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.

APA L.A. Portfolio Review Oct.

It’s near 2015 and I’m having 2013 syndrome. “How is 2014 more fucked than 2013? 2015 has to be better if I survive to see it.” Everyone has their moments so out with the defeatist garbage and back to work. When it comes down to it, you have to have your center. Visual realizing my imagination into creative works has always been one of mine.

In 1973, I made my first flip book. (“1973?! Dude, yo like disco caveman old!”). No troglodyte here, holmes. I’d enjoyed the hell out of drawing and I found it cool as all hell to watch those drawings move. During one of my presentations I realized that I hadn’t show any animations the entire day. Hell, I hadn’t even loaded any onto the tablet. What triggered this thought was one of the reviewers, Cynthia Hopkins from Kaiser Permanente telling me that she could tell that I loved doing this

purty wires with reflectivity, damage and grime

THIS = purty wires with reflectivity, damage and grime

versus doing that (tennis shot below or to the right depending how formatting goes).

Well, I like getting goddamn money and if it all shows competence, what the flying hell does the quantity of love units matter? That’s what I asked her at least. Her statement wasn’t unreasonable but it also didn’t address the practicalities of hires. I’ve been too many places where I’ve been mistaken as a courier because the “culture” of the facility has never seen anyone who looked like me do high level visual jujitsu. But like most reviews, there’s a right and no wrong because we’re taking about the mechanics of how people view aesthetics from someone that they have no history of interaction. The imagery has to convey all of the spark of possibility that they might remember you in X amount of years because strength of that memory.

See remember, I have that disco caveman shit going on, according to some. I tell reviewers from the beginning,

There is a tennis ball coming my way

THAT = There is a tennis ball coming my way

I’m old (at least in work history). I don’t want your opinion about the positioning of my pixels. I want to know if you are amenable to me adding you to my SPAM list (marketing list) and if there is any possibility that you would hire a mofo like me because of what I offer. Jason Lau from Team One was very direct. He had valid and sapient suggestions that I admittedly didn’t want to hear and possibly still don’t. Mainly, I’m tired of validity and the broken alpaca it rides. But honestly, despite a couple of people being really high on my vision and versatility, Jason and Cynthia’s thoughts brought me back to the animation. They galvanized the premise of hitting someone as hard as you can in the eye and the most efficient way is the energy. Because I was helping out APA, I got to see a lot of glimpses of a lot of portfolios and there were some seriously bad ass presentations and individual pieces. If your bank account doesn’t tell you to step up your game then the practical understanding of competition should. Your “competition” doesn’t want to feast on ramen every night either.

OK, the animation isn’t solely about the meticulous and insane amounts of detail. Sometimes, it’s finishing shit with proper polish. The videos I had were LOWWWWW budget but I really could have added some extra flourishes to them to make them pop more. Sometimes people only see the pop so it needs to be there. It’s a bit like polishing turds but that damn near describes the bulk of my home video/DVD career. Efficiency: that tennis shot took 30 minutes to shoots and 10 minutes of post pro. And video was shot. The wires shot took significantly more time to prep and post. They both made me the same amount of money. Both exist and the world is not dissolving into a puddle of goo as though there is a crossing of the streams.

Jason Lau provided me with an example where the comparative name will be omitted for safety purposes. Mind you I’m loosely paraphrasing this at 2 am. In his position, Jason can pretty much hire any photographer he wants to shoot with because his company is playing with house money. So say there’s a known photographer with a similar style but has a rep for being an ass. He would have no compunction hiring the lesser known person because in theory that person isn’t a dickhead and he’d rather work with cool, competent people.

As it is, I didn’t feel too high nor too low after these reviews. No one opened up the vault to invite me in nor did anyone challenge me to a knife fight. It’s a slow train but it’s still on the rails toward its destination.

APA Portfolio Reviews (June 2013)

The weeks leading to the review were excessively stressful. I had decided to clean the slate and only work with clientele that was on the level that my skills represent. Given my standing, it’s a high-wire act that could be considered self-destructive. However, I’m about fully invested in the concept of patterns: systems of thought and behavior. Behavior is not what people say, but what they do.

My preparation of bumping up my reel and portfolio with action/sports work went for naught so the evening before the event I mined through the archives and pulled 6 skateboard shots and color corrected them. I didn’t know who I was speaking with so I wanted to have a variety if I came across those who wanted “pure” photography. That actually is normally the case. Every branch of commercial photography wants something different and what you find in a portfolio review (as I’ve mentioned in other reviews) are reactions of personal bias (subjectivity), industry trends and company norms.

Someone will like what you have. It’s a given. The most evil troll has a troll at home that loves him/her. Now someone there might not like what you present. That’s about targeting. Even the best presentation won’t allow you to display your amateur pr0n images to a Nickelodeon rep for a good end. As I mentioned, I didn’t receive my reviewer list and Heidi (director of APA L.A.) was stuck behind a flipped over 18 wheeler with one thousand other Valley-ites so board-member Dennis Dunbar and I set up the facility (TBWA Chiat-Day) and greeted the early birds as best we could. Once, Heidi got there and Anthony Nex (APA big wig), I continued my volunteer duties before going to my first reviewer who had been late because of traffic also.

This went over well with Adv and Ed types

This went over well with Adv and Ed types

My book was mixed with all types of shots that I had sequenced. I was on a “fuck it” kind of mode by then because that really was all that was left with the lack of food, sleep, and limited time to prep. I had intended on changing clothes prior to meeting with the reviewers but they had already seen me moving shit around so why front?

Jenny Horn from Fox Photo Publicity liked my book for the most part. What I came to understand is that would be revealed in plain sight later is that entertainment people look at imagery completely differently than advertising people for the most part. They are used to certain types of photo manipulation that isn’t as readily reflected in other commercial photography. I’ve spent a lot of time in advertising/design houses so my aesthetic somewhat reflects that. Basically, Jenny Horn liked that I showed a range and a skill with entertainment personalities. Also, I should pop a few more celebrity types in the portfolio just for the sake of ease of viewing.

Denise Knickerbocker was a little bit cooler on what I presented. Part of that I’m certain was that I was getting a little weirder. I had my son’s Rey Mysterio toy with me to keep me focused because I hadn’t eaten in a couple of days because of my strenuous schedule. I did explain to her that I didn’t hear any voices from Rey… unless she did also. The main thing that Denise said was that some of the shots (conceptual ones) probably were too complicated in that it didn’t leave anything left for an ad agency to do. She knows it’s display of a skill/aesthetic thing but there is always the psychological projection to which you have to be wary.

Jigisha Bouverat & Rosie Ollero: I met them in that order and I’m grouping them because their thoughts were fairly similar. I’ve known Jigisha for about 3 years now so I already knew what she liked and what she had to say. She only dug the action/sports shots and mainly the volleyball shot that I threw in the night before hand. It’s still not on my site as I’ve been BUSY. She shot straight and told me that from her experience her former company (TBWA Chiat-Day) would never hire me on any I presented with the exception of a book full of shots as the ones she pointed out. ImageRosie was unimpressed by all shots. But I definitely wanted her to get to that point because that level of clarity is more important than a bunch of runaround. I’m not a kid and I’m not looking for a critique at a review. I’m going there to meet the people so I know what to present to them for business. As I had told both of them, “I’m made of steel. Shoot straight.” People ordinarily don’t believe that you dig the bottom line and I appreciate them for their candor.

Annie Hong and I were destined for increased weirdness. It was the last one of the day so I was hungrier and I had ZERO editorial images. She went into reviewer mode which I tried to stop by asking her personal work history questions. It was a tug of war but I think we made it out of there with our body parts in tact. She gave me her card after I asked for it which was all I expected from the situation. She said I was the strangest meeting that she had there that day. The cliché of saving the best for last may or may not be true.

Big Bank Takes Little Bank: Portfolio Review Review

APA L.A. Chapter (American Photographic Artists) puts together 2 portfolio reviews a year. I probably use APA a little differently than most other members because I rarely go without volunteering. I volunteer because I think it has useful programs for others in the field and it gets me out into the world which has always been a difficult thing to do.

At a prior APA meeting, I spoke finances with a senior member. He quoted me his numbers for the last 3 years. I’m rarely surprised but he managed to make me go, “Whoa…” His numbers were lower than mine. WAY LOWER and my s!!t ain’t going IPO anytime soon. I’m not going to fly my underwear as a flag but I’ll just say, “I could be doing much better” could be supplanted by even less lofty cliché.

Blaze Hall is seeing double. NO! Quintuple!!!!!

Quintuple vision

As a professional in many of the branches of visual arts, I can tell you how rarely I see another Black dude/dudette on a gig in similar function. As a motion designer and VFX artist, I’ve worked with a total of 2. That’s one for every ten years. In videography on big gigs since ’87, there have been more than VFX in my personal work experience but still not a lot. The dude I was talking money with is “white” so you can breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn’t headed specifically into the “race” rabbit hole.

I’ve been chopping too much firewood to recall exactly what my state was when I went to the review but I know I was tapped for that week and so I didn’t have time nor resources to print a new book. I used the tablet again, loaded a couple of newer personal work shots but dreaded that couldn’t show the mass of new shots that I couldn’t budget to do this year. The moment passed and I braced myself with the old “Old shots to me are new to some else” trick. It’s true plus I’m not scared of anything so bring me the ladies.

Yes, all of the reviewers were women. I quickly had to change out of my wife beater and switch my ringtone to Beyoncé’s “Girls Run the World” or Ani DiFranco. Decisions, decisions!

Everyone was a cool and said the disparate things that people who are not clones nor part of a cult say. One of the things that stuck out in my mind was “This is a cool shot but it would be a great shot with INSERT FAMOUS NAME SKATEBOARDER HERE.” It was an obvious comment but the appropriate comment.

The key to these reviews is to find your flow and pursue it because everyone is stimulated by different stimuli. Getting business is primarily based on relationships and building relationships. I’m looking at all of these smart young women and the gremlin in the back of my mind is saying, “You’re not a white chick. How are you going to build relationships with any of them. And your Cadillac ain’t even out of the shop!” [That’s the last one, I promise.]. Logically, the nonsense left me fairly quickly and I started making October resolutions to do the diligence by keeping in communication with all of them just like the last portfolio. Because after the last portfolio review I sent out how many promos? Wait a minute. Zero. Excuse: I don’t like the shots…any of them. Excuse: I’m going to send the new shot in my mind as soon as I shoot it. Etc.

It’s already a hard road and none of this is guaranteed to you no matter if you’re good or kind of good. The competition out there is monstrously talented and they come in all shapes and sizes. One of the good things about the reviews are the various books people are slinging around the waiting area. One lady had printed her book on matte paper that escapes my mind at the moment and clamped in an old school clipboard. It was formatted as a dossier. Very dope. I told her there would be repercussions if she went to the same reviewers immediately before or after me. See, in portfolio reviews, you have to use all of your tools – Even threatening your competition is advisable.

Since I was volunteering as well as doing the reviews I often sat around with some of the non-reviewers/non-presenters. There was a lady from Workbook, and my soon to be nemesis (though she doesn’t know it yet) artist rep, some APA L.A. big wigs (the double Davids, Heidi, and Kevin) and the occasional shadow puppet I threw on the wall. Dave Nagel had a book and I wanted to see it. That’s when I had to laugh. I’m as close to egoless about how/what I shoot. Subsequently, there are no insecurities because I always do the best I can with what I have. In school in my neighborhoods as a kid there was a game of chance that some people would do called “Big bank takes little bank”. Simply, whoever had the most cash/coin upon presentation point got to take the loser’s loot. Cold war-era economic lesson. I. De. Clare. WAR!!!

Dave is technically precise with a lot of power in his shots. But what made me laugh was for every shot I had, his one upped – hell- 4 upped mine. For my time lapse volleyball he had a time lapse volleyball shot. Mine was a college girl who played in high school. His would be someone on the level of Misty May-Trainor. My random dude shooting hoop in the park would meet the 2-handed slam of Dwight Howard in studio. I mean on and on and on. It was hilarious. Now had I even remotely been puffing my chest out, I would have to take a knee and get an 8 count were I lucky.

It was very cool to see the range of people and interests at that event. Nagel is obviously a pro. If he’s there, Kevin Steele, etc. then you know it’s a legit form of marketing. If it’s for you would be determined by what you do and who the reviewers are. And you have to know it’s hard work. You shoot and you keep working hard at it like everyone else. This is marathon work not a day shift at the chicken shack.