Macs A Key Part Of Controversial Anti-Bush Ads

For Scott Stowell of New York City, it was the freedom to express a passion.

"I think the message we tried to deliver is something we really believed in. We were passionate in our beliefs and everyone has a right in our democracy to do that."

Mr. Stowell was part of a team that produced one of 26 political commercials in a recent online contest soliciting political ads critical of President Bush. Entitled the iBush in 30 secondsi TV ad contest and sponsored by the Washington, DC-based public policy advocacy group, Stowellis spot - entitled "Pop Quiz" - was produced and edited on a Mac.

In fact, the majority of the finalist spots were produced using Macs. From medium to large design studios and often someoneis home basement, the commercials came from a variety of people who had an idea, a passion to speak their mind and often a Mac on their desktop.

"Here was the first time I ever saw this kind of idea of people using the freedom that comes from technology for a political purpose to speak their minds," said Mr. Stowell, founder of the New York City graphic design studio, Open.

Still from "Pop Quiz" spot.

Co-produced with colleagues Susan Barber, Cara Brower and Kate Kittredge, the spot quickly asks the viewer to answer rapid fire questions on a variety of political issues and attributes the answers to various news sources. In every instance, the critical answer is "George W. Bush." The spot ends with the question, "Whatis wrong with this picture?"

All of the spot are similar to "Pop Quiz" in that they criticize the president on a variety of fronts, from the controversial war in Iraq to the national debt and even educational funding.

The spot voted best overall, entitled "Childis Pay," made news headlines in late January after the CBS television network decided not to broadcast it during last Sundayis Super Bowl XXXVIII because of its long-standing policy not to air advocacy ads. Instead, the spot ran during the half-time of the NFL championship game, but on CNN, rather than on CBSis Super Bowl broadcast itself. The 30-second, dialogue-free spot featured children working as janitors, dishwashers and garbage collectors and ended with the caption, "Guess whois going to pay off President Bushis $1 trillion deficit?"

For many of the adis producers, a Mac was the platform of choice that often made the difference between tedious editing over dozens of hours or days and producing a spot sometimes in just one afternoon.

Mr. Stowell and his team used a 1.25 MHz dual processor Power Mac G4 to produce "Pop Quiz," together with Adobe Illustrator to do the graphics and After Effects for the animation. One of the reasons Stowell and his team used simple type for their spot was to not only be different from the majority of other spots, but because they had decided to enter the competition very close to the deadline. "After we came up with the concept, we cranked it out in no time and the Mac made a big difference."

The runner-up for best overall ad was also produced on a Mac. Entitled "What Are We Teaching Our Children?", Fred Surr together with Ted Page and Janet Tashjian of Needham, Mass., produced a tongue in cheek spot that hit home their message.

The ad features six young kids, each delivering a speech to adults on what they would do if they were elected president - from, "If elected, Iill lie about weapons of mass destruction as a pretext to invade another country," to "Iill leave no child behind, unless they canit afford it."

Still from "What Are We Teaching Our Children?"

Mr. Surr, an independent producer and founder of the production company Captains of Industry, used a Media 100 editing system on a Power Mac 9600 to edit the spot in no more than "six to eight hours."

A Mac user since 1988, Mr. Surr was just as passionate about his Macs as he was about his political spot. "I donit like Windows, honestly. I think itis a kludge format and always has been."

Because all of the talent and production workers donated their time, Mr. Surr was able to produce the spot for less than US$100 after renting one single item - a professional microphone. "Everyone donated their time," he said. "We had six kids, about 10 adults together with extras and four others at the shoot."

Reaction to the spot has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Mr. Surr. "Even friends and colleagues that are Republicans look at the spot chuckling and say, iWell, you canit argue with the premise.i "

Most of the spots were inexpensive to make, except for one produced on film by Adam Feinstein, an independent film maker from New York City. Entitled "Polygraph," the spot was shot on Super 16mm film and then transferred using the Telecine process of converting a film negative to video tape. It was then edited on a 533MHz-dual processor Power Mac G4 with Final Cut Pro.

Still from "Polygraph" spot.

About US$1,000 to shoot and produce, Mr. Feinstein turned to some 30 friends to donate money toward the cost of making the commercial. "Iim a filmmaker who has had my political soul stirred to life in the last three years," Mr. Feinstein told The Mac Observer. "If I can credit Mr. Bush with anything, itis making me realize how important it is for me as a media maker to say and do something that can make a difference."

The spot shows an actual polygraph machine registering responses to comments made by President Bush during his State of the Union speech in January of 2003. As Mr. Bush utters certain facts, the polygraph is shown violently moving, as if to convince the viewer that his comments are all lies.

But it was the parody piece "Desktop" that hits closest to home for Mac users, regardless of their political beliefs.

David Haynes is a filmmaker, writer and director making independent films under his small production company Tanglewood Films in Dallas, Texas. Having entered the competition later than most, Mr. Haynes had little time to devise a concept, shoot it and edit it.

For him, the star of his spot was his Mac. Mr. Haynes used his Sony VX-2000 digital camera to shoot his OS 9 desktop. "I sort of brainstormed the idea of using the Mac and having the file folders represent different components of our government and different programs that have happened over the last few years that in my opinion were not so great," he said.

Still from "Desktop" spot.

The spot shows a desktop pointer moving folders marked iSocial Security, iEnvironmenti, iCivil Libertiesi and more over the seal of the president to the Trash. Only after a message warns that the folders will be permanently deleted and a bloated trash icon erases the folders does the spot end with the words, "Whatis next?"

"Iive never really been a political person and followed politics," Mr. Haynes responded when asked what was the catalyst for him to produce the political spot. "There was a point during the build up to the Iraq war that the Bush Administration seemed to want to go to war really, really badly. Something about that raised a red flag in my head and it didnit seem very American and didnit feel right."

Mr. Haynes used an 867 MHz Power Mac G4 with Final Cut Pro to edit his 30-second spot, which took about a day to shoot and produce.

All the producers were convinced their Macs made a difference in being able to focus on making the best ad, instead of worrying about the technical aspects.

"My Mac allowed me to focus on the message," said Mr. Surr. "I just find it to be really, really dependable. Thereis not a lot of surprises on a Mac. It doesnit crash on me and itis just a solid work station."

"If you subtracted all the Macs in my life, I would be paralyzed," said Mr. Feinstein. "Every project I havenit edited on film, Iive edited on a Mac."

When Mr. Stowell was asked why his studio only uses Mac, his response was short and sweet. "Why? I canit think of any reason why not."