The innovative film maker Tiffany Shlain isn’t a great fan of selfies. They are mostly two-dimensional, she told me at a FutureCast salon at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto. Rather than making us seem more authentic, Shlain says, they make us appear as if we are posing. But as a self-styled “cloud” filmmaker, she is producing films which invite people to film themselves and then be featured in her work.
This focus on capturing us at our most authentic is one reason why Shlain’s work – which, in her words, “cloud-sources” rather than crowdsources its material – is so challenging. Her latest movie, The Science of Character, while only eight minutes long, took nine months to put together. Funded by the Bezos Family Foundation, it’s an online movie which borrows from neuroscience to ask how we can improve our character. “Who do you admire?” Shlain asks her audience. And The Science of Character, which was launched at FutureCast, is an exploration of how we can make our lives happier and more meaningful.
Shlain’s next cloud-sourced project asks the question: “What skills do you think you need to flourish in the 21st century?” For her, the key skill is “learning”. And Shlain – a filmmaker who has gone from founding the Webby Awards to now being described by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century” – is an excellent example of somebody flourishing in our age of innovation. Cloud-sourced movies are all about curators like Tiffany Shlain learning from their audience. She learns from you. And if you submit your ideas to Shlain, you may find yourself in her next movie.