Sophia Chauchard-Stuart meets a film-maker who has turned to new media to get her message across
Jayne Loader, a writer and director, is evangelical about new media. At the Sheffield International Documentary Festival last month, she was presenting her CD-Rom, Public Shelter, and in her masterclass afterwards was urging documentary film-makers to get involved in the Internet and multimedia.

Loader was brought to the UK by Lovebytes, an organisation based in Sheffield that explores and promotes the creative use of digital multimedia among artists and media professionals, aims that Loader thoroughly supports.

"There's a lot of money being put into new media, but the people creating multimedia work at the moment are not necessarily the people with the right skills," she explains. "The big companies aren't looking hard enough for creatives yet. New media, like the Internet and CD-Roms, need more writers, more artists and more directors - content providers, like myself."

Following on from The Atomic Cafe, Jayne Loader's cult documentary, Public Shelter details absurd and frightening facts about nuclear weapons, human radiation experiments and atomic power, from the Trinity test to the present day. There is also previously secret information on the CD-Rom from hundreds of US government files, film clips and audio tapes which were declassified under the Clinton administration.

As a documentary, Public Shelter is a powerful piece of work, and it is particularly well-suited to CD-Rom, as the sheer amount of material, facts, figures and opinion to access would be impossible to achieve in a traditional documentary film.

However, the problem for documentary makers working on CD-Rom projects is that they cannot direct the viewer around the material in the way a traditional documentary can do. "You have to give up a lot more control on CD-Rom to your audience," Loader explains. "On film, you can basically manipulate them. As a medium for propaganda, film is unparalleled. On CD-Rom, you have to leave your audience free to explore, and be more confident they will understand your message in the way you had intended."

Loader has fully engaged with the emerging media since completing Public Shelter and, to promote the complementary Web site, started writing a regular online column called WWWench. With a similar voice to that of other "geek-girls" on the Net, WWWench is a ribald take on politics, sexuality and the world of the Web. "It's turned out to be the most popular thing on my site," laughs Loader. Branching out into other sites, WWWench will soon be available in a new online magazine, Bleach, to be launched this month.

Loader is enthusiastic about the Internet's possibilities, and says the Web has changed both her professional and personal life. "I think the Net frees you up to live wherever you want," she says. "It allowed me to leave New York's Lower East Side and live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, yet still be connected to the outside world."

The Net also connected Loader to her business partner (and husband-to- be), Eric Schwaab, who managed to track her down on the Net after they'd lost touch for more than 14 years. The next task for Loader is a constantly evolving hypertext novel called Flygirls, which she has been working on for the past three years. Flygirls is an ambitious project, telling the story of an aviation race from Los Angeles to Cleveland in 1929 between the finest female pilots of the day. The aim of the novel, which features many inspiring women, is to entertain - but there is also a strong educational emphasis on teaching girls about geography, aeronautics, history and science.

Flygirls has already made its debut as a Web site; it will then be developed on CD-Rom and eventually appear in print as a full-length book. "It's similar to what Dickens did, releasing his work in serial form and then finally as a book," says Loader. "And it's wonderful to work in so many media. I think the right people, the creative people, are too intimidated by technology to get really involved in the Net and CD-Roms. But if I can do it, anyone can"

http://www.flygirls.com

http://www.publicshelter.com

http://www.lovebytes.org.uk

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