Travel light

Over the past ten years or so I’ve been asked many times “so you work in video, but what do you do exactly?” to which I’ve answered “I pretty much do everything.” Ever since I got started I’ve worked on bmx/skate videos, legal depositions, weddings, commercials, documentaries, public service announcements, corporate videos, marketing videos; the list goes on. For years I served in various capacities on these projects and I will say that seeing these productions from every angle and their varying degree’s of ownership really did shape how well rounded I am as a producer. When I was 23 I was working at a video production company called AMS Pictures, one of Texas’ oldest video production companies that continues to grow to this day. I would work on various projects and travel with tons of heavy gear, but the stories I would tell of my travels would normally yield the same response. Usually something like “that’s so cool that you get to travel all the time and see new things.” If you’ve ever had to travel with more than 400 pounds of gear in five or more cases of varying sizes then you know what I’m about to say: It ain’t all that. The challenges with traveling with so much fragile gear comes with a ton of anxieties.

1. Stressing to remember to pack everything you need 20131221-123945.jpg

2. Lugging all your gear to check in and pay ridiculous overages for checking gear 20131221-124035.jpg

3. Freaking out when you don’t see all your gear being loaded in to the plane 20131221-124206.jpg

4. Relaxing when you see your tripod made it

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It’s like this the whole trip. Every step of the filmmaking process is like this when you’re working by yourself. The entire failure or success rides solely on your shoulders. It’s trips like these that make me think of the ‘good old days’ when companies had bigger budgets to hire production companies with multiple people on the crew to ensure ownership of every detail was covered. I’m the writer, producer, director, cinematographer, gaffer, audio engineer, PA, DIT, editor, post audio engineer, motion graphics animator, colorist and delivery manager. No shortage of details to think about. That’s for sure. Not even the weather in Baltimore where I was heading for three different video projects I was producing; I should have listened to my wife and packed better.

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This trip consisted of three shoots in one week for three different projects that were completely different types of programs. The first was a showcase video that generally runs like a typical ENG shoot with interviews and b-roll. The second was a multi-camera two person interview shoot like 60 minutes and the third was a product/services offering marketing video. These videos are my favorite because they’re a little more narrative and commercial in nature and offer up a lot more creativity in connecting with audiences. Three completely different style shoots in three days. Right off the bat, other producers are thinking “not possible.” Or better yet, “it’s possible, but probably shouldn’t be done that way.” I can’t help but agree, but these are just some of the challenges in my role as the one man band.

Monday: Travel day The first day was a travel day from Houston to Baltimore. With kisses to the wife and son I’m on my way. Many hours and miles later, I’ve landed at BWI airport and hopped in my sweet rental car: a bright red minivan. #NotBaller. The client’s office was down in Bethesda Maryland so I head out to stay at my hotel the night before the first shoot day.

Tuesday: I make my way to the Showcase Video client’s office to film all day starting with interviews with the VP’s and CTO about their app. After a full 10 hour day of filming interviews and as much b-roll as I can I pack up all my gear and give tremendous thanks to all the client’s employees and folks that helped my shoot go so smoothly. With all the gear loaded in my sweet minivan I embark on the next leg of my trip, driving back to Baltimore for Wednesday’s multi-camera shoot. After checking in to the hotel I made sure to back up all my media, plug in all my chargers and got an ice cold beer at the hotel bar. It had been a really long day and I knew I wouldn’t be able actually relax until I knew my media was in at least three places. The CF cards, local drive on the laptop and an external backup drive. And then, I was able to rest.

Wednesday: That wake up call came way sooner than I thought, but I made it to the office early to start building out the 5 camera kit I’d spec’d out to cover this conversation with our VP of R&D and one of the most important business analysts around digital and mobile business transformation. This was a tremendously interesting conversation I would have loved to listen to but wouldn’t be able to until I got in to post production – just one of the downsides of missing out on context while filming because I was checking audio/framing/coverage of 5 cameras. The set up was very informal in the center of the Baltimore office and was intended to give the impression that were very approachable and not overly formal. You know? Human. This was one production I was responsible for that had little to no strategy at all. My marching orders were to “shoot it all, make it look awesome, and we’ll figure out what to do with it when we get to post.” Oh, and one more thing, “these video(s) have to be reviewed by the client and posted to our website by December 31st 2013.” Daunting to say the least, but after a few short hours that shoot was wrapped and the rest of the afternoon was spent strategizing Thursday’s shoot: The product/services marketing video.

Thursday: This beautiful Baltimore morning kicked off with a few interviews to get the story of the problems our services/product offering was going to solve and then on to filming the b-roll of those life changing solutions. I really really enjoyed filming a ton of the b-roll using the Cinetics CineMoco motion controller. This shoot was a treat as far as tech geek goes, but that doesn’t come without the anxiety of not knowing what were doing. The vision and direction for this marketing film was also unclear and it had to be great, and the company needed it yesterday. One of the greatest challenges I practice overcoming every day with what I do is controlling my need for planning. A great deal of tech companies talk about ‘opportunity loss’ which basically means that if you’re not putting out your idea now you’re losing time on being first to market or losing time for your opportunity to be greater tomorrow than it would be if it was still on paper. As a filmmaker, that’s just not something we do. We need a script. We don’t press the little red button until we have a script or an outline at the very least so sailing these uncharted waters with a really pretty boat is where I was on this project. It just comes with the territory of being the sole filmmaker at 200+ person company.

Friday: Get outta Dodge! Friday morning I spent a few hours at the Baltimore office hanging out with some my buddies talking tech trends, drone photography, music and of course, whiskey. Around lunch time I simply couldn’t resist a sandwich from Isabella’s in little Italy. The porchetta sandwich is simply to die for. On my way out after lunch I bid my friends farewell and head back to BWI to get back to Texas as soon as I can. After your normal cattle drive through the air travel system I’m back at home to walk through the door to hear my son say ‘daddy’ with such intensity one can’t help but feel satisfied. Often times when hanging out with friends and listening to what’s going on with in their world I frequently hear stories about how things aren’t going as they’d wish or they’re just not completely happy with where they are. We often talk pros/cons vs. various options to ‘get there’ and most often the summation is to back off and let the planets decide. I’m of the volition that once you strike a balance between these two philosophies we can then achieve your goals. Equal parts take action and letting go. Shake vigorously.