Monday, July 23, 2007

CNN YouTube 2008 Democratic candidates debate -- a chance for novice filmmakers?

On Monday, July 23, 2007 CNN held the YouTube debate of the eight 2008 Democratic presidential candidates, at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. I put this event on the movies blog because it is an example of “amateur” filmmaking getting aired. Over 2000 video questions for the candidates were submitted to CNN. About 25 were selected. I did not submit one, although I may do so for the Republican candidates, maybe a question about “don’t ask don’t tell.” No particular reason, I just wasn’t quite ready to resume my own moviemaking. It would be a good legal question who “owns” these videos for distribution – is it the creator, or Time Warner (Warner Bros.), owning CNN?

There was a technical issue with showing the videos. CNN showed a framed image of the video, with the (Quicktime) time bar below. It would have been more professional to fill the television screen (or at least crop it to 1.66 to 1) and let the audience experience each clip as a “film”, the way it would be shown “On the Lot.”

Most of the move clever films were not selected. Anderson Cooper, as the host, explained that some filmmakers used their kids to pose “adult” questions. Some of them overdid the costumes. One video reminded the viewer that Arnold Schwarzenegger had been the Terminator, a redundant point in asking a question about nuclear weapons.

A one-minute film was shown for each candidate.

The very first video, from Portland OR, simply asked if the candidates would answer the questions asked. That’s what our tenth grade biology teacher always said on tests – “answer the question asked.” The last one, from Colorado, was funny, too: it asked each candidate to say one good thing and one bad thing about the candidate on the left, until they got to Dennis Kucinich, who had no one on the left (pun) except Anderson Cooper himself – suggesting that Anderson run for president himself. Maybe that’s a good idea.

There was a question about a female president, and an African American president. There was also a question whether Al Gore would run after all – that is, “An Inconvenient Truth” is one big YouTube movie from Paramount Vantage.

Most of the videos were simple – people just speaking. Mary and Jean, from Brooklyn NY, asked if they should be allowed to marry. Most of the candidates supported full legal rights for same-sex couples without using the word “marriage.” The candidates also reiterated their promises to try to repeal the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays.

A few videos with some "filmmaking" were included. A video from Minneapolis with a snowman speaking posed a question about global warming, and part of the answer was that coal gasification would no longer be an adequate answer to energy questions because it involved carbon emissions.

Of course, there were many questions about getting out of Iraq, and a lot of quibbling.

One questioner pointed out that, if the social security tax was on all wages, the Trust Fund could be solvent for 75 years.

Several questions about health care were shown in sequence. One filmmaker explained the demographic crisis coming with Alzheimer’s Disease (although nobody touched the upcoming third rail – filial responsibility laws), another talked about diabetes as responsible for 1/3 of Medicare expenses (that sounds exaggerated), and one filmmaker took off her wig to show the alopecia of chemotherapy for cancer that could have been caught sooner by screenings if she could have afforded adequate health insurance. All the candidates repeated that there is no excuse for the United States not having the political will to have universal health insurance (Barack Obama’s plan is not quite ready for the Universal Pictures Valkyries Global trademark).

There was one filmmaker who submitted a question about gun control, and showed an assault rifle that he called his “baby.” Joe Biden suggested that the video suggested that the filmmaker was not qualified to own a gun.

Here is the link to the debate transcript.

Update: July 27, 2007

"Eric Alva -- Gay Marine -- Press Conference"

An important YouTube entry concerns Iraq Marine war veteran, the first Marine to be seriously wounded in Iraq in 2003. The YouTube link of his testimony in Congress -- that is, a press conference in 2005 introducing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that would lift "don't ask don't tell" with respect to gays in the military, is here:

Update: On Aug. 7, the AFL-CIO sponsored a debate of the Democratic candidates in Chicago. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had a heated exchange of Pakistan.

Picture: VMI (Virginia Military Institute) in Lexington, VA

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