Aug 222010

Online artwork for webseries Kaberi's Indian cooking

You may be wondering why Kaberi and I have suddenly turned our attention to Indian cooking. Well, it’s not the first time Kaberi has thought of something less specialised than pure Indian dance – see Kaberi’s Indian dance workout. We’ve been thinking about this cooking webseries for a few months but never quite found the time to launch it. A discussion last month with our friends Martin and Nathalie, which I mentioned in my blog post ‘Food for thought’, spurred us into action.

At the beginning of August, we invited them and our friends Judy and Ian to spend a Sunday evening with us to help us film the first episode. The concept is that Kaberi explains to a maximum of four guests how she is preparing the evening dinner for all of us, including how she allocates her preparation time between the different dishes (a practical detail quite often absent from cooking programmes). The videos and recipes are published on a dedicated Kaberi’s Indian cooking Facebook page, inviting people to post their feedback, photos and experience of making the recipes. The contents of the Facebook page are visible to anyone but only Facebook members are able to ‘Like’ the page and contribute to it.

If nothing else, we would spend a series of pleasant evenings in the company of our friends preparing and eating original, Indian food. However, we hope that the series will find an audience, whether among non-Indians interested in learning how to make quick, healthy Indian food or among expatriate Indians in search of ways to recreate familiar dishes in unfamiliar surroundings.

Kaberi wants to use the series to pass the message that not all Indian food is served with a rich, heavy sauce – a practical shortcut taken by many Indian restaurants outside India – or so hot as to require a fire extinguisher to hose down the remains of your taste buds after the meal. From the initial feedback on the Facebook page, we’ve realised that the series will be of particular interest to those who relocate outside India whether for work or after marrying – an experience Kaberi went through herself, as documented in my short film Adapting.

We already have two HD cameras since filming Shyama, which we’ve been using to film the Shyama podcast series. Having seen in Gerd Leonhard’s presentation about the future of film and cinema that the HD video capabilities of the iPhone 4 have already been used to make a short film, we used my iPhone 4 as a third HD camera.  With one camera on a tripod, the iPhone 4 mounted discreetly in a serviette holder on top of the microwave oven (you’ll spot it if you look very carefully in the video), and the other camera on a Steadicam Merlin, we covered all angles of the worktop and cooking area, while following the action and explanations.

Then, editing with Final Cut Pro and titling using Motion, as well as composing and recording the title music using Logic Pro, Soundtrack Pro and a couple of the Indian instruments I play, we have arrived at episode 1 of the webseries. As you will see, it’s around 30 minutes, divided into two parts of just under 15 minutes each. Apart from recognising that people have limited time these days, this fits within YouTube’s recently increased upload limit, as well as Facebook’s slightly longer limit of 20 minutes. Episode 2, which we filmed last weekend, should require less time and effort to complete!

The choice of focusing on the Facebook page rather than on Kaberi’s website is not entirely accidental: apart from Facebook now having over 500 million members, the Facebook community page on Cooking is one of its most popular, with over 3.5 million fans at the time of writing. Facebook provides an impressively well-connected way for people to find out about and interact with content such as Kaberi’s Indian cooking. People, starting with our immediate circle of Facebook friends, can ‘Like’ the page [please take a look and do so now if you’re on Facebook], post their own comments, photos and recipes and interact directly with Kaberi. Each time they do so, they raise awareness of the page, the webseries and Kaberi among their friends.

The webseries is available free to its viewers. Like all of the audiovisual works, music and books produced by Kaberi’s company Inner Eye, it is released under a Creative Commons licence allowing personal copying. If enough people like it (as evidenced, for example, by the number of fans on the Facebook page and/or the number of views and the rating on YouTube), maybe a sponsor might be interested in having their logo at the start of future episodes but certainly more people would be aware of Kaberi … and perhaps follow the link to her website or explore the favourite pages on the Facebook page of Kaberi’s Indian cooking to discover her other projects related to Indian dance and Tagore. Maybe a broadcaster or cable channel might pick up the series. Maybe the people who like it might even join the crowd funding effort for our next two film projects (film versions of Tagore’s other two dance dramas, Chandalika & Chitrangada, to complete our Tagore dance film trilogy). The episodes and recipes (fine-tuned via the Facebook discussion) might even be combined for an iPhone/iPad app and the recipes might go into a book to accompany the series which people could consult more easily while cooking. Who knows?

This is where I should thank our friend Sheri Candler (@shericandler on Twitter), the independent film marketing and publicity specialist, for all the information and advice in her tweets and for recommending me to follow media futurist Gerd Leonhard (@gleonhard on Twitter). As Gerd noted in his recent article about the future of content in a connected economy, “transactions are always a consequence of attention and attraction, interaction, communication, engagement, and trust. It is never the other way round.” This is why, as well as being fun to do, Kaberi’s Indian cooking should contribute to the revenues of Kaberi’s company in due course, one way or another.

Thanks also to Luci Temple (@lucitemple on Twitter) for drawing my attention to the TED talk by Johanna Blakley on what creators can learn from fashion’s free culture – note particularly her graph comparing the relative turnovers of the fashion industry and the entertainment industry (although I see from her latest blog post that that hasn’t stopped certain US politicians from feeling they have to do something ‘protective’). Finally, thanks to Ross Pruden (@rosspruden on Twitter) for setting up the Infinite Distribution panelsearch for #infdist on Twitter – and to all the panellists for sharing their ideas, links, advice and encouragement, all of which continue to inspire Kaberi and me in designing, distributing and promoting our creative projects.

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