A month ago The New Yorker made a TV programme for Amazon, which had us here at magCulture imagining a future world where magazines had their own shows as well as printed publications. That future seems a little bit closer now that Makeshift have launched their Makeshift On Air YouTube channel, a series of online documentaries about hidden creativity around the world. We caught up with Matt Peters, the Creative Director of the project, who has spent a busy past few months coordinating the worldwide Makeshift team and commissioning the concise, focused shorts.
‘Usually the biggest challenge to making a video is finding a great story,’ Matt tells me via email – he’s in Brooklyn at the moment, all of the Makeshift team live in far-reaching corners of the world, one of the reasons that they are able to cover so much ground. He explains that they have an incredibly wide-reaching network of 400 journalists and filmmakers across 80 countries, so finding good stories was not a problem at all, ‘We had an abundance, so we just had to pivot some resources to make them come to life in video form.’
Like the magazine’s content, the mini documentaries focus on incredible stories, local creative secrets that even the most thorough detective wouldn’t be able to uncover. To organise the channel, Matt and the Makeshift team have started with three recurring series: ‘Power Hackers’ which profiles design climate solutions, ‘Makers’ which are intimate portraits of various kinds of creators, and ‘In Graphics’, animated descriptions of hidden economic phenomena that will be visually familiar to readers of the print magazine.
Matt spent the last few months before the On Air launch making various phone calls with camera operators in Kenya, Guatemala and Mexico, as well as coordinating shipping of footage over to Brooklyn so that he could edit some of the material. This complex logistical web is crucial for both the magazine and channel’s emphasis on capturing genuine local life: ‘We source the stories from our contributors on the ground,’ Matt explains, ‘We stay away from the fly in, flip on a camera, and fly out approach.’
Right now, the shorts average at around 3 – 4 minutes, a format that complements the magazine’s content, which also tends to be concise, smart and informative. Yet Matt is excited about the potential of having longer documentaries in the future: ‘The beauty of digital video content is that you are not limited by commercials or a space of time. The time is dependent on the story that we are trying to tell. When something comes along that needs more time, we will go with it.’
It’s an intriguing moment when a magazine steps out of its pages and extends into other kinds of formats of storytelling, self-fashioning themselves as a brand rather than a singular printed publication. Right now, Makeshift are planning on releasing 2 videos a month, but they’re dreaming large, hoping to get to 2 a week so that they’ll become their own journalistic mini-Universe, like Monocle perhaps. The channel seems like a good opportunity to make use of their wide-reaching scope of contributors, and a resourceful way of ensuring that design stories from all areas of the globe are being told.
Interview by Madeleine Morley