Viewfinder: Video Creators Get Into Politics

The winners of a political advertising contest for novice video producers were announced in January on the Web site www.bushin30seconds.org. The non-profit group, MoveOn.org, professes to “bring ordinary people back into politics,” created the contest late last year. The Web site states: “With a system that today revolves around big money and big media, most citizens are left out. When it becomes clear that our ‘representatives’ don’t represent the public, the foundations of democracy are in peril.”

This is the kind of thing that the Founding Fathers of our nation had in mind when they created the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. While today we have no laws “prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech”, the mass media industry creates a profound bias in favor of powerful institutions. The MoveOn.org Web site goes on to say, “Year after year, a few dozen Washington consultants make the great majority of political ads. They look the same, they sound the same–even the actors seem familiar. Perhaps as a result, voters tune out, even when there are critically important messages to convey.”

While this particular Web site is left-leaning, I am certain that there are other Web sites that encourage the use of video by individuals wanting to express right-leaning beliefs. I am certain that this election year will include more political video produced by independent producers than ever before. For the first time in our nation’s Presidential election history, more citizens have the resources to produce video compared to the resources to travel to Washington DC to lobby their elected officials.

The election of Arnold Schwarzenegger to Governor of California is an example of how image has become more important than substance. Historically, American citizens have elected high ranking government officials with extensive experience in law and/or politics. Jesse Ventura’s election to the governor of Minnesota may have initiated a new trend where celebrities from the entertainment industry are perceived as desirable in political office. While these two examples are insufficient to truly conclude a trend, this underscores the indisputable importance of image (perhaps over substance) in political campaigns.

Producing video for political ads is essentially “image work” and can be an exciting challenge for anyone with a camcorder and editing equipment. If you have some time and a political opinion, I encourage you to express yourself in a 30-second political ad on the candidate or issue of your choice. Bear in mind that if you want the ad to be used by a section 527 political organization, you cannot be explicit. Your ads can say lots of different things about candidates and their administration, but you are not allowed to say that people should vote for or against any candidate. If you are not inclined to submit your 30-second spot to a section 527 political organization, then these limitations may not be important to you.

This is an exciting election year. Please consider committing some of your time and video production resources to a political campaign!

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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