In many ways, Ian MacKenzie embodies the emerging millennial attitude on politics and media. He’s always been interested in recording the world — from toying with cameras as a child to devoting some of his energy to film in college. But it wasn’t until later that he realized film can be used for more than capturing moments in time — it can also be harnessed to project a message. He says, “We’ve come to understand that text is not the core language of the Web — it is video.”

And there’s substantial evidence for this claim. Just take a look at “Gangnam Style” or Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video (which boasts almost 100 million views on YouTube). A few more examples: YouTube is now being utilized to broadcast presidential debates and Q&As, TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conferences have found a vast audience online, television is becoming more entwined with the Internet via services like Hulu and Netflix, and so on. Plus, when was the last time you heard of an article going viral?

After the successful release of his first feature-length documentary in 2010, One Week Job, MacKenzie has been relentlessly productive, releasing a number of short videos, speaking about topics as varied as crowdfunding, spiritual activism and Buddhism, and working on three more films (Occupy Love, Reactor and Girl DJ), two of which he’s directing and producing. His work has appeared in the New York Times and on CNN, OLN (Outdoor Life Network), CityTV, CBC Documentary, The Globe and Mail, and National Geographic. He’s also served as the head of video production for the Matador Network.

Perhaps his rapidly expanding resume is the result of his political and social convictions, which permeate throughout his work. He defines himself as a “media activist,” chronicling large-scale movements like Occupy Wall Street and nuclear nonproliferation protests in Japan. His short films, The Revolution Is Love and Sacred Economics, are centered on the work of Charles Eisenstein, the author of Sacred Economics who implores us to engage in what he calls the “gift economy,” a cycle of mutually beneficial charity. A strong sense of communitarianism is present in MacKenzie’s work, which addresses sweeping concepts such as media bias and agenda setting, industrial externalities, dominant cultural paradigms (as well as the “phase shift” he believes is taking place), and many more. As Ignite puts it, “He makes you think, and he does so in a way that is impassioned, kind and lusciously filmed.”

The diverse themes that dwell under the sheen of MacKenzie’s natural, colorful cinematography are universal. Whether it’s rethinking the way we interact with one another, challenging fundamental assumptions about our relationship with government and media or the “limits of the biosphere,” his work will incite conversation and introspection. In the 21st century, there are few ways of reaching people more effectively than through MacKenzie’s rare hybrid of immense production quality and lucid, inviting engagement with his audience. MacKenzie was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about his already impressive career and the issues that underpin it.

GALO: You’ve mentioned that film was a hobby before you began to consider it as a serious professional pursuit. How did you originally become interested in film and photography?

Ian MacKenzie: As a kid, I was always the one who’d take the video camera and shoot stuff. I did a fair bit of traveling when I left high school and I would shoot the trips I was on with my friends, [and] then edit them into short videos. So, it was always something that I felt interested in. At the same time, I didn’t understand the industry at all, so I felt that I wouldn’t be able to make it into any sort of profession. Briefly, when I went to university, I checked out the contemporary art program which was more like avant-garde stuff — not really anything commercial. It wasn’t really what I was looking for. I remember a screening of the student films from that previous semester and one of the films was this 30-second, slow-motion shot of somebody pouring sand through a tube or something, and at the end it said, “Fin.” It wasn’t really what I thought I wanted to do with film, so I kind of fled to computer science. And again, that was something where I was like, “What the heck am I doing over here?” Then I went back to school for communication — which then led to doing marketing, Web copy, things like that — which finally led to my friend launching the project One Week Job, where he worked a different job a week for a year and I came on to film it. And that was sort of a call to just try it, to see if we could make a documentary. And I haven’t stopped since.

GALO: You describe yourself as a filmmaker and a “media activist.” Could you explain what media activism is and how you came to engage in it?

IM: Media activism encompasses a large variety of potential applications of media. The dominant mainstream culture has a certain worldview that is embedded within all aspects of the media that are produced by it. For example, if you look at mainstream news, there’s a very specific bias built into the type of media that gets produced — to the point where most people aren’t even aware of the bias because it’s just so pervasive. It’s very hard to even see. It’s becoming more and more obvious, though, as it breaks down. For instance, this idea of what is newsworthy. In the mainstream media, what’s newsworthy tends to be things that are either some sort of violence or some sort of political agenda being advanced. You know, it’s very hard for the mainstream media as a mechanism to understand large-scale movements or large-scale issues. I’m not blaming reporters here; they’re just part of it as well. Even the people that are higher-up in these news organizations aren’t even aware of how much they’re embedded within the bias of this system. I see myself as a media activist because I see my role, fundamentally, as trying to offer alternatives to the dominant paradigm of understanding what’s going on in the world, particularly around trends. People use different names for this emerging worldview; these types of things that don’t really get proper coverage in the culture machine. So, activism is the way of articulating alternatives to the dominant paradigm.

GALO: What unique opportunities does the utilization of film and photography afford you as an activist?

IM: I think it’s interesting — if you look at the evolution of the Web, in particular Web technology, you find that the Web started with text as the primary medium, ever since the very first lines of code spat out, “Hello world.” Therefore, I think we’ve felt, through the evolution of the Internet, that text was actually the core medium of this new, emerging platform. But what we’ve come to understand in the last few years, especially with the advent of things like the tablet and faster connections that allow us to download data even faster, and in particular the rise of things like YouTube, is that text is not the core language of the Web — it is video. Long form video can do quite well, but in activist media I think it’s more about the short impact that can be spread through the social networks as quickly as possible with as much “mind-bomb” potential — as Kalle Lasn, the founder of Adbusters is fond of saying. They’re essentially punchy, provocative pieces.

(Interview continued on next page)