary
2. Ways to Participate
3. Instructions for Live Skype Program
4. The LIVEbrary Letter
5. Lesson Plans
6. Code of Conduct
7. Privacy Policy
8. Copyright Notice

1. Getting the Most out of The LIVEbrary

The LIVEbrary is a 2-year online educational program by Annick Press with support from the Canada Council for the Arts. It is designed for use by teachers and librarians at the middle school to junior high school level, grades 4 through 8, ages 9 - 13. The program is designed to bring classrooms together with authors to discuss issues of topical interest in a safe environment under the supervision of a highly-respected librarian. The goal is to provide educators with a quality program that helps students learn the benefits and drawbacks of online communications.

2. Ways to Participate

We recognize that classrooms, schools, and libraries don't always have the latest technology. We designed the LIVEbrary program to accommodate many different methods of access, from technologically intense (live chat) to no-frills email. Here are some choices:
  • LIVEbrary Blog: Students may leave questions for the Author or Series Librarian through comments on the blog. Comments are held for approval before being released. These questions may be used in the live chat, in which case answers will appear on the blog when the transcript of the chat is posted. The blog is located at

  • Email Exchange: You do not have to be on the web to participate. Teachers and librarians may email questions from an entire classroom or from individual students. Some questions may be used in the live chat program, in which case answers will be emailed in the transcript of the live chat. The email address is

  • Live Skype Program: A live, one-hour Skype chat where students can engage the Author and Series Librarian in a fast-paced question and answer session. This is a protected chat and preregistration is required. You must have Skype software installed (it's free) to participate in the live chat. See instructions, below.
3. Instructions for Live Skype Program

=> If you already have a Skype Username
  • You need to send your Skype Username to so that you can be added to the participant list. Space is limited. You will be notified if the program is full.

  • On the day of the chat -- Thursday at 1:50 pm Eastern Time -- your Skype Username will be invited to join a Skype chat with Username . You must accept the invitation to enter the chat room. The chat will begin at 2:00 pm ET.

  • We strongly recommend only one connection per classroom or library. The learning experience is best when students take turns entering their questions at a central point, such as the teacher's computer. Teachers might want to designate a typist or type for the students.

  • If you can set up a projector to display from the teacher's computer onto a screen, it will be easier for the students to see the interaction. In this case, teachers or librarians should keyboard questions for the students.
=> If you DO NOT have a Skype Username
  • You must download and install Skype software on your computer. The download is free from the Skype download page Skype requires a valid email address. You will be asked to select a username. We recommend one username per classroom or library rather than a unique username for each student. Once you have your Skype username, see the instructions, above, "If you already have a Skype Username."

  • Installing Skype software on school or library computers might require the assistance of a media specialist. Please pass these instructions to your media specialist and have them call us or contact us and we'll "speak geek" with them until you get hooked up.

  • Test your Skype connection in advance. It's possible that your school or library won't allow your computers to connect to Skype. Please have your media specialist contact our media specialist for technical support to get the Skype connection working.

  • Installing software might be against school or library policy. In this case we suggest you participate in the program through the LIVEbrary Blog or Email Exchange and get the transcripts of the live chats. The LIVEbrary is a rich technology experience even without a connection to the live chats.
4. The LIVEbrary Letter

By registering for the program, you subscribe to the LIVEbrary Letter, our ezine for sending information about the program including any format or schedule changes. You may unsubscribe from the LIVEbrary Letter at any time. Unsubscribe instructions are at the beginning and end of every issue.

5. LIVEbrary Lesson Plans

LIVEbrary Lesson Plans are available for each week of the program and can be used anytime, with or without the blog or the chat. Each LIVEbrary Lesson Plan contains a reading from the featured book, an assignment, discussion questions, and a quiz. Answers to the quiz are revealed during the live chats and are then posted to the LIVEbrary Blog, distributed through Email Exchange, and included in the LIVEbrary Letter.

6. Code of Conduct

Annick Press promises to conduct the LIVEbrary program in a manner that best ensures the safety of participants, protects their privacy, and respects their rights. See our Privacy Policy and Copyright Notice, below. By registering for the program, you agree to conduct yourself in a similar manner, including not disrupting the live chats or disrespecting the people in those chats. Violation of the code of conduct may result in immediate expulsion from the chat and from the LIVEbrary program.

7. Privacy Policy

Confidential contact information, such as email addresses and Skype Usernames, is required to facilitate the LIVEbrary program and protect the integrity of the learning environment. This contact information is held by Annick Press and will not be rented or sold. If LIVEbrary users choose to reveal information such as email addresses on the LIVEbrary Blog, the choice resides solely with the User and is not Annick Press' responsibility.

8. Copyright Notice

The LIVEbrary is copyright 2007 by Annick Press. All Rights Reserved. By posting to the LIVEbrary blog, sending messages via email, or contributing to the live chats, you hereby give Annick Press all rights to display your contributions or use them in other formats. You agree not to post anything to the LIVEbrary blog or chats that you do not have the rights to post, such as copyrighted images, text, or video.