Making Original Features

I hate the word content.

To me it always felt like lazy consumerism, as if capitalism figured out it could be just as destructive by producing nothing at all. I guess I just prefer my evil socio-economic system to produce something real, like asphalt and shoelaces or whatever we used to make, as opposed to youtube videos of teenagers eating spoons of cinnamon whilst sponsored by stamps.com. Content sneaked up on me from many angles. I was once in a meeting with a digital producer from a different city who un-ironically said the words ‘Content is King‘.

Reader, you will be glad to know we both survived that experience.

Creative Dundee always seemed to offer a healthy alternative to the usual cringeworthy ‘online posting‘. Since the creation of the website in 2008 and the co-founders dedication to featuring interesting things happening in the city, their posts didn’t seem vapid or sell out-y like most content creation seems to be. They came across like people in love with the city and the tenacity so many of its creative entrepreneurs have.

When I started working here, keen to make new features, I realised the best option was to apply the wisdom that has already been learned through years of Creative Dundee. The creation of any video or article, in my mind, was tied with one tried and tested litmus test: is this honestly curious about people in Dundee as well as how/what they make?

I found a video Claire Dufour had made where two people in the city interviewed each other about creativity and their work. With a bit of repackaging, this became Split Screen which has given insights on the people behind Dundee’s cultural life ever since. My personal favourite is the time Beth Bate, director of the DCA, shared her experience of applying for the job and having to tell herself ‘you belong in this room‘, an advice I have found helpful since.

We also continued to make Spotlight features and speak to local creatives about local issues, like when Sekai Machache spoke about diversity in art and how her work is perceived. Other conversations also touched on collaboration and sustainability. Very similarly to Spotlight, we also created ‘Two Minutes with…‘, a video feature that showcases artists and their process.

We continued to invite contributors to do one-off blogs, something I enjoyed about Creative Dundee way before working here. These blogs also spoke to larger issues and current affairs, like Joseph DeLappe’s piece on how we make art in the political climate of 2017. But they were personal and open too. Lucie Rachel shared about making personal documentaries, and the cost that often has. Naomi McIntosh shared a photo essay on chronic pain, which had me shed an unprofessional tear in the office when she sent it over.

In a year of reinforcing original extra features, Creative Dundee has kept a commitment to being curious about people in Dundee. I find it easy to be snooty about the idea of content, but it’s not all bad. If our digital platforms can create the kind of material that values people indiscriminately, and shows what is inspiring about them, maybe there is a purpose behind content-creation that is not just about making a quick penny.

The DCA has gotten into a habit of tweeting about films they are screening that are based on books, and suggesting people go take them out at their local library – featuring photos of said libraries and books. Isn’t that wonderful? If youtube holes of quick-sand-like monetised self-obsession make my brain feel numb, this kind of thing makes me feel truly part of a cultural community.

So here’s to another year telling stories, being interested in people, sharing insight, finding inspiration and ONLINE CONTENT! Ugh, ok, too far. I think I’ll just call it ‘features’ instead.

 

by Sam Gonçalves