Water, Water … Not Really Everywhere

By Mona Malacane

About how many times do you think you wash your hands per day? Flush the toilet? Fill a cup of water or pot to cook? Ever wonder where that water comes from, or where it goes when you pour it down the drain? It’s a simple luxury that we enjoy every day (many times per day) but probably not something that many people stop to think about.

If your interest was piqued by these questions, you will soon be able to learn more about water systems through a user-friendly, interactive game created by one of our faculty. In collaboration with Dr. Shahzeen Attari from SPEA, Professor of Practice Mike Sellers is currently designing a game to educate people on how water systems work.

It’s a common misconception that when water systems have problems they are related to the quality of the water. The bigger problem actually is water quantity. Supply of water to an area that is being developed for residential, commercial, or manufacturing use must be balanced with the water that is needed by the existing population. This doesn’t sound very complicated but there is a lot more that goes into water system planning.  Mike and Shahzeen aim to explain this via a game.

“You start off with a very small well and a couple of houses, sort of Sim City-ish,” Mike explained. “As you have enough water and you’re drawing from a stream or ground water, your little community grows. But you don’t control that growth, it just grows because more people are attracted there, which means you have to increase the water supply. So maybe now you go to water tanks, or digging deeper wells, or you build a reservoir.” As the city continues to grow you have to make choices about where to build water supplying systems and how much these decisions cost. Do you dig a new well? A new water tower? Where should these systems be placed? Should you pull water from a nearby lake instead? How will this affect the surrounding areas?”

Dr. Attari was interviewed by Indiana Green Living magazine (2013) about her research on energy and water consumption.

Dr. Attari was interviewed by Indiana Green Living magazine (2013) about her research on energy and water consumption.

The game will also include challenges/issues that municipal systems deal with every day, like how to handle waste water from an upstream community. Another issue that you learn about is aging water systems and their maintenance. For instance, how to balance the budget of a growing community that needs to tap an additional water source (e.g. a new well) and also also maintain its existing underground pipes.

“The players come to understand, ‘ok here’s how I build a water system, here’s how I keep one running so I can keep my community growing,’ and also to some degree how the people who are creating and running these water systems have no control over how many people they serve.” In other words, the game gives people a look at the tangible and real issues that city planners and municipal water suppliers work through every day.

The goal of this project is first and foremost to educate and inform the general public about water systems. But Mike also hopes that through learning about these systems, people will pay more attention to water issues when they arise in their local communities and perhaps stimulate conversations during local government elections.

Shahzeen and Mike have been working together on this first version of the game since January with a grant from the Ostrom Workshop. Their plan is to continue working on it through the summer with a few of Shahzeen’s graduate students and an undergrad who is working on the art for the game. When the game is ready for release, it will be available on the web and friendly and accessible enough for people of all ages.


The Refreshing Extra, Part II

By Mona Malacane

If you, by chance, missed the snazzy new fliers or the reminder email from Harmeet, there was the smell of fresh coffee and buzz of conversation to draw you into a standing-room crowd in Room 226 for the maiden Third Half.

The promise of superior coffee and non-routine refreshments – one of the signature changes from generic brown bags – was delivered in spades. The spread featured roasted and lightly salted almonds, fresh kale chips, skewers of grapes, olives, cherry tomatoes and cheese, and of course a hot cup of freshly brewed choice coffee (in the new Third Half mugs) from local barista Samuel Sveen. The pièce de résistance? A two-tiered double chocolate cake baked in the middle of the night by kitchen fairies, according to Betsi, and topped with a “1” candle. While saying a few words about the bright future of The Media School, Dean Shanahan lit the candle and guest speaker Kevin Coe blew it out.


From cake to speech to blowing out the candle.

Moderator Andrew Weaver kicked off the session by sharing the thinking behind the Third Half. “For those who don’t know, the Third Half is … a rugby term for the period after the game where the teams gets together, go to the local pub, and drink, and engage in some lively conversation. This is our attempt to bring the Media School together in an intellectual environment, and hopefully spark some creative ideas and intellectual conversation.”

speaker giving take

Kevin Coe explaining a pivotal moment in the history of presidential religious references.

After all of the pomp and circumstance, Kevin took us on an interesting walk through America’s political history, speaking about how presidents have evoked religious references in speeches and the multifaceted ways in which these references have appeared and changed over time. The talk was followed by questions from respondents – Lori Henson (Indiana State University and IU alum), Mike Conway (Journalism, Media School), Betsi Grabe (Communication Science, Media School), Liz Elcessor (Cinema and Media Studies, Media School) – and about 35 minutes of Q & A from the brimful room.

The stimulating conversation on religion and politics could have easily continued for another 30 minutes but Andrew gracefully ended talk with a thanks to Kevin and a crowd-pleasing invitation to stick around. “The Third Half cannot be held by the bounds of time but I recognize that some of you do have schedules so if you can, I would please invite you to stay. We have some delicious cake back there and plenty of coffee, thank you to Kevin and thank you all for coming.”

Whether it was the fantastic cake, the superior coffee, or the impenetrable maze of chairs, many of presentation go-ers did linger for continued conversation – perhaps we can call this post-talk lingering the Fourth Half?

To listen to this inaugural Third Half presentation, please go here. Stay tuned to the grad blog for information about future Third Halfs.

Bryant Goes to Sundance, Part II

By Mona Malacane

You may have read in a recent IDS paper, or on the IU Viewpoints website, or (hopefully) in my December blog post that Bryant Paul co-produced a documentary, Hot Girls Wanted, that follows several young women and their entry into the amateur pornography industry. If you’re one of our faithful readers (thank you if you are!), you know that the film was accepted for the Sundance Film Festival, and this week I caught up with Bryant to talk about his trip and the film’s reception at the prestigious festival.

On stage with the directors and producers of Hot Girls Wanted.

On stage with the directors and producers of Hot Girls Wanted.

Sundance is held annually in Park City, Utah, described by Bryant as a “sleepy little ski town, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.” The festival lasts about nine days and this year it was held from January 22 to February 1. Bryant arrived a few days into the festival, avoiding most of the celebrity hoopla paparazzi frenzy. Unfortunately this meant that he didn’t get to meet actress and producer, Rashida Jones … :(

One of the screenings during the Sundance Film Festival.

One of the screenings during the Sundance Film Festival.

The documentary aired five times during the film festival in front of audiences ranging from 200 to 500 people. Not surprisingly, Hot Girls Wanted gained popularity early-on and each screening sold out quickly, with many unlucky moviegoers getting turned away. At each screening, the directors took stage to introduce themselves and the film (and to inform the audience of the adult content).  After the screening, the directors and producers, including co-producers Bryant and Debby Herbenick of the Kinsey Institute, came on stage to answer questions from the audience and discuss the film.

The film was an eye-opener for many of the viewers, who were, I’m sure, older than the 18-to-20 year old women in the film and grew up without the unfiltered access to media content we have today. “One of the big things that this movie does is, I think it really points out the disconnect between generations and people’s communication environment, such that kids that are growing up now grow up with such a different environment than people who are 40 and over … even 5 years ago, the environment was totally different.”

And that disconnect was apparent when Bryant fielded questions from audience members, who wondered what they could do to prevent the potential negative effects of easy access to mature content. “You’re not going to be able to ban [access to pornography], you’re not going to be able to censor it out of people’s lives. And if you do that for a certain amount of time, eventually kids are going to come across it anyway. If you watch the film, the parents that are depicted in the film … they’re good parents, they seem like nice people who just probably never had a discussion [with their kids] because they don’t even know that this discussion needed to happen, they weren’t aware of what their kids were consuming. They weren’t aware of their media ecology … It’s not something you want to run away from. Not having a conversation is what is going to make it bad. Freaking out when you catch them looking at something is going to potentially create a boomerang effect.”

Audiences at these screenings were also curious whether there was a place for pro-sex, feminist pornography in the world. Bryant responded affirmatively but pointed to a potential

The slopes in Utah, from Bryant's Facebook.

The slopes in Utah, from Bryant’s Facebook page.

reason why female-oriented pornography was not yet mainstream. “That was kind of interesting because there are two other girls that they followed [in the documentary] that are still doing it and they were happy and well-adjusted and they seemed fine … And my response to that was that I think there is [a place for pro-sex, feminist porn] but it comes down to socializing people.” He went on to explain that porn literacy discussions should be part of sex education and/or ‘the sex talk’ to raise awareness that pornography is a performance and shows behaviors that may not actually feel good (specifically for women) even though they are portrayed that way.

The documentary followed several girls but focused on one more closely, Tressa, who was able to attend a few of the Sundance screenings and answer audience questions. The directors are hoping to bring her and the other women to future film festivals in Miami and Toronto.

Since being released, Hot Girls Wanted has been dubbed one of the top 5 feminist films from Sundance  and was bought by Netflix! The Netflix release date will be after it has been shown in theaters, but Bryant is hopeful that the directors will come to IU for a screening and talk this semester.

Bryant Goes to Sundance

By Mona Malacane

“Hot Girls Wanted” sounds like just another video that was analyzed in Bryant Paul et al’s project on content analysis of pornographic videos. Normally this would be a safe assumption, but in this case, it is a documentary on the experiences of 18-and-19 year old girls entering the amateur porn industry.

Bryant got involved with the film through Dr. Debra Herbenick of the Kinsey Institute, who was contacted by the film’s directors, Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus. In the initial stages, Bryant gave consultations mostly on the pornography industry. Over time these conversations evolved into research on pornography and the effects of viewing. “It started out as inside industry stuff and then they were asking about usage statistics for how popular certain sites are … and some [research] on effects. And they wanted to know numbers on how many people join the industry per year, so I used some contacts that I’ve made over the years to try and find some of this stuff out.”

While Bryant helped fill in some information holes with research and data, Jill and Ronna continued to edit the film. When the first rough cut of the film was ready, Bryant offered to do a test screening in his undergraduate class and give feedback over Skype. Jill and Ronna found the feedback very useful.  They started implementing the recommendations and offered Bryant a co-producer credit on the film. (Fun fact: Actress Rashida Jones is also a producer on the film!)

Rashida Jones on the very popular show, The Office. More recently she has starred in the show Parks & Recreation (also hilarious and popular).

Rashida Jones on the very popular show, The Office. More recently she has starred in the show Parks & Recreation (also hilarious and popular).

Having seen a short clip of the film myself, I have to say that in true independent docu-film style it both tugs at your heart and makes you think deeper. It adds another layer to the cultural conversation of pornography by showing both pros and cons. Bryant in fact commended Jill and Ronna for their unbiased stance. “They really are objective. They are not anti-porn but they are not pro-porn either, they were just reporting on this topic … It’s actually amazing to me how objective they have remained through all of this.”  According to Bryant, the film not only shows the dark side of the porn industry but also shows that not all of it is bad – some people even make a career in it.

The film is now in the final stages of editing.  Last Monday (December 1) Bryant organized another screening and Skype meeting with graduate students and a few professors. Shortly after the screening, the directors and everyone else working on the film got a huge surprise – they heard that their film had been accepted for the Sundance Film Festival! Of the 12,166 submissions to the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, only 118 were selected and “Hot Girls Wanted” was among them. (In case you’re wondering, that is about 1% acceptance rate.)

hot girls wanted

If you’re interested in learning more about “Hot Girls Wanted,” here is their website. Fear not, this link/website is SFW (safe for work). I can’t say the same for the Google searches though … (That was a naïve mistake on my part.) They currently don’t have a video trailer for the film on the website yet, but now that they have been accepted to Sundance it should be forthcoming.

Russell McGee and Doctor Who

By Tamera Theodore

The best part of my job is working with graduate students. Since I’m often the first point of contact in the department and the go-to person for things grad-related, I am a front line witness to a graduate student’s journey.  From the moment they arrive wide-eyed and enthusiastic through graduation when they head out to fulfill their dreams as researchers, creators, and educators – I am here to encourage, support and help pick up the pieces as needed.

Luckily for the department, Russell McGee didn’t head out right away when he was handed his Master of Science diploma in December 2013. He stayed right here in the department. I say “luckily” because I’m quite happy having Russell around. I’ll stop myself just short of suggesting he was one of my favorite grad students (even though he was – and I can say that now that he’s graduated!).  But, I will say he is an awesome person. He’s warm, humble, and genuine and he has an impressive wealth of knowledge about media production and theater. When he graduated, he was looking for work in Bloomington, the department was looking for an adjunct instructor and everyone benefited.

His work in the department has extended well beyond teaching T206 Introduction to Design & Production the last two semesters. He also simultaneously served as an associate instructor for several of our advanced production courses and he assisted in the production lab. Spring 2015 will likely be a repeat act of juggling multiple roles with the addition of another component – he landed a new job at Big Finish Productions, a company that produces CDs, downloads and books.  While you may not have heard of Big Finish Productions, you have probably heard of one of their biggest projects:  they are best known for their Doctor Who audio dramas.

Russell had the opportunity to meet one of the executive producers at Big Finish Productions when he attended the annual Doctor Who Convention in Chicago last year. That chance meeting led to an audition process that lasted over six months and ended up with Russell being hired as a freelance audio editor. He’s working on his first assignment now – very possibly something related to Doctor Who although he couldn’t divulge the specifics.  Typical stories are four episodes, each two hours long, and the average turnaround for audio editors is one to two months.  Since one of the biggest stumbling blocks for editors is getting the work done on time, and since he’ll be a story-to-story freelancer as long as they’re happy with the work, Russell says you can bet his top priority is meeting the deadline.


Russell came to our graduate program with a goal to better himself as a director, producer and playwright. As an M.S. student, he had the opportunity to take a variety of production courses and in the process learned a lot about audio in a rather unplanned way.   “Not very many people think about the audio until the very last moment with production. As a result of that, the productions that I’ve done here [as a graduate student], trial by fire, I’ve learned audio” and that’s how he ended up with Big Finish. But the reality is, Russell points out, this very well could be a foot in the door to bigger things. It’s possible, for example, to be hired onto the Doctor Who production team for the BBC and that would be like a dream come true.

For now though, Russell is happy combining his teaching and freelance work and hopes to find a more permanent home in The Media School if an opportunity presents itself.  And in typical generous Russell McGee fashion, he asked if thank you’s could be included in this post to some of the people who have been instrumental to his success in graduate school and beyond: Harmeet Sawhney, Rob Potter, Susan Kelly, Robby Benson and even (especially!?) me.

Dr. Kevin Kline

By Tamera Theodore

Actor and IU alumnus Kevin Kline returned to the Bloomington campus last week to receive a Doctorate of Humane Letters honorary degree and to be a guest of the Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series. With about 1,200 attendees present at the IU Auditorium, President Michael McRobbie and Provost Lauren Robel offered introductory remarks on Kline’s illustrious stage and film career, one that has spanned over four decades and resulted in a long list of accomplishments including an Academy Award, two Tony Awards, and induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

To a roar of enthusiastic applause and lots of woo-hoo’s, our very own Professor of Practice Robby Benson and his wife, Karla DeVito, introduced their longtime friend Kevin Kline by recounting the details of how they came to be fellow cast members of Broadway’s “Pirates of Penzance.” Robby and Karla, possibly the most adorable couple in the entire history of couples, explained that because of Kline’s stellar performance, Robby agreed to join the cast in the role of Frederic and thus met and fell in love with Karla, and the rest is history. Robby summed it up by saying “… and the only reason that my life has been so extraordinarily blessed is because of Kevin.” It was said tongue in cheek, of course, but clearly there’s a lot of love between these old friends.

Here are a few selected tidbits from Mr. Kline’s – indeed, Dr. Kline’s – hour-long, very funny onstage conversation with Jonathan Michaelsen, Chair of the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.

On his visit to the Bloomington campus last week:

“I wandered around the campus yesterday and a flood of memories came back. And hearing myself extolled today, I thought ‘Oh, it’s all nonsense’ and then I thought ‘No, it did all start here.’ It’s great to revisit the place where I learned so much valuable stuff.”

On being a member of the Vest Pocket Players at IU during the Vietnam War:

“If they brought back the draft, if there were conscription right now, I think the student body would be much more politicized than they are at the moment. I’m not advocating that. What I’m saying is – this is sort of what The Big Chill was about. A lot of the … idealism that we had came from [the fact that] our lives were on the line and we took a stand. We wrote a manifesto … because we wanted to put down our commitment to the community, our commitment to serving the community and being a voice …”

On preparing for roles:

“Each role, I think, requires its own preparation. Part of what one learns the more one does this is it starts with preparation. How do I prepare? Or do I not prepare? Let’s not even learn the lines, let’s just show up because the director loves to improvise. Great! I’m not going to plan it. I’m just going to respond on the day to the material. Other times, [preparation takes] hours, weeks, months, years. I carried around a copy of Hamlet in my pocket for about ten years before I did it. Each one requires its own preparation.”

On auditioning:

“I learned a lot about auditions, about casting directors, how to work and how not to be seduced by the idea of ‘there’s a way I’m supposed to play this character.’ And I started to learn this important message that there’s no such thing as a right way or a wrong way – there’s just a good way and a bad way. It was a great lesson to learn.”

During his visit, Kline also taught a masterclass with theater students (here are some video highlights) and was present for a screening of A Fish Called Wanda at the IU Cinema. Coming full circle from his film debut in Sophie’s Choice, Kline will begin work in a few weeks on a new film with none other than Meryl Streep (who is also a 2014 recipient of an honorary doctorate from IU).


Norbert Goes to Cannes

By Mona Malacane

It’s a pretty common scene in the Telecom building and around campus – a group of people waiting for something (classroom, bus, etc).  Perhaps that was also true a century ago.  What is different in our times is that instead of talking to one another, people are texting, Facebooking, Snapchatting, Instagramming, or another ____-ing on [insert any mobile device here].

Humanexus, product of a collaboration between Norbert Herber, Ying-Fang Shen, and Katy Börner, is a thought-provoking documentary on evolution of human communication, all the way to the above-mentioned mobile devices and beyond. “The film starts in prehistoric times and goes up until the 20th century and brings us to where we are now,” Norbert explained. “Then it shows three possible futures and allows the audience to glimpse things that are similar to what they see now, or ideas of things that have been presented in movies and science fiction – the future speculations of writers, film makers, artists, and authors … and each [future] ends with a pause and the question, ‘is this what we want, what do we want?’”

A big part of Norbert’s work for the project was recording voices asking, “Is this what we want? What do we want?” The question is asked in a variety of languages by people of different ages, adding an additional layer of depth to the film. “I got as many languages I possibly could in the small window of time I had to do this … and I recorded them all in different ways,” he explained. “There was an old recording microphone; I had my father-in-law and Betsi call and leave a message on my answering machine; some people called in over Skype and I recorded that; some people came to the studio and recorded clean. The idea was that I didn’t want it to be all a clean, voice-over narration style. It needed to represent everyone in a realistic way. So having it broken up by the phone, and the internet, and by the other mediating technologies gave it a texture.”

Norbert and Katy accepting their award at the AVIFF- Cannes Art Film Festival.

Norbert and Katy accepting their award at the AVIFF- Cannes Art Film Festival.

Since it was completed in 2012, the film has achieved official selection in 81 different film festivals around the world, most recently the San Pedro Film Festival (CA) and Bolgatty International Film Festival (India), collecting quite a few awards along the way. This summer the film was accepted and screened at the AVIFF-Cannes Art Film Festival where it won third place in one of the short film documentary categories. It was subsequently selected for an additional screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Yes, the Cannes Film Festival that internationally famous celebrities and renowned directors, producers, and filmmakers attend in Cannes, France. The three collaborators traveled to France for the famous festival and got to witness the “circus” of events that take place over 12 days, as well as network with other filmmakers and see some of the other films being screened.

Norbert on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival

Norbert on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.

The award-winning film is being screened tonight (Monday, September 8) at 7 pm in the IU Cinema and will be followed by a talk from the three collaborators. If you’d like more information on the screen, please click here. The screening is free but you must get tickets (either at the door or before) to enter!