Category Archives: inspiration

The Art of Not Publishing

I have been watching/listening to a lot of interviews with Allen Ginsburg and then yesterday watched a documentary on the author JD Salinger and in both pieces, they separately discussed the “stillness” of not publishing. Ginsberg’s work, Howl, was never to be seen by anyone in his own mind. It was to be hidden away. But the poem went on to become one of the most important pieces of contemporary poetry and launched his career.

As film makers and artists, operating under the guise of “it will never been seen” seems pretty unusual. But in fact, in practicing this I have found an immense freedom. Certainly I do commercial production work that is beholden to my client’s wishes. But it is those projects where I am free to create what I want and get to go out and just “be” – that is where I am most passionate about the work and most engaged.

So I got to thinking that perhaps it is time to start working as if no one is ever going to see what I am doing. It cuts out the editor instead – that little voice that filters who I am and how I “should” be expressing myself. Maybe it’s time to just keep working “as if” and just create for the sake of creating, because there is a voice deep down that has something to say and wants to say it.

That then, would be the true artist – the expression of the soul, of the heart. Not restricted by anything except what limitations you place on it for your own viewing. It would be an amazing thing to integrate this kind of expressive freedom with commercial work – I think for anyone of us, this grey area would be a goal to live inside of. To find a way to give our true selves a way to be expressed within the confines of someone else’s editorial desires.

It’s all in the Music, Pt 2

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Awhile back I wrote on this blog about how in my editorial process, I first locate music. Sometimes the music is even playing while I am shooting in my trusty ipod. Although the tracks may not be the EXACT thing I end up using, I still can locate themes relating to the tracks in the many libraries of music that I have on file.

Especially during the logging process, I listen to a HUGE library of different instrumentals and original scores from different movies and even video game sources. The biggest pool of these are actually located in my favorite little corner of the web – Spotify. Here you can find dozens of playlists dedicated to different genres. And for me, I have created a Soundtrack Picks playlist. If you want to get inspired to make a masterpiece – make a playlist to listen to as you trim and work on footage. From there I always find inspiration for the actual edit.

Here is my playlist for sound tracks and I will keep adding to this as times goes on…so check it out and subscribe to get updates as I find new music to get inspired with..

 

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Why Watch?

Jamie Mitchell leading the Tahoe race

Jamie Mitchell leading the Tahoe race

I was on one of my favorite sites for stand up videos , SUPRACER and was watching a new video out of France when I started to ask myself, “why am I watching this?”

Sure, I make videos for a living so that is one obvious reason, I like to watch videos. Plus, to be really honest, it gives me a glimpse into what other producers are doing :)

This latest piece was a 14 minute mega video of a race in Europe. The intro threw me off because they had the audio mixed to one speaker – cut quickly to someone giving instructions (but it was just music over them no actual audio of the instructions, but then again, I would have never understood them anyways – it’s in French!) and then a quick snippet of the guy talking and POP the audio mix came into both speakers about blowing my ears out. Cut again to windy audio of a beach side interview – in french so I had no idea what was being said, then into a wonderful song and montage of, I guess, the long “elite” race.

I have no idea who any of the paddlers are, what the race course is or anything else about the event – so as I am about 11 minutes into watching people I don’t know or care about cross the finish line – I ask myself – why am I watching this? Which of course started me down another rabbit hole – why does any watch a video from any SUP event? Really, most event videos follow a very common path – some type of set up shots, some type of race montage set to some upbeat music and of course, the awards. And if the company has budget – stick in some drone shots for good measure.

Stand Up World Tour has a different model, they do a narrated highlight reel after each day of competition… they skip straight to action of athletes who are team riders for event sponsors. I recall seeing one of their edits and wondered if any other board company besides Rogue was even at the event!

I watch these videos for entertainment, to stay informed about the sport on a global level – and yes, to see people I know in them. It is pretty neat to turn on a video and see someone I know half a world away competing. Kind of cool how technology can be used to bridge vast distances.

I began wondering about my own work…many say that I am skilled at connecting to emotions at the events. But what’s interesting is that most of the time I really don’t know who I am shooting and rarely go into any situation with any sort of game plan. Sometimes I will make a video that is 10 minutes long, sometimes it will be 3 minutes long. It all depends on what really happens that day. But more on that later…

I know that probably about 1 of every 10 people will actually click on a video link that I post. I tend to believe that most just get through the first minute and move on. I know I have done the same with some videos. I will give it my “minute test” – if in the first minute I don’t see something that grabs me – a shot, a sound bite, even a song – I am out.

Yesterday I watched a surf video that was over ten minutes long. Ok, let me be honest- I skimmed a surf video. It was BEAUTIFULLY shot. I mean GORGEOUS. But in all that time, they never said one word. I was dying to know “why did he use that board?” – the guy was on a HUGE long board that looked like it has so much history and I wanted to know about it. He drove from remote woods into San Fran, what was it like to go from woods to the big city? What was his experience? Videos, for me, HAVE TO BE more then just a collection of pretty images. I want to share in your experiences. If your pictures don’t tell a story, don’t have a sense of being, of being their own little personalities, then what is the point?

So ..why do you watch SUP Videos? Or any paddling videos? What is your one minute test?

And if you are working on something ask yourself – what is this piece’s personality? How does it talk? Walk?? breath? it sounds so odd – but the music can drive those things only so much – is it sad? it is lonely? is it happy? Is there a serious undertone of reflective peace? I am not sure that I think about these things aloud; but the interviews I gather, the look of the day, the feeling of the air while shooting will give me these indications. And that will, in turn, drive the entire project. So ask yourself these things next time  you are sitting down to edit.

 

 

 

The Basics….

In my last post I talked about Chris Nolan’s advice to me to “turn it on it’s head” in regard to the projects that he does and in regards to the projects that I am doing. Well, being sick for a week I got to really think – problem with spending too much time by yourself. What is it that we do? (the “we” being producers, editors, content creators, etc..)

QB Shoes in the House

QB Shoes in the Tahoe House

Well, the basics of any journalism is telling the “who, where, what, when and why”. Part of my challenge in my work is doing this in a way that also is somewhat cinematic, is spontaneous, and captures some sort of emotion and tells a story.  Once an event starts - it is a frenzy of shooting, an hour of location review to figure out how to shoot the event, who is there, who to interview and then the actual event shoot. Everything else is an after thought in post. Unlike traditional production, there are no story producers, show runners, story boards, shot lists, crews or – well, help. You can’t story board a live event, just as much as they can’t storyboard the production of NFL games (they just get to operate on MUCH bigger budgets then me).

If we deconstruct the QB at Tahoe video from last year, that was a study in taking an event, applying important, key story elements and making almost a short film out of an event video. Actually, the “event” was not so much the race – (race footage does not even show up till a few minutes in) but it was the QB team living together in one house. The race footage is presented as a simple afterthought, a montage combining two days of racing. For ardent stand up paddle fans, this concept does ruffle some feathers – especially when this same approach was applied to the BOP. (I believe one person commented “why did I have to wait 4 minutes to see any racing?”). But as story tellers, it is essential that we not bow to the convention and give what is expected. Anyone with a DSLR, a $200 zoom lens, and some basic knowledge of video editing software can call themselves a film maker – and produce a pretty darn good music video with some cool filters and effects. So if we want to do something different — how can we accomplish this goal?

By going back to “basics” – “who, what, where, when, why” – and maybe presenting them out of sorts. Any television or movie script is usually presented in three acts. Some say is mainly because in broadcast they divide the show into three commercial breaks.  Inside of these three acts, the writers and editors have to present the “basics” to the audience as well as resolve the conflict set before the characters. Usually in that first act we have to care about who we are watching enough to emotionally invest in finishing watching the show. Otherwise we’ll change channels. Thus, shows that take the risk of messing with “the basics” tend to be ones that people laud as “groundbreaking”. Look at Lost for example, in the first five minutes of the show the plane crashes, we have no idea of the “who” – we don’t even know “where” – just “what” – a plane crash. For the entire run of the show it was a hunt for the characters and viewers to answer the question “why” (and yes, I was one of those guys who was reading blogs and message boards trying to figure out what those darn numbers meant! )

Jamie Mitchell leading the Tahoe race

Jamie Mitchell leading the Tahoe race – photo Chris Aguilar

What if we took this same approach – turning the “basics” on it’s head in our own productions? Look at Tahoe… intro sequence is Jay Wild talking about his journey to Tahoe and his newborn. The opening line “I was lost” is a topic sentence for everything that follows. Who can’t relate to being “lost’? We are all lost on varying degrees. Almost everyone I know is “looking” for something and if you asked them “what” they would all say “I have no idea”.  The idea that Jay was lost and then found a family in Tahoe and then expanding that concept out to finding a team and a family in QB gives us the “why” and the “who”. Jay’s opening interview gives us the basics – everything that follows is a reinforcement of that concept first presented. Secondly, that topic sentence of “I was lost” is the crisis to be presented for the duration of the video – going from being “lost” to being “found”. The QB Tahoe video is my simple attempt to mix things up a bit – to bring into our genere the concept that a web/event video can live on different planes – not just about racing. But about a community – the video is also structured in four distinct acts. The first is Jay’s intro, second is the family hanging out (mixed with some race footage), next is the actual race, followed by a closing montage where Jay gets to confirm his transformation of going from “lost” to “found” by being a part of the family. All of these concepts are after thoughts. I had no idea when I was shooting I was shooting for four acts. And this video was produced weeks after the event.

Next time you are getting ready to head out and shoot an event, think of the basics and how you can turn them on their head – can you introduce one of the elements early? Instead of just leading with the typical “who” and trying to set up a character – lead with a flashy race set and catch the audience first. Or start off with the “who” in a different way -maybe one of your characters having a real, genuine tear filled moment? Or the “where” -try an opening shot of the race with raw audio and letting it play fading into a pre race interview with the race director (the who and why)..

We cannot get away from being journalists in our jobs – reporting the facts of the event as closely as possible -but the challenge is to do so without making another useless music video. There are enough people out there pointing their cameras at the field with the goal of putting it to music and walking away without being story tellers. It is my focus in this blog to hopefully help people think outside of the convention and find ways to continually do what Chris Nolan told me to do – turn everything I do on it’s head…

Quickblade Team at Tahoe Nalu from Quickblade Paddles on Vimeo.

Heros – Chris Nolan

Over on facebook before launching this blog, I started to post up directors who have inspired me over the years. The posts started to get kind of lengthy so I thought “well, now that would be a good thing to be blogging” so I built me a little blog and will start dumping these longer thoughts out over here in this corner of the web instead of crowding all of the facebook feeds of our fans.

Chris Nolan

Yesterday I posted about Michael Mann….today it’s time to bring up another feature director ….Christopher Nolan. I had the honor of meeting Chris Nolan at the Santa Barbara International Film festival last year. More then just a passing autograph I got to be at a small party with him and sit and have a lengthy chat with him. He is an extremely approachable guy and asked about what I shot, on what, etc.. it was then we got into a lengthy conversation about the beauty of Super 8. Besides trading stories about shooting on real film, he gave me a piece of career changing advice that he has used as his guide for his own career. He had this thought when it came to Momento that he needed to make a mystery but had to “turn it on it’s head”…as Steven King says about great stories – they all start with “what if”. Nolan does the same with his movies – they seem conventional, but he insists that he go turn the thing on it’s head. So he asked me – “if you are going to make a film about paddling…how can you, somehow turn that on it’s head?”. He dug in more – how can a surf movie be turned on it’s head? It’s the creative response to the formulaic stance we find ourselves in when it comes to entertainment. Especially in sports- we tend to be bombarded with the same plot over and over – so how can we as directors and producers take the concept of “guys go surfing in tropical place, score some good days, eat some food, cue rock and roll sound track” and turn that on it’s head? Do we send them to Alaska? Is it location dependent? Is it more about the people – their stories – the personal trials and tribulations set against the back drop of waves – is the ocean curing them of something? Or is it just surf porn? And if it is – how can you make it stand out. It is interesting that the feature movies that have stood out in the last few years have been ones that took some great risk. Nolan’s interpretation of Batman was a great risk. One that paid off over three films and reborn a seemingly dead franchise. He said himself that when it came to Batman he had to ask himself how to turn it on it’s head, make Batman a person – someone you can relate to – someone damaged. Thus, Batman would go on the Hero’s Journey  - a man in search of something – himself.

My meeting with Chris Nolan only solidified what I thought of him from his films. The guy is a genius his first student film got distribution (and was shot on super 8). And truly is someone I think of often when I sit down to start an edit asking myself “how can I turn this on it’s head”. Or for me, asking – how can I make this relatable to someone who does not even paddle?