Radioactive Veterans Gets Fully Funded

1466095427-IMG_20160607_185607
Bradley Bethel (Producer) and Mark Wampler (Director)

I have been very fortunate in my short life so far working in video.  My first professional foray into the field resulted in being an Associate Producer of Radioactive Veteran, a movie about…well…just read my previous posts.  In short, it’s fricking awesome. It also just got fully funded to the tune of 10K on Seed & Spark.

The two guys above were part of the team that it wouldn’t have happened without.  I first met Brad in the video biz when he screened his movie Unverified here in Chapel Hill.  I was really impressed with it.  I had worked with him in another capacity outside of the video realm for a while…and was always hampering with notions that perhaps someday we could work together.  Now we have and it was great.

I met Mark when I heard he was looking for help with turning a whole lot of great information and footage into a full fledged documentary.

We met for coffee and…well…now it is fully funded.  It’s been a great process for me to watch unfold and I learned a lot.  Mainly what I learned is that it takes a team.  Also I learned that though there are many times when you are up against a deadline…the fact is that nothing really happens quickly.  There will be so many revisions and so many late nights and “last minute changes” and “it’s good…but how about we change this…?”

I am hoping to be able to attend some of the film festivals where this movie will ideally (fingers crossed) be showing.  If it comes to a town near you, check it out.  Especially if you know of any vets from the WWII era…it’s really a riveting look into their lives.

13521864_1213405992033183_2394658763752717304_n

Mission: Recycling Matters

Recycling isn’t what you think it is.  It runs deep.  It is saving our planet.  And it is on the ropes.  Economically and politically we are in a losing battle with our excessive lifestyle.

For years I have wondered precisely what happens to a water bottle when it is recycled.  Where does it go?  Who takes it?  What is it turned into?

A few months ago I made a great connection with a local who, it turns out, is a high level expert on recycling of plastics…and waste management in general.  He mentioned that he is part of a group that is working hard to try to reinvigorate PET recycling here in the Carolinas.

 

I have teamed up with him and other associations to undertake capturing, in my own way, the story of plastics recycling.  The focus is here in the Carolinas but if one extrapolates the challenges happening here, as well as the successes, it is accurate to extend those conclusions nationwide, worldwide.

This kind of story is exactly why I got into video work.  I know that I say that about every project.  What can I say?  I love what I do.

Yesterday was spent travelling to South Carolina to film in three different facilities.  I am sort of at a loss for words to say what it was like.  The recycling industry, when taken as a whole is overwhelming.  The amount of good that it can do, is palpable, but the amount of work it takes is staggering really…commendable.

Only 30% of goods that can be recycled here in the Carolinas are currently being recycled.  Yep…7 of your 10 pals are throwing away perfectly recyclable plastic.  This project is an attempt to turn that number up a bit.  Why not have everyone recycle?

The first thing to know about recycling is that it is an incredibly dirty business.  It’s also filled with fantastic technologies, progressive thinkers, and a lot of really hard workers on the sorting floors.

Anyways…my trip to SC was fruitful.  I have one more day this upcoming week.  I can’t wait to put together the footage into a shiny new video…and down the road would love to see it spun into a documentary.  This trip was especially fun because my daughter went with me as an assistant.  I gave her my Nikon D300o to play with and my 1.8/50mm lens.  She put it in manual mode and never looked back, manually focused everything.  Over the years I have taught her a bit about composition.  I hope you like the shots she took here…there are some really lovely ones.

DSC_0169mwDSC_0157DSC_0138DSC_0131DSC_0067DSC_0045DSC_0015

50th Wedding Anniversary “Slide” Show

I recently had a married couple (full disclosure: MY parents) approach me with the idea of creating a video for their 50th Wedding Anniversary using old printed photos that they have had in memory books for decades…5 decades!  They wanted a short retrospective of sorts.  And there were a lot of photos to go through.

It was a lot of fun walking down memory lane while perusing through so  many images.  How to cover the last 50 years in pictures?  They have traveled widely, had two children, have two grandchildren…it’s been a full 50 years.

So we came up with the idea of starting the video at the beginning and an image of my mother’s parents, then starting on my parent’s actual wedding day.

My main concern in creating what ended up being an 8 minute long video was how to not get stuck in what most slideshow style retrospectives suffer from…they are boring as dirt to view.  Sure the images themselves can conjure up memories and those are enjoyable, but whenever I think of slideshows I have seen at weddings or memorials they all really look the same in terms of photo orientation and so forth.

I feel like there is life in the photo that gets flattened.  What is it like to hold a photo in your hands, vs looking at a flat 2D image on a screen?

With motion graphics we have created a way to give a sense of motion to a still image…so I first thought of just scanning in the images in a scanner and then working with them that way.  Then I began comparing clarity of scans vs. camera capturing the images (taking pictures of the old pictures with a high quality camera).  As I began to snap pictures, foregoing the lengthy and mixed results that can come with scanning, I bemoaned how un-alive the photos were going to look.  They just looked better while held in a real person’s hand…like someone was just about to hand you the pic…like we used to before the digital age!

So, I turned my Nikon’s video mode on and just started filming as I went through the sequence of photos.  I realized quickly that I was essentially doing what motion graphics are designed to do, but with actual motion instead of pretend motion.  I like the feeling of seeing that a photo was and can be a handheld and intimate piece of time.  And as always, there is a quality to printed photos that digital imagery will never be able to replicate.  There is a warmth and precision there that feels alive.

I would LOVE to do more retrospectives from actual printed stills if anyone ever has a need for it.  Anywhoo…here is the quick sample below.

Premiere Pro on Deadpool and Hail, Caesar!

I had no idea that Premiere Pro was being used for feature films such as Deadpool or Hail, Caesar.  In this video the lead editors and makers of these movies discuss some pretty fascinating workflow situations and so forth.  It’s about an hour long but really worth the watch.  I definitely have some new ideas moving forward after pondering their discussion.

Artisans Kick Ass (or)…my latest video: Jeff Chelf-Woodworking

First…the video…

Jeff Chelf: Woodworking from Charles Morris on Vimeo.

 

I used to daydream in photographs.  All day long my Nikon D200 was imagined in my hands.  I would see something and imagine just how to capture it.  I’d dream about trips I could take, with my camera riding shotgun like a best friend in the seat next to me.  I kept an eye on the sun’s progression at all times, noting when the washout hours were.  For those that don’t know…during the apex hours of the sun’s path across the sky, colors are washed out to a large degree. What many consider “well lit”, to a photographer is “washed out”.

But somewhere along the way I just began daydreaming in video.  I don’t know why or how it happened.  For years I had made throw away videos for my various small businesses I always seemed to have simmering on the backburners.  Art was definitely not part of the equation.  It was informational only.  I definitely wasn’t daydreaming then.

I just began to notice that I was spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about how I would film something.  What angles?  What location?  What’s the message?  And that’s what caught me the most.  Beyond how a video I might create may look…what would I want it to say?  I have been a poet for years…and a writer as well.  Both of my kids are writers.  There are a lot of words flying around in my house…

I realized that just as I strove to say something well with written words, I wanted to help people say something well with video.  Today video is mostly used to display something that happened.  What’s being missed is what a video CAN say.  That is what matters to me the most.  Second is how it visually appeals or looks.  What use is something that is visually stunning but says nothing?  And in this day and age, someone with something valuable to share will unfortunately be ignored if the context in which it is presented isn’t visually appealing.

I realized I wanted to help people out with both.  I wanted to work with people who did things that I felt offered a true value proposition…and help them present it in a way that would allow that valuable thing to be noticed and heard.

What I want more of in the world is the natural….the non machine made.  I am not all anti tech. After all, I can’t make a video without a computer.  But why are we making so much crap by machine when the people…the Artisans-around us, can make it more beautifully and with more meaning to it?  So, I decided I wanted to represent artisans.  So, that brings me to Jeff.  Jeff is an artisan.  I knew him from before, when we worked together in retail.  I ran into him after my whole “artisan” epiphany and asked him if he’d like to work on a video together to help promote his work.

It was a fantastic shoot.  I couldn’t list all of the great things that I learned through the process of working with Jeff.  Too many.  Mostly though what stands forth is that I fricking love working with artisans.

Artisans kick ass.

They help us not forget the values that make us human.  Hand made objects.  Things that people spend hours making matter to us…and change our lives when we interact with them.  By extension, owning things made by or hiring an artisan  to make something for you connects you to that person and their lineage of craftmanship.  Imagine if everything we owned was made by machines…if everything we touched or viewed was machined by robot or assembly line.

I want my video work to promote a world that is the opposite of that.

Musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, woodworkers…feel free to write to me any time.

Here is what Jeff has to say about it on his site…
“My work stands in sharp contrast to the endless cycles of modern consumerism, purposely reaching back into our most rooted traditions to make furniture that is both pleasing to the modern aesthetic and lasting. Having ventured into the ancient worlds of maritime construction and blacksmithing my work now reflects these varied traditions and takes from them the elements most lacking in our modern lives.”

People like Jeff are exactly who I want to make videos and stories about.  They keep us more real, and should have our support.  And honestly, many of these artsy folks are off the grid, not internet savvy, camera shy and not the best promoters of their work.  Video editing is NOT their strong suit.  I hope to work with many more to help them get their art out into the open.

Anyway…I hope you enjoy the video about Jeff that I made.  It was a very positive collaboration and needless to say…if you need something done with video, let me know, but refer all woodworking questions to JeffChelf.com.

The Friendly World of Video Editing?

I had the chance to recently speak at length with Christopher Meurer.  He is a photography director and…well just check out his site HERE.  He’s been doing this for a while.  The conversation brought me to many realizations about the world of video creation.

Namely that knowing people is key.  Networking and bouncing ideas around are so much better than working alone in a vacuum.  Since speaking with Chris I have been networking a lot and asking people with a lot of years under their belt how they got their start…or why they edited a certain scene a certain way.

There is so much specialization out there that it is sort of staggering really.   There are a lot of metaphors that I keep coming up with.  One that comes to mind is of homeschooling.  I was a stay at home, homeschooling father for my two children for many years.  But when meeting other “homeschoolers” I would quickly discover that just because they called themselves, what I called myself…did not mean we were doing the same thing.  Some schooled at home for religious reasons.  Some let their kids swing from the rafters like wild monkeys, while others did “school-at-home”, adhering strictly to a curriculum.  Schooling at home develops as unique within each home.  No two were the same.

It’s taken me a while to realize how video creating and editing is exactly the same.  You can’t just say “I make video” and have it mean that you do the same as another editor.  Just like you can’t say “I am a photographer” and expect that your photos will have the same aesthetic as another photographer’s pics.

So basically it’s fascinating as hell out here.  I find that what I am good at is storytelling.  Taking video and turning it into a visual context that people will enjoy watching is what I love to do.  I have seen that someone can be very skilled at how to use the software, and that person can be paid well.  Technically speaking…it’s accurate and presentable.  But you might fall asleep while watching it.

It’s like academic poetry.  I am a poet and have been writing poetry for close to a decade.  Yet, I can’t even read academic poetry.  The structures that it clings to literally put me to sleep.  And the point is that to academics, my poetry will come dangerously close to looking like junk to them.

What I love about video editing is to think from the perspective of the viewer.  Is it an aesthetic that they appreciate?  Is it what they will want to watch over and over?  Can you tell a story that they will want to share with others?  Most can edit in a technically accurate fashion…but can their edits express the idea that you need it to express?

Chris has moved on from editing to mastering being a lighting expert.  He talked a lot about working in a team. Which is honestly something I had not considered.  A guy  just for audio?  Hmmm…never occurred to me.  I think that is because a lot of what I dream of shooting is of footage where spoken audio isn’t a part of the equation.   See?  Specialization.  I don’t know how to capture great audio yet, especially in an outdoor setting, like kayaking.  What Chris encouraged me to do was to find an audio guy…and a lighting guy..etc.  Again…hmmm…never thought about that.  I just imagined getting content sent my way that I’d mostly just sit and edit alone, in my den, while still wearing pj’s.  The team approach sounds way more interesting.

Mostly though he impressed upon me how friendly the world of video can be.  Find like minded people who do what drives your art and connect with them.  So, today I met up with a guy who is making a documentary that is right up my alley.  He is seeking a video editor.  I don’t know if I’ll be THE guy or just one of the guys, but it is nice to finally be in a place where know I can do the job, artistically speaking.

For the holidays Chris put out this pretty darn funny video, showing off some of his color grading skills and sense of humor.  If you ever need a lighting guy or colorist, definitely look this guy up.  He knows his biz and he’s a great guy.

Christmas Card 2015 from Christopher Meurer on Vimeo.