BERKELEY -- Seated in a sunny cafe, Tiffany Shlain is all about connections.
Creator of the Webby Awards, trailblazing filmmaker of "Connected" and numerous short films, a star on the Sundance (and most) Film Festival landscapes, daughter of the late author/surgeon/educator Leonard Shlain, UC Berkeley graduate, wife, mother, Internet wiz.
Imagining Shlain? Picture a human hub, exponentially spawning countless tendrils.
Which is why the walls she constructs, at the start of a 90-minute interview one week after the Nov. 8 premiere of her new film and TED (electronic) book, "Brain Power," suggest possibilities, not barriers.
"We have a very small office. There's one wall where I put up my ideas. On my other wall, I have a large, textual, written description of the big picture of purpose," she says. "The third wall is the Bay and Berkeley, the bridge -- it's very inspiring."
As a young filmmaker at Cal and as a matrix-inventing maven of the Internet, Shlain could work 14-hour days. But when she became a mother, she began to think about how she could reduce variables.
Cloud Filmmaking, a process she and her Moxie Institute film studio collaborators developed, invites people from around the world to submit photographic and video content.
"The creative part is inviting people to put their culture, remixed, into our films. I can scale the films, then I can rerelease them. That's powerful: I can make these films and they
But they're not "without" her, as even the 10 minutes it takes to watch "Brain Power" proves.
The cleverly amalgamated clips, nostalgic-but-modern animation, deliberately selected sound score, concepts steeped in scientific expertise and the final touch, a startlingly emotional story or concept that engages the heart, are classic Shlain.
"Brain Power" sculpts the parallel patterns of a child's developing brain and the growth of the Internet into a single idea represented most powerfully by the final clips of children running to a caregiver for a hug.
It's not a fuzzy feel-good ploy. Combined with the solid neuroscience in the film, the images add wallop to Shlain's message: as with the development of a young person's brain, we need to be mindful of how we allow the Web to grow.
"The Internet is just an extension of us," she insists. "It's not this 'other' thing ... we created it! It's a way to share all of the creativity we own. When people recognize that, they'll feel more empowered by it."
Shlain says she'd be lying if she claimed winning a landslide of awards wasn't validating. When her "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" film was selected by the U.S. State Department to represent the country and played all over the world, the patterns she was discovering in her life and work took final form.
"I realized I could make films I care about and combine (them) with the power of the Web. Now, I'm in a zone, creating things with my team."
Moxie's "Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change," 16 short films ("Brain Power" is the third) translated by volunteers and customized for free, offer national and international nonprofits a potent, high-tech call to action.
"What's so exciting is providing media to these organizations that do the work of the people," she says. "Can I make a universal film that is something an organization can use? The answer is yes. There are so many possibilities: we cry in the office when they come in."
Moxie's manifesto expanded when "Brain Power" was simultaneously released as a TED book at the film's premiere at The California Academy of Sciences. And a "Connected" DVD and discussion kit are already being used by more than 200 schools and universities.
An anonymous donor has funded the first six films. The $250,000 per film budget covers the filmmaking and working with nonprofits to hone their message. The next two films will address what defines character and happiness.
Reaching the fourth wall, Shlain continues to surprise.
"The whole cell-phone-in-your-bedroom idea is no good. My family unplugs one day a week. What does it mean to me to be human? All of my films go into the importance of being present," she says.
But then, child of the Internet, she can't resist adding a tag: "We won't have true insights or see the full potential of the Internet until all the different parts of the world are connected -- and we're not there yet."
Tiffany Shlain and her filmmaking crew will be at the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street, in San Rafael, for a showing of "Connected: An Autobiography About Love, Death & Technology" and a question-and-answer session at 7 p.m. Dec. 2. Tickets and details are at www.cafilm.org/rfc/.
Learn more about "Connected" discussion kits and DVDs at http://connectedthefilm.com and about the "Brain Power" film and TED book and other films that are customized for free for nonprofit organizations at http://letitripple.org.