Gears & Sprockets: Production Notes 1

June 1st is the launch date for OvercookedVegan, a vegan cooking show that I’ve had on the idea shelf for years. I started in earnest in pre-production in January 2015 after sporadically doing camera tests over the course of a year and a half. Given the budget of negative bazillion, I needed to figure out how to make every bit of gear that I had or could get could work. I already have enough personal projects choking because gear deficiency.

megafunk - bell pepper

Stuffed Bell Pepper

I’m fairly ignorant of cooking shows, even now, but I knew I wanted to do something that was different or at least a different spin than the individual personality on a set look that I had known since seeing Pasadena-born Julia Child on those shows in the 70s. That fact that I’m very low key about my diet led me to the natural course of stories that I wanted to show. The problem that came to me during I initial scheduling: It was taking multiple communication attempts just to get fake responses. “Sure. Let’s do it. I’ll call you back Wednesday!” I guess they didn’t specify which Wednesday.

After stewing in irritation for awhile I reached out to a caterer who I had met during an APA portfolio review. She enthusiastically agreed to do a segment and that got me started to at least get my feet wet and be able to assess what I could actually accomplish. Immediately I saw how I would need to change the narrative as well as the shooting style. I needed to keep everything as streamlined as possible. The lifestyle aspect of the show had to be tempered until I could guarantee more idealized talent and I needed to run and gun solo but not obsess over the light. The basic set up involves a camera on sticks (when possible) and 1 hand held, an audio recorder, 3 650 tungsten/halogens in the bag, assorted gels and diffusion material.


Jamaican Vegan Plate

I try and keep each recording down to a little more than the prep time and the cook time. Also, I’m only buying the food same day if I don’t have history with the person or 1 day in advance if I have good history with the talent. Talent has been an issue but I’m using the web more for better or worse. My non-internet contacts have been exhausted but I feel talent problems will be alleviated as the first couple of episodes release.

Social media is a problem. I barely have time, interest and concern for megafunk’s entries. Now I’ve added twitter, facebook, etc. for Overcooked. It’s the natural of today’s beast but I admit I’m slacking. The past two weeks have been determining a workflow. I’m still putting together a proper folder structure and figure out FCPX’s wrangling of different projects without having to render out project plates to re-import. FCP X (TEN!) does not seem to handle sequential tifs with burns me up a bit given that they were supported in 7. I started cutting the trailer in Premiere Pro just for variety but I needed the speed and I can cut much faster in X.

Anyway, somewhere around midnight barring snafu I’ll upload episode one. More notes to follow. Trailer 1.


The Blues

Eddie Hazel turned me onto guitar. He and Ernie Isley shredded that raw dog angularity that got my 6 year old self to convince my mother to take me to loud venues decibels above her nerve’s endurance. By the time we returned to Los Angeles, Parliament was still in command but my love for Lucille and B.B.’s conjoined efforts stayed with me and propelled me forward. Bootsy, Drac, Hendrix, Fulson, Hooker, Hopkins, etc. had that swamp throb… a gait that pushed transcendence with loping menace. Riley’s guitar vamped you in and laid the entire history of the blues on your forehead. An entire bag of notes couldn’t match the one note King would play at the precise moment. He held it and stretched it out. He was the blues and the gateway to the blues. He led me to a deeper appreciation of music.

I remember buying his “Six Silver Strings” album and not liking it much. I remember disliking the hyper clean production and the saccharine arrangements. A lot of people through the years tried to dismiss him because he didn’t immediately seem to represent the cotton picking image that some other blues people emanated. It was like considering someone not having street knowledge because they weren’t banging.

He was fluid and sophisticated. He was the son of sharecroppers and born on a Mississippi plantation. Around the point of that album, being a young musician, I felt that he and his contemporaries were abandoning themselves by jumping on trends and modern practices. I still don’t like the album but I understand now. You have to change and try new things. Do you really want to do the same thing everyday until you die? Some people do. B.B. King changed his diet to vegetarian, opened clubs in his name and lived 89 years in a society hostile to his existence. In my first band’s gig, despite all the Hazel influence imbued in me, a dude in the audience yelled during the first few bars of my solo, “Go ahead, B.B.”! …I didn’t know but I’ll remember.


Sunday reminded me the importance of small businesses. Starting out, I had a job as a courier for a development company. I didn’t know they were also using me as an un-armored truck as I cane to find out afterwards. Apparently my replacement was pinching cash whereas I never opened packages (sealed or not). Didn’t know, didn’t care. Before then I worked as a camera operator at an independent UHF station and got to see how people handled on-set pressure as well as how to properly mingle with the various people involved in the process. I worked at a health food store as a cook and a clerk. That taught me how to shut up and let the customer opine. At the printing facility I learned that the customer is not always right and that my employer could not take my right hook. (He started it.)


The old new middle class

All of these situations allowed me to launch into the economic part of my adult life and gain valuable experience on interacting with a variety of people. It also led me to wanting to be in positions to help other youth get those experiences. I have done so but in the last several years of streamlining it has been difficult to uphold that mantle.

When I look at some small companies offering internships, it kind of pisses me off. So many seem to offer exploitation more so than legitimate learning opportunities. They’ll have these kids doing shit for free for what some entry level cat should be getting paid to do. And then there is no definitive landing spot afterwards. So you can get screwed on the front end if you’re not careful with how you pick your internship.

To the point of Sunday, I happened to give a ride to a stranger who asked me as he was struggling with grocery bags. He was late dropping off the food so that his mother could cook marketing-mandated mother appreciation day. In our conversation he revealed how depressed he was because he wanted to change his life but he couldn’t see any way out. The streets were going to get him at some point. I gave him my ear, some platitudes, some advice, a ride and respect. He said, “Thanks big brother”.

“Thanks big brother” has been killing me all week. At my age, in general, young cats in my hood would call me OG. To use familial nomenclature showed me the depth of his appreciation of our conversation and the horrible positioning that I have at the moment to not just bring him in as a P.A. or the like. I couldn’t even think of anyone to pass his information. I’ve always given back to my community and I guess he reminded me that there is more to be given and more to do. Doing the best you can is easy to say when you have to do better.