Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tribeca Flashpoint Intros Continuing Digital Education Courses

Tribeca Flashpoint Intros Continuing Digital Education Courses

Even with an increasingly digital-literate work population, employers are struggling to keep their teams up with frequent technological advances. Tribeca Flashpoint Academy (TFA), the Chicago-based digital media college, today announced Digital Update, a suite of continued education courses aimed at those who are already in the workforce.
File 23332Image via Facebook.

CEO Howard Tullman expects courses to begin within 60 days. Currently, he says, TFA is in private talks with several large employers who are interested in offering these courses. Sixteen hours of hands-on instruction will cost about $1,200 per employee, an expenditure likely to be taken on by employers, though Tullman says individuals may enroll themselves if they choose.
“It is an essential investment [for companies] in making sure that they are preparing their personnel to create, develop and deliver the new kinds of digital media assets and tools that are changing the face of marketing and business communications,” Tullman says.
TFA’s full-time and adjunct professors will teach the courses, which focus on training employees in film production and editing, app and game development, motion graphics, and more. Groups in Chicago and New York City will be able to attend classes at TFA’s facilities there, while those elsewhere will be reached by webcast or even an in-person visit from a TFA instructor.
With industries the world over converting to digital, Tullman is betting employers need digitally-savvy workers. To him, TFA’s Digital Update courses are the way for companies to achieve just that.
Visit TFA’s website, check out their BIC profile, and follow them on Twitter at @TribecaChicago.

                             New Digital Re-Training Program Answers Escalating Need

Responding to an escalating corporate training need, Tribeca Flashpoint Academy launches program to keep digital and creative professionals up-to-date in rapidly-evolving technologies.

CHICAGO – As technology evolves at a mind-numbing rate, it becomes increasingly challenging for digital professionals to keep their core skills current. Even recent college graduates—who may boast up-to-the-minute skills on graduation day—quickly fall behind without an ongoing, conscious and aggressive effort to keep pace. Lifelong learning is no longer optional—it’s essential.

“Everyone’s accustomed to getting those little alerts when it’s time to update their software or apps—we accept recurring obsolescence as part of living in the digital age,” explains Tribeca Flashpoint Academy CEO and well-known tech entrepreneur, Howard Tullman. “But business leaders are just beginning to realize that their people—particularly their digital employeesalso need updating in a consistent and rigorous way. It’s the only way their companies will remain competitive.”

Known for its practical, hands-on approach to digital media education and for its close ties to the media, entertainment, and technology industries (boasting partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, AT&T, Sony Entertainment, and more), Tribeca Flashpoint Academy recently announced a new corporate continuing education program—dubbed “Digital Update”—that provides digital workers with an ongoing, sustainable way to keep current that is also cost-effective and sensitive to the need to keep these workers working and productive while their skills are being enhanced.

A typical Digital Update course includes 16-hours of practical, hands-on instruction in various aspects of film production and editing; application and game development; motion graphics; special effects; sound design; graphic design; or digital marketing. Whenever possible, instruction is delivered on-site at the employer’s workplace, minimizing staff downtime and enabling employees to learn on the same equipment and software they will be using once the training concludes.

“At around $1,200 per employee, Digital Update is far more cost-effective than sending employees to one-off trainings or conferences that tend to be more theoretical than practical, more lecture-based than hands-on, and far less tailored to a team’s specific skill level and knowledge gaps,” Tullman explains. “This is the future of corporate training in the digital media arena.” 

Sunday, March 24, 2013


JiveHealth: Games that Teach Kids to Eat Healthy

By Nicole Marie Richardson

Former video game (and junk food) addict Dennis Ai of Northwestern created a game that teaches kids 

about nutrition. Michele Obama is a big fan.

JiveHealth's founder Dennis Ai (right) at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy with co-founders Hailey Schmidt and Nathan Wangler (left).

Growing up in Edison, New Jersey, Dennis Ai scarfed down potato skins and beef jerky by the bagful. The junk diet packed on the pounds, and with the weight came all the social anxiety, ridicule, and isolation of growing up heavy. “The kids at my school made fun of me,” recalls Ai. “And once when I asked a girl out, she said she didn’t want a fat boyfriend.”

Ai eventually conquered his weight problem with exercise and healthy eating, but the painful memories of those years never left him. Out of them grew the idea for a business that could help other kids avoid what he had suffered. Why not, he wondered, create a video game that encouraged healthy eating habits?

The idea was still rattling around when he left for Northwestern University in September 2009 and met fellow student and software engineer Chris Yenko, 19, and Tribeca Flashpoint Academy students Hailey Schmidt, 20, a game artist, Nathan Wangler, 21, a game designer, and serial entrepreneur Tom Denison, 49.

The company’s first mobile game, Jungo takes 6 to 11 year olds through a series of levels and challenges to retrieve a sacred tome of culinary secrets from the evil Mertle the Turtle. Along the way, they need to gather healthy foods and create recipes to earn upgrades for their characters, which include an apple-loving bear named Hugo and Aki, a monkey who is addicted to almonds. Some of the ingredients exist in the game world, while others only exist in the real world. Consequently, in order to complete the recipe, players need to collect an apple (or some other healthy treat) in their own home or at the supermarket, photograph it, and upload the photo into the game as a virtual apple. Players can download the game for free; Ai's business model assumes that they'll eventually want to unlock additional characters and other props for a fee.

“It’s really difficult to preach to kids about eating a nutritious diet, but through this role-playing game, finding and eating healthy food becomes fun,” says Ai. “Plus, the game will encourage parents to have these foods around where their children can find it.”

Even though it is still in prototpe, the game is already getting noticed. Just recently JiveHealth took first place in a competition hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America End Childhood Obesity Innovation Challenge. The win garnered Ai a $10,000 cash prize, along with expert mentoring from senior executives at Edelman, McKinsey & Company, and Startup Health. The company is also a Top 15 team in Microsoft's Imagine Cup Accelerator.

Matthew Corrin, founder and CEO of healthy food chain Freshii, sits on the JiveHealth board and thinks the company has the right strategy at the right time for the fight against childhood obesity. 

“I think it’s timely--especially with Michelle Obama promoting her Let’s Move! campaign--because the government is behind the initiative,” says Corrin. “I think it will come down to how engaging the games are. If they aren’t fun then it won’t work. But if they are, JiveHealth has a great shot at reaching its goals to educate kids about nutrition and combat this epidemic.“

The next phase: Ai has been testing the prototype on children in a neighborhood church. “The first step is to make sure we have a game that kids love playing,” says Ai. The next testing phase will aim to determine whether the game can actually trigger better behavior. “That will be more difficult,” admits Ai.

JiveHealth plans to put the game on the market this summer, starting on the iPhone, with Android and Windows versions to follow. Ai, whose initial capital totalled a less than lofty $1,000, also hopes to attract some investors by then. He has temporarily dropped out of school to get the business up and running, but believes he will have enough credits to graduate in June 2013.

“I love the challenge of going after this epidemic,” says Ai. “I wake up at 7 a.m. and go to sleep at midnight, and I don’t do anything else in between but this.”

Nicole Marie Richardson is the executive editor for special projects at She manages the website's largest projects, including the Inc. 5000, an annual list of the fastest-growing, privately-held companies in America. @nicole_marie79

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Good Pitch Chicago forum will connect documentary filmmakers with supporters


Good Pitch Chicago forum will connect documentary filmmakers with supporters
Chicago civic and business leaders come together to highlight the city's best unfinished documentaries

Justine Nagan, executive director of Kartemquin Films, and lawyer Steve Cohen are involved in starting Good Pitch Chicago, a forum to connect filmmakers and financial backers. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / March 20, 2013

Melissa Harris' Chicago Confidential
March 21, 2013
Chicago's documentary film industry is getting its own high-profile Demo Day.
Running concurrently with the Chicago International Film Festival, a group of corporate and nonprofit executives will showcase up to eight unfinished documentary films at a new event called Good Pitch Chicago.
Each director will have seven minutes to pitch their film to eight to 10 influencers who organizers know are already interested in the film's premise — and may want to help finance or otherwise support it. Watching the daylong event will be an invite-only audience of 300 to 400 guests.
The idea is that after hearing the pitch those influencers — who will be seated around a table onstage — will announce some sort of commitment to support the film. Money to finish the film would be helpful. A distribution deal with, say, PBS or CNN might be even better. But organizers say money isn't all they're seeking.
There are other ways to support a documentary. For example, someone at the table could offer to get a film about sexual assault in the military into the hands of the U.S. defense secretary. Or the executive director of a large social services organization could agree to show a film about violence prevention at its clubs nationwide.
Adding to the drama will be the fact that once people on stage have a chance to offer help, audience members can spontaneously step up to a microphone and make a commitment to the film as well.
"The group around the table has never been around the same table before, and as an audience member, you witness literally this groundswell around the film," said Paula Froehle, executive vice president of academic affairs at the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, which will host the Oct. 22 event. "It's as if you're witnessing the behind-the-scenes networking that is necessary, if the film is going to make an impact on society. Even for the sort of non-philanthropic, non-connected audience member, and I was in that position twice, it was thrilling to see. I could visualize the impact any one of these projects was going to have on communities across the country."
Leading the local effort to bring Good Pitch to Chicago is lawyer Steve Cohen, who also finances documentaries; Justine Nagan, executive director of Kartemquin Films, which released its first documentary in 1966; Froehle and John Murray from Tribeca; Daniel Alpert, a documentary-maker and executive director of The Kindling Group; and Erin Sorenson of Third Stage Consulting, who previously was the first executive director of the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center.
Tribeca will be the lead sponsor. The MacArthur Foundation also has awarded a $50,000 grant toward start-up costs. And Cohen is supplying a $20,000 matching grant for new sponsors who sign on after April 1, which is when the event begins accepting submissions.
Good Pitch events take place annually in New York, San Francisco and London, where the event was founded. Washington has hosted one as well. The brand is a joint project of the U.K.-based BRITDOC Foundation, which supports international filmmakers, and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program.
"Chicago has been untapped in terms of foundation money, organizational collaboration and advertising industry engagement," Cohen said, later adding, "We hope and expect there will be a Good Pitch in Chicago every year like there is in New York and San Francisco."
The selection committee is looking for a very specific kind of film to showcase at this event. The films must be in production and of high-quality. Of the five documentary features nominated for an Oscar this year, two — "How to Survive a Plague" and "The Invisible War" — had been featured at a Good Pitch, Cohen said.
The subject matter must be about social change, but the event isn't set up like a reality TV competition.
"We fully expect every film in the pitch will walk away with some kind of help, whether it be financial or a partnership with another organization," Cohen said. "Every film gets something by being in the pitch."
"The Interrupters," which shows how former gang members on Chicago's South Side are being tapped to quell violence, would be ideal for a Good Pitch. And the film, from Chicagoan and veteran filmmaker Steve James, was presented at a Good Pitch in Washington. James said the selection process was "very competitive."
"Good Pitch connected us directly to a foundation, The Fledgling Fund, and they gave us some initial money to help develop an outreach plan for 'The Interrupters' and then came back and gave us more money down the road to support the outreach effort," James said. "The first money is often the most important money, even if it's not big bucks."
Many social-impact documentaries are shot on a budget of less than $1 million. Pulling more funders and partners into the documentary industry is perhaps the last piece of a growing renaissance.
An art film house is no longer a necessary middleman. Technology, such as Netflix and iTunes, is delivering them to people's living rooms. And crowd-funding sites, such as Kickstarter, are making it easier for directors to finance their projects.
"(Director) Errol Morris, (Steve James') 'Hoop Dreams,' Michael Moore, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' there's been this momentum building around the power of documentaries," Nagan said. "Driving that is what's happening with journalism. Long-term journalism and investigative reporting are getting cut. And the audience for news is very siloed. ... The news they get is tailored to them. Documentaries, I think people are feeling right now, really do have the ability to bring people together and think about an issue in a broader way."
For more information, e-mail or go to
Melissa Harris can be reached at or 312-222-4582. Twitter @chiconfidential
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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