This Is Not Graffiti is a 20-minute short documentary film on the critical role that politically-charged graffiti and street art has played in uprisings and revolutions around the world, particularly the recent popular revolts in the Arab world that began in Tunisia in 2011.
Despite the preferred media narrative that the Arab uprisings were the ‘Facebook Revolution,’ what is often overlooked is the enormous impact that anonymous graffiti and street art played in galvanizing the public (particularly youth) and served as a revolutionary call-to-arms, where the walls became a canvas to speak truth-to-power and proved to be a powerful weapon of resistance.
In fact, the current conflict in Syria began simply with a group of teenage boys who, while watching the events in Libya and Egypt unfold on TV, spray-painted on their school wall the simple phrase “Your Turn Has Come, Doctor” — referring to President Assad, a Western-trained ophthalmologist.
Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, graffiti and street art became the prime communications vehicle for people to vent their anger, express their hopes and dreams, and demand action.
But this phenomenon is hardly new.
Graffiti dates back to walls of prehistoric caves. But its modern use as a political weapon came into plain view in revolutionary pre-war Europe of the mid-1900s, eventually coming into its own during the 1968 French riots where all across Paris, a groundswell of creative street expression came from striking workers and students, who spray-painted walls with poetic and philosophical slogans, speaking to its readers on a much more emotional level.
Since then, revolutionary graffiti and street art can be found all over the world and has played a vital role during times of political transformation and social instability, creating a shared public visual space which symbolically and physically challenges the establishment and the dominant ideologies, and has tremendously influenced the great social and political upheavals of the past century.
This Is Not Graffiti will examine this history and evolution while telling this global story by way of a local one, mixing interviews on the subject here in the New York City area with a week in Cairo talking with those who have made, studied, and been directly impacted by these words and images.
The film will also explore how this effort to demand change from governments has led to other calls, most prominently from women in Egypt — a country that recently ranked last in the Middle East for women’s rights — who have taken to street art to demand change from their own society.
We are seeking the funds in this Kickstarter campaign to fully produce, finish, and submit the film to festivals around the world by the end of Spring 2014. You join us on the ground floor for this endeavor.
We have been in touch with several of the people who we hope to visit with and interview on-camera, and are ready to begin production as soon as this campaign is successfully funded.
We will interview people in the New York City area in early January 2014, and then fly to Cairo in February during the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution where we will spend a week shooting.
Editing, scoring, and finishing the film will be completed by April when we will begin an aggressive film festival campaign—domestically and internationally—where we fully expect the film will find a home for the next year or two.
Filmmaking is not an inexpensive endeavor and funds for independent documentaries are in short supply. Your donations will allow us to fully fund this film (***there will be no second Kickstarter project to finish this film, we promise!***), permitting us to:
• rent film gear: while we own much of the equipment needed, we will need to rent some lighting accessories, camera gear, and some additional audio components.
• transportation: a week in Cairo, Egypt for our very small crew will account for the vast majority of our travel costs, though there will be several days of production travel locally, as well.
• music: allow us to hire a composer for an original score for the film.
• crew: our very small crew of three will require very modest funds to pay for a cinematographer and sound recordist, and a small fee to direct and produce this project.
• post-production work: while we will handle a large majority of the work for this film ourselves, we will need to outsource some graphic design, audio work, color correction, and film transfers to specialty houses.
• film festival submissions: film festival submissions, even for shorts, run between $35 and $50 a piece, and an aggressive festival campaign will require 75-100 submissions, and the cost for us to attend our theatrical premiere.
• miscellaneous production expenses: production always requires small purchases that add up — from food for the crew and volunteers, to periodic runs to Office Deport or Radio Shack or Home Depot, to unexpected fees for traveling and driving, etc.
• Kickstarter rewards: though we were careful to create great rewards for our donors, we were also cost-conscious in making sure that they accounted for a reasonable portion of the overall budget to create, acquire and ship.
By Mark Nickolas, on Wed Aug 14, 2013 at 8:30 AM ET
From Pure Politics, CN2:
The revelations about the National Security Agency’s phone tracking programs are only the latest iteration of the lengths the government has gone to stretch the law in the name of national security, said a former Kentucky political consultant.
Mark Nickolas, now a film school graduate, was selected to film a documentary on Abdullah al-Kidd, who along with the ACLU, has sued the government after authorities detained Kidd in the wake of 9-11 under what’s called the federal material witness law. The film is called A Cloud of Suspicion.
Kidd, a Kansas-born college football player in Idaho who had only recently converted to Islam, was arrested in March 2003 at Dulles Airport and held under the material witness law under the guise of being called as a witness against a fellow Muslim and University of Idaho student. Kidd was held for 15 months and never called to testify.
The New York Times first reported on Kidd’s saga and has followed it as Kidd and the ACLU have taken it to court. Now the ACLU granted Nickolas access to some of its information and key players as Nickolas puts together the film, which he said will show how the Bush administration overreached, the Obama administration failed to correct it and the U.S. Supreme Court has failed to properly check the powers, including when it comes to “abuse” of the federal material witness law.
“You don’t have the same constitutional rights as a witness. You don’t have Miranda rights because you’re not being charged as a criminal,” Nickolas told Pure Politics (2:30 of the video). You’re being held as a witness. So it’s more insidious than what we had ever done before.
By Mark Nickolas, on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 8:30 AM ET
It’s been more than two years since I wrote my first piece for the RP. It was April 2011 and I had just entered the graduate Media Studies & Film program at The New School in New York City and was eager, bright-eyed, and knew little about how to make a film, yet alone feature-length documentary films. No doubt, while you can certainly become a successful filmmaker without spending $100,000+ for the formal training you can receive in graduate school, for some of us that is a worthy investment.
In May, I graduated with a newly-minted master’s degree and my filmmaking training wheels have been taken off. Now it’s time to see whether my talent can match my enormous ambitions. I’ve already completed one short film that has been receiving an unexpected amount of national attention in the past week and am already in pre-production on my first feature-length documentary that I landed last year.
So, I’m going to use this website as a personal journal of sorts as I head down this path. I’ll offer a behind-the-scenes style peek at what it means to be an emerging filmmaker in New York City and the things we must juggle, mine fields we must avoid, and obstacles we must clear in this hyper-competitive field where an early disaster can quickly dash your filmmaking hopes for good.
I’ll admit it. This journey is very exciting but so enormously terrifying. A perfect mix, actually. I feel like I’m standing at Base Camp and looking up at Mt. Everest. But my 15+ years in politics prepared me in many ways to handle this moment. I’m certainly nowhere as intimidated by the grandeur of the stage or the media spotlight as my fellow (and much younger) classmates. I also seem to be able to get most people to answer the phone or return an email, if only because of my background and professional success in other somewhat related fields.
Those are important benefits, no doubt about it. But getting people to open the door is just the first of many steps. Whether I have actual talent to direct a film, am able to find enough donors to help fund the $400,000 budget — and can catch a few breaks — are the real questions.
The great news is that it seems I’ve caught a few breaks already. As has been highlighted at the RP last week, my quirky short film — My Life in the Canyon of Heroes — has shined a good amount of unexpectedly national attention on me over the past few days. After the film made the finals of Smithsonian magazine’s short film contest, it was highlighted in a story in the Atlantic. That led to emails from NPR’s Marketplace and CNBC’s Power Lunch who wanted to interview me for segments. Marketplace was taped and ran on Friday. I just confirmed with CNBC earlier today that we are taping my segment next to ‘Charging Bull’ on Thursday morning and it will run on Friday (1-2 pm ET). There may be more interviews in the coming weeks.
Funny how life works. That little film was never meant to see the outside of a classroom. It began as a final project in my ‘Cinematic Place’ class last spring. I only submitted it to the Smithsonian at the suggestion of Deanna Kamiel, my professor, and had completely forgotten about it until just before it made the finals when they contacted me for some clearance and rights information. And once it made the finals, the media storm happened on its own. I didn’t reach out to anyone and was as surprised as everyone else when the national media was interested in a 6-minute film about a talking 7,000-pound bronze bull.
Yesterday, I learned that I didn’t win any of the final Smithsonian awards. But how could I be upset? Thousands of people have seen and voted and commented on my first completed short film and I have national press clips heading into fundraising for my first feature project that are priceless. The journey ahead remains terrifying, but I just got a taste of the possible. Maybe I’m now at Camp 1 instead of Base Camp. But — come on — that’s the easy part of climbing Mt. Everest. I get that.
So, I head into my first film with a nice surge of confidence to keep the fear in check. It feels good. There are going to be so many ups and downs in the coming year. Student loans payments are already on the horizon and few get rich making documentary films. But I’m a dreamer and not afraid to go for it. Maybe I’ll be one of the few that make a name for themselves in this field. Maybe I won’t. But I’ll know that I gave it my best shot.
Next week, I’ll preview my feature-length film, tentatively titled A Cloud of Suspicion. I look forward to sharing my journey with you, even when it sucks and I’m battered and bruised from the constant rejection. That’s, apparently, what I signed up for.
By Mark Nickolas, on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM ET
Friend of RP Mark Nickolas has hit the big time. His short film on Occupy Wall Street, and the famous bull that sits near the stock exchange, was the feature of a Kai Ryssdal story on NPR’s “Marketplace.”
Forget Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon or Warren Buffett. For the past 23 years, there’s been only one non-stop observer to Wall Street’s goings-ons.
The Charging Bull of Wall Street, the iconic 7,000-pound bronze sculpture, sits just a couple of blocks from the New York Stock Exchange. And is pictured in media reports, movies and just about any other popular representation of U.S. financial markets.
“He’s still just a temporary installation. There’s a city ordinance that says you can’t have a private work of art that’s on public property for more than a year,” says Mark Nickolas. “And I think they’ve just turned a blind eye to that rule.”
Nickolas says his movie is told from the point of view of the bull and so, perhaps, can personify Wall Street and New York in a very physical way:
“The fact that the Occupy protests actually began Vancouver, Canada, from his point of view as a New Yorker, there is this sense of ‘how can you target me? I began as a work of art, and who’s Canada to be lecturing us about protesting government.”
By Jonathan Miller, on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 3:00 PM ET
This afternoon (generally in the 6:00 PM EDT hour on most NPR stations), Friend of RP, Mark Nickolas will be appearing on National Public Radio’s “Marketplace,” discussing his critically-praised new short film, “The Story of the Wall Street Bull.”
Nickolas, who singlehandedly started Kentucky’s political blogosphere, has become a documentary filmmaker, and his new short film on Occupy Wall Street is up for a Smithsonian In Motion award.
Watch the film below, and vote here to support Mark’s effort. (The film is listed as “The Story of the Wall Street Bull” and is in the ‘Arts’ category. You’ll see when you click on the link.)
By Jonathan Miller, on Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM ET
Friend of RP, and the man who launch Kentucky’s political blogsophere, Mark Nickolas, has embarked on a documentary film career that is already getting broad national attention. His short film on Occupy Wall Street is up for a Smithsonian In Motion award.
Watch the film below, and vote here to support Mark’s effort. (The film is listed as “The Story of the Wall Street Bull” and is in the ‘Arts’ category. You’ll see when you click on the link.)
What if New York City’s famous charging bull could talk? Mark Nickolas’s short film, My Life in the Canyon of Heroes, answers just this question. The clever film traces the history of the Wall Street bull from the perspective of none other than the animal himself. With the voice of a friendly middle-aged New Yorker, he recounts his life, from his birth as a defiant piece of guerrilla art, up through his murkier days as the Occupy Wall Street movement’s symbol of financial greed and excess.
The short is nominated for Smithsonian magazine’s In Motion video contest, along with 24 other finalists. The contest recognizes videographers that “explore and document the world around us.” Voting is open to the public, and the grand prize winner will be announced on July 15, 2013.
At the top of Romney’s problems is that he’s not viewed as a real conservative among his base (loss of enthusiasm) and he’s lost so much likability among the swing voters. If Marco Rubio wasn’t a freshman senator with his own family baggage, he’d be a shoe-in, but I say not this year.
First term New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez would have been my call but not for what Sarah Palin to destroy any chance that someone who fits her own political profile could get picked.
I think Jonathan’s choice of Portman is a good pick if Romney wanted to project a thoughtful, businesslike team, but Romney’s problems aren’t ones that Portman picks, and remember that Portman was Bush’s OMB director in 2006 and 2007 and that could bite them in a message that what America needs is not a return to Bush economic policies. Romney can’t just go safe and hope to win.
My pick…is Mike Huckabee. A seasoned governor. Likable. Conservatives love him. America never hated him. Principled.
I’m not saying that they could win. I actually don’t see a scenario where Romney wins the general unless he’s willing to infuriate his base by selecting a true moderate like Susan Collins or retiring Olympia Snowe. But if I have to predict who he picks, it’s Huckabee.
After two years of campaign, hundreds of pundit prognostications, and thousands of cable news sound bites, at long last, what you’ve been waiting for…
Our fearless contributors – Contributing RPs, Friends of RP and RP Staff — offer their predictions for tonight’s Iowa caucuses.
And you can too — please give us your predictions in the Comments section below.
Without further ado…(Click on their name to find out their background)…
The RP: Paul 30%; Romney 25%; Santorum 21%; Gingrich 7%; Perry 6%; Bachmann 4%, Huntsman 1%. I don’t think Rick “Man On Dog” Santorum’s organization is strong enough to take advantage of his surge. I also think Paul’s support is underestimated in the polls because his grassroots support is so fervant, and the tin foil hat crowd among his followers are fearful of pollsters. Remember Pat Robertson?
Jeff Smith: Santorum 27; Romney 23; Paul 23; Perry 11; Gingrich 9; Bachmann 6. I think some Bachmann/Gingrich/Perry folks walk in to their caucus, see how outnumbered they are by Sant-mentum, and get on the bandwagon.
Jason Grill: Romney, Paul, and Santorum will finish first, second, and third. The order though is more “up in the air” than George Clooney was in his recent Oscar nominated movie. Organization and friends twisting other friends arms at the caucuses will decide the order of the top three. If Romney finishes third that WILL be news and change the race somewhat moving forward. He will be seen as an even weaker front runner if this happens. Also, it will be interesting to see where Perry and Gingrich finish tonight. Keep a lookout for their percentages at the end of the night. A fourth place finish for Perry over Gingrich will signal a potential showdown with Romney in South Carolina. Lastly, I am anxious to see how Huntsman finishes in next week’s New Hampshire primary after skipping Iowa.
Mark Nickolas: Paul (25%); Romney (23%); Santorum (22%); Gingrich (11%); Perry (10%); Bachmann (6%). Iowa requires a level of commitment from supporters unlike anywhere else. Those with the best state organization and strongest levels of commitment do especially well (Paul and Paul). Also, since Independents and Dems can participate if they want to cross over — as Indies did for Obama in ’08 — that’s likely to help Paul the most. Nefarious (aka loyal) Dems are going to support anyone but Romney to ensure a protracted GOP race, with Paul and Santorum benefitting most.
Rod Jetton: I think Ron Paul will just nip Romney and Rick Santorum will get third. Newt probably finishes in 4th. The Ron Paul forces are dedicated and with his numbers going up they and their friends have started believing he can win. They will turn out and surprise all the experts.
Greg Harris: Santorum – 26%; Romney – 25%; Paul – 21%; Gingrich – 12%; Bachman – 8%; Perry – 7%; Huntsman – 1%. Santorum’s diligent grassroots work throughout the State this past year will pay off, resulting in more ardent caucus warriors advocating his case, and moving some on-the-fence Bachman and Perry supporters. Ron Paul’s fanatical base will still assure him over an over 20% showing. The minority moderate voters will hold their noses and back Romney.
Read the rest of… Our Contributors Predict the Iowa Caucuses…
By Mark Nickolas, on Mon May 2, 2011 at 12:45 PM ET
Two quick thoughts/observations on the Bin Laden aftermath:
First, it is quite a sight to be met upon arrival at a subway station in Manhattan by police officers carrying automatic weapons in plain view. It lessens the amount of caffeine you need to get the day started.
Second, it dawned on me this morning while watching the news that, in the history of mankind, I doubt there’s ever been a more bad ass group of people going after a single man in one singular movement like there was yesterday with those 15 ‘Seal Team 6′ members — the most elite of the top secret, black-ops, U.S. special forces — landing their helicopters in Bin Laden’s backyard and then daring him to start a fire-fight. (Here’s a great link to an article about Seal Team 6′s historic mission.)
In fact, I can’t even think of a movie that assembled such a group. Just one of these guys equals Rambo. Imagine 15 of them at once…wild stuff.
By Mark Nickolas, on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 8:30 AM ET
Last fall, at age 44, after 15 years in Democratic politics — or writing about it as an advocate and observer — I decided to challenge myself one more time and go after the thing that has interested me for quite a while: taking my experience and applying it to one of the most powerful mediums for affecting change: political documentary filmmaking.
I had come to believe that the documentary presents the greatest potential of informing the masses about the happenings in our society, providing itself as an important catalyst for political and social change. Think no further than Fahrenheit 9/11 or An Inconvenient Truthor even Super Size Meto understand how documentaries are able to circumvent the media or political filters and speak directly to the public about the issues of our time. They usually don’t force change quickly, but instead help to generate the critical mass necessary to alter perceptions and raise awareness, allowing us to re-prioritize our concerns as a society, rather than relying on the traditional media or, God-forbid, government officials to lead the way (are they still looking for those WMDs in Iraq that they both promised us?).
This time, I resisted the impulse to simply jump into the deep end of the pool and learn the craft of filmmaking on my own. If I were 10 years younger, who knows? But having recently moved back to New York City, I decided to do the thing that many of us 40-somethings frequently seem to long for – rather than just dream about – and that was going back to school. In my case, film school.
In brighter days...
After taking a close look at some of the excellent film programs in New York City, I decided to go against the wisdom of pretty much everyone whose advice I sought, and applied to only one school. If I didn’t get in, I was fine with those consequences. I’ve done well in politics, and had just left a tumultuous stint working for Governor David Paterson as we tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the job that Eliot Spitzer suddenly handed him a few years earlier. I knew I would be okay if school didn’t pan out. Either way, I would have chased a dream and would no longer torture myself over whether or not to pursue it.
Ultimately, I applied to master’s program in Media Studies and Film at The New School. Being a UC Berkeley graduate, and a strong Democrat, I suspected I’d fit in quite well with the more renegade and avant-garde environment of The New School (after all, the school began a century ago largely from a group of breakaway scholars from Columbia University who refused to sign their government loyalty oaths). Beside, while NYU is renowned for its film school, it is geared toward traditional fiction films. If you want to go the documentary route, The New School makes much more for sense. So, I applied in October, got accepted in November, and began school barely a month later.
During orientation, I learned I was the oldest of my incoming class of about 70 students. That discovery came just as I pulled out a notebook and pen to take notes, rather than typing directly into a shiny MacBook Pro, as did a majority of my new classmates (note: I used a typewriter the last time I was in school in the late 1980s). It was a new world and, at first, awkward. Terrifying, actually. It’s funny how you don’t feel old working on a political campaign when in your forties, but feel ancient when you’re a new grad school student. Like, dinosaur-ancient.
Thankfully, that feeling largely subsides after a few weeks as you realize just how great of an advantage and head start you have on your classmates when it comes breath of experience, perspective and focus, all of which translates into your coursework and relationship with professors, one way or another. While most grad students are, understandably, still figuring out what they want to do after they’re done with school, an older student has a laser-like approach to figuring out the lay of the land, the right classes to take and professors to avoid, how to take advantage of all the networking opportunities during visits from filmmakers and distributors and producers, and, most importantly, a plan. As a result, the lectures and readings are remarkably interesting and you’re enjoying it too much to even contemplate meaningful procrastination. On top of that, it turns out that professors love older students because we have a purpose, are engaged by what they’re teaching, and we’ve been around-the-block long enough to intuitively know what matters and what doesn’t when processing large amounts of new information.
Read the rest of… Mark Nickolas: From the Political Trenches to Film School