3 min read

Recap #ScreenUpSF Digital Media: AJ+ and DDN Focus

Recap #ScreenUpSF Digital Media: AJ+ and DDN Focus
Photo: Vic Valbuena Bareng

ScreenUp SF Recap: AJ+ and Discovery Digital

The first-ever Storyhunter ScreenUp in San Francisco was a true meeting of the minds, showcasing some of the Bay Area’s most successful digital media ventures: AJ+ and Discovery Digital Networks (DDN).

In an hour and a half, we screened six videos, spoke with several filmmakers, including one in La Paz, and another in Singapore (via video chat). We also were honored to speak with several editors from AJ+, Al Jazeera’s digital venture based in San Francisco, and DDN, the independent production arm of Discovery Communications and the producer of Seeker Network, TestTube, Revision3 among other channels.

We’re also happy to announce that ScreenUp SF will now be a monthly event!

To join the invite list, sign up here.

Here’s the Recap of ScreenUp SF:

“Bolivian Robots Made From Trash”

Producer: William Wroblewski

Publisher: AJ+

The first AJ+ video screened was about an indigenous Bolivian teenager named Esteban Quispe, who made a robot out of trash. In one of the first big viral hits for AJ+ en Espanol, the Spanish language channel launched a few months ago by Al Jazeera, this piece was shared nearly half a million times on Facebook (interestingly, it only got about 30,000 shares on the English version).

During ScreenUp SF, we spoke with William Wroblewski (@BillWroblewski), the documentary filmmaker based in La Paz who produced the video through Storyhunter. He explained how this AJ+ video had a powerful impact on Esteban’s life and actually pushed his family to open their first bank account. Here’s a separate blog post on the story behind the story.

“Japanese Student Clean Classrooms To Learn Life Skills”

Producers: Irene Herrera and Naotomo Umewaka

Publisher: AJ+

With 36 million views and more than 600,000 shares on Facebook, this video became most popular ever for AJ+’s when it was published last November. Irene and Naotomo, who had to cancel their video chat during #ScreenUpSF because they were both commissioned on Storyhunter for other projects that day, said in an email that they were actually surprised it had become such an international sensation.

AJ+ Senior Producer Geoffrey Dietrich said that, besides being “just being a great story”, the video’s uniqueness and authenticity make it one people want to share with their friends.

“Black Panther-Inspired Urban Farming”

Producer: David Zlutnick

Publisher: AJ+

The second video selected by AJ+ was an example of how it develops partnerships with smaller media outlets around the world. Dietrich saw this story on the Civil Eats website, and quickly invited freelance filmmaker David Zlutnick (@DavidZlutnick) to a project on Storyhunter, in which they worked together to turn the print story into a video.

“Trump Heckled in Vermont”

Producers: Jess and Alex Wisloski

Publisher: AJ+

The fourth AJ+ video was an example of how to turn a news video around in a matter of hours. This piece about Bernie Sanders supporters heckling Trump supporters in Vermont was done entirely on an iPhone, with raw footage uploaded to AJ+ via Slack immediately after being shot, Dietrich recalled. Editors at AJ+ HQ in San Francisco then finalized the package, which went live just about 3 hours after it happened. While you lose a bit in audio quality, you can’t beat that speed, he said.

“Oregon Standoff: What if the Armed Men Were Black or Muslim?”

Producer: Jessica Sherry

On-Air Correspondent: Dena Takruri

Publisher: AJ+

The fifth AJ+ video takes us to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. This piece was produced with Portland-based filmmaker Jessica Sherry, profiled here on our blog. Dietrich said this piece illustrates how AJ+ cuts costs using local producers even when they send their own on-air personality.

“India’s Violent Fight Over Beef”

Producer: Rajan Zaveri

Publisher: Discovery Digital Network

The first video from Discovery Digital Networks focused on how violent protests erupted in India after legislators passed a law banning the consumption of beef. This piece was from their All Points Project series in which they work with local video journalists from around the world. For this one, they hired Delhi-based filmmaker Rajan Zaveri, who joined #ScreenUpSF via video chat while on vacation in Singapore.

“Is Mexico Framing Migrants For Its Human Trafficking Problem?”

Producer: David Von Blohn

Publisher: Discovery Digital Network

The final piece shown on that chilly evening in San Francisco was a heart-wrenching story about a large group of Mexican migrants imprisoned in Chipas, who say they are innocent of charges of human trafficking.

DDN producers Aneeta Akhurst, William Poor and Brian Pendergast explained they go to great lengths to make sure the reporting on sensitive stories like this one is rock solid.

All that in an hour and a half.

Until next time.

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