The POV Hackathon team members working on the Feed Me A Story project meet at the intersection of documentary, food ethnography and app development. I spoke with two of the members, filmmaker and interactive media producer Theresa Loong and iOS developer Lauren Hasson.
Loong directed the documentary Every Day Is a Holiday and has produced digital media projects with AMC Networks, nymag.com and Food & Wine magazine. A Harvard graduate, she has lectured at New York University and The New School.
Hasson has a degree in electrical engineering, computer science and economics from Duke University. She is a graduate of Leadership Texas and is co-chair of the Dallas chapter of Women in Wireless. She currently develops iOS apps at Bottle Rocket Apps in Dallas, which she describes as “the greatest place to work on Earth.”
The team also includes Laura Nova, an artist and associate professor in creative art and technology at Bloomfield College in New Jersey. Nova received Lower Manhattan Cultural Council funding to create The Crescendo Project, an interactive praise-singing machine. She holds a master of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was a Rotary scholar at Goldsmiths College.
POV: Can you describe your project?
Theresa Loong: Feed Me a Story is a partnership between me and fellow artist Laura Nova. It’s basically a transmedia project that includes the idea of a video cookbook, as well as webisodes. We’ve gone around various places in the New York City area, including the Montclair Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of Chinese in America and other locations. We were recently on Ellis Island. We give people a piece of food — a snack or a beverage — that’s often based on where we are performing. And in exchange, people share a secret family recipe or a sense memory about food on camera. That’s one of the iterations of our project. We’ve also done cooking demonstrations with other people who describe a family dish. We’re collecting a lot of great material and shared experiences.
So, if someone’s talking about a recipe, we’re actually getting them to talk about immigration or some family secret or the history of people from different ethnicities. Sometimes it also includes very distinct memories around food — they can be very passionate memories or associations with the dish. Through something seemingly simple like food, we’re trying to dig at deeper issues. Whether it’s love, anger or joy, it gives a greater sense of what makes people tick. So the video cookbook part of the app that we’d like to create is the idea of taking the content that we already have and figure out how people may be able to use it, whether they’re learning to cook or want to know more about a dish, as well as people who want to know more about the person telling the story.
POV: What led you to want to be involved in the Hackathon?
Loong: I’ve been watching POV for many years as a documentary filmmaker. But I’ve also wanted to combine my documentary work with my digital media background a bit more than I have been able to in the past. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to do that.
POV: So you really want to focus on developing your video cookbook app at the Hackathon?
Loong: Yeah, we’ve already had a phone call with Lauren Hasson, who is with Bottle Rocket, so we’re very excited. There have been other hackathons in New York before, but I think this one presents a great opportunity for the documentary community. And not just for us. Reading about the other teams, I know some of the hackers and projects. That was really exciting. I can’t wait to see what we all create.
POV: Why did you want to participate in the Hackathon?
Lauren Hasson: I love hackathons and I’m also very interested in the media and storytelling space because of my background developing media-centric apps at Bottle Rocket. So when I learned that POV was hosting a hackathon this summer, I knew it would be a great fit for my background and immediately applied to participate as an iOS developer. I was thrilled when I learned I was selected to be part of the Feed Me A Story team.
POV: Have you worked with filmmakers in any previous hackathons? Or will this be the first time for you?
Hasson: This will be my first time working with a filmmaker.
POV: Is there anything that you hoped to achieve or learn from working with a filmmaker?
Hasson: Yes, I hope to achieve an increased understanding of how films and apps can be used together to convey both stories and experiences. I also hope to get the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to producing a social-issue-driven media app.