He’s one of the best-known faces on Al Gore’s TV network Current TV. Venezuelan
born media persona Jason Silva is some newfangled hybrid of Journalist, Anchorman,Documentary Filmmaker, and Content Curator.
Silva says he prefers the title “Journeyman” to Journalist. “I prefer the word journeyman to journalist because I think that certainly when you hear a story, you want to hear certain facts. But I also think what makes a story interesting is the points of view expressed therein. I think that when the journalist is completely unaffected and completely neutral, the story’s kind of boring.
Silva is 28 years old. And in some sort of strange Woody Allen-esq joke,he’s focused on one topic beyond all others – Death.
Not experiencing it - rather cheating it.
His journey began while he was still in college. “I was at the University of Miami, and I still had like a semester or so left. And through the film school, I found out that Al Gore was launching a new TV network, they were looking for passionate young storytellers to transform television, which was like ambiguous but magnificent sounding. This was before YouTube even launched.”
So,he and his school chum and friend Max Lugavere applied and became the ‘A list’ anchors on Current, and Jason was on his way to being a famous teleprompter reader.(http://www.maxandjason.org)
Jason remembers thinking “oh this is the real deal. I’m going to be in the studio, there’s going to be a prompter. I was still given creative freedom to write my own stuff. But it was going to be a real deal, with a crew, and in front of a lot of people and it has to be done on a daily basis, so it was a little bit intimidating.”
For Silva, being in media at a moment of extraordinary change made the promise and the challenge of Current all the more attractive: “What attracted me was that video cameras in particular were getting cheaper all the time. So now that the cameras were getting smaller, a new generation could all of the sudden tell stories. Which means it’s a democratizing force. It opens up the doors to new people with less resources. And from those stories, the next big, big, big earth-shattering story could come out of it.”
The result was a gig that was part content maker, but often filter and presenter. A role Silva now sees as a curator. “There’s so much information. Almost an infinite amount of, content, text, video, whatever, on the web. That it’s actually impossible to keep track of all of it at this point. It’s overwhelming. You need a curator.”
“I'm happy to be content maker as well as curator, so I'm happy to also be a presenter for amazing things.”
Now, four years later, the only problem is he’s hardly ready to settle down and drive studio show. He’s looking to get out and explore, to take a journey.
“You know, like, there’s this idealistic, part of me that was, terrified, but, but thinking, “Yeah I’m just going to go make documentaries and, I’m going to keep filming things like I’ve been doing all my life.” You know? And, all the sudden I was like, whatever I did at Current, I knew that the best stuff that we did was going to have to be stuff I was invested in intellectually and emotionally. So I couldn’t just, phone it in and be commercial, because that’s not what, I guess, made me interesting enough for them to hire me.”
But with Current now turning 5 years old this August the media landscape is changing. For Silva, his social network is increasingly his content discovery network as well.
“We’re all neurons into this massive, global brain. Acting as filters of amazing content from one another. I’ve built a network that curates interestingness. In my universe, it encompasses thousands and thousands of filters and people, each person being a filter. So it’s kinda cool. Like I’ve created my own utopia, removing the boring stuff and showing only the amazing stuff. It’s like, there’s very little room to be bored today.”
And the thing that Silva’s filters kept pointing him to was immortality.
Ideas became interviews. And Interviews became a short film called “The Immortalists.” The film grew out of Ernest Becker’s, ‘The Denial of Death’, the book that Woody Allen gives Annie Hall in the movie Annie Hall. The plan was to talk to mavericks in biotech about how to cure death. The short was made, and turned into Current, who promptly turned it down.
For Current the short was either not commercial, or too controversial, or simply too opinionated for one of their lead anchors to be reporting. Jason isn’t sure, but it further drove him toward his “Journeyman’s” existence, and today “The Immortalists” is rapidly moving toward becoming his first feature length documentary – made outside of his role at Current.
The film is both simple in construct, and wildly complex. “We're going to decommission natural selection and we're going to turn it into something else."
“The Immortalists” explores what Silva calls “Mans predicament.” He explains it this way: “We have the capacity to ponder the infinite, seemingly capable of everything, you know, housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping, decaying body. So on the one hand we are godly, and on the other hand we are creaturely, we are finite and victims of entropy.”
“So as a filmmaker, as a junkie for art and aesthetics, I want to go into a black movie theater and immerse myself in a story so I can feel immortal temporarily, you know. That's, I think that that's, everybody is secretly behaving in the very same way, it's just that they happen to be bearing and putting the reality of why they're doing what they do in their subconscious, but Ernest Becker says "Both the religious impulse, the romantic impulse, and the creative impulse, all are constructs to mask our death anxiety."
“The films is talking to people who are saying, ‘Yeah we're going to actually, we're scientists and we're going to play jazz with the universe’. And, you know, in the future, a new generation of artists are going to write genomes with the fluency that Blake and Byron wrote verses, which is what Freeman Dyson has just said.”
Silva is alive with the electricity of the ideas around death, and it seems a future that includes life without end: “it's more than just a creative, cathartic thing for me, all of a sudden I'm talking to people who are saying "No, no, no, actually, we're going to be like, artists that are going to be playing jazz with our genomes.”
Now, just so you don’t get the wrong idea,Silva knows that the ideas around cheating death raise complex issues around birth control, philosophy, even the environment – putting him somewhat at odds with his boss at Current, who’s major public issue is global warming.
And Silva’s response to a rhetorical Gore objection? “We can't go backwards, we can only go forward. We need to use the tools at our disposal to overcome human problems. That includes global warming, that includes environmental problems, but I also think it includes human mortality. It robs us everything and everyone we care about.”
“I’m willing to go to that uncomfortable place, if I know that it’s real.“
Steve Rosenbaum is The CEO of Magnify.net, a NYC-based Web platform that powers content aggregation and curation. He has been building and growing consumer-content businesses since 1992. He was the creator and Executive Producer of MTV UNfiltered, a series that was the first commercial application of user-generated video in commercial TV. He is a documentary director who's film Seven Days in September chronicled life in the week after 9/11 in New York.
Follow Steve on Twitter @Magnify
View the entire video interview with Jason Silva on Curation Nation.org (http://curationnation.magnify.net/pages/jason.silva)