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In which John discusses his dad's work as a documentary filmmaker, his childhood dream job as a Movie Introducer on the outdated technology of cable television, and his passion for documentary films.

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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday.  So our Dad is a documentary filmmaker and when we were growing up, he worked on movies about everything from water in Florida to education in Alaska, and I guess there's a case to be made that we followed in his footsteps by creating nonfiction video, except I don't really think of like, this a documentary.  This is more, you know, like, very short podcasts featuring facial expressions.  Which is a genre of nonfiction video that is far less expensive and time-consuming than documentaries, and also requires less talent for visual storytelling, which is great, because even after more than 10 years, I'm still pretty bad at editing video.

But one thing I did inherit from Dad is a really deep love for documentary films.  Like, Hank, as you know, my dream job has always been--you know what, I'm about to date myself, but there you used to be this widely adopted technology called cable television.  Basically, you would pay a monthly fee in exchange for access to lots of video content, so it was sort of like Netflix except for some reason, you still had to watch advertisements?  It was a weird time.  

But anyway, there were these cable stations that just showed old movies all day, like, one of them was called Turner Classic Movies.  And before the movie started, there would always be this person who would introduce the movie to you and talk about some historical context and who the stars were.  Now, it occurs to me in retrospect that the introducer probably existed mostly to make the movie longer, like, if you could stretch a 90 minute movie into a 120 minutes of content, then you could add eight minutes of advertising, but when I was a kid, that was my dream job, to be an introducer, but not of regular movies, of documentaries.

These days, documentaries are a lot easier to discover than they were when I was a kid.  Netflix, for instance, has an excellent and extensive library, but still many of my favorite documentaries aren't on Netflix.  Like I'm thinking of the Seven Up series, where a filmmaker has checked in every seven years with a group of people since they were kids in the 1960s, or Herb & Dorothy, a movie about a postal worker and a librarian living in New York City who became two of the world's leading art collectors or the classic Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, a gut-wrenching and sometimes hilarious movie about a woman whose mother has Alzheimer's, or Slavery by Another Name, a movie about the failures of reconstruction and the post-Civil War United States.  There are so many great documentaries and so few of them ever find a broad audience.

But as a kid, my favorite genre of documentary was the nature documentary, where you could see animals in the wild, like, fighting to survive.  I love nature docs because they felt like a glimpse into a world without us.  I mean, they almost never include humans in the frame, and there's something magical about that.  But, of course, in real life, humans can't be separated from nature.  I mean, we're currently nature's most important species and the choices we're making affect every other species on Earth, and that's what I love so much about the movie Kedi and why I wanted us to help in its distribution.

Kedi uses all the conventions of the nature documentary.  You get the beautiful cinematography, the fight scenes, the plucky underdog struggling to survive, the parents caring for babies, but it doesn't exclude humans from the story.  Instead, we see the connecting points between a city and its people and its cats.  It is a nature documentary that acknowledges that humans are part of nature and it shows that life for cats is sometimes tender and sometimes cold and always unpredictable, as it is for humans.

Now, I know that Kedi is currently only available via purchase or YouTube Red and that makes it inaccessible to a lot of you.  One of the big challenges of documentaries is that it's really hard to fund them on advertising revenue alone, which is why so few of them are available on free streaming services, at least legally.  But regardless, if you do have a chance to see it someday, I really hope you do.  It's a wonderful movie.  

While I'm fulfilling my dream of being an introducer, two other recommendations.  If you live in the United States, PBS has some excellent documentaries that are actually available for free.  Also, wherever you live, there is a free and ongoing documentary project that you might enjoy called The Road to Nerdfighteria, about how different people found this little corner of the internet and what it means to them.  They're still accepting submissions and it's a really wonderful series, links in the Doobly-Doo below.  Hank, I will see you on Friday.

Endscreen, Hank, I actually won't see you on Friday, that was misleading and I apologize.  I'm going to be taking like a week or possibly two weeks away from the internet to focus on some writing things, but there will be a video next Tuesday, it's just that I recorded it in advance.  Okay, check out Kedi and The Road to Nerdfighteria, bye.