The Flying Focus Video Collective is a group of activists using video as a tool for social change.
We are a collective because there is no hierarchy, and there are no dues or fees. Each member acts through the collective only as a matter of his or her own responsibility, and by participating agrees to support other members in their pursuits. We include video in the name not especially because we are a bunch of "TV heads," because some of the participants don't even own TVs. Instead we realize the impact the televised image has on society, and the ability that same image has in shaping society. By reporting and documenting events and movements which in corporate television are usually relegated to simplistic soundbites, if mentioned at all, we hope to educate and inform the television audience and to widen their world view. "Giving Voice to the Voiceless" is part of our mission.
Flying Focus was formed in January of 1991 as an offshoot from CAUSMIME, a group organized against the "Gulf War." Since then we've produced a number of series, including our longest running series the weekly half-hour cable access show "The Flying Focus Video Bus". It has been running for over five years, and over 230 shows. Topics range from local issues such as homelessness, pedestrian rights, and efforts to retain equal rights for gay and lesbian Oregonians, to global affairs such as the U.S. blockade on Cuba, the situation of average people in besieged Bosnia, and Greenpeace's efforts to stop French nuclear testing in the Muroroa Atoll. Most of our members are not formally trained in television production. Instead, we are people who have stories to tell, or want to help others tell their stories, and recognize the power of mass media and television in relating those stories to a wider audience.
There are several aspects to our work.
Production: A major aspect of our work is producing our weekly shows and various special programs.
"The Flying Focus Video Bus" is a weekly half-hour program showing documentary, analysis, humor, events and news reports, although not all in one episode every time. The emphasis is to present timely information based around local events, although the subject may be a local or global issue.
"Flying Focus Speakers and Events" may include our one-hour format, "Inciteful Views," or programs running 90 to 120 minutes long. These programs highlight speakers and major events which come to Portland, OR and are only edited to fit the time constraints of cable access TV.
Media Activism: Another branch of our work is to create media events and empower citizens to get involved with the video image. Whether one feels that TV violence creates real violence or not, or whether you believe you are susceptible to advertising, we must all recognize that television is a major force in directing and reflecting society. By creating television programs, and by helping others to analyze the media, document their own stories, or just participate in local events we are subverting the corporate paradigm of one-way television.
Distribution: We also act to educate the public by distributing our tapes through a catalog (which now contains over 300 of our original programs), lending libraries, and cable access TV in the Portland area and around the nation.
Responsibility for shows is accepted by individuals. This doesn't mean that they must produce the entire program themselves. It merely means they are responsible for signing up help, and seeing that everyone does her or his part to complete the show. Currently we use the cable access
facilities around the Portland area. We hope to one day raise enough money to set up our own editing station.
Content of the show is determined by those involved, and is not censored by the rest of the collective, although other members review and comment on the rough or finished program.
Most of our income is from donations from individuals. Although we ask for a donation when someone orders a copy of one of our programs, this figure is not much more than our actual cost to make the tapes, and so we keep our tapes as available as possible.
Currently all our members are volunteers. All of our income goes into producing programs, hosting events, mailings, and mostly supplies and office overhead such as rent and telephone.
In the fall of 1996 we received tax exempt status, meaning that contributions to Flying Focus can be made tax deductible.
Ultimately we would like to break free from many of the constraints of current television "rules." Interactive programming events, live call-in shows, and on the street "free speech" segments are all part of our repertoire for removing television from the passive viewer stance and moving it into the active participant stance. To remove ourselves from the elitist costs of cable television we dream about having a 24 hour "alternative" television station. To overcome the astounding costs of high-tech broadcast systems, we envision a low-tech hand to hand or mail network of media activists reaching across the country. And to widen our own world view, we are currently working on our conceptual Village Neighbors television, with activists in other countries showing how they live and struggle from day to day, in their own eyes and words.
In short, the Flying Focus Video Collective is a supportive group of people who are interested in documenting the progressive works, actions, and voices of those who are ignored by corporate media.
Would you like to "sponsor" our programs on cable access in your town?
Are you interested in starting your own alternative video group?
Would you just like to let us know you are out there?
Contact: The Flying Focus Video Collective
3439 NE Sandy Blvd, #248
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 321-5051 (voicemail/showtimes)
(503) 239-7456(office phone)