adam-westbrook

vimeo

A well made - and absolutely terrifying - short film raising awareness about webcam hackers. 

Watch right to the end - I guarantee you’ll head straight to your firewall settings!

vimeo

The Causes and Effects That Led to World War I

100 summers ago the countries of Europe collapsed quickly into war: it was sudden but also strangely inevitable. Countless books have been written since about the causes of The Great War, but in this video essay, delve.tv offers an alternative history. By tracing the story backwards in time, they stumble upon a very unexpected cause and discover that sometimes the most harmless of things can have terrible consequences.

Story Design & Direction: Adam Westbrook
Additional Photography: Brett Walsh
Animation: Adam Westbrook

vimeo

Bananas, Sardines and Sharks: the high cost of cheap convenience.

This is my latest video essay, about the history of the banana industry. Narratively and visually it’s a step up for me in sophistication. It’s a study in irony, while also striving to detonate ideas visually.

Unlike previous films, I storyboarded this one before I wrote the script; the impact on the visual fluency is noticeable. 

Why I'm quitting Facebook

So I’ve decided to give up Facebook in 2012.

After 6 fun years of liking, poking, and checking out my friends’ hot sisters, I feel like it’s time to hang up the big blue F once and for all.

I put up the message today and got some nice supportive likes. A few good friends even sent me messages to check I was OK. Most people are asking why, so I thought I’d put down my reasons here. I’m not saying I’m right or wrong: these are just my reasons.

1. The supermarket theory

I’ve tumbled this one before, and it’s been playing on my mind more and more in the last year. What does Facebook sell? It sells us, and I’m don’t think I’m happy with my identity, personality and social life being a product.

It’s hardly black and white though. When I talked about this with some journalists in Barcelona over Tapas recently they argued that it’s the same with newspapers and all media content: the product is us, the audience, and the mass media sell access to us to advertisers. 

Everyone has their own views on this. I don’t think Zuckerburg is evil or anything - quite the opposite.

2. The algorithm

Because Facebook wants to maximise its deliveries to external websites (in other words, how many hits to websites come from Facebook) experts believe it prioritises people in your feed who post links to articles, Youtube videos and the like.

It means my feed is full of the people who talk the most, not the ones I’m most interested in. While on Facebook I’ve regularly posted funny videos and links, so no doubt I repeatedly bother the feeds of people who I haven’t spoken to in years. I’m sure they’ll be glad to be rid of me. 

3. The experiment

After 6 years on Facebook (I joined as a student back in early 2006) I’m really curious to see what will happen when I leave. With all my friends, current and old on there, what will I miss out on? Its big use is organising events - so will I stop getting invited to houseparties and nights out? 

4. The television theory

About two years ago I drastically cut back on the amount of television I watch. These days there is perhaps one or two shows a week I watch regularly and a few shows I get online. But in total it must be about 3 hours a week - a lot less than the 28 hours a week the average Brit consumes.

The result? I got my life back. I’ve had time to write more, work more, read more and think more. I’m hoping quitting Facebook will do the same.

5. The time

And so the real reason I’m giving up Facebook is time. It’s just too much of a distraction and I’m not strong enough to not check it, at least 3 or 4 times a day. It doesn’t suck up that much time in real terms, but it’s the mental distraction that’s most disruptive.

I want to do big things in 2012 so it’s time to bring out the A-game and that means focus and hard work. I hope quitting Facebook will make a difference.

You might say, well why not quit Twitter as well? And LinkedIn while you’re at it? Well, both of those are still important to me professionally. Facebook has always been a place for just people I know in real life. In the future I might maintain a Facebook page, but again it’ll be for work reasons.

So that’s it. It’s been a blast, honest is has. :)

  • If you were hoping to connect with me on Facebook - it’s probably best to follow me on Twitter instead. @AdamWestbrook
vimeo

All of history’s greatest figures achieved success in almost exactly the same way. But rather than celebrating this part of the creative process we ignore it.

This missing chapter in the story of success reveals the secret to doing meaningful work. But in the modern world, full of distraction, do we have what it takes to do great things?

The second in a two-part series about creativity.

Part One: Why Leonardo daVinci was no genius (and what means for the rest of us)

Five years after Youtube’s birth there’s probably not a newsroom in the land that isn’t trying to do video journalism in some way or another.

I say ‘trying’ because, as you’ll probably have seen, the vast amount of online video produced just doesn’t cut it. It’s long, boring, technically poor – and amateurish. This is a big shame because online video – done well – has the power to be an art form, to touch people, to make them understand something, to make them care.

"I think cinema is perhaps now where music was before musical notation - writing music as a sequence of marks on paper - was invented. Music had been a crucial part of human culture for thousands of years, but there had been no way to write it down. Its perpetuation depended on an oral culture, the way literature’s did in Homeric days. But when modern musical notation was invented, in the 11th century, it opened up the underlying mathematics of music, and made that mathematics emotionally accessible. You could easily manipulate the musical structure on parchment and it would produce startlingly sophisticated emotional effects when it was played. And this in turn opened up the concept of the polyphony - multiple musical lines playing at the same time…Complex and emotional changes of key became possible across the tonal spectrum. And that unleashed all the music of the late 18th and the 19th centuries…

I like to think cinema is stumbling around in the “pre-notation” phase of its history…Whether we will ever be able to write anything like cinematic notation, I don’t know. But it’s interesting to think about.”

—  Film editor Walter Murch in conversation with Michael Ondaatje 

More of people are saying goodbye to the convention of a job for life, instead moving from field to field every few years.  Nice piece by Fast Company

"Shorter job tenure is associated with a new era of insecurity, volatility, and risk. It’s part of the same employment picture as the increase in part-time, freelance, and contract work; mass layoffs and buyouts; and "creative destruction" within industries."

Bananas, Sardines and Sharks: transcript

Here is the transcript for the video essay “Bananas, Sardines and Sharks”. If you’d like to translate the film into another language, you can use this as a reference. Please email me with a .vtt file plus your website or twitter handle for credit. Thanks!

===

So, long before we were obsessed with all these things, and even these things, there was something else entirely.

Yep, this is going to be a story is all about a fruit…ok that’s a lie, because bananas aren’t actually a fruit.

It’s true. They’re a berry. And that isn’t the only thing we have wrong about them.

Maybe the most surprising thing about bananas is that they’re so cheap. Think about it - they’re grown on plantations thousands of miles away…transported, loaded, shipped…but when they arrive on our supermarket shelves they are usually cheaper than the apples which are grown just around the corner.

And they pretty much always have been. Even a hundred years ago, 25¢ would get you a dozen bananas, but only two apples.

That’s got everything to do with this friendly looking sailor, and this less friendly looking train operator. In 1899 they teamed up to create the United Fruit Company, and within 10 years they made bananas available and affordable everywhere. And their secret? Complete control.

United Fruit owned the plantations. United Fruit employed the workers. United Fruit built the railway line, and they even owned the ports and operated the ships.

[Old narrator] “The whole operation right from the first cutting is planned and timed…”

United Fruit turned an exotic delicacy into something cheap and convenient for everyone.

And man, we loved our cheap bananas.

[Lyrics] “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’m here to say that bananas have to ripen in a certain way. And when they’re flecked with brown and have a certain hue, bananas taste the best and are the best for you. Anyway you want to eat them, it’s impossible to beat them. Bananas are a solid food that doctors now include in babies diets. And since they are so good for babies, I think we all should try it. Si! Si! Si! Si!”

Long before these came along, the banana proved our appetite for all that is cheap and convenient.

But the story of the banana also comes with a warning…

[Old newsreel narrator] “Communist aggression has incited rebellion against established governments. In France, communist aggression has fomented strikes against essential industries in attempts to discredit the free government. In Iran, in Eastern Germany, in Korea and in China. And with the deadliest of all weapons available to the Russians, no peoples in the world can feel secure against this aggression”

Just 1400 miles from the American border, the shadow of communism was looming dangerously large.

The newly elected president of Guatemala - Jacobo Arbenz - was a well known communist sympathiser.

High level reports warned that the country was overrun with communists…many were even working in the government. Then, in 1952, Arbenz announced a new plan: to buy up all the unused land in Guatemala and distribute it equally to the country’s workers.

And even worse, he planned to nationalise the country’s railways and its ports.

Watching closely, the United States government was sure of one thing. Communism couldn’t be allowed to get a foothold in the Americas…Arbenz had to go.

So in 1953 President Eisenhower ordered his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, to fix the problem. He spoke to his brother, Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA. And together they came up with a secret mission to depose the Guatemalan president.

Now this was a dangerous idea: to remove a democratically elected president from someone else’s country…and do it without getting caught.

Did the Dulles brothers think they could pull it off? They must have done. They called it Operation Success.

Here is the CIA Guide to removing a democratically elected president in six weeks without anyone knowing it was you.

Step One: set up a radio station in Miami Florida, but tell everyone that you’re based in the Guatemalan jungle.

Step Two: assemble a rag tag group of a hundred or so mercenaries and stash them on the border.

Step Three: announce on the radio that an army of thousands of well trained soldiers has just invaded the country - even though they haven’t.

Step Four: send a few light aircraft to strafe the capital city and scare everyone into running away.

Step Five: keep up the radio broadcasts and announce that your made up army is marching towards the capital.

And Step Six: sit back and wait for your man to break.

Just a few days later on June 28th 1954, Jacabo Arbenz resigned and fled from an army that never existed.

In his place the CIA installed this guy - happy to do as he was told…and definitely not a communist.

Except…Jacobo Arbenz…wasn’t a communist either.

He wasn’t even remotely dangerous…until that is you realise that Guatemala was known by another name…

[Old narrator] “Here is a banana plantation, and it is our first introduction as to why this rich area is known as Bananaland”

The stories that the country was overrun with communists were made up… all part of a big PR campaign…paid for by United Fruit.

But hang on…we’re talking about a fruit company here - how did they convince the president of the United States to stage a secret coup? Well it’s pretty easy actually…if the Secretary of State and the head of the CIA used to be your company lawyers…

Castillo Armas did as he was told and gave United Fruit all their land back.

And so the bananas kept on coming, as convenient as ever and still cheaper than apples.

The operation to remove Arbenz was remarkably quick and clean…but the 36 year civil war that it started was not.

[Lyrics] “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’m here to say that bananas have to ripen in a certain way. And when they’re flecked with brown and have a certain hue, bananas taste the best and are the best for you. Anyway you want to eat them, it’s impossible to beat them. Bananas are a solid food that doctors now include in babies diets. And since they are so good for babies, I think we all should try it…”

Around 200 thousand people died…or simply disappeared. Mass graves are being discovered.

Today we’re in love with cheap convenience more than ever…but usually someone somewhere pays the price.

Question is…as long as WE still get what we want…do we care?

[Old Narrator] “So now that you’ve seen where bananas come from before they reach your table, our journey to Bananaland has ended. We hope you’ve enjoyed the trip. We know you like bananas!”

vimeo

Adam Westbrook publicizes his top media predictions for 2011(and looks at his past performance from 2010). 

vine

My Invisible Girlfriend by Esa Fungtastic on Vine

Vine is a great platform for pure visual storytelling - and this is a prime example.

A clever, funny and original story conveyed in just six seconds. How? Through the juxtaposition of images.

Each shot alone does not convey the idea of an invisible girlfriend, it is their particular combination and juxtaposition that generates the story.

Six seconds is a long time if you understand the essential nature of the medium.

What’s interesting is that these Vine power users have probably never been taught montage. They have figured it out by experimenting with the tools they have. A whole new generation of storytellers who instinctively ‘get’ juxtaposition without going to Film School.