Project’s Centerpiece: Christopher Thomas Story Published & Discussed on Georgia Public Radio

Crime Report Christopher Thomas cover story 2106.11.02


Today almost a year after we started this special JJIE Virtual World Journalism Project, we published the centerpiece of our student labors, the story and the machinima mini-documentary video: Christopher: A Child Abandoned, Deprived & Imprisoned. It was published on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE.org) and simultaneously by The Crime Report housed at the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Both publications have a national reach to both general audience and those most interested in youth justice issues.

The finished story and machinima speak to the truly amazing work of the 11 students at Kennesaw State University, who did all the digging through thousands of pages of documents and traveling the state of Georgia for key interviews. All with the hope that Christopher Thomas’ story could be told widely to prevent him from being hidden from public view in Georgia prisons, which too often act as our country’s Gulags for young men of color.

You can hear a synopsis of the story at Georgia Public Radio’s (GPB) Second Thoughts program, where host Celeste Headlee interviews Kennesaw State University professor Leonard Witt, who oversaw the project, and project student Anastaciah Ondieki.

Project supervising professor Leonard Witt (left and far right), Georgia GPB Second Thoughts radio show host Celeste Headley (second from left) project student Anastaciah Ondieki (center) at GPB studio.
Project supervising professor Leonard Witt (left and far right), Georgia GPB Second Thoughts radio show host Celeste Headlee (second from left) and project student Anastaciah Ondieki (center) at GPB studio.

Christopher committed a crime at age 14, there is no doubt about that, but professor Witt says, “Really the story the students uncovered shows in great detail the failure of all of us in our society to find a way support our most neglected children. If we treated these kids differently, with compassion rather constant punishments, their outcomes might be much different.”

Christopher Thomas still has one more chance for the Georgia courts to amend his 40-year sentence thanks to the work of Stephen Reba, director of the Barton Law Center’s Appeal for Youth Clinic at Emory University. Reba has been trying to find justice for Thomas for years. Of course, we will keep everyone posted on that outcome.

Until then, thanks so much for watching this project unfold and special thanks again to Gwenette Writer Sinclair, who oversaw the virtual world sections of the project and to the Kennesaw State University students, including: Claire Bohrer, Kassidy Callahan, Kevin Enners, Ariel Greenaway, Cristina Guerra, Jourdan McGhee, Camille Moore, Anastaciah Ondieki and Jackson Walsh.


Machinimist Chantal Harvey Shares Machinima & Production Tips

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At the interns’ weekly meeting on October 21, Chantal Harvey visited the team via Skype.  Chantal has a professional background as Dutch television producer and artist. Since 2007, Chantal has been exploring Real Time Animation through the medium of virtual world machinima.  During the meeting, she shared several of her machinima, including an educational series and the first machinima from her new fun machinima series, “Robi.”  Chantal discussed many aspects of machinima development, which she referred to as “virtual world animation.”  She shared many production tips from basics to advanced techniques that are key to creating a professional, quality machinima.  Her advice on sound editing and frame rate optimizing will prove especially helpful in the interns’ next two machinima projects, “The Christopher Story” and “Forgive: A Poem.”

Why did Chantal decide to explore machinima?  On her website she explains, “I started working with machinima after completing film school in Belgium, I was attracted by the creativity and possibilities it offers. You really are only limited by your own imagination and by how much you have mastered the concepts that are involved. Because the cost of machinima production is so low compared to any other form of animation, there is a whole new market opening up, in education, children’s entertainment, art, multimedia, books and commercials.”

Yes, it is true that Chantal is very talented at what she does, but this is not the only reason why Chantal continues to produce machinima, as she explains,  “[It’s] a little like jumping inside your computer and directing animated characters, creating  your own film crew, with your own film studio. It is . . a ton of fun.”

The entire JJIE Virtual Worlds team is very grateful to Chantal for taking the time to share her passion and expertise with them. The team will make good use of Chantal’s advice in their next projects showcasing a young man’s story and a young woman’s poem through the medium of machinima filmed in virtual world.


Emotional Display Gallery Additions

Finding, uploading and displaying imagery inworld is proving challenging for the project interns. 3D object creation is a new skill for all of them, but they are persistent and committed to learning inworld building skills.  They are realizing how important it is to do things in order and pay careful attention to details – especially when manipulating a prim object’s shape, rotation and position. The completed assignments will become part of the emotionally evocative imagery used for the CT Story and Forgive poem machinima scenarios.


Exploring Immersive Storytelling

In the Storytelling Circle interns are exploring displays and slide shows about the classic principles of all storytelling, while learning guidelines for translating their stories into 3D immersive scenarios for journalism machinima documentaries.  For one of their assignments, they took evening inworld snapshots of themselves in front of a Pixar Storytelling principle that is personally meaningful.  Then they dropped their own written comments about the principle in the Storytelling Creativity Basket inworld.

.Bohrer.C_StoryCircle_2015.09.17 Callahan.initial_StoryCircle_2015.09.13 Greenaway.A_StoryCircle_2015.09.16 Guerra.C_StoryCircle_2015.09.16 Moore.C_StoryCircle_2015.09.15 Ondieki.A_StoryCircle_2015.09.14


Machinima Prep: Emotional Visuals

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The beginning of gathering graphics for machinima special effects & memory flashbacks.

As we wrap up editing and polishing the Chicago neighborhood machinima, the interns begin exploring the internet for Creative Commons licensed CC0 and CC-By images.  They are searching for photographs and textures that portray and evoke emotions.  The project’s two final machinima – one a real journalism documentary we call “The CT Story” and one a personal poem by a young person struggling with their emotions – will both use graphics and inworld special effects to create immersive, visual experiences to tell their stories.


Blogger Posting Update

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Just a heads up:  Here is a screen capture of all our interns’ names showing you where to find the links to their individual blogs.  Note we have changed the “Blogs” tab and category to read “Bloggers”.  On that top tier tab page you will find ALL the blog posts by our interns in chronological order.  We have several categories bloggers can check to help showcase each post’s contents.  For example, every intern post always checks off the categories of their own Name and Bloggers, and any other subject category that describes the post, like OpenSim or Avatars or Machinima.

If you want to read about a specific topic, look to the sidebar.  On every page there is a dropdown menu with all the categories with the number of related posts.  Click any category title and you will find all the posts about that topic from both our interns and our Front Page writers.