JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

 

Notes

1. “Social animation,” translated from the French “animation sociale,” was a community development movement designed by Michel Blondin in Quebec in the 1960s. Drawing from Saul Alinsky-style confrontation tactics, social animators worked with local constituencies to target pressing social and political issues, then trained citizens in pressure techniques to bring about desired changes (Turner, 77). Because the term was so widespread and commonly used during the Challenge for Change program, I will retain it in my discussion here, despite its shift in recent years to denote the animation of still images in film and video production. For a discussion of the survival of the older meaning of the term, see the entry on “animateurs, animation, learning and change” in the encyclopedia of informal education: http://www.infed.org/animate/b-animat.htm
[return to page 1 of essay]

2. Marie Kurchak, “What Challenge? What Change?” Canadian Film Reader, Eds Seth Feldman and Joyce Nelson, Toronto: Peter Martin Assoc. Ltd, 1977, p. 121. Reprinted from Take One, 4:1 (September-October 1972).

3. Waugh, Thomas, Michael Brendan Baker, and Ezra Winton, eds, Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010. See Lyell Davies’ “Challenge for Change and Participatory Filmmaking” in Jump Cut 53 for a review of this book, and some images of the films that came out of the NFB project.

4. For explorations of these questions, and more, see the excellent essays in Waugh et al, Challenge for Change. For an interesting update on the Fogo project, see Lisa Moore, “Rock Haven”, in Canadianart, 28:3 (Fall 2011), 124-8.

5. Pinney, “The B.C. Land Use Project,” R/G 15, ACC# 86-04, Box 8, File 1, Kwantlen Polytechnic Library Archives, Surrey. This document is undated, but references to contemporary events allow it to be dated to sometime in 1973, as the project was getting started.

6. Donald Gutstein, Vancouver Ltd. Toronto: James Lorimer and Co, 1975, 11. [return to page 2]

7. I owe special gratitude to political theorist Serena Kataoka for alerting me to the work of these scholars, and to the importance of the scholarship on urban politics of the seventies to understanding the NFB’s intervention in Surrey. Her dissertation "Civil Cities: Urban Myths for a Suburban Scene" (University of Victoria, 2011) takes Bridgeview as an extended case study in a trenchant analysis of how Jane Jacobs has figured in the politics of Vancouver’s urban development. While we reach many of the same conclusions about the “service” role played by Surrey in relation to Vancouver, she offers a much more extended account of Bridgeview through the decades than I am able to in this essay.

8. Molotch, Harvey, “The City as Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place,” The American Journal of Sociology, 82:2 (September 1976), 309-332.

9. Indeed, as Serena Kataoka has observed, Lorimer’s1972 book A Citizen’s Guide to City Politics (where he develops the notion of “the property industry,”) is considered by many to be an under-recognized precursor to Molotch. (Kataoka, e-mail, 8/23/2011)

10. Lorimer, James, The Developers, Toronto: James Lorimer and Company, 1978.

11. As quoted in Cameron Owens, “Challenges in Evaluating Livability in Vancouver, Canada,” (Case study prepared for Planning Sustainable Cities: Global Report on Human Settlements 2009, available from http://www.unhabitat.org/grhs/2009), p.6.

12. Lorimer quotes from Harry N. Lash, Planning in a Human Way: Personal reflections on the regional planning experience in Greater Vancouver. (Toronto: Macmillan, Urban Prospects series, 1976), p. 61. Lorimer was quoting from a manuscript of the book.

13. The animators characterize the Surrey Project as having a “disconnect” from the “federal or provincial politics as it played out in the lower mainland.” They stress rather that is was “grounded in the community” and had more to do with local issues (Conversation with Sellers, Gillis, Driscoll, March 26, 2010). This does not mean, however, that insight cannot be gained by contextualizing the “local” issues within the larger political picture, as I am seeking to do here. Jim Sellers adds:

“we found ourselves involved in advancing, in some way or other/more or less, social justice (in its very broadest connotation). Nor were we ignorant of, nor dismissive of, the larger political context(s) that funded, aided, reacted to, or resisted our efforts. Enabling marginalized communities of interest to empower themselves to find remedy for their situation—be it homeowners wallowing in sewage or children threatened with sexual abuse seemed to me what it was “all about” for us and those we chose to work with.” (Sellers, e-mail, 10/21/2011).

14. Jim Sellers, Conversation with Sellers, Gillis, and Driscoll, March 26, 2010. [return to page 3]

15. The animators were themselves trained in the new video technology by NFB practitioners Moira (Mo) Simpson and Liz Walker. Simpson recollects that she and Walker

“would drive out to Surrey [from Vancouver] and give portapack workshops at a time when we were still learning the technology ourselves. We visited Bridgeview and became familiar with the neighbourhood but we were definitely on the outside.”

“Yet our connection to the project and working with Metro Media (which was linked to Challenge for Change) informed my entire life. I'm still helping people develop the skills to tell their own stories—whether it's in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside using mobile phones, in the slums of Kenya or with the youth of New Denver, who are currently working on a community media project remembering the Internment of the Japanese during the war in the New Denver Nikkei Internment Camp.” (Facebook Correspondence, 1 April 2010)

16. Letter from Ernest Hall, B.C. Provincial Secretary, to Christopher Pinney, June 27th, 1974, Douglas College Library Archives, New Westminster.

17. Dave Driscoll points out that, aside from the technical expertise, citizens who were trained in video editing were receiving an education in critical thinking—something that helped the CFC Surrey Project justify its partnership with the Community College:

“One of the things really critical in terms of adult education was […] how do people learn to structure their thinking? And the use of video was a key element in obliging a discipline of thought. So we would meet with some groups and they would say, ok who wants to yell, ‘all right you bunch of assholes up there?’ Okay, you can yell that now and you can film it for a couple minutes. Okay now you’ve got three minutes, are we going to put that in the video? No, it doesn’t really make our case. So what makes our case? [We were teaching] a discipline of efficiency, economy of argument. [We’d say] ‘don’t raise that argument because it opens the door for a rejoinder’ […] so it was teaching the structure of thought, the structure of representation, visual literacy, what has power, economy of argument, it teaches all those professional disciplines that are well known in law and a number of other professions. […] I think that that was the key part of education that the college understood and respected.” (Driscoll, 6/23/10)

18. Norma Taite, Conversation with Taite and Gillis, June 21, 2011.

19. A June 1980 memo from Gillis, outlining the activities of the CCC after the NFB pulled out, notes that the center “helped to organize a number of communities to speak against industry in their community. These problems were resolved in Surrey and gave birth to community planning committees. However, the G.V.R.D., in their Livable Region Plan, had placed the Industrial Zones back into the plan, and the fight is on again in earnest.” (Memo, Gillis to Doerr, June 5, 1980, Management Committee File, CCC, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Archives, Surrey).

20. Dave Driscoll, Conversation with Jim Sellers, Jim Gillis, and Dave Driscoll, March 26, 2010.

21. It is worth noting that under the auspices of the Challenge for Change program, the NFB made a multi-part documentary about Saul Alinsky’s organizing tactics, both in the States and in Canada. These films were distributed as training tools for social animators and community organizers as the program continued to unfold in the seventies. Peter Pearson and Bonnie Sherr Klein, 1967. http://www.nfb.ca/film/encounter_with_saul_alinsky_part_1
http://www.nfb.ca/film/encounter_with_saul_alinsky

22. One point of controversy over the CFC program was precisely this question of the ethical and/or rhetorical effect of training the camera on the “disadvantaged” and casting them in the role of victim.

23. Not In My Backyard. [return to page 4]

24. In a letter to the Douglas College Dean of Curriculum, Pinney writes:

“While the centre would be administratively supported on a similar basis to the College institutes it must remain clearly separate from them. Institutes are perceived by the public as primarily academic activities, concerned with observing and gathering information on specific fields. The outreach centre, on the other hand, must be perceived as a catalytic action-oriented facility that is interested in helping people define their own priorities and interests.” (Pinney to Day, 18 April 1975, p.2, Douglas College Archives, New Westminster)

25. The daily operations of the Community Communications Center, and the projects accomplished there through the late seventies and early eighties, is documented by a rich archive that includes a daily log, correspondence, reports, scenarios for videos, transcripts of interviews, and dozens of half- and three quarter-inch process videos. These may be found at Kwantlen Polytechnic University Archives, Surrey Campus (formerly Douglas College).

26. That Pinney has now shifted his “social animation” skills to the corporate citizen is evidenced by a recent blog entry:

“We are in an age where half of the world’s top economies and most influential institutions are now businesses. The power and speed of business far exceeds the capacity of governments to keep pace on the regulatory front as the current global financial crisis clearly illustrates. When it comes to solving social challenges, again the capacity of governments to respond is increasingly limited. Governments struggling under mounting deficits are barely able to keep entitlement commitments they have to their constituents, never mind innovating to meet the complex social and environmental challenges of a global economy.

Indeed, if government intervention alone was sufficient to solve these problems then […] we could assume they would have ‘been solved long ago by governments doing the job they were elected for.’ In reality […] we know the only way to find ‘real solutions’ to complex social problems of the 21st century is through new forms of collaboration between business, government and civil society.” (Pinney, “Critique Shines Light on Challenges of CSR Practice, August 31, 2010,
http://blogs.bcccc.net/2010/08/critique-shines
-light-on-challenges-of-csr-practice/
, accessed 8/15/2011)

27. For an acerbic take on the circulation of the term “Vancouverism,” see Ingram, Gordon Brent, “Squatting in ‘Vancouverism’: Public Art and Architecture after the Winter Olympics,” 21 March 2010 entry in his blog Designs for the Terminal City
(www.gordonbrentingram.ca/theterminalcity, accessed 15 August 2011).

28. Cameron Owens, “Challenges in Evaluating Livability in Vancouver, Canada,” Case study prepared for Planning Sustainable Cities: Global Report on Human Settlements, 2009, p. 3.
(http://www.unhabitat.org/grhs/2009, accessed 8/15/2011)

29. Since the seventies, Bridgeview has continued to attract benevolent neighborhood improvement schemes, including a recent initiative sponsored by the United Way: Action for Neighborhood Change, whose efforts were documented in a promotional video made in 2006.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YozG4fW2aw&feature=youtu.be

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dean Winnie Brownell, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Humanities, and the Harrington School of Communications at the University of Rhode Island: their generous grants made possible several research trips to British Columbia and Montreal. I owe deep gratitude to Jan Clemson, Dave Driscoll, Jim Gillis, Jim Sellers, and Norma Taite for graciously sharing with me their recollections of the Surrey Project. Without their help, this essay would literally have been unthinkable. Jim Sellers and Serena Kataoka generously gave close readings to an early draft, helping me to clarify my argument, and to correct errors. I thank Director Christopher Pinney for the initial conversation that led me to a treasure trove of materials on the project. Archivist Denise Dale made my visit to Kwantlen Polytechnic Library Archives one of the most pleasant and productive research trips I have ever made. My thanks also to Jacquie Ticknor at the Douglas College Library Archives in New Westminster, and Valerie Heidecke for timely research assistance. Thanks also to Thomas Waugh and Zoë Druick, for allowing me to share this research in its earlier incarnations, and to Peter Dickinson for facilitating my initial meeting with the Surrey Project social animators. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Karen Carr-Potter, Russell Potter, and Mary Cappello, for their encouragement and interest in this project from its inception.

Works cited

Anon. “Preserving Agricultural Land: Guidelines for Action.” Pamphlet. Douglas College Community Communications Center, n.d.

Chatwin, Len, dir. VTR Rosedale. NFB, 1974.

Delany, Paul. “Vancouver as a Postmodern City.” Vancouver: Representing the Postmodern City. Paul Delaney, ed. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1994.

Druick, Zoë. “Meeting at the Poverty Line: government Policy, Social Work, and Media Activism in the Challenge for Change Program.” Challenge for change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press (2010), 337-353.

Druick, Zoë. “Participatory Media: Lessons from the 1960s.” Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. 2.2 (2010), 120-127.

Gillis, Jim to Jim Doerr. Memo, 5 June 1980. R/G 15, ACC# 86-04, Management Committee File, CCC, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Archives, Surrey.

Gutstein, Donald. Vancouver Ltd. Toronto: James Lorimer and Co, 1975.

Hall, Ernest, B.C. Provincial Secretary to Christopher Pinney. Letter 27 June, 1974.

Douglas College Library Archives, New Westminster.

Ingram, Gordon Brent. “Squatting in ‘Vancouverism’: Public Art and Architecture after the Winter Olympics,” 21 March 2010 blog entry in Designs for the Terminal City
(www.gordonbrentingram.ca/theterminalcity, accessed 15 August 2011).

Klein, Bonnie Sherr, dir. VTR St Jacques. NFB, 1969.

Kurchak, Marie. “What challenge? What Change?” Canadian Film Reader. Feldman, Seth and Joyce Nelson, eds. Toronto: Peter Martin Assoc. Ltd, 1977. Reprintedfrom Take One, 4:1 (September-October 1972).

Lash, Harry N. Planning in a Human Way: Personal reflections on the regional planning experience in Greater Vancouver. Toronto: Macmillan, Urban Prospects series, 1976.

Lorimer, James. A Citizen’s Guide to City Politics. Toronto: James Lewis and Samuel, 1972.

--. The Developers. Toronto: James Lorimer and Company, 1978.

Molotch, Harvey. “The City as Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place.” The American Journal of Sociology, 82:2 (September 1976). 309-332.

Moore, Lisa. “Rock Haven.” Canadianart, 28:3 (Fall 2011), 124-8.

Owens, Cameron. “Challenges in Evaluating Livability in Vancouver, Canada.” Case study prepared for Planning Sustainable Cities: Global Report on Human Settlements, 2009, p. 3.
(http://www.unhabitat.org/grhs/2009, accessed 8/15/2011)

Pearson, Peter and Bonnie Sherr Klein, dirs. Series: The Alinsky Approach: Organizing for Power, (NFB, 1967).

Pinney, Christopher. “The B.C. Land Use Project.” N.d. R/G 15, ACC# 86-04, Box 8, File 1, Kwantlen Polytechnic Library Archives, Surrey.

--, to L. Wallace, Deputy Provincial Secretary. Letter, 10/16/1974. Douglas College Library Archives, New Westminster.

--, January Report 1975. Douglas College Library Archives, New Westminster.

--, to Peter Hay, Public Programme Co-ordinator, Justice Development Commission. Letter, 28 April 1975. Douglas College Library Archives, New Westminster.

--. June and July Report Surrey Project, 1975. Douglas College Library Archives, New Westminster.

--. September-October Reports, Surrey Project, 1975. Douglas College Library Archives,New Westminster.

--. Some People Have to Suffer. NFB, 1976.

Turner, Francis Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Canadian Social Work. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005.

Vander Zalm, Bill. “In conversation with Bill Vander Zalm.” Interview by Baird Blackstone, Marketplace, January 30, 1975, 4.

Waugh, Thomas, Michael Brendan Baker, and Ezra Winton, eds. Challenge for Change: Activist Documentary at the National Film Board of Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.


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