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10 décembre 2007

Animated causes -- WITH VIDEOS

In between corporate video production jobs, Mark Greene of Kingston has been producing online videos so popularly infectious that some called them "viral." The artist's most-mainstream proof of effectiveness is evident on his home-office desktop which sports an Emmy statuette. "It lives on the piano," Greene said of the 2007 National Public Service Announcement/Broadband Emmy he received for his 90-second short "Big Fun with Global Warming," below.

"Big Fun with Global Warming"

Greene sees the impact of the video - designed to encourage people to stop wasting energy - as a sign that individual opinions matter. Despite the damping effect of mass media and big business, solitary human beings can influence many, he said. He encouraged others to use YouTube and other video venues to add their voices to the online fray. Greene employed his voice and imagination with some global warming facts he wanted to tell people about without hitting them over their heads.

Keep in mind, the plot of his video threatens to hit his main character, Stinky, over the head with grand pianos to illustrate how much carbon pollution is produced by the average individual - five tons per year - he wanted to do it with a positive sense of humor. Five tons is the equivalent of 10 Steinway Grand pianos. This piece, later licensed for use by the Sierra Club, was part of a cartoon collaborative effort that had already been established. Later, changed its name to Climate Cartoons and embraced the slogan "Saving the planet one cartoon at a time."

With the ease of a geek who is comfortable in his own skin, Greene downplayed concerns about the expenses of the machinery required to produce good videos. While Greene uses a pricey program called Final Cut, he said the easier-to-use I-movie editing software is cheaper and can transform even videos recorded on inexpensive video cameras into fairly slick mini-films. In addition to Final Cut, he used Flash and Photoshop programs for his animation work.

Greene observes Climate Cartoons policy against political wrangling, in his work for them. While his biggest Stinky cartoons inveigle against huge sports utility vehicles and the oppressive gas pumps that rule many American's lives, it doesn't get into any of the predictable cuts against the Bush Administration' policies on energy efficiencies. "You have to convince individual human beings to change their behavior," Greene said. "George Bush is only one man." Not that Greene is against an occasional pointed partisan pokes at people who he sees as offensive. See exhibit II, below, a video featuring Greene's own wife, Sharron Bower, as she tweaks popular Republican target Katherine Harris.

During the 2006 election, Greene employed his wife Bower and a group of their friends and professional acquaintances to produce a spoof on what Katherine Harris might be like, behind the scenes of her own play to get elected to represent Florida in the United States Senate. The result, which only pulls its punches on the lack of garishness of Bower-come-Harris' lipstick, garnered 75,000 viewings in the weeks before Harris last ill-fated election. Although much of the material was tongue-in-cheek and informed by his own behind-the scenes experience in Texas politics, Greene said it struck true with some who were close to the Harris campaign.

Greene said after the election he received emails from ex-Harris staffers who asked him: "Who is your inside contact?" Sharron Bower laughed when asked about the impact of the video on her own life. An actor who is more often recognized for playing prostitutes on Law and Order than for playing Harris, Bower said reconstituting the former Secretary of State for Florida wasn't a challenge. She did wish she had employed more bust enhancement prior to filming, and had applied more substantial lipstick, she said. "I couldn't get enough on there."

Bower said she enjoyed going to the New York City Emmy awards ceremony with her husband, especially when they got a chance to meet other award winners. The most impressive, were organizers from who have distributed video cameras to war torn areas of the world to document human rights abuses. Founded by Peter Gabriel, distributes video cameras to activists in 70 countries who visually document social, political and environmental problems and broadcast those stories via the Internet. Greene said it was humbling to be around such activists at the ceremony.

The power of video to raise awareness - for good and ill - should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, he said. And what about the demise of former Virginia Senator George Allen, who had used the word "Macaca" in anger "while a camera was pointed at him," Greene said. Although the plaudits that came during the Emmy proceedings of Nov. 9, the aftermath is nothing compared to that of the more-widely viewed prime-time Emmys. Certainly, Greene did not come away from the event with much in the way of "swag," what the Glitterati call the ostentatious gifts they often receive after awards ceremonies. "There was no swag," Greene said. "I got a plaque and a statue, and that was it."

And even though there is no current count on how many times the Stinky videos have been viewed, activists are looking for more ways to get more "eyeballs" on Greene's environmental themes. According to Pam Kerwin, the executive director of Climate Cartoons, Greene's videos may get additional play if her organization succeeds in getting the videos picked up by movie theaters, as pre-movie spots, and by airlines as in-flight movie selections. Kerwin acknowledged the anti-pollution message could be a challenge for the air carriers, considering the amount of fuel they go through annually. "We have to be careful," she said. "...It's a tough subject for airlines."

©Daily Freeman 2007

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