New Doc! AT BOTH ENDS OF THE LEASH!

At Both Ends Of The Leash-Abridged from Charles Morris on Vimeo.

My buddy Brad called me up around May 1st, 2016 and said he had a project.  It took me a few meetings to grasp fully that I’d be required to film INSIDE of a medium security prison.  This was also going to be pretty much my first crack at shooting and editing a documentary that mattered to me on such a strong level.  I instantly had a vested interest besides paid work.

I have always wanted to volunteer in prisons.   I have just always wondered what it was like.  What are the lives of inmates really like?  What is it like for them when they are released?  I also wanted to be able to be of service somehow to inmates in terms of breaking down the “us” and “them” construct that most of “us” have.

We all see and watch shows like Oz, Orange is the New Black, or more recently Prison Break.  But what did someone like me really know about a world so different?  Not much.  This project was about to take me closer than I ever thought I would get.

Ears, Eyes, Nose and Paws (EENP) trains service dogs for people with disabilities.  They recently began working in a medium security prison here in NC.  They were training inmates to work with the puppies.  Inmate trainers who commit to the program are paired with a puppy that lives side by side with them for over a year.  They sleep together, go outside together…they are literally together at all times.  During that time the inmate trainers, under the guidance of EENP staff, are bringing along the pups to a very high level of service competence.  I didn’t even know dogs could do what these trainers were having them do.

Anyway…EENP was about the graduate some of the dogs and they were having a ceremony.  The problem was that the public wasn’t allowed to attend a ceremony in prison.  So EENP needed a way to bring the experience to an audience out here…hence the video idea was born.  There was to be a public celebration where the video would be screened.  My task was to create something…somehow…that captured the spirit of what EENP does, along with the graduation ceremony.

I could go on and on and on about how incredible this experience was.  I had so many “I must be dreaming” moments.  My first big project and there I was, filming in a prison.  Was I ever nervous about not getting it right?  Oh hell yes!

But just to keep this brief, I loved every minute of it.  And I did indeed learn an immense amount about prison life.  Us and them ceased to exist for me.  I feel flummoxed about what more to share here, because honestly it would be a book.

I’ll skip to the end then…

Watch it.  Convince your friends to watch it.  It’s about real life prisoners/inmates instead of paid TV actors.  These are real people who are working hard to better their lives and the lives of others.  And…there are tons of cute DOGS in the video…and it doesn’t get better than that.  You get your dose of hard hitting reality and a nice blend of…smiles.  Yes, people in prison smile.

There is an abridged version, which is the one included above.  The EXTENDED version has the full graduation speech, which is worth the watch for sure.

I want to give a huge shout out to Alan Lorden, who composed all original music for this movie.

lorden-zacbrown1

Also it never would have come together without the direction, guidance and intuition of Brad Bethel, who also is the Director of the award winning documentary, Unverified.

1495203_833855653343299_4561273494584949952_o

But the film, in my mind, is definitely dedicated to EENP and all the hard work that they and the inmates put in to keep At Both Ends Of The Leash afloat.

EENP_logo_CMYK_positive

Summer Clouds Timelapse and some old pics

When I was primarily a photographer (2008 – 2014) summer clouds were my favorite subjects.  I was always in pursuit of the best formations.  Summer around here in NC is the best time to capture dramatic cloud interactions.  Here are some of my old favorites from the good old days.  Feel free to click to enlarge.

 

 

Now I am pretty excited about seeing what video can do to capture these same moments.  To be able to see up close what the cloud is doing, how it is unfolding or building is something that can’t be captured or seen unless it is timelapsed and accelerated.  I find that it takes about 6 minutes minimum to create anything worth watching…due to how much you must compress the timeline.

On a recent night out, I was hoping to capture a lightning storm with driving rain curtains, but the rain abated, the lightning stopped and what I ended up with was lovely fast stacking and falling clouds right in front of the setting twilight.

One thing that was quite challenging on this night of shooting was that I saw the clouds forming up as I left a restaurant in town.  I raced home to get my camera stuff from inside of my air conditioned house.  The outside humidity was probably around 95% and the air temp was close to the same.  It  took nearly 30 minutes for the cold camera body and mirrors, and lenses – to stop sweating and heat up to match the surrounding temps.  I should have foreseen this.  I used to shoot all the time at the Butterfly House at the Museum of Life and Science and the air in there is set to match weather in the tropics.  The first thing you do when you get into those kinds of places is let your camera breathe and adjust…you just don’t even bother shooting for the first 20-30 minutes.  Everything will be fogged up.  This was the longest I ever had to wait though.  I had to detach everything and let it air out for a solid 30.  I missed what I came to get…but got something I still really like and would have overlooked had my camera been working from the start.

Anyway…here is my latest…and don’t forget when viewing that Vimeo defaults the viewing res to the lowest standard.  To see the HD version click on the HD button and adjust as needed.

 

Small World!

So…today I am editing some photos for a client’s website.  Like this one…

DSC_0047

 

He needs some new headshots and when we made the video below…he asked me to snap a few shots.

He has just put his new site together and after I emailed him to confirm that they were waiting for him there in the Dropbox folder…I think “hey, I should drop by his site and take a look around.”

So I drop by to take a look.  Here…you take a look too.

http://www.risksandreligion.org/

Then I read to the bottom of the home page (as you may have just done as well) and saw the following:

“In a past life, Phil was a musician for Baobab and Crowdsource. One song ended up on a GoPro commercial (here).”

I click on the link to watch the following video:

First of all…what a fricking gorgeous video.  Secondly…my buddy Phil made the awesome music and though I knew he did more than talk about the end of the world…I didn’t realize that he was on that kind of level as a musician.  Well done Phil!  What a (humble) guy.  When I ask him about his musical past he only says “I used to play music”.

The reason my posting here is titled “Small World” is because in my other, non- video, life I have a part time job in an outdoor retail shop where we sell GoPro cameras.  We have a kiosk for GoPro with a screen that plays GoPro vids on a loop.  The video I have been watching now for over 2 years has this pelican in it!  All this time I have been watching a video that Phil helped make and I never even knew it.

That’s a small world!

Rad Vets To Premiere at DocUtah!

If you follow my blog you are probably sorta tired of hearing about Radioactive Veteran.  I SWEAR to you that I am working on lots of other fun projects as well.  But just too tired to write about them…because I am working on them instead of writing about them.

I just posted yesterday that Radioactive Veteran got fully funded…right?  I mean, that’s good news.

Well tonight the producer, Bradley Bethel, group messaged us that our doc got accepted into DocUtah.  Is that fricking off the charts cool…or what?

Hint..the answer isn’t “or what”.

DocUtah is an international film festival.  That’s classy.  But you know what is even better?  It is in St. George, Utah.  St. George Utah is one of the primary towns affected by the very kinds of tests that Radioactive Veteran highlights.

As one local resident put it back in the 1950’s…

“I remember thinking that it was normal to see piles of dead lambs …”

Claudia Peterson

stgeorge

What could be a more fitting location to kick off  this film’s public entree?  I can’t think of one.

We hope you’ll come out and see it.  More details to follow once we know them on precisely what time of day the film will premiere.

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.