Sunday, December 18, 2011

Emma Panda at Z-Rant

I tried some new things with editing here. In my previous bartender profile videos, I tried my best to maintain some continuity to convey the story of crafting a single cocktail. for this video, I tried to see just how little continuity I could maintain while still producing a video that felt natural. The result is a bit bouncy and flirty.

Do you think it worked?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Whitney Pallend at Cuchi Cuchi

Whitney Pallend at Cuchi Cuchi from Joshua Guerci on Vimeo.

From now on, I'm going to swallow my pride and use auto focus in these tight situations where I am having trouble focusing. In these low light scenes, I have to open up all the way to get a descent exposure and often sacrifice some depth of field. It makes it hard to focus, escpecially when running off the flip out screen and not the eye piece.

I use the Sony NEX-VG10. I am not afraid to push the gain all the way up because the noise doesn't bother me so much. The important thing is to tell a story and I believe this video gives us a good feeling for Whitney's personality.

I could have gone for a little bit more ambiance shots.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Editing Video for Rocco

I want to share some work I am doing for a client. I am editing these informational videos as part of a campaign to boost Rocco's SEO on his website. I hope it works.

I Photoshopped the logo in the beginning. The client's original file is much smaller with a white background. I lightened the colors and ran some filters to smooth the pixels over. This is also my first real effort with lower thirds graphics.

As a filmmaker, I must learn to embrace these opportunities. They teach me to be more methodical in my work. Lord knows I could use some help in that department.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Don't forget to be social!

When people think of marketing, the first examples that come to mind are typically television commercials, print advertisements and billboards. People don't often realize marketing is much more than getting the word out. For example, the Starbucks store layout is a major part of their branding. Apple's customer experience is also a marketing strategy. They discount the social and experiential aspects to marketing.

People fail at social media because they approach it in the way they might develop a traditional ad campaign. They use their twitter account like a psychic hypodermic needle, injecting their narrative into public consciousness. Young people and professional marketers make this same mistake: Mass tweets to people they don't know, blind Facebook invites, generic blog posts. It comes off as inauthentic. Worse, creepy. Its as though they missed the social aspect of social media. The connection part of the internet.

A friend once described it as soft marketing. The goal is to ease yourself into the conversation by listening to your audience and responding accordingly by providing a value add. Such as personal responses, compliments and thoughtful questions. Let them know a real person is on the other end of the tweet. The trick is to allow their curiosity to lead them to your product. And be available for them when they have questions.

When I released my Battle of the Buskers video series to accompany the contest hosted by Seattle Metropolitan monthly magazine, the first thing I did was send a link to each performer who participated in the event to let them know the video was up. I then re-tweeted their tweets. I kept an eye out for people commenting on YouTube or mentioning my video on Twitter. I engaged with those people. I sent an e-mail to the Pike Place Market staff, thanking them for their participation and included a video link. I posted links to blogs that embedded my video and I engaged with people who were talking about my buskers on Twitter.

Not that I can claim any credit to the following success but: Fox Q13 posted my video of Carly. Winner of the contest, she went on to New Day on K5 and Rolling Stone.

Further reading: I Will Never Hire A Social Media Expert And Neither Should You

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lulu in Berlin by Richard Leacock

This is pretty dry for a documentary about sex and murder. Louise Brooks was one of the most beautiful women in motion pictures but this documentary doesn't really pull me in. According to her story, Richard Leacock was not to first to intellectualize the vivacious actress. The most interesting part of the doc is when Louise tells us about how Pabst was most happy with her when she was playing the part of Lulu on camera and must furious with her when she continues to be Lulu off set. Comical, the inability to recognize Louise and Lulu as the same girl. But I feel this film doesn't show me anything I couldn't read in a well written article. Its falls flat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Behind the scenes look at Occupy Boston

You really have to go down to an Occupy Wallstreet protest and spend a couple hours walking around camp to understand it. Its an anarchist collective, in the philosophical and historical sense of the word. Its a club for manic late night conversationalists. But one thing i its not is: a political organization with a poised agenda. Nobody knows whats going to come of it. At best it's a think tank. Its a place where you can go to express your frustrations and not worry about making sense. And everybody is already a member. They're pretty accepting down there.

October 5

I didn't really know what I was doing on my first day. I've filmed cinéma vérité before but usually when people were expecting me. I filmed The Tommy Dean Show. Even a Westboro protest. But this was a more intimate setting. I was behind the scenes and capturing people at their most vulnerable. Some of them asked me to stop and so I did.

October 7

On the second day, people remained apprehensive about the camera. People tried to lecture me about asking before I film them but to avoid confrontation, I ran away.

October 11

This was the day after the mass arrest. People were especially apprehensive, forcing me to grow some courage and start introducing myself to people. Once I explained myself to people, they seemed more happy to have me around. A few people maintained their distrust but I was able to avoid them.

Edit: October 24

I would be down at Occupy filming more but I've been fighting a cold. Boohoo me! ;-p

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dear Zachary

Dear Zachary is exactly the kind of documentary I want to make. And I feel compelled to watch everything by filmmaker Kurt Kuenne. Its a deeply personal account of human tragedy. More than a record of events, it's an experience. Events unravel before you as they happen and the filmmaker puts you into the moment to experience the pain along with the subject as its happening.

I love the texture of the film. It feels like a home movie because it was intended to be a home movie about the filmmaker's close friend. Beginning with the death of his friend, the film develops as the friends and family of the deceased learn more about the situation. The plot thickens with ex-lovers, murder and a pregnancy. That's where Zachary comes in. He's the dead guy's son. You have to see it.

Not everybody appreciates the editing. Kuanne is not afraid to squeeze a passing clip in the background only to bring it back later in its full context with new meaning. A simple sigh or a foreboding comment can mean different things at different points int he story.

Kuanne's film captures grief as it belongs in time and space. It forces you to reflect back on those unintentional premonitions and moments of foreboding but its also an experience in itself which can be so painful as to be surreal, torn between letting go of the past and accepting the present.

You remember all those promises and dreams that will never come to fruition because an important piece of the puzzle has been lost. In situations of great loss, it borders on a psychedelic experience. Not so much hallucinating a thing that isn't there but in refusing to accept the thing that is not.

The impact of the tragedy comes from narrator's habit to obliquely lead into the bad news. It starts with an expression of hope in the past tense before it slams you with the tragedy. For example, I always thought we'd go skiing together but then you moved away. Or I baked you a cake! But then you couldn't make it to dinner.

Death is a human tragedy. Death as an interrupter of dreams is a personal tragedy. And it leaves you wanting to go back in time to prevent it.

Fantastic film. You can see it on Netflix.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is CHBP good for local businesses?

Capitol Hill Block Party. Its kind of a big deal. Some people are excited, I'm sure. You'll see them bouncing up Pike and Broadway on the day of but if you look at the comment section of any given local blog (here / here), you see hate.

So I did a video interview with CHBP planner Jason Lajeunesse. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought that would be a good idea.

My goal here was to put Jason's authenticity on display. Quotes in text articles lay flat within the context of the journalist's words. Video interviews are less easily manipulated. And here, you can look Jason in the eyes when he admits "getting people to shop durring the block party can be difficult" and decide for yourself if he is being genuine or not.

Cinematography is by Brody Willis. I performed the interview and edited the video.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Making Movies For Nothing

Sometimes when I am home watching Netflix, I think about how I would much rather be making movies than watching them. And as a young filmmaker, it's tough. The first temptation is to call up all your filmmaking buddies and say "come on! lets make a movie!" but that doesn't always work. Then you're just sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring.

Find things to go to. Seattle puts on a filmmaker happy hour. Local film forums often put on nights for local filmmakers to show their work. And of course, you should always keep an eye out for local films on Kickstarter and make a modest donation.

The most difficult thing to remember is that nobody owes you a spot on their film crew. Especially as you start to grow in experience and pride it is easy to forget that film crews come together with trust. Don't sweat the gigs that don't work out. Just keep your head up and look for the next opportunity.

Sometimes you have to learn to create opportunities for yourself. Don't worry if you don't have gear and you don't have money to rent gear. The most valuable asset in a filmmaker's toolbox is his ideas. If your ideas are sound and inspiring, the rest will fall into place.

My ideas start with the experience that I want to capture and share. For example, an early afternoon cocktail with one of Seattle's top bartenders. Or hanging out with the owner of Seattle's finest basque restaurant. Or taking a walk with a busker.

The next challenge is to find someone with gear but doesn't know what to do with it. It sounds easier than it really is to convince someone that the prospect of bringing your idea to fruition is better than watching Netflix.

Most importantly, you need to make people feel like not just anybody is qualified to help you and that you need them for their specific skills. It is imperative that you are authentic because people will know when you are just using them for their gear. You should watch their reels and talk to them about what they love about filmmaking. If you can't find some common ground of mutual appreciation, you probably shouldn't ask them to help you.

Lastly, if you're asking people to help you, a lot of people are going to say no. If you have some strategy to your alliance building, you can find mutual benefit. Cinematographers need beautiful subjects. Sound guys needs interesting situations to show off their skills. Gaffers also need practice overcoming situational challenges. There is a trick to selling ideas to people. They need to feel that you're giving them a genuine opportunity.

You can never really make movies for free. If you have a day job, you have to take time away from making money. If you hire a crew, you force them into making a similar decision. Also, don't forget the time of your subject but don't sell your idea short. I believe good ideas are as good as money and if you have a good idea for a video, the time and money part will fall into place.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting into show business

"Yeah, I'm a filmmaker. But it's not so glamorous as it sounds."

I've said that phrase to over 100 people this year and not a single one of them believed me. I think I really mean to tell them that filmmaking is a long journey. If you ask me if I am a filmmaker, I am sometimes tempted to say "I don't know. Ask me in 10 years if I'm still in the business."

As a production assistant at the bottom of the film industry, I encounter all shapes of gatekeepers. These are people who try to keep you out of the industry. Some of them appear to me in the form of demanding producers and assistant directors and some of them appear in the form of grizzled old film veterans with an axe to grind with everyone he's ever worked with. The trick is to keep a level head and not so much to defeat these foes but to soften the relationships and build friendships.

Oh, that's easier said than done!

The first thing you must learn is the inherit risks in the film industry. Every minute you invest in a project is a potential loss. You're not just betting on the quality of the film but also its ability to meet completion. Will anybody want to watch this picture? Will anybody bother to edit the picture together? These are all likely scenarios for every picture.

Field producers are under a lot of pressure from the studios and production companies to keep operations under a limited budget. They have a limited amount of resources with expectation to pull of a television show that works. They're looking for help. They don't want to quibble over nickles and dimes and often, the production assistants are asked to help fill in the gaps.

My recent experience with a reality television producer can be summed up as thus: he asked me if my car could carry a doorway dolly. When I said no and requested a truck, I was fired.

Was that a messed up situation? Of course! But its not unusual for producers to delegate responsibility (and cost) to production assistants because, if for no other reason, there are production assistants out there desperate enough to do it.

I don't think these overworked producers set out to take advantage of the crew. Expectations are high for everyone from the top down and its not unusual for a production to expect even the lowly assistants to share in some of the risk. As they say, shit rolls downhill.

The second kind of gatekeeper is the seasoned veteran filmmaker. They offer words of warning to young filmmakers, not to let producers walk all over them. These guys who earn their stripes and hold indispensable positions on the crew are quick to forget that one's dignity is a privilege in the film industry, that they too once had to swallow their pride to get into show business.

The number one benefit of being a production assistant is the opportunity to make yourself useful. Simply fulfilling your duties and doing what you are told is not good enough. You have to pickup the slack where no other person could possibly do the job as well as you. You need to make yourself invaluable. And the most difficult thing for a production assistant to learn is that having this opportunity is a privilege.

Is being a filmmaker a glamorous job? I guess it depends on how you define glamorous. Is it an uphill fight, both ways? Yes. Is it by all means impossible to break into the business? Yes. And once you're in, is it one of the most exhilarating and rewarding things you can do? Absolutely. Its glamorous. And just as anything that's worth while, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice to get in.

Edit: Since writing this blog post, I sent a message to that producer and told him that I was sorry for not seeing things his way. He responded that he appreciated my note and that he would give me a call if he needed any help.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Candidate Kickoff Party At Havana

I shot another video about Seattle city counsil elections for Washington Bus! This year I took a reality approach. Host Alex Miller does a little intro / outro and provides the (somewhat silly) questions.

Appearing in this video is: Michael Taylor-Judd, Sandy Cioffi (who has since dropped out of the race), Maurice Classen, Sally Clark (incumbent), Bobby Forch, and Tom Rasmussen.

I shot this video with my Sony NEX-VG10 and Brody Willis helped me out on sound. I love his microphone. It did a great job at isolating the sound. Also, I love how he threw up a little 500w bulb in the corner. It doesn't work on every shot but from time to time, you'll see a little highlight to separate the subject from the background. Just a smidge.

Original music was provided by Dan Roeder. As an independent filmmaker in Seattle, I can't overstate my gratefulness to local film score composers. I met Dan through a networking event hosted by Catherine Grealish and at the time I didn't think I would be using any composer talent but I guess I was wrong!

Edit: Check out the Washington Bus blog post here!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Storm Surge

I met Stacy of Moontown Foundation late last summer immediately after his return from the Gulf Coast where he collected personal testimonials of Katrina and oil spill survivors. He contacted me, the journalist filmmaker, because he wants to go back to the Gulf Coast, to capture their stories and produce a documentary film.

That film project is Storm Surge.

Our goal is to push through the immediacy of tragic events as fragmented news stubs and look at the bigger picture. We want to shake up everything you think you know about The South, their relationship with big oil, their feelings about the environment and their plans to rebuild. Most of all, Storm Surge is a testament to the importance of individual action in one of the greatest social, economic and environmental tragedies of our time.

Stacy's plan is to bring a multidisciplinary team of college students from the science and engineering schools to evaluate the environmental capital and socio-economic feasibility of launching sustainable business opportunities. Natural resources have been destroyed, homes were lost and several core industries may not ever recover from the oil spill. Not within our lifetime. So the question we are asking is, what comes next?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seattle Met: Battle of the Buskers

I created this video series for Seattle Met with cinematographer Brody Willis. My goal was to capture the relationship between musicians and people walking by and to convey a sense of being in the market. Do you think I succeeded?

The first video in the series is Reggie Miles singing Gentrification Blues. He also plays a mean saw. I wish I had some footage of that!

Then Morrison Boomer sings their song, Eyes Open Wide. There is a fourth member of the band not featured in the video here.

Squirrel Butter is a banjo playing tap-dancing duet and here they are performing an original arrangement of traditional song If I Fall.

I first came across Emery Carl in conjunction with my Tommy Dean movies but only now have I made the opportunity to film him. I honestly don't know if his songs have names. He's more of a spontaneous "in the moment" kind of performer. Refreshing, I think.

Then, Carly Calbero sings Beat It. You know, the Micheal Jackson song? She's got a surprisingly big voice.

Howlin' Hobbit is one charming dude with a thing for ukelele adaptations of the classic standards. I follow him on twitter.

And finally Yaacov Reuven sings In Your Eyes. I'm a Peter Gabriel fan so filming this video made me pretty happy.

EDIT: Oh! Seattle Met is holding a poll so you can vote for your favorite busker!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thoughts and Questions about Social Media, Communications and Networks

I want to make a series of personality profiles about people who have jobs in social media. The trick, as always, will be to look past the standard cliches and search for the meaningful story that has yet to be told.

Its the internet. I get it. Technology connects people from around the world and builds new communities based on interest and curiosity rather than region. Culture now breaks geographical boundaries. I'm actually kind of over it. The Global Village is a rehearsed concept. It's lost its charm.

I want to know about your personal village. I want to put aside technical aspects of media and look at how we communicate. Are you an especially communicative person? Where you outgoing as a child or were you relatively shy? Did you have many friends or did you tend to build few but meaningful friendships? What are the big factors?

For example, I grew up with a deaf brother. How did that shape the way I think about communication? How did that shape the way I think about language as shaping reality? Or reality as shaping language? And ultimately, how did that change my relationship to the community? These are things that I'd like to talk about in person.

If I had been raised in a different family background, I might have developed a different curiosity about the social functions of communication. Such as, if I had non-English speaking parents, seeing them as isolated from their environment and relying on me to conduct even mundane interactions, I might be inclined to see communication as building community. If I had grown up in a more intellectually stimulating environment, discussing over dinner such topics as personal preferences for either Indian or African elephans, I might see communication as expressing curiosity. If I had been raised in the old world or without mass-communication outlets, relying on verbal conversation to pass the time, I might view communication as entertainment.

Building on the foundations of communications, how have you assembled your personal social network? Do you prioritize familial relationships over friendships? Do you rely heavily on your professional networks to satisfy your personal life? Are you close to your neighbors? Or do you immerse yourself into intellectual pursuits and build friendships exclusively on interest, bridging generational gaps, overcome geographical limitations and surpassing political boundaries? More and more, these preferences are chosen rather than implied.

And finally, how does all of this change the way you engage in the business of buying selling or participate in serving humanity?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sucker Punch. Not for critics.

As a filmmaker, I am constantly disappointed by my peers and their failure to appreciate the fullness of their craft. Sucker Punch is a great example. It's a movie about a girl on lobotomy row. It's about a girl sold into sexual slavery. It's about a special forces unit of steam punk chicks that fight against hoards of Nazi zombies. Its all the above. Its shallow. And its awesome.

Ignore all piffy reviews. They're dumb.

There is no plot but In The Mood For Love has even less plot. There is no character development, but that didn't stop Goddard in Breathless. The literary criticisms are not only empty, they show a fundamental misunderstanding of the medium. Film is shallow and superficial but that does not imply that it is without beauty.

This film a high-octane parable of Jungian psychology. The Hero has five faces: Baby Doll (Emily Browning), Sweat Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). If you read Sybil or seen the 1976 film you know that the five aspects of the single personality represent the tools for overcoming a traumatic experience.

Sucker Punch has a lot in common with Inception. It's not only a film about alternate reality but ventures into the meta-dream space. To escape the mental institution, Baby Doll enters a brothel. To escape the brothel, she enters the steam punk comic book action adventure sequence. Each sub-reality is more glitzy and less dangerous than the last and, like Inception, the dream-space action offers some psychic tools to overcome real life problems. The difference is, Abbie Cornish didn't fancy herself taking part in this generation's version of 8 1/2.

Much like the characters, even the story locations are just psychological constructs. The mental institution is no more real than the prisons Johnny Cash sang about. Enter the dark blue color palate of the theater, where the girls fight over checkerboards and the psychologist's couch is casually replaced by a bed on a stage. This is also the scene where Babay-doll's father bribes the abusive orderly to falsify the lobotomy paperwork. It would be frightening if it wasn't so surreal.

The brothel is not only an escape from trauma but it also rationalization of the absurd. Baby Doll's father figure is replaced by a Catholic priest, a villain we are much more emotionally prepared to deal with just as we are more prepared to deal with abusive sexual situations in the brothel than we are in the mental ward. Its to be expected. And there is a layer of magic to it that separates it from reality. The five girls are presented as prostitutes in the same way Audry Hepburn's character in Breakfast At Tiffany's is a prostitute - cute, charming and not a bit dirty.

Sucker Punch is secretly smart. It might not get strait A's from the critics. It's thesis is nebulous. The narrative introduction and conclusion are not intended to explain the story but simply add color to the visuals. It doesn't call upon Fellini for inspiration or offer you any such serious bylines as Christopher Nolan or Wally Pfister. The film doesn't feature a Laurence Fishborne character to spell out the existentialism. It disguises itself as the 420-friendly version of Beowulf and doesn't let on that it has anything going on between the scenes, that everything should be accepted for face value.

Most importantly, Sucker Punch doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is. This film is not literary art. No film is literary art. It's a sequence of visceral experiences aimed to illicit an irrational emotional response. There is no message except for the one you bring with you. And after the film, we reflect upon those emotional responses and supplemental messages over cocktails. But its not literature. Its fun.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Indie Band Street Show

I am a huge fan of Wild Nothing. I feel like videos like this have been popping up all over the internet since the accessibility to low-cost HD cameras and high bandwidth internet connections.

I saw Wild Nothing play at Vera Project last weekend. It was an amazing show! I wonder why Paris and Vienna must have all the fun, shooting indie bands on street sidewalks? Why can't Seattle share in the street performance indie documentary fun?

Maybe they're worried about swarms of hipsters? Or night life hating cops?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hermes Festival of Crafts

This is my first published fashion video. I hope it to be the first of many. I shot it with William Brody as my cinematographer at The Bravern in Bellevue for Seattle Met Magazine.

It was important for me to get good audio. I wanted to hear the man scraping the dye from the screen, for example. In my other video you can hear stretching leather and folding canvas and such.

There is a lost clip where the silk printers tell the crowd that after the event, they will throw away their labors of the day. The reason being, the silk was not printed in the preferred conditions, at the workshop in France. I think that was amazing. Too bad I left it back on the cutting room floor!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Women Behind Bars

I shot this video series for Seattle Met called Women Behind Bars and meeting all the bartenders at the most trendy bars around town.

I wish I was a more confident shooter. I love shooting and I love watching my footage come together in the edit room but I think I could save a lot of time and avoid a lot of pain if I would just slow down and pace out my shots. Yes, there is a lot to look at but if you try to capture it all, you'll probably miss it all too.

For technical issues, I would discourage anybody from using the 5D for documentary style shoots. The image sensor is too big. Yes, everybody likes to see less depth of field but at the end of the day, you want a clean crisp image and you don't want to be scrambling around wasting time trying to get your subject in focus. Go for the 7D or 6DD. And slap on a fast lens.

In the video above, I asked Chelsea to make the same cocktail twice. If I was smart, I would have used the Zeiss 50mm prime lens (normal on a 5D) I had in my bag or a 80mm prime lens for the first time through where she gives a little narrative with the cocktail and I'd focus on her face. Second time through, I'd pull out a 90mm or longer for the closeups on the hands and the booze.

Editing this piece I learned something about editing interviews. Normally, you should avoid cutting audio of an interview with an image of a person that is not in sync with the audio. That is, if you see lips moving that fail to connect with the voice, it looks weird. Also, if the lips aren't moving, it still looks weird. But if you post an image where your eye is distracted by other movement in the frame, your brain doesn't seem to mind the disconnect. Do you see what I mean?

Personality profiles are great opportunities for video. You get so much more understanding about a person from a video that you can't get from a written article. Also, personality profiles are relatively timeless. If the bartender writes a blog, she can post a link or embed this video into her bio.