Monday, September 19, 2011

Love Defined

The idea that I am qualified to define love may be ridiculous, considering that every human, ever, has tried at least once to take a stab at it. What, then, is the point? It would be redundant and obtrusive to even attempt to categorize something so universally felt, and undeniably personal.

Thanks. I think I will.

Love is the straight jacket worn by Fear.

Oh, relax your eyebrows! Stay with me.

There are only two basic emotions inherent in the human experience. The first is Joy. Pure Joy. Not the “For me? It’s just what I wanted!” brand of momentary pleasure that wells up when an expectation or desire is fulfilled. Pure joy is the default state we all start out with, before life pummels the human cylinder-shaped peg into gender-based, behavioral and societal square holes. Joy is how we enter this world, and leaving the State of Joy, as we all do, shapes our continuing desire to return, at all costs.

We may have lost the map, or have designated someone or something else as the navigator.

Everything else, every other emotion we have, comes from fear.

Fear comes in many forms. It’s like a family, really. A family of suicidal, homicidal, destructive little beasts, where each one is a cyclops, and they all carry those tree trunk-like clubs with a leaf or two sticking out of the end.

Anger, and his ugly little brothers Hate and Jealousy, embody the fear that we will lose control of our environment and the carefully constructed cage we build to keep us safe from the big bad world. When someone does or says something that threatens our perception of what is “right”, they are unleashed, ready to smash it to pieces. They will often smash anything in the vicinity, too, regardless of its involvement in their release.

Arrogance is really just Anger’s twin, albeit a sibling who has spent more time in front of a mirror. Not one for deep revelations, he relies on his perception of what’s right based on what he sees there.

And then, there is their big sister, Loss. She has many children, all of whom insidiously pervade everything we do. The most misunderstood of her offspring is Love.

Love! That noblest of all feelings, enshrined in story and song throughout the ages. What is love but the fear that the person we love will leave us? When we allow someone to fill that empty place in us, we will fight to the death, if need be, to keep them there. Love is trust that they will remain with you. Love is belief in what they say, and what they promise. Love is the fragile acceptance of living under the piano-being-hoisted-up-on-a-rope, glossing over the inevitability that the rope will someday snap.

Love makes us feel safe.

Oooh… see what I did there?

Love wraps around our biggest fear… fear of the unknown, sheltering us from its crushing doom. If Heaven is glorious, why do we lament a loved one’s passing? As a parent, no amount of Good Book readin’ would help me through the loss of one of my children. My biggest fear is not death, (or public speaking), but the loss of someone I love. Threaten me with that, and my Cyclops will lay waste to everything as far as the eye can see.

But, if Love is Fear’s comfortable old coat, it has a secret in its pocket.


Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for a glimpse of the Pure Joy we have so ardently been missing. Hope that the unknown will be okay, a place where we can be with the ones we love without fear.

So, there you have it. Love is… Hope for a life without Fear.
Or chocolate. Either one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Who is This Guy?

Every blog author wants to be read. The problem I see when I read them, (and I read a lot of them), is that I have to try and figure out who is doing the writing based on what they say. Any good comedian will tell you that people like jokes, but people won't love you unless you share the "real you" with them. Otherwise, they think, "Who's this guy think he is?" and "Why do I care what he has to say?"

So, read this, and decide for yourself.

Ever since I was a kid, people asked me if I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I have always loved to draw, and later, paint, so I guess this was the natural thing for people to say. I never really wanted to be an "artist" per se. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a forest ranger, (I guess so I could be away from people telling me to be an artist).

As I grew up, I gravitated toward artistic work. I studied commercial art in school, played drums in a rock band, (badly), and tried to infuse some creativity into whatever I did.

After designing more menus and business cards than I could count, and doing a few portraits, (which I still love to do), my first real "art" job was as a designer of business reports for a major multinational conglomerate. Pie charts and graphs, mostly. But, in 1995, I had the opportunity to work on graphics for one of the first intranets.

I was hooked.

From there I moved into multimedia design, eventually rising to Art Director. I loved this job. I would design websites, kiosk apps AND get to pitch them to clients. I got to travel, meet CEOs and VPs of companies large and small, and then go back to my desk and create the coolest stuff. I worked with some of the smartest people I'll ever meet, and was constantly amazed by what they could do with code, (a discipline in which I still roundly suck). I also got to use video cameras. VHS video cameras.

One of the highpoints in that job was the chance to go to Wales, and film interviews for a kiosk that would sit outside a newly opened call center. I didn't know sh*t from shinola about lighting, framing or interviewing people, but I did it anyway. My footage was a small part of a much larger presentation, but I was thrilled beyond words.

When my division closed, I was offered the chance to make the big time. Madison Avenue, NYC. 7th floor office... with windows! My son was two, my daughter six months old. I had to choose between 12-15 hour days and miss my kids growing up, or stay at home, try to contribute, (my wife's job covered us sufficiently), and not lose my mind.

When my kids went to school, I followed them in, getting involved and volunteering. This, it turns out, was the best thing I could have done. After designing a parent group website, I was hired by other groups to do the same. When I designed a site for their school itself, the district office noticed. I was hired, (for real money) to design a website for each school in the district. Then the superintendent left, and the new one wanted a redesign, which I bid as a new job and I got that, too. Along the way, I continued to video tape school events, which got me noticed again, and helped me move into a regular bi-monthly gig filming district meetings.

My kids got into theater, so I began filming their shows, eventually working out a deal to film all of the shows and sell the DVDs to the audience. So, my continued opportunities to work with kids, surround myself with crazy, creative people and churn out creative work led me to start designing my own projects.

I pitched a TV series type project for pre schoolers, got the funding, shot it and did all of the graphics, sound, music etc. in 2009, Noodle Boosters made its debut. I was, and remain, really proud of that effort. I started writing ideas for an interview show, gathered up some great talented people, and began producing "Inside the Bubble" on JDTV in 2010. Also in 2010, I wrote and directed a short film about the dangers of cyber bullying called "RU Listening". That got funded, and it also opened the door to funding for my latest project, "A Caterpillar's Tale" which deals with bullying, and is geared for kids k-4. Custom graphics have always been a staple of my projects, but in this one, we also have custom puppets that I designed, and had some very talented, (and patient) people create for me.

"A Caterpillar's Tale" will be done in a few weeks. I have a few more "Inside the Bubble" episodes to edit, and I am trying to finish the first draft of a novel I've been writing for the past year, after snippets and chapters being written down for the past 5 years or so. I've also got two unfinished paintings sitting on my drawing table. Other than that, I'm open to ideas for my next project. Got a great idea? Let's make it happen!

So, that's me. Now, who are you?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You Were Psyched Once

As a video editor/writer/producer/ all-around do everything myself guy, I read lots of stuff about how to create good video, great lighting, working with actors, etc. Along with all of the great information out there, I come across lots and lots of lists; checklists, to-do lists, don't forget lists... you get the idea.

Being knee-deep in a project right now, I've discovered a few things. Most, I'm sure are on other lists. Obviously, I didn't pay enough attention to them. So, for all of you, (like me), who think you know it all already, here is a real life short list that might help you stave off what I like to call the "Oh crap" moments.

(Full Disclosure - I actually used some more colorful words - a lot - when I discovered these things).

1.) Nobody Cares Like You Do
Nobody cares about your project the way you do. Stop shaking your head... you know its true. Clients care about budgets and deadlines. Actors care about how they look and perform, and - news flash! Your spouse doesn't really care if that key light has too much spill.

It's kind of like when one of your guy friends comes over with his girlfriend to see your new baby. The girls "ooh" and "ahh" but the guy looks at you like, "So, does this mean we aren't going to Vegas next month?"

2.) Quantity Does Not Equal Quality
On this project, I have about six hours of footage for a thirty minute program. While I was editing the first scene - the first scene! - I realized that I forgot to shoot a character saying a few lines. I could have fifty hours of footage, but without that thirty seconds that I need... well... see Full Disclosure above.

Make sure you get what you need. Then be creative and artsy to your heart's content.

Which brings me to...

3.) You Suck at Something.
Some people are great at lighting, but can't level a camera to save their souls. Others are excellent at coming up with innovative ways to capture a moment, but can't seem to remember that you're losing light while they craft the perfect whatever. For me, I suck at remembering the difference between what I've imagined and what I've actually shot.
I need another me, (better looking and about 40 pounds lighter), that can say, "Dude, don't forget page five!" or "We still need that close up - you know, the emotional heart of the whole thing?" or "Great idea - but, do we have a helicopter for that overhead shot?"

Find the people you need who are better at the things you suck at. Pay them if you have to, but get them on board.

4.) Remember the Good Times.
When you're on set or at the editing deck, try to remember how you felt when you were envisioning this train wreck. Before the makeup was melting under the lights, or the costume headpiece looked like, well, a costume headpiece, you were psyched! You had great ideas and cool new ways to show off your storytelling.

Try to remember how confident you were in the pitch meeting. Try to get that feeling back after a few attempts at fixing over-exposed footage.

Go ahead, try.

There you go. Practice these rules diligently and you'll be on your way to being a well-respected, award winning, uber-rich celebrity visionary... or not.
It's up to you.