Expressing nature's simplicity
Reinventing an artistic genre
The dreamlike world of narrative photomontages
Composing the moment
Leslie Rule is driven by her passions: storytelling, social advocacy, and—last but not least—animal rights. While working for public television station KQED, she saw how individuals could tell their own stories far better than any professional, so she set out on a new path to train individuals in new media storytelling. She has worked with more than 2,500 new media storytellers around the world, and spent hundreds of hours in the classroom with students. Today, Rule teaches grassroots non-profit organizations how to use Adobe® Premiere® Elements and Adobe Photoshop® Elements software to create their own advocacy media videos. An avid animal lover with two dogs—Leif and Lil G.—she’s currently working closely with Save A Dog, a non-profit humane society whose primary focus is rescuing and re-homing abandoned dogs.
Photoshop.com: Which piece of equipment couldn’t you live without and why?
Leslie Rule: My smartphone, without a doubt. I use it to capture spontaneous video and photos, which gives rise to project ideas. Capturing imagery—motion or still—in the moment is a visual reflection process that helps me inform and shape how I experience the living of my own life.
Photoshop.com: Having started in interactive advertising, why did you shift your career to focus on community-created content?
Leslie Rule: I had an epiphany when I saw a video story that a 14-year-old, African-American young man created. He talked about what it was like to be stereotyped because of his race. It was so powerful, compelling, and incredibly poignant that I realized: only he could speak his truth, in his own, authentic voice. I became passionate about the ability to empower people to use video-creation technology directly, unmediated and without the overlay of either commerce (advertising) or someone else’s vantage point. Even the most sophisticated and sympathetic producer, by default, adds an editorial overlay, putting distance between the story and the storyteller’s experience. I don’t think that it is an either/or—professional pieces have their place, but so do the first person “this-is-my-experience” point-of-view pieces.
Photoshop.com: What role does Adobe Premiere Elements play in your training process?
Leslie Rule: Adobe Premiere Elements is cost-effective, yet has powerful capabilities so that users can strike that perfect balance between homemade authenticity and polished broadcast quality. It provides an intuitive interface that makes it possible for non-profits and 501(c)3s without a dedicated media staff to easily create message-driven videos that further their organizational goals.
Photoshop.com: What are your favorite Adobe Premiere Elements 11 features?
Leslie Rule: In previous versions, I thought the interface was intuitive. Now, there’s an even greater degree of simplification that makes training people so much easier. For example, users are given the choice right off to use the Organizer or Editor, and the motion tools are much cleaner and more accessible. Direct upload to Facebook and other social media tie-ins make it easy to publish videos online. For small businesses or non-profits, the more simplification and automation, the better.
Photoshop.com: Why is Adobe Premiere Elements an important tool for small businesses and non-profits?
Leslie Rule: The ease of use. They want and need intuitiveness, fast access to features that help them convey their messages, and automated posting and distribution options. They aren’t—and don’t want to be—video editors, but they do realize that do-it-yourself (DIY) media making can have a huge impact on the success of a small business or non-profit. They want to be savvy enough to create great pieces, but they don’t have the resources (time, staff, or budget) that a professionally produced piece requires.
Photoshop.com: Describe how you and your students use the Adobe Photoshop Elements & Adobe Premiere Elements bundle to integrate photos into videos.
Leslie Rule: I suggest that workshop participants include both photos and video in their projects. This gives me the opportunity to talk about the visual impact and pacing that the use of still photographs adds to a video. A single photo provides a different visual experience than video, but the combination of the two is particularly effective. I often have workshop participants create graphical still images in Photoshop Elements—something like an image of a child growing up—to incorporate into their video pieces. Used creatively, stills with transitions between them can indicate the passage of time, a change in location, or a causal relationship.
Photoshop.com: How did you create the result in your Princess Tales video?
Leslie Rule: The video Princess Tales came about because of the wonderfully visual storytelling potential of a very pregnant bully-breed mix, Princess. Princess and her unborn pups were under immediate threat of euthanasia because their time at the municipal shelter was up. Save a Dog took Princess in and just two days later she had 11 pups!
Visually, newborn pups are otherworldly. We took many photos over the first few months to highlight the puppies. Once the pups were weaned, Princess slowly returned to her incredibly active self. As fast as we could throw the tennis ball at her, Princess would catch it in her mouth. This amazing feat can only be captured in video. We used Adobe Premiere Elements to slow the video down so her motion and her stunning athleticism and vitality could be appreciated. Our piece begins with a video of Princess and her ball, but we then used the flashback technique to tell the story of her near demise and the birth of her puppies. We used Photoshop Elements to give the photos and video clips the same look and feel by adjusting the lighting to standardize the colors and tonal levels.
We end the piece with statistics and a call to action around breed bias. Video was the natural choice for an output platform because it allowed us to mix and match photos, video, and information into a complete narrative. As a result, in part due to this video, all of the puppies were placed in wonderful homes.
Photoshop.com: What are the top components needed for a video to be successful and resonate with its intended audience?
Leslie Rule: To be successful, a video has to have a message and a compelling story to bring it to life—every business and non-profit has one. Also required is a good sense of the three-stage process of a DIY video project: 1) Preproduction: articulation of goal, message, and strategy for the call to action; 2) Production: story, visual materials, editing; and, 3) Post-production: distribution, evaluation, and iteration.
Photoshop.com: Can you talk more about your work with Save A Dog and how video is a critical component in the organization’s media advocacy?
Leslie Rule: To address challenges with current legislation surrounding rescue dogs, a legislative steering committee offered up an outreach plan anchored in a series of short, fun, happy videos debunking current myths about rescue dogs. The videos star real people and real rescued dogs telling real stories. The tone is fun, and points out the absurdity of the myths. The group did get legislative support; I believe an important factor in the legislator’s decision was this grassroots media plan. The creation of the videos is important to be sure, but so was the distribution plan. Each video and the site hosting them will have a tagline indicating the Representative sponsoring the bill.
Photoshop.com: What types of movies do you like to create for fun?
Leslie Rule: I am chronicling my own dogs Leif and Lil G. as they play, swim, and run together and learn from each other and as the puppy, Lil G., matures. One of my eccentric fascinations is the stunning beauty, especially the color and texture, of animals’ coats. I also like to create movies of animals in play with their own. And, needless to say, people and their pets and the relationships they’ve created. When I am on the road, I upload them directly to YouTube. Sharing life experiences (and its bizarre moments) in this way with family and friends keeps me connected to them and they to me.