Archive

Uncategorized

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

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?

Advertisements
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

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.

image

A frozen waterfall on Oklahoma

image

IMAX film in the mechanism that sends it to the projector

image

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?

SONY DSC

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.

 

SONY DSC

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

IMAG0335

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.

IMAG0345

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.

It is difficult to follow a massive success like The Lord of the Rings (not at all speaking from experience). So it’s no wonder that both Hobbit films emerge with cinema-literate audiences cringing slightly.

It could have been worse…remember this version of The Hobbit?

“But it’s not The Lord of the Rings”, comes the constant defense, citing the children’s-book nature of Tolkein’s first tale of Middle Earth. Of course not…but it is, isn’t it? When the music and production design makes us believe we are in the same universe as Aragorn, Frodo, and Galadriel, we get the feeling it’s the same place.

So why have both hyperboles of J.R.R Tolkein’s Hobbit tale felt so out of place in a world that should be their own?

As a wise art professor once said, “art influences technology and technology influences art.” This is perhaps more evident now than ever before.

Anyone acquainted with the independent film industry knows that cheaper digital technology has impacted their line of work, perhaps even created the possibility for it to exist. But these folk will also know that showing up to a set without storyboards is also a common practice, as is rewriting the script on set, or rolling for several minutes on a take, “allowing the scene to breathe” (more like, making up the plan while the record light is on).

I know from first hand experience that these practices aren’t just isolated to low-budget productions. I have experienced work on “higher-end” shoots where the lack of creative discipline was depressing.

Why?

Because it’s possible. To hit record on a Canon 5D Mark III* hardly costs a thing. Why does one need a strict plan for a day of shooting when rearranging binary code onto a CF card* is so cheap? And so easy?

Changes in production technology aren’t inherently destructive (remember the ‘technology influencing art’ part?) but often the innovation becomes a crutch that dulls the creative possibilities.

Has this accessibility affected the top echelons of film production in this industry?

Some of us experienced it in theatres starting December 13th. During one of the many video game sequences of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, we found ourselves careening through a river-rapid fight that would make EA Games giggle.

And all of a sudden it happened.

Shock. Immediate recognition.

Was that a…? It was unmistakable.

They used a Go Pro!*

The Rule of Thirds wasn’t created by a human, it was simply an acknowledgement of the connection our minds have to visual content, and thus, framing an image in a certain way causes us to take it in differently. A rule that is equally steadfast (though unnamed as of yet): if the audience has become accustomed to a “look” through which we experience a world, especially a storybook setting like The Hobbit, they are immediately brought out of the moment when a jarringly different “look” is achieved. Basically, when you cut to a cheap Go Pro shot in the midst of a fantasy epic, we suddenly become aware of the crunchy popcorn under our feet and the “EXIT” sign (that may or may not be calling our name).

“But you can’t pick on The Hobbit! It’s a kids movie!”

When that kid’s movie costs $180 million and supposedly represents some of the highest quality of film production, it’s fair game to tear it apart for consistently making choices that simply don’t make us care about the characters or the world they’re in.

Remember the Fellowship of the Ring? A $93 million budget from an unknown filmmaker in a quiet corner of the globe. Breathtaking images, gritty textures, in-camera techniques, the movement and feel of 35mm film?

There is no such thing as cinematic perfection, but have we allowed cheap, accessible technology to cause us to drop the ball when quality is concerned?

There is still hope for the art of cinema, even in the midst of a creative famine where theatres are only comfortable with showing flicks that are based off of bestselling books, video games or other movies.

Much of the power is in your hands. If audiences have an appreciation for well-told stories and quality production, we have the power to shift an industry. The change is happening in food as consumers become more aware of just how much what we eat impacts our health. Have you noticed a rise in things like, “grass-fed beef” or “free range eggs” and “locally grown, organic produce”? That is the power of consumers at work.

R1- 7Why couldn’t this happen with cinema?

What is your role in impacting how we tell stories, what sorts of stories we tell?

Which movies have you gone to see in theatres lately? How many featured new directors, new production companies, and new talent?

How many Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns for films have you looked at? These are the places where new ideas are sprouting in a very democratic forum.

*Canon 5D Mark III – The latest redesign of the revolutionary Canon 5D cameras. The first widely used DSLRs that made it into the film production world. I recently shot a short film in Melbourne, Australia (called Lost in the Dark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bg_RmBczMI) that was nominated for several awards at a festival in LA. We shot it on the 5D Mark III. Great camera for a film with a budget of $500.

1002072_10151725320152812_1943405284_n

On the set of Lost in the Dark with Director Chris W Bailey (right) and Producer Dana Marie (middle).

*CF Card – Compact Flash. A small solid-state media card that records images, video, or audio, depending on the device it is inserted into.

The CF card is on the left, SD card in the middle and a Micro SD on the right.

*For the as-of-yet uninformed, the Go Pro is a waterproof, shockproof camera system roughly the size of a chocolate brownie. Often seen on the helmets of sky divers and mountain bikers, it carries a reasonably nice-looking image for such a small camera. There is no comparison, however, to the quality of a digital cinema camera system. Everything from contrast to color rendition to sensor refresh time is noticeably different.

The Go Pro Hero 3. The latest in the Go Pro line up.

Living up to the title of this blog seems unavoidable, however, continuing to write about the unfolding story is just the opposite.

In my post-graduation wandering I’ve found myself in many places and on many projects.  Though the opportunities that have been presented have been exhilarating, as I look back I realize how easily I have lost sight of the original goal.

We all had one, I’m sure: the goal for after graduation. Of course we knew it would take a while to reach it, of course we heard those of an older generation telling us we had no idea what hard work was and that if they only knew what they had to put up with in their day.

“It’ll work out, just make money. You’ll get it.”

We believed them and struggled and flailed. And here we are devouring Game of Thrones at the same speed as bags of M&Ms. And we’ve lost it.

That thing we held in our minds when we leaped from the realm of the theoretical into the grind of the practical.

Where did it go?

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that our whole lives we were told how special we were and showered with comforts to go with it. And somehow our parents managed surprise when we couldn’t seem to grasp the idea of suffering for a long time and not receiving any reward for it. Am I the only one?

Imagine a group of talented, trained, hard-working artists collectively creating, telling stories together. Imagine the potential of this kind of unit. Imagine the rewarding work that could come from a group that was dedicated to loving their toil and loving each other, a group that included people into their work, encouraged and challenged and built and restored. Imagine a converted warehouse, a place of industry and creativity and meeting. And in the basement an aquaponics endeavor, maybe a hydro-electric hookup and geothermal or solar to offset operating costs.

Where did it go?

Feeling banished on that Antipodean isle for a year and a half I was met with an inability to run, and an absolute difficulty in finding worth in my work. But that contract to a job that promised no fame and no fortune, nor even a sure “step up” in the world of motion picture, turned out to be a much-needed sentence. Like the prison cell at the bottom of the pit Bruce Wayne finds himself in. He just needed a place to re-grow his backbone.

Of course the place I worked in Sydney was not anywhere close to a jail cell. There were fantastic co-workers and a grueling objective of opening the eyes of the new to a world of possibilities. But I could not help but question how binding books, making copies and ordering brochures could possibly get me closer to my GOAL.

And even traveling for work from project to project sounds adventurous, but when your day to day consists of the same grind you’d find in any lifeless suburb, you begin to see that travel alone doesn’t save you. Nor does it inherently get you closer to where you want to be. And it’s difficult to keep sight of what could be when you’re drowning in the mundane.

But I have noticed a trend.

When I return to familiar places and reconnect with familiar people there is something rekindled. A vision returns from the blur of ambiguity. To vision cast with fellow entrepreneurs and trailblazers is like bursting from the surface of the rapids and breathing fresh air.

So the missing part of the equation is comradery…or fellowship…or that tragically over-used word that has thus been stripped of all meaning: community.

With dozens of options for next steps I’m returning to a familiar place in pursuit of an exciting new project. After shooting a feature film in the Philippines it’s time to create a story of our own. With Writer/Director and Co-Producer Randy May, I’m telling a story of evil geology.

More to come.

An aerial of Tatalon Studios, complete with full-time extras and state of the art production design

An aerial of Tatalon Studios, complete with full-time extras and state of the art production design

Chicken intestines, cause wasting is for suckers

Chicken intestines, cause wasting is for suckers

A container yard makes a great place for action scenes

A container yard makes a great place for action scenes

On a smoggy location scout in Tatalon with Dir. David Bolt

On a smoggy location scout in Tatalon with Dir. David Bolt

One of my grips, useless, couldn't get him to do anything except make a lot of noise at 4am

One of my grips, useless, couldn’t get him to do anything except make a lot of noise at 4am

Awaiting his close up

Awaiting his close up