Staying Busy (in Chicago)

Having been on both sides of the "I'm so busy" coin I think it's absolutely abhorrent when freelancers complain about having a ton of work. That being said: last week was incredibly busy.

Being busy with paid work means having invoices out and not taking an angry backhoe to our savings but also balancing "man, it's great to stop and process the last few days." You'd think that as a semi-adult I'd have worked through the "grass is always greener on the other side" thing – nope.

A text message Tuesday evening this past week led to me being on a job in Chicago the next few days. Just want to make it clear that work situations like that aren't incredibly unusual, but it's by far an outlier for me. I'd been out on the west coast for a good part of the week before so jumping back on another plane to somewhere else was crazy exciting. Freakin' kudos to Saint Anne the Wife for putting up with me and my atypical work schedule.

Through a connection I'd made here in New York via Filmsupply I got to DP an additional unit on a project shooting in Chicago. After getting there late Wednesday night I got to quickly meet the director, producer, and 1st Unit DP and go through through some early edits. My footage needed to blend with what they were already doing so having that time to connect and get an idea of what they were expecting from me was incredibly helpful. Again, crazy thankful I got to be part of their project.

Thursday's shoot went well and I got to try out some visual ideas via the 1st Unit DP that I'll use again in one way or another. The project leadership had a rad team/crew in place and allowed me to jump into their already well oiled machine to shoot in a way that will cut well with the footage from the other units; can't wait to see the edits sometime down the road. Bonus points for randomly getting to work with an AC that I actually worked with 10+ years ago in Oklahoma at my last full-time job.

Friday had me flying back to New York but that was a bit of a hot mess. Our flight out of Chicago was delayed and then we ran into some weather issues that diverted us to Syracuse to re-fuel. We got stuck there due to even more weather problems and instead of getting home around 7p I stumbled into our apartment around 2:30a the next morning.

At this point it looks like I'll be shooting at least a day or two here locally on top of a few other pojects that will be wrapping up this week.

Other People > You

The end of last week had me on the west coast with a New York based production company. Early Thursday morning through a red-eye flight Sunday night I was a second camera on a project shooting in Portland and Los Angeles.

“So I’m writing this week’s blog post from an airplane.” - me (absolutely true but I’ll never be a big enough deal to say something like that and not sound like a d-bag)

Part of freelancing is constantly working with different people and more often than not I’m on jobs with people who’ve been part of some extremely interesting things. This trip alone had me working with someone who was previously an Army sniper; a producer who was working on Mt. Everest a few years back during a deadly avalanche; and a DP who worked on a project in Antarctica.

“I’ve been at it long enough to have my own stories, but I’m pretty sure it’s still better to listen more than you speak.” - me (again, the guy writing this post that still probably talks too much)

There's always some kind of down time during shoots – especially when you're traveling together for multiple days at a time – and seems like small talk always circles around to stories of previous jobs and time on the road; I'm all about it BTW. This line of work has brought some rad life experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve got my go-to stories that I just know everyone wants to hear about. That's basically the point when I've stopped listening to what other people have to say and just wait for my turn to try and one up their stories. That's pretty much the worst and I'm awful at not being that guy.

Basic Life Tip: contribute more than you consume.

Never be the most important person in the room. You have an awesome story? Rad. I bet someone else does too. You finished with what you're doing and able to be helpful to someone else? Get to it. Are you causing more problems than you're solving? Hey dummy, stop it. No matter how good you are at what you do as a freelancer, if people don't like being around you you’re not helping your chances of getting hired again.

Head Down and Working

It’s Monday, past my self imposed 10am deadline, and there’s no blogpost. I’m typing away on my iPhone because my laptop is out for a week or two to be serviced. On top of that there’s the whole thing of our 700sq foot apartment being filled with young children today — only two of those are mine. There’s a whole backstory to it, but know there’s no way I’m going to get any writing and/or work done on my desktop computer.

Rather than kick myself because I missed my deadline and don’t have the margin to write, I’m just keeping it short this week. There’s just a TON going on at the moment. Early last week had me with my head down in prep for a music video that we shot Wednesday with Elena Goddard. More on that to come for sure. In the meantime, here’s a couple teasers.

WTH is Midwinter Break?!

So turns out NYC has a "Midwinter Break" which means the public school kids are out for a whole week. By 10am Monday morning Saint Anne the Wife and I realized why all the other NYC parents take their kids and leave town. By early that afternoon we had our two boys bundled up and off to find the middle of nearby Prospect Park before one of us burst into flames and burned down our side of Brooklyn.

If you've been following along for any length of time you'll know I'm big on routines, systems, and absolutely bent towards working all the time. Turns out that's not how being part of a family works so this past week was a growing – or at least stretching – one for me personally.

I'll never not admit that I married up; Anne is still by far the best part of my life. For as much as I'm working my tail off to get things going professionally here in a new city, she's lapping me in making sure our family is getting settled and surrounded by a solid community of people. With the amount of stress I've taken on being the breadwinner for our family during this time surely I've vastly underestimated what she has on her plate. If you’re ever inclined to see how strong your marriage is, try moving across the country, with two small children, no jobs, and away from extended family.

Speaking of breadwinning, Wednesday had me on my second paid job of 2019. A friend of a friend connected me with Plywood Pictures here in Brooklyn and they had me out to shoot on a project not far outside the city. The shoot went well and I had a good opportunity to connect with the producer. Hopefully they'll keep me around and I'll be able to land more work with them down the road.

This week also had me making some progress on a couple different music videos in the works – both as a DP working with a director and as a director/DP. It'd been awhile since I'd put together a treatment so it felt good to flex those mental muscles again.

Oh, and Thursday had me out with a stills camera and wandering around the city again. I'm currently obsessed with watching how street photographers work and had a quick second to watch a stranger doing their thing on the subway. Surely I'll have more to say about that later. In the meantime, I'll just post a few from Thursday.

Fixing my train wreck in post

So, uh... Anyone else get sick to your stomach after finishing something and absolutely know you weren't as prepared as you thought you were? Ooo, it's even worse when you get other people involved. It's like that time as a sophomore when I talked a senior girl into being my date to the highschool band equivalent of prom and didn't realize it was a formal event. She looked great in her formal gown but you should've seen me in my khakis, denim button up, and Goofy tie. She sat at another table and got a ride home with other friends that night.

Last Monday I reached out again to Olivia Abassi to see if she'd be up to make something. We've made other stuff in the past and I had a couple loose ideas and some references, but those basically got tossed once we started. She's fantastic on camera and an even better person; Anne and I have basically claimed her as our younger cousin. I think that's why I felt sick to my stomach afterwards knowing she gave up her free time to go make something with me and I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was.

In the end we ended up with two different edited pieces, but actually making the sausage couldn't have been pleasant to watch. In going out I'd wanted to shoot some stock type footage to send to my FilmSupply account. The hope was that any sales would pay for our expenses (pizza, coffee, train ride) plus generate some additional passive income for both of us over time. I honestly didn't feel like anything was landing so we stopped for coffee and assessed what we had. We had one shot I absolutely dug and we went back to what we'd enjoyed doing before (her dancing in public to music no one around could hear). She and I came up with two different songs we're each obsessed with at the moment. Olivia knew all the words to "I'd Rather be Blue" sung by Barbra Streisand and I've been wearing out "Ladders" by Mac Miller.

I'm also still working my way through Principles by Ray Dalio and some of it fits in nicely with [in my opinion was] Monday night's train wreck.

"Bad times coupled with good reflections provide some of the best lessons."

"An ability to figure things out is more important than having specific knowledge of how to do something."

"The key is to fail, learn, and improve quickly."

Originally we'd planned to do Olivia's song as one long take. We did a few different takes and were happy with a couple of them – her performance and my shooting. But once I got back and started through the edit I realized it just wasn't working. Each take had great parts that I didn't want to ditch just because the original idea was to have one single performance. I ended up syncing up the different takes like a multicam shoot and edited using that idea. I'd already made 2k proxies from the original 8k .R3D files so it wasn't that taxing on my computer run the multiple takes at once. It actually made for an interesting way to approach the edit and an idea I'd be all about using again.

The Mac Miller track ended up being way too long to stay interesting with my original idea. We did a few take with her dancing to the nearly five minute track and I knew right off the bat it wasn't going to work using a single take. Rather than just ditching the footage in post, I synced it up with the track and marked each downbeat throughout each take. From there I made a 60 second edit of the track and pulled some selects from the stock footage we shot at the beginning of the night. The thought was to make a short piece where our hero, Oliva, was trying to get to an event or meet up with someone who in the end would cancel. The dancing part was what she had to do mentally to deal with the stress of someone bailing on her.

Lunar New Year

This past Tuesday was the Lunar New Year. I'd seen photos and footage from years past and knew to be in Chinatown with a camera in hand. It took a bit to work through the footage and tame those 8k R3D files with proxies, but I'm diggin' what I got.

One of the big draws to Tuesday's New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival event was the something like 600k firecrackers being set off. With how the event space was shaped and laid out I was never in a good spot to see them go off. What I ended up with was a ton of people watching the event plus a good deal of paper confetti flying around. I went out thinking I'd get some footage of the dragon dances, but there actually wasn't much of that. In the end I worked towards making a somewhat whimsical cut with the confetti paper playing as big a role as the people watching it fly around.

CAMERA & EDIT: me
MUSIC: Kabul To Paramaribo by Clap! Clap!

The first time I went to China was around this time of year in 2007. A Christian non-profit based in Tulsa hired me out to help film some of the work they were doing there. It's been a minute since then, but I absolutely have some fantastic memories from that two week trip. Bonus points for the BTS photo of me from that trip DEEP into my Euro-mullet days.

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It wasn't my first time overseas, but China was my first experience being in a non-western country. I remember kinda tripping out when we got there because it was late-January and they were prepping for the upcoming "New Year." We'd already done our thing back in the west and the early 20s me had zero clue about a lunar calendar. Honestly the later 30s me is still on the western end of just reading a few Wikipedia entries about a calendar based on moon cycles and the Chinese zodiac. I'm diggin' the fact though that both 2007 and 2019 are Years of the Pig. Oh, and let's not talk about the image and resolution difference between the Panasonic DVX100b I was rockin' back then and my RED Weapon Helium now.

When I first moved to NYC, Yelp sent me to Chinatown for hand pulled noodles. Since then I've gone out of my way to spend time in that part of town and drag my family along when I can. I'd read something about how you're supposed to eat dumplings and noodles during the holiday for good luck, so obviously dinner had us taking the train back to Chinatown. Afterwards we waded through the closed and confettied streets where events that night were being wrapping up. You know it's a good party when it takes a fleet of garbage trucks and an army sanitation workers wielding push brooms and leaf blowers to clean up.

2019 NYC Women's March

Go do the networking things kids... Through one of the first events I went to here in New York I got a change to meet producer Elizabeth Potter. She and her husband James run Potter Productions and we had a chance to work together on this small project centered around the 2019 Women's March in NYC. The Potters worked their magic and put together a sign making event where we interviewed a few attendees and shot some b-roll. The Women's March was the following Saturday and we hiked out to the Upper West Side to march alongside a crowd the New York Times said stretched about 10 city blocks.

I missed out on the 2018 event, but attended the 2017 Women's March in Oklahoma City. Having covered newsworthy events as both part of the media and on my own, I want to say that I'm very intentional about what I include in the pieces I put out.

I'm assuming you're not here because of my political beliefs, so you may want to skip the next couple paragraphs.

Regardless of how many people see this edit, I feel responsible for its content. I believe in the major ideas behind the Women's March and want to do what I can to help promote it. Were there counter-protesters waving "Trump 2020" flags? Yes. Where there individuals wearing all black with sunglasses and masks covering their face? Yes. What about those with homemade signs smearing Trump and honestly promoting violence against those who think differently than they do? Yea, they were there too. Did any of that nonsense make the edit? No.

The march route passed by both the Trump International Hotel and Fox News building. While I'm not an ardent fan of either, I didn't see it helpful to join in on the "Shame! Shame!" chant as we walked by each one. One woman standing outside the Fox News building made sure the passers by knew "Fox News helped pay for [her] daughter's education!" I know where I stand, but I don't see it as my responsibility to publicly shame someone who believes differently than I do.

Now that I've got that off my chest, onto the "How'd we do that?" part.

Gear-wise I shot all the nonsense with a pared down version of my RED Weapon and a Zeiss 35mm CP.2 lens. For the audio interviews we used my Zoom H4n audio recorder and a shotgun mic. I'm still getting used to moving around the city with gear, and especially for a zero budget project like this, less is always better.

For post-work, Elizabeth and I pretty much divided and conquered: I sent her the audio files and she sent me notes with timecode; I dug through the footage and pulled selects. All the footage was shot in 4k 2:1 ProRes at 23.98fps. Throughout the edit process I'll pull still frames from the footage and color them on my phone with VSCO (see below). Absolutely dug a good deal of the imagery from the march, but the lighting and color temperatures from the sign making event were a hot mess.

In putting together an edit like this, my workflow typically starts with building out a story line using the interview audio. Once that structure is there, I'll start laying in footage that hopefully makes sense and supports the story line. If you've seen anything else of mine you'll know I'm a fan of using natural sound in an edit like this. The additional audio is just from the internal mics on the RED Weapon.

The thinking was to keep it short and sweet plus push out a shorter edit for social media. I'll say there was a bit of a headache with the Instagram edit. Turns out there's some codec nonsense in getting video uploaded to Instagram via iPhone XS; thx for the help Reddit. We ended up using two of the 4-5 interviews we recorded and only 90 seconds from the 24+ minutes of footage selects.

From the beginning I felt like Elizabeth and I were on the same page about what we wanted out of this: make something together we could both use to help promote our work. I'm pretty sure that's what we're all trying to do but the fact that we both believe in what the Women's March stands for is just icing on the cake.

Last Week

Well, it's been a week. Not super interesting or horrific, but there was a ton going on and I'm glad it's behind us. Rather than trying to write something meaningful, I figured I'd share how the week went.

Seeing as how these things normally get written in a last minute rush on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, just know that I'm a bit later than normal because I spent Sunday afternoon cleaning up a flooded bathroom in our apartment. While the fam and I were at church Sunday the tub and toilet decided it'd be best to go on strike and fill our bathroom with brown water.

Monday, January 21, was dumb cold. Seriously some of the coldest weather I've experienced. My phone said it was something like 6-7° F outside with the windchill rockin' a -11°. I've never been in a position to see dog pee freeze on the sidewalk – thanks New York. Oh, and it was MLK day and I'm super bummed I didn't make it out to Harlem for the day's events.

Tuesday was – I'm assuming – good enough for jazz?

Thankfully I landed a meeting with a production company I admire here in the city. No clue how well it went short of saying no one died and I didn't poop on the floor. I felt like I'd botched the meeting and kinda whined about it via social media just long enough to realize I was being dumb and sucked it up. Probably the best part of my afternoon rant was forgetting that the person I'd met with also follows me online. They direct messaged me laughing about the rant; I died a little out of pure embarrassment.

There were also some birds not far from their office that were getting seriously annoyed that I kept disrupting their feeding frenzy.

Oh, and the second Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson video I got to help shoot with Vevo a few weeks ago was released.

Wednesday had me finally going through some color work that a new buddy of mine had done in Dallas, TX. Somehow I got connected to a couple magicians at Lucky Post and colorist Neil Anderson reached out asking if I'd be up to have him color some of my 2018 Demo Reel. ABSOLUTELY hope I get to work with that guy again soon.

Thursday had Anne the Wife and I renting a car and driving out with our younger kid to Long Island. Tax season is closing in and I've been working to get my tax ducks in order. Another connection I've made in the last few weeks, Craig DiBiase with MinusL, introduced me to his CPA. Turns out I'm switching from my Oklahoma "Tanner Herriott Productions LLC" to a New York "Tanner Herriott Inc." Oh, and I'm having to start putting back quite a bit more money to pay taxes at the end of each year.

Friday, well Friday was busy. I had a video chat meeting with a producer I got to meet at a networking event a few weeks ago. Elizabeth Potter and I are working together on a short project from the recent Women's March here in New York. Thankfully this project had me out and about with my RED Weapon for the first time in a bit and I'm diggin' some of the footage we'll have for the edit. Side note: please ignore the fact that I tend to frame everything to the right.

Friday afternoon had me spending some much needed time with David Bizzaro; good grief that guy is a saint. Thank goodness we've got some more projects in the works.

Outside all the daily nonsense I've also been plowing through Ray Dailo's Principles. It's a bit dense at times and way thicker than anything I'd normally read, but I'm honestly diggin' his insights and experience in the financial and macroeconomic worlds. This guy's experience is crazy different from mine, but I'm constantly trying to take other thinker's situations and try to apply them to mine.

"...everything that was going on had happened before, and that logical cause-effect relationships made those developments inevitable. My failure to anticipate this, I realized, was due to my being surprised by something that hadn’t happened in my lifetime, though it had happened many times before."

"I learned a great fear of being wrong that shifted my mind-set from thinking “I’m right” to asking myself “How do I know I’m right?” And I saw clearly that the best way to answer this question is by finding other independent thinkers who are on the same mission as me and who see things differently from me."

"An ability to figure things out is more important than having specific knowledge of how to do something."

Family Stuff

So the wife and kids have been up here in New York just over three weeks at this point. We’re figuring out what it’s like for Anne to be a stay at home mom while also developing new relationships herself. We're figuring out what it's like for our older boy to start a new school while the younger one is home and no longer in daycare. We’re learning what it’s like to build a new life somewhere.

So much of why we left what we knew is wrapped up in forcing ourselves to grow. It's been a dance of learning something new while also maintaining responsibilities. While I want to say Anne the Wife and I have done a decent job so far – both as a couple and as parents – it still feels like we're constantly stepping on each other's toes.

By default I lean into what's comfortable. Obsessing over money and finances has always been a warm blanket for me. That's not to say I'm an expert, but I can sure as hell build out a spread sheet and balance a checkbook. A very close second is losing myself in trying to make an image. So much of my time over the years has been experienced through a view finder or monitor that honestly it's much easier to keep moving forward behind a camera than not.

Being a good dad and husband: f*ck that's hard. As much as I'm expecting to grow professionally and creatively in this new season, the biggest challenges so far have been centered around family. Anne and I have been at it long enough that we can squabble and work it out, but there's no diplomatic or elegant way to say I count it a win when I make it through an entire day without wanting to strangle our kids. At six years old Elliot is coming more into his own and making his own decisions. Flynn is 19 months old and can't talk so yelling at the top of his lungs seems to be the next best thing. How that kid still has vocal cords is beyond me.

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While I've been pushing hard to make new professional and creative relationships, Anne has been just as intentional about connecting with other young families also living in the city. It's been a trip peeping into other family dynamics and trying to gleen what we can.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite things about Instagram has been seeing other creatives who also happen to be dads work out and share how they stay creatives while also trying to raise tiny people. You'd better believe I screenshot the hell out of these parental nuggets. And seriously, thank goodness for the whole AMA thing.

Dallas this time

Growing up in Oklahoma City, Dallas was the cool older brother we looked up to. It's where you bragged about going before the school year to buy new clothes at the "good stores." They also had the closest Starbucks when people were losing their minds about Frappuccinos. As someone from Oklahoma City, Dallas was always the varsity quarterback who hung out with cheerleaders while the rest of us cleaned up the used towels and sweaty uniforms.

There was a season when my dad worked for company based in Dallas. He'd work from Oklahoma City but make the three hour drive down a few times a month. His boss rocked the slicked back hair, drove a red Ferrari, and had a sweet pool in his backyard; there's no way that guy didn't do tons of coke. He killed himself a few years ago.

Doesn’t seem like much changed as I got older. Oklahoma City has grown and there's some great things happening there, but in my mind Dallas was still better than where I was from. There was something there that we'd never live up to and we'd never be good enough to do more than just visit.

Last week had me in Dallas for a job and this visit to my hometown's cooler older brother felt different.

Thank goodness for the Running Robot guys and them keeping me so busy in what’s typically one of the slowest seasons of the year. I'd show you some behind-the-scenes photos from our shoot and a few frame grabs of the interviews, but good grief if you've been following along you've seen enough of that already.

Somehow I'd traveled to Dallas with a TSA sized bottle of magical powers. On multiple occasions people who had no reason to be impressed were somehow wowed when I said I was "in town from New York." It wasn't like I was being superfluous in offering the information but small talk normally comes back around to "so where you from?" It didn't seem to matter that I also included "but I just up moved from Oklahoma a few months ago."

Dallas would've been the logical step both personally and professionally to this Oklahoman. Surely there would've been more professional opportunities for me, Anne would've easily made more money as a teacher, and my parents would've much rather we moved their grandkids across the Red River. A handful of friends made in college and during that weird season afterwards now live in Dallas and I wish we saw them more often. I’ve also had a few Dallas based clients over the years and I wish I saw them more too.

I can say with all honesty that Dallas was never really somewhere I wanted to live. There would always be that cooler older brother thing constantly overshadowing anything we'd ever accomplish. Somehow in signing that lease to our Brooklyn apartment we're now part of something allowing us to escape where we're from – at least in other people's eyes who've not lived in New York. Dear God don't I pray that never sinks in personally. But if it helps, I'm all about it.

I'm still hustling to connect with new clients and creatives in a new city that's incredibly expensive. I honestly feel like I'm making some progress but my bank account has only noticed an uptick in my coffee shop spending. I've shot a handful of images I'm proud of and good grief I feel like I'm learning a ton. I've always known there's some kind of magic here and I sure hope I end up finding a bottle or two.