Thursday, September 18, 2008

Late Nights, Long Hours, and Dead Reckoning

Production is blue collar work. There are no set hours. It’s currently 8:30 pm on a Thursday night and I consider this an early evening. Nine to fivers have been home for a few hours already and their wives, husbands, kids, and pets are probably happy to see them. Sometimes, I don’t know why I – or anyone – do what I do for a living. There is no glamour in production. It’s hard work and – after working days, nights, weekends, and holidays; after my back aches, my eyes fog, and the muscles in my finger tips swell, it becomes difficult to remember why, as a child, I thought this would be a great career. It took 10 years to start making good money. It took 10 years to become the series producer of a show. It took 10 years to make it near the top, and the hours I kept as a PA are similar to the hours I keep at a producer. I wonder if it’s ever going to get easier and I highly doubt it will. However, there is still drive to create and this industry allows me to combine multiple skills including thinking, writing, collaborating, and producing. Somewhere, in the back of my cluttered head, the long hours, the frustration, the deadlines, and the dead reckoning are all worth it. As I often think, “this is the job…and I agreed to do it.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Letter from One of My Students in Response to "School of Golf and the Worst Industry Advice I've Gotten"

A special thanks to Clay for sending me this letter.


I read your blog. I liked the part where you mentioned that people have told you to focus on one thing, but you didn't and that diversity of experience has brought you to the place in time that you hold now. Pretty deep and true. I edit, shoot, write, you name it. I also compose music on a regular basis with a guy that used to play bass for Evanescence, the rock band. I feel that it is just as important to be open to taking a PA job as it is to accept the right AD or Directing job at times. Every situation offers an experience of a different kind that can lead to being really good at something later in life.

My opinion was that often people who aren't really creative themselves, haven't got the inner strength to stretch themselves far enough across the board to learn as much as they can to climb the creative mountain. In my opinion, you have to know a little about a lot in order to be good at any or all positions that you try to grasp for a future in TV, Film, or any type of creative outlet. In order to become one of the best at what you want to do, open all the doors, read all the books, learn a lot about a lot of different things and you have a nice start.

Then one day when you figure out exactly where you fit in the big picture, you find who you consider to be the best at what you want to do. You make a list of the best of the best and figure out what makes them as good as they are, pool their best habits together and practice them. You already know this though. Glad to see someone who is making a life for himself has this same opinion.

I personally have a damn long ways to go...but I'll keep trying until I get there.

I want to own a nice company that eventually makes TV shows, movies, write scripts (I do that often ), and get my hands on any and all ideas of creation I can possibly wrap my mind around.

Oh and by the way, if I have never told you so, thanks for being an inspiring teacher. You, Jason, and Carl were by far my three favorites -- although our lighting teacher (Grover) had such the David Lynch / Mad Scientist feel. Haha --

Have a good day, I'll see you around. Maybe we'll do a good horror film together one day. Not one of these movies you see now days that doesn't really scare anyone. Speaking of which, we made a horror themed talk show while I was there at Full Sail called The Grinder that Steven Shea was a guest on. I am trying to recast here in NY and want to continue trying to make the show. The show was my idea and I cast for it there, and found the band, and wrote the questions, etc. If I were to get a show together that was shot in HD and looked good enough, what should I do with it from there? Shop it around to networks for channels like MTV or G4?

Just Curious. --- Too bad the Horror Channel isn't a real TV station; there is a target audience for that kind of thing.


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Moonbabies Music Video for "Take Me To The Ballroom"

Last year, I had the pleasure of being the AD for this music video. It was created using industry professionals, Full Sail University staff, and Full Sail University students. Truly one of the best on set experiences I've had because the producer Jason Blanchard (also a Full Sail instructor in Producing Independent Film) flawlessly managed the entire production. Check it out:

School of Golf and the Worst Industry Advice I've Gotten

Back in January, I was hired to series produce and direct a brand new, true life documentary series about young, high school golfers attending the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina called School of Golf. The students are coached by Hank Haney, who is also coach to the #1 player in the world, Tiger Woods.

The experience has been both rewarding and educational. Even though I've had the opportunity to story produce, story edit, unit production manage, and be a coordinating producer on past TV shows, this is the first time I've helmed a production as a series producer.

All of my past experiences in production have lead to this gig. I've had to rely on the various different skills I've developed over the last decade to manage this show creatively and organizationally. That brings me to this point: some of the worst advice I've gotten when I started as a PA in the film and TV industry was "to focus on one thing and go with that."

I can't think of a faster way to pigeon hole myself and to limit my future than "focusing on one thing" in production. During most of my adult life, I've had dozens of creative interests: film, TV, writing, painting, photography, graphic design, and music. Within production alone, I wanted to write, direct, manage, produce, DP, grip, AD - and because of my desire to learn as much about as many different roles as possible, I think I've only been helped by diversifying my jobs.

It's OK to have a modern day Renaissance approach to anything you want to do. While thinking about that, check out School of Golf on the Golf Channel - Tuesday nights at 11:00PM EST.


Adventures in Teaching the Unreal

From March 9, 2006

Even though there are standards in documentary production, these standards exist on a sliding scale. The concept of cinema verite is nothing more than a false definition to justify documentary film and video as pure and truthful. The fact is all documentary is the opinion of the individual(s) documenting the subject. Even the decision to document a subject is manipulation based on opinion. Once a subject is chosen to be documented, it is of the opinion of the documentary film and video maker(s) that the subject is worthy of documentation. Furthermore, the shots used, the questions asked, the pacing and the editing chosen, the music added, the order in which the story is told, and most importantly, the information left out of the documentary all change reality. Even the concept of closed circuit television such as crime caught on tape by police vehicle cameras and liquor store surveillance equipment capture the event at a certain angle, filtered through certain lenses and the limitation of the surveillance equipment, affecting the final point of view and opinion of the viewer. There is no pure truth in any documentary.

This leads me to my most recent endeavor as an instructor at Full Sail for the Recording Arts in winter Park, Florida. I was honored when I received the call from a good friend of mine at the school to instruct students on reality television production. I've been working in the field for two years and anyone who knows me well, knows that I love teaching. The exchange between the teacher and the student is a fulfilling experience and to know that in the past there were mentors and teachers who shaped my consciousness and education and that I now have the opportunity to return some of that back into the stream of learning, is a rewarding experience.

Since this particular tract of learning is relatively new, I am interested to see how students react to how unreal reality television is. In fact, I've got 4 books on the subject that all contain researched material on the unreality of reality TV. But I will also share that there is nothing wrong with that as long as the viewer is active while watching reality TV and not passive. Simply put, being an active viewer is a viewer aware of reality TV conventions and how they are used to create a program with as much impact as possible. It's the same as documentary film and video, except it has a much wider audience and the manipulation is much greater.

In the end, I am most excited about all of the theory I am learning from my reading. I am also looking forward to sharing my real life experience while working in reality television production. For the first time, I am part of a new educational movement that may open doors for students. They will learn about new career choices in reality television. After all, that's one of the points of attending a film and video production school: to have a full comprehension of all of the opportunities out there. I am still a film purist and wish I could work full time in film production. However, in the meantime, I've been able to carve out a pretty decent career in reality TV production while polishing my story telling skills, improving editing skills, and making important connections with like minded individuals. I'm in a place I never dreamed of being and, although it's got its obstacles, I'm satisfied with where I am, knowing that the future holds even more.