On Wednesday I came back to the US from a documentary shoot in Honduras. That is a post in and of itself (coming soon). Suffice it to say my friend Jesse (who I had been shooting with) and I were immersed in a fascinating place with genuine and passionate people engaged in the rehabilitation of people and country in the mountains of Tegucigalpa.

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Base camp for the first few days

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Tegucigalpa

There's a pile of cow skulls like this anywhere that people have to eat. They're just usually not under a bridge in the middle of the city.

There’s a pile of cow skulls like this anywhere that people have to eat. They’re just usually not under a bridge in the middle of the city.

Ironically enough, I had a local SIM card with minutes and data. I was more immediately connected to the rest of the world while in Honduras than I am in LA (because I had no data plan there). Being connected made me realize how easy things are to navigate with a smart phone.

Directly following the documentary in Central America I had been hired to shoot an event in the Northeast for a medical devices company. The plane leaving Houston (the layover destination) was late leaving the runway due to airplane traffic.
Upon landing in Newark we were notified by the captain that our gate was occupied and we had to wait.
I had, by this point, switched back to my T-Mobile SIM, which had a newly purchased data plan that my phone wasn’t accessing.
A car had been arranged to pick me up at Newark, however, because the plane was more than an hour late, I had to take Uber.

Remember the no-data plan problem? There was also no useable WiFi at Newark airport. After spending a while walking around the now-empty hallways of the terminal looking for WiFi, I had to ask my contact to send me a car.
I hate being a burden.

The shoot I’d been hired for included an event at the medical device company’s headquarters in New Jersey as well as an event in Boston. The next evening I was in a car headed to Penn Station in New York. Of course the shooting that day had gone late and the car service had showed up late and traffic in Manhattan was…traffic in Manhattan at 6:30pm.
Needless to say I missed two trains in a row and was close to missing the third when I came to the ticket counter and found that if you miss a train and don’t call to cancel within 20 minutes Amtrak deletes the credit you had from your original purchased ticket.

The only possible way to get that credit back, the ticket agent informed me (in that extremely polite east coast manner), was to use a greasy, black plastic in-house wall phone in the middle of the train station.
Have you ever tried to get an automated voice to understand a complex number-letter sequence in the silence of your own apartment?
Now imagine doing that in an echoing tile room packed with hundreds of people. Also there was Christmas music. Blaring.

After hearing for the 6th time, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand, let’s try another method,” I hung up and asked my contact to buy another train ticket.
Burden. Failure.

But at least I got on the train. And, five hours later, to the hotel, which was only a nippy half-mile walk from the Boston Back Bay station.
It was 2am. Luckily the event didn’t start til later in the day on Thursday. I had almost a full day to rest. I set my alarm for 11am.

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9am.
Swanky, climbing guitar riff, reminiscent of a Buckethead sequence.
Ringtone. Not alarm.
Ringtone!

It was my contact asking where I was, because I wasn’t downstairs at the event. But the event didn’t really start til Thursday night! Friday was the first morning session at 8am.

“Dude, It’s Friday.”
First time that phrase have ever been a bad thing. I had been so messed up from my travel that I didn’t know what day it was.

I grabbed my gear and rushed downstairs. Or at least to the elevator, where I waited for it to descend the 35 floors of the hotel.
Days smear together, locations blur, stories blend. It’s a weird sort of life on the move.

Some of the girls at Casa de Ester in Honduras braiding my hair.

Some of the girls at Casa de Ester in Honduras braiding my hair.

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It took 2 hours.

 

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My friend and co-shooter on this current documentary project, Jesse enjoying the giant-headed mannekins at a mall in Tegucigalpa

When I’m at that point of exhausted topics of conversation with people at a party or get-together, the inevitable question arises: “What do you do?”

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More and more I’m embracing the answer, no longer as a petty point of pride that comes from insecurity at a perceived lack of accomplishment, but as an honest agknowledgement of what I do.
I get paid to travel and tell stories through motion picture.

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IMAX traffic jam

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Usually this involves spending time in the presence, and at the mercy of, people from different places, with varying stories.

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In the past few months I have been involved in telling the stories of a massive dog-adoption fair, an engagement ring company, a multi-national film festival, a Native American tribe, an online start-up, a Spanish-language Instagram commercial, a rum-cocktail competition and now a safe-house for victims of abuse in Honduras.

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It’s a good time. And though it isn’t directing a piece of narrative, fictional cinema, it does pay the bills.

I am thankful for a job that allows me to live and travel and come in contact with amazing people doing amazing things, along with the added benefit of extra time to write a few works of cinema yet to come.
It is great to know this goodness has nothing to do with deserving anything. This is grace in real life.

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Can you do that? Even if you're a Tesla?

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My friend and co-shooter on this current documentary project, Jesse enjoying the giant-headed mannekins at a mall in Tegucigalpa

When I’m at that point of exhausted topics of conversation with people at a party or get-together, the inevitable question arises: “What do you do?”

image

More and more I’m embracing the answer, no longer as a petty point of pride that comes from insecurity at a perceived lack of accomplishment, but as an honest agknowledgement of what I do.
I get paid to travel and tell stories through motion picture.

image

IMAX traffic jam

image

Usually this involves spending time in the presence, and at the mercy of, people from different places, with varying stories.

image

In the past few months I have been involved in telling the stories of a massive dog-adoption fair, an engagement ring company, a multi-national film festival, a Native American tribe, an online start-up, a Spanish-language Instagram commercial, a rum-cocktail competition and now a safe-house for victims of abuse in Honduras.

image

It’s a good time. And though it isn’t directing a piece of narrative, fictional cinema, it does pay the bills.

I am thankful for a job that allows me to live and travel and come in contact with amazing people doing amazing things, along with the added benefit of extra time to write a few works of cinema yet to come.
It is great to know this goodness has nothing to do with deserving anything. This is grace in real life.

image

Can you do that? Even if you're a Tesla?

image

My friend and co-shooter on this current documentary project, Jesse enjoying the giant-headed mannekins at a mall in Tegucigalpa

When I’m at that point of exhausted topics of conversation with people at a party or get-together, the inevitable question arises: “What do you do?”

image

I found this guy on my lens after shooting a timelapse in the prairie grass

More and more I’m embracing the answer, no longer as a petty point of pride that comes from insecurity at a perceived lack of accomplishment, but as an honest agknowledgement of what I do.
I get paid to travel and tell stories through motion picture.

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A frozen waterfall on Oklahoma

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IMAX film in the mechanism that sends it to the projector

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The IMAX projector owned by the Chickasaw Nation

Usually this involves spending time in the presence, and at the mercy of, people from different places, with varying stories.

image

In the past few months I have been involved in telling the stories of a massive dog-adoption fair, an engagement ring company, a multi-national film festival, a Native American tribe, an online start-up, a Spanish-language Instagram commercial, a rum-cocktail competition and now a safe-house for victims of abuse in Honduras.

image

It’s a good time. And though it isn’t directing a piece of narrative, fictional cinema, it does pay the bills.

I am thankful for a job that allows me to live and travel and come in contact with amazing people doing amazing things, along with the added benefit of extra time to write a few works of cinema yet to come.
It is great to know this goodness has nothing to do with deserving anything. This is grace in real life.

image

Can you do that? Even if you're a Tesla?

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Freelancing often brings unique projects and opportunities to engage in stories that break from the norm. One such project I worked on recently was a video exhibition for the Chickasaw Nation’s cultural center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. The goal of the project was to create 4K motion picture content that would appear on a massive wall display. The video would highlight the range of Chickasaw success, from the their vibrant continued traditions to their varied business interests and the strong leadership that makes the Chickasaw a great nation.

 

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The Chickasaw Cultural center grows corn, squash and beans along with other produce in a spiral garden behind the traditional village.

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This is a 500-year-old dugout canoe found in Mississippi, part of which is the original land of the Chickasaws.

I found this guy on my lens after shooting a timelapse in the prairie grass

I found this guy on my lens after shooting a timelapse in the prairie grass.

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The shoot lasted 11 days and mainly focussed on gathering visual assets for the project. Interviews will be captured at a later date.
The most amazing part of the experience was the immersive education in the Chickasaw world. Operating as a soverign nation they are able to govern themselves in more culturally saavy (and more efficient) ways. I was shooting alongside a producer and the two of us were constantly amazed by the quality of architecture and¬†efficiency of systems. The Chickasaw’s add so much value to their non-native neighbors by employing thousands in their various businesses.
This project was unlike any other I have worked on.

The date for my departure to Kenya has come and gone. We are halfway through what was hoped to be my first month in my role as the cinematographer on a tv show set and produced in Nairobi.

I’m reminded almost every day that reality is turning out differently, as I am asked by people I run into, “Aren’t you supposed to be somewhere else?”

R1-01627-0020I guess I’m supposed to be wherever I am. Or something like that…

Obviously working on a full-time tv show in Kenya for a production company that trains and hires young people from the slums would have been an amazing opportunity. But maybe if I’m not there that gives another cinematographer a chance to work. And perhaps my involvement with Zindua (the production company) would be better when I can bring more value to a production than just myself and my gear. Who knows, maybe I could be part of team that brings a production and funding. I am ok with the idea that my living and working in Kenya may be a long way off. Maybe it’s just more of a 10 year plan than an immediate opportunity. Maybe it’s something that will take development. Sweet.

Now what?

R1-01627-000ABesides looking for work, remaining sharp and faithful, I actually have no idea.

I should be in Kenya in 5 days, according to previous conversations with the production company I would be working with in Nairobi. Unfortunately, email, skype, facebook, and phone calls don’t seem to be a preferred method of communication so I don’t really know if I’ll actually be gone next week. Waiting for money to come in from the cable network has halted production on the tv show, thus the waiting.

Waiting doesn’t have to be so bad. This week I had the opportunity to be part of a production crew shooting the MAGIC fashion expo in Las Vegas. There were several shows going on at once with a video crew assigned to each one. My partner and I shot FN Platform, which featured nothing but shoes. Everything from high-end high heels to flip flops and John Deer work boots (yeah, like the tractor/mower company).

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Magic Vegas signI learned so much about shoes. I had no idea, for one, that there were so many shoe companies. Did you know a company called Rollasole sells shoes that come in a can and are dispensed from vending machines? Yep. There’s also Otz shoes which were inspired by the shoes found on √∂tzi the iceman. The event was an expo where designers could show their latest releases, while attendees were mainly retailers looking for the next line of shoes to carry in their stores.

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My heel after the first day of walking around the HUGE showrooms. People with fitbits were recording well over 8 miles in a day.

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It was about fashion after all.

The ironic thing about the week was all the cool people I met from Los Angeles while on the shoot. Leaving this place that has become home to go to Kenya would actually be really difficult. But not going to Kenya to take on this opportunity to be part of something amazing would be equally hard.

In other news, my trusty Saturn Ion and I were in a collision a few weeks ago. I’ve been driving around with no left rear-view mirror, but didn’t think anything of it. It turns out the car is a total loss and is destined for the salvage yard on Friday. Good news is they’re paying me for the car and I won’t have to deal with a car while I’m away. Bad news…if I don’t leave for another few weeks I’m car-less. It’s like living in medieval Uzbekistan without a horse. IMAG0297

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