Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our Final Class

Our group still owes at least one more blog, so I better write one before we wrap up this semester. Tonight was our last class, but definitely not the end for our group. We will all be back in the lab next semester (and probably over the break, too) trying to turn an obscene amount of nothing but dialogue and floating heads into something that is intriguing and artistic and pleasing to watch. We all hope that we can do justice to this amazing story that we lucked into. At this point, I think our group agrees that it would feel wrong not to.

Next semester, I hope that I can be a little more fluid with editing and transitions. I pray that I still remember how to use Final Cut Pro when we get back. As for this semester, I didn't think that the hardest part of this whole process would be chopping up the clips, but I can't believe how hard it is to spend hours upon hours capturing things just to turn around and decide that the six hour shoot you just did was barely audible on tape. Admittedly, this whole filmmaking thing can be a little frustrating for someone like me, who had no idea what I was getting myself into. I'm used to doing things very methodically, which isn't really how filmmaking seems to work. There's not one clear answer, or even vision, so everything becomes trial and error. Science isn't really known for being subjective, so it was weird for me to try to create something with the mindset of how it would make people feel, rather than just constructing something that relayed facts and observations. I'm still unsure about how I feel about the manipulation of the audience (though the time in this class has made me realize that there really isn't a way to make something visual without forcing, or at least pressuring, your audience to feel or interpret it in some way). When things like lights or shadows can change the entire way you feel about the person on camera, its hard to know what's real and what you've been fooled into thinking is real.

All in all, this has been a really great experience, so it really wasn't hard to commit to another semester. If anyone has any ideas about interesting shots or visuals for our film, feel free to speak up! I would love suggestions! Hope everybody has a happy holiday, and for those of you not returning next semester, good luck and nice to meet you!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Editing and Paperwork

The last 3 shoots Joe and I have done were done seperately and had been somewhat short filming times. Joe had filmed Slater tap dancing and B-roll, I followed with shooting for a little less of an hour of photograph B-roll, and finally, Joe filmed Slater walking and also an interview. Currently I am compiling an extensive list of Film Festivals while putting together the forms we will need for releases for Slater, Slater's friend in the black Mercedes and the cemetary we filmed at; while Joe is working on more ellaborate and detailed editing in the lab. All-in-all, it is very time consuming on both sides. We really hope to make this one heck of a film with all the neccessary arrangements for presenting not only in class but in festivals. Wish us luck!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fridays Shoot

After running into problems during our last on site shooting at Forest Lawn Cemetery, our latest on site shoot went very well. Papers signed, interviews successfully recorded, and we kept to the exact time limit set, it was a good day.

Slater, myself and Joe scheduled to meet with the owner of Utopia restaurant in Long Beach, Kamran Assadi, at 1:30pm until 4pm. I was on the scene first and started setting up the equipment, then Joe arrived and finally Slater. I hooked up Slater with the Lavaliere mic while Joe started shooting B-role of the outside across the street. Joe further shot Slater entering the restaurant. We set everything up inside and we got down to work.

First we shot a candid conversation between the two close friends, Slater and Kamran, shooting from several angles on the tripod and handheld as well. When the conversation became more of a personal nature and less about the restaurant as an art forum and the works Slater has shown there, we stopped filming and let the two continue. We next shot Kamran without Slater and Joe took the helm of questioning/interview.

After a brief break to get coffee and water, we resumed with Slater's interview. Kamran had offered a cold beer during the break, and can you imagine an anthropologist/archaeologist turning down a cold beer on a hot day? Well I did. For shame. But I digress. I shot the rest of the interview with Slater with my prepared interview questions and we wrapped it up, on time even. Everyone at the restaurant was very helpful and friendly. There were no issues with sound. All of our questions were organized and the shoot was a success. Gosh I hope I get paid for this someday. I think Joe would agree with that.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Colle, Friday Shoot

Alright, so Emily and I ran into some technical issues that made it difficult for us to film this past weekend. There were new neighbors that were in the process of moving in to the apartment right above Colle's. It would of been impossible to interview Kelly and additional footage of Colle without the distraction of loud thunks coming from the ceiling. We were also limited to shoot in Colle's apartment and backyard, seeing as his son had to stay home and finish up his chores and homework. Since it seemed like nothing was going to work we decided to just discuss the new direction of the film with Colle and see if he wanted to talk about anything in specific. He likes that we want to focus the film on how people try to categorize him when in fact he is just an average person. Emily and I also got to discuss with Kelly what we wanted to interview her about. Some questions we plan to ask her for next Saturday was how she feels about having to explain her relationship with Colle extensively on a regular basis and her opinion on social norms about relationships. We have a pretty good amount of questions to ask the both of them the next time we go over and shoot. Emily and I discussed possible B-roll and clarified with Colle how much of his son we can include in the film. 

Overall, we got a lot done and improved our rapport with Colle and his family. Next Saturday will be our final day of shooting before we start editing the film. 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot that it is Halloween. 

Happy Holidays guys!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nashville: Part Duex

Sharon's description of our Nashville trip was very detailed and organized (much like Sharon, actually). So, I will give you an alternate perspective, rather than a half-assed repetitious version of her itinerary.

From the moment we got to the airport to the second we landed back in Long Beach, our trip was nothing less than a frenzy. It began with Colle assuring us, as he took his third smoke break, that we had plenty of time to make it through security and onto our flight. As you may have seen in Sharon's post, he was wrong. Sleep deprived and panic stricken, we decided that we should stay with the film equipment (worth more than Sharon and I combined). Fortunately, Colle caught another flight (that somehow managed to break every known time and space barrier), and ended up getting to Nashville about a half hour after we did (which slightly repressed the nagging ulcers that were an inevitability for both Sharon and myself on this trip).

We met up with Brandon, a grad student and LGBT leader on campus, who had asked Colle to come speak at this "Hate Crimes Week" event at Mid-Tennessee State University (MTSU). Brandon was so kind and welcoming, he really epitomized the role of the "Southern Gentlemen". He showed us around Nashville a little, and took us to a really cool cafe where we were shocked at the friendliness and hospitality of everyone around us. Pretty much everyone we met was this way, and everything we ate was double-fried and smothered in cheese, giving the South what I thought of as a kind of grandma-who-always-stuffs-you-full-of-cookies-and-tells-you-you're-special-kind-of-feeling.

Sharon wanted to make an attempt at shooting a little footage from the car, but I don't think we had much success. That said, our crash course in camera work was very beneficial. I think I might challenge James to a tri-pod centering dual, as I can now get that awful bubble dead center in less than ten seconds. Great success! We got some sub-par footage at a mall before Colle's speech that consisted of really great material and really crappy traffic sounds possibly ruining precious emotional moments that could have made for great footage.

Colle's actual speech gave us a pretty great set-up from a film standpoint. The room was quiet and well-lit, and we were able to stay really close to Colle. Sharon was pretty upset about the mic on Colle's shirt being visible, but I think she's not giving herself enough credit. With only two of us to set-up and film, and the very limited amount of time we had to make all of this happen, it is nothing short of a miracle that we got so much done. Sharon's organization and unparalleled mothering skills (which I cannot even begin to praise in terms of getting Colle to walk away from his kitten-friend and actually go where he needed to be to give us usable shots) made everything so much easier. I think we complimented each other really well on this trip. Sharon's scheduling and attention to detail kept us moving in the right direction (and constantly moving, at that), and while she was making everything happen, I (moving at a much slower pace) was able to pull in all the different directions and ideas that she had, and focus them on relating all our footage back to Colle's story and speech. Now, we're just hoping that the end result will be some really great footage! I got to do the camera work and visuals, which I really loved, and Sharon did all of the sound and mic work, which I hope she loved!

In the end, we got to meet and interview some really amazing people who told us about what it was like to be openly gay in the "buckle of the Bible Belt" and what Colle's experience meant to each of them. I wish we had had more time to set up those shots and talk to them, but we didn't start their interviews until about five hours before we were supposed to be back at the airport. And I really don't mean to sound cliche, but their experiences really made me realize how badly these stories need to be told. All of these wonderful, smart, friendly, kids were constantly surrounded by WWJD? billboards and messages of hate and disgust. It was hard to hear, but it made me even more excited about what we're doing and all of the possibilities that we have to say something really special with this film.

Sorry this was so long, it really doesn't even do the trip justice. More to come!
Thanks, Em

Monday, October 18, 2010


This is my story of what happened on our trip to TN - good, bad, indifferent.

When I first pitched the idea of this film to Colle at our union meeting last month, I had no idea what I was signing myself (and my team) up for. Colle mentioned in passing that he was going to TN in October. I said, "Oh, maybe I can go with you." I didn't actually think it would happen.

Fast forward four weeks:

10.13.10 4am. My alarm goes off.
I have spent all week either lying on the couch with a fever or buzzing around preparing for this trip. I hop in the shower, try to feel OK, and get on the road to pick up Colle @ 5am.

5am Colle's house.
Colle is not ready to go. He is still packing, ect. until 5:30. We finally get outside and he wants to smoke. I usually don't let people smoke in my car, but we are LATE, so I let him smoke in my car as we speed to the airport arrive @ 5:45, at the ticket counter by 6am.

After another mandatory smoke break...we are not getting into the security line. Colle says that he is going to get a wheelchair escort to the front of the line. This does not happen. The plane is now boarding. We should be getting on right now, but we stay with him. Emily and I get through security but because Colle requires special procedure to get through security because of his disability, he does not. As they are closing the door on the plane, a flight attendant announces from the front that Colle will not be boarding and asks us if we want to get off the plane. Our hearts pounding, we choose to stay on with the equipment. The 2 hours of sleep I was hoping to get were hijacked by fear, anger, and heavy prayer.

layover in Denver
Got a text from Colle. He is going to take a direct flight from LAX and land almost the same time we do. I can comfortably sleep the next 1.25 hours until we get to Nashville.

Nashville 2pm
Get out luggage (hallelujah, it's here, not broken)
Get the rental car (an upgrade to a big 'ol impala....nice!)
Get Brandon (our contact/guide in TN)
Get Colle

In a torrential downpour, we follow Brandon to a cafe so we can eat and Colle can email some work that is due.

4:30 Emily & I head to our hotel to check in while Colle attends a closed meeting.

We arrive to meet Colle & Brandon at Colle's hotel to go to a function at the school. We get there and wait for Brandon to arrive back from wal-mart with kitten supplies. Colle found a kitten in the bushes outside the hotel and has taken it to his room.

We arrive at MTSU (Mid Tennesee State Uni) and set up quickly in the hallway outside the room where the event is being held.
After the film (Boys don't cry) ends, we enter quickly and shoot from the back of the room. Brandon introduces Colle and Colle says a few words about his upcoming talk. We continue filming as Colle has conversations with several students.

Pack up, Get white castle, take Colle back to his hotel.

arrive at hotel, bring eqipt. to room, sleep.

Overslept an hour, running late.
Grab coffee/food, get to Colle's hotel.
Film Colle with kitten which he has already grown very attached.

off to MTSU w. Brandon & Colle for a balloon release.
Film the balloon release, and get some interviews from students
interview the Dean of Diversity

Drive in circles going to 4 or 5 credit unions trying to find an ATM which will deposit Colle's check.

quickly eat something
Film interviews with Colle & Brandon @ Munfreesboro mall.

Bring Colle back to his hotel so he can spend time with the kitten.

Back to MTSU
Set up in the room

Colle's Talk

interviews with students in lecture hall and then in library.
Colle & Brandon left to go to dinner.

We went to "Breakfast" @ waffel house w. students

check out of hotel, go to airport

fly home

The Good:
1) footage. We got about 5 hours of good footage. (I hope)
2) crash course on how to use EVERYTHING.
3) experiencing TN. I want to go back.
4) New friends. MT Lambda is great.
5) I prayed. Alot.
6) Organization payed off in many ways. We (Emily and I) were booked, on time, on schedule, and on cue for everything with all the correct equipment. All of the equipment made it to and from TN in perfect shape, with the exception of one of the tripod zipper pulls that was cut by the bastard TSA idiots when they cut the lock off.
7) Thank you to my Android phone which kept us in perfect google directions everywhere we went.

The Bad:
1) I had bronchitis.
2) being sick, going on hardly any sleep, stress, being inundated with constant plumes of cigarette smoke, and having a panic-attack like reaction from my steroid inhaler did not make me a pleasant person to be around at times. By thursday afternoon, I was a fucking bitch.
3) No matter how highly organized I become, other people are not going to run on my schedule.
4) This was expensive. Very expensive.
5) I was afraid that we were not going to get enough footage.
6) It was a logistical nightmare.
7) There was only 2 of us to do a 10-person job.
8) at this point, I don't know what we got. could be great, could all be shit. who knows.

What I would have done different:
1) more people. I understand now why production crews have 483 people standing around.
2) more time. I would have gotten in a day early, checked out the sites and planned better so that so much time was not wasted.
3) One HUGE mistake I made - I put Colle's mic on the wrong side of his shirt collar, and you can see it through the first half of his talk.
4) The sound from the mall interviews is going to be horrible. I did not want to shoot in a mall parking lot, and would not do it again.
5) we have no B footage of MTSU
6) If I wasn't sick, I'm sure I would have been easier to work with.

Overall, I think we did a pretty damn good job considering how insane this whole thing was...but only the tapes will tell.

Shoot 1 Colle @ his apt. 10.9.10

I would like to begin by saying that I feel very lucky that we have found a subject, Colle, who is so honest, forthcoming, and willing to work with us. We couldn't have asked for a better person to work with.

Our first shoot was a huge learning experience. The sound was good, the aesthetics were, well, not as good as the sound. Fortunately, Colle is willing to do the shoot all over again. Overall, the shoot went - ok. There was some good stuff there.

We got to Colle's house and checked out the house. The apartment is rather small and dark, so we chose the livingroom because it seemed to have the best lighting. We brought in some additional lighting via a lamp that was attached to a table, and put an undershirt over it for a filter.

The interview went long, but well. Colle is a great speaker, and says profound things all the time. That's just kinda how he talks. That is a definite blessing for us. There were a couple of serious oversights on our part that were glaring when we watched the tape.

1) Colle was slumped down in the couch. This made him look all squished down. Not good on film at all. He looked a bit like a turtle.

2) His shirt matched the couch. When we were there, everything seemed fine. When we looked at the footage, however, Colle looked like a squishy talking head in a sea of browns. No good.

The sound was very good. The apt is on a quiet col-de-sac and, once the door was closed, it was very, very quiet - seemingly silent. Emily did most of the boom work, while I asked questions. Towards the end of the interview, we switched places.

James did all of the camera work.

What we could have been better was:
1) location. The cramped apartment left us little room to move around, and the lighting was difficult.
2) Aesthetics. Hopefully, we will never make that mistake again.
3) taking turns doing different things. The cramped space made it difficult to move around, let alone switch places. I think that Emily and I should have taken the opportunity to do some camera work so that we would have had more practice before TN.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Free Yoga in Long Beach

Hello Visual Anthropology Class! Here's a little update on our progress so far. For the past year or so, Stacie, Julia, and I (Lauren) have been casually attending the Free Yoga classes offered at Bluff Park in Long Beach, at the corner of Ocean and Junipero. We initially heard about this program through Cassandra, a fellow graduate student, as it is her thesis research site. We began our film-related research in earnest in September, communicating with Cassandra as our "gatekeeper" to the community, and quickly making contact with other key community figures. So far, we have conducted one (long and informative) interview with Cassandra and have a few more scheduled for these coming weeks. In particular, we are looking forward to our interview with Dharma, the creator of free yoga, which is scheduled for this coming Saturday the 16th.

Today, I am working on editing our hour-long interview with Cassandra, and some footage of a Free Yoga class session. In addition to this, I'm working on our shot list of shots we'll need for cut-aways to use in conjunction with Cassandra's interview audio. She was a great interviewee--as a participant-observer herself, she was keen to describe the community in a way that was both objective and self-reflective. By re-examining her interview, it will help us with our interview questions for Dharma on Saturday and future interviewees.

We plan to complete most of our shooting in the coming weeks, while the weather is still nice and pleasant. Having experienced shooting outdoors through the fall, the weather can turn quickly and it is important to be ahead of the game. We are hoping that this semester we will also have the opportunity to complete a few indoor interview shoots with informants, in order to practice lighting techniques we learned this semester in our session with Tin.

We are looking forward to a semester of opportunities to explore the key questions of: What is Free Yoga? Who is Free Yoga? And, what effect has Free Yoga had on the community since its inception three years ago?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Slater day 3

I called Slater on Friday to tell here what I wanted to film. I told her I wanted her to continue with her day as if I wasn't going to be there. She said she would be taking a nap. We laughed.

When I arrived she looked tired and said that she had had a long day. I got the camera out and told her that we would skip using the lav mic today. It usually is an ordeal to get it on her where it will be out of sight, then if it moves out of position we have to stop and readjust it. I didn't want to exhaust Slater.

There were painters painting the outside of her house which I thought was great. I even asked them if they wouldn't mind if I accidentally got them on camera and they said they wouldn't. Inside Slater moved into the living room and then said "well wait, do you want to go to the studio because the painters are making too much noise?" I told her that I didn't.

This was very telling. The idea of this shoot was that I film Slater doing what she would normally be doing. Since that was taking a nap, we had a problem. She was making stuff up for me. She took 2 things from the her do list and placed them in that time slot, 3-5, the time that I would be there. She does like to work with me, whether she likes my company or she likes being filmed or both I'm not sure. I don't mind reordering the schedule of her to do list. But I definitely didn't want her to go somewhere were she normally wouldn't work because she was worried about the sound I would be picking up. That would make us twice removed from what she would naturally be doing, on a day that I wanted to get observational footage!

We continued shooting her at an desk in her living room. Everything went well and after she got to folding roses out of pages she had taken from the bible it was obvious she was doing what she wanted to be doing in that moment. She was lost in her art. From there, she went out to the studio, I followed her and had taken off my shoes so my feet would have a lesser chance of being picked up by the mic. ( I hope that shot works out.)

In her studio I asked her a few questions and once I even asked her to repeat what she had just said because the mic was not aimed in her direction. I also had her stand in place for a minute while I got a different angle. I had wanted to stay in observational mode but had no problem jumping out of that in order to tell the story.

We finished at 4:20 and I think it was an efficient and productive day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Day of Filming

The first day of filming between myself (Justina) and Joe on Thursday, October 7, 2010 went pretty smoothly considering a few small things. Joe had begun filming the last week of September and I followed up by watching parts of that interview. I realized how incredible Slater is; I couldn't wait for the first day of filming.

Joe and I set up inside due to the sun and airplanes shortly after I arrived. We thought Slater, our interviewee, would be comfortable and in good light sitting on her couch and we continued setting up the equipment. However, the back light was a bit too bright, we needed more light on her face. Our tripod was one to be desired as well due to its lack of certain abilities: 1. does not lock at lower levels/no lower level settings, 2. the legs are loose and do not stay put, and 3. the grips or feet do not work/they slide. We need to get "sand bags" the ones with handles to place at the base of each leg when in use at lower levels. There also seemed to be some issues with the Lavalier Microphone but a little adjustment and it seemed to be fine. However, I would like to get a different material then we used to wrap around the base of the microphone.

These were all easily remedied things. Joe found a wonderful box top that happened to be silver on one side and white on the other; it was perfect. While the sun was at its brightest we used the white side as the silver was blinding for Slater. As the sun dimmed the silver side made it seem brighter. It was a good thing. As for the legs, well I have hands. We finished with the tripod, Joe operating the camera and me with headphones on my ears, holding on to the legs. It must have looked like an interesting operation.

Eventually Joe went hand held and I sat, headphones on, with Slater's gaze directed towards my position. Both Joe and I asked questions that led the interview into different moments in Slater’s life; I used Joe's direction here as he knows more about her history than I do. We wrapped the filming after two and half hours, and made plans to contact one another about the best time to film during the day.

Joe filmed today, Friday, October 8, 2010. Unfortunately I could not attend, but will be filming the next time around whenever all of our schedules meet up, most likely this coming Tuesday morning. I am expecting lighting and Lavalier issues which we will address prior to filming.