So we made a thing

No clue. Absolutely no clue what was going on here. I'm just diggin' the fact that I've got friends who trust me and are basically up to make stuff no matter what.

In the latter part of June I'd bought a one-way ticket to New York City with plans to connect with friends, make stuff, and meet new people. In prepping for the trip I reached out to Olivia Abiassi to see if she'd be up to make something while I was in town.

Olivia is an actress friend of mine who I stumbled upon while casting a short film a few years ago. I say stumbled because she was actually off camera reading the female lead's part to help with the male talent's audition video. In hearing her read I immediately knew she was the lead I was looking for. She worked her tail off for that little passion project of mine and her performance was more than I could ask for. Fast forward a couple years she's now living and working in NYC.

Normally I'll put solid time and effort into prepping for a shoot. This project was more or less thrown together during my 45 minute subway commute from Washington Heights to her place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There was no scout ahead of time; Not even a decent concept. Just me plowing through her Instagram account and listening to a TON of Logic's "The Incredible True Story" album.

A few months ago she had posted a short clip of herself prepping for something and accidentally – and absolutely – struck gold. She's got a great sense of humor and doesn't seem to take herself very seriously. She's also got great eyes and facial expressions which absolutely deliver on camera.

This simple Instagram post opened the idea of her getting completely lost in her own world and caring less about what people around her thought. In just about everything I try to make there's a bit of me braided in somewhere. For this utterly informal short I started her off buried in her phone trying to keep up with either the nonsense of social media or the non-stop stream of the world's bad news. In putting on her headphones, she's able to escape for a bit.

From a production standpoint, the headphones were key. I sent her a playlist I'd put together during my commute, but we ended up keeping Logic's "Fade Away" on repeat and that kept her movement timing consistent. I on the other hand couldn't hear the music, gave some basic direction, and just had to keep up.

Just about every movement piece I've done recently has been shot off speed. There's a TON of grace and forgiveness in shooting in higher frame rates, but for this piece I wanted to challenge myself with shooting in real time and intentionally using longer takes in the edit vs. the easy out with quick pacing to hide mistakes.

The edit took a bit longer than I expected in trying to sync her movements to the music as well as the un-rehearsed and un-controllable aspects of the footage we got. There were plently of interesting looking shots that I just couldn't use because they didn't fit the music – not to mention the unusably soft shots I blew focus on.

We're not curing cancer or anything, but we did have a very loose storyline with a beginning, middle, and end. We honestly just wandered around the Lower East Side of Manhattan not far from her apartment just looking for good/interesting looking light. The ice cream break was intentional, but accidentally hitting someone on the subway with her purse while she was dancing wasn't; Thank God that very large man was cool as hell.

...a day late. Thx New York.

My bad. Monday's post didn't happen. But hey! It's Tuesday Wedensday morning and I'm doing the thing... My apologies to the five RSS subscribers – who I'm assuming are mostly bots at an Amazon server farm outside Boardman, Oregon.

I'd been in NYC since last Monday working to make new connections and continue building existing ones. Thank goodness for creative friends who've opened their homes, studios, and schedules to take me in.

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First and foremost, David and Cassie Bizzaro are freakin' saints. They've let me crash on their couch while I've been in town. David and I – along with puppeteer Jake Bazel – shot some new content for one of his YouTube channels that'll should be releasing soon. If you've not done so already, do yourself a favor and check out The Bayr Show. I got to the point where I couldn't breathe because I was laughing so hard throughout the Clap with Rhythm stuff.

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There's also this gem. Olivia Abiassi is an actress who played the lead in my 2015 short "Nora" while she was at the University of Oklahoma. She's now living in NYC doing the working actress thing. She and I ran around the Lower East Side of Manhattan with her dancing like a crazy fool in public in front of my camera. I'm working on the edit now and hope to release it soon.

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Outside the people I met, I also spent a good deal of time roaming the city. July 4th had my watch recoreded me walking just over 21 miles. Some of that was thanks to me roaming The Metropolitan Museum of Art for more than three hours and still not seeing everything. There was also the "Hey, I'm going to join the masses in watching the NYC fireworks in person." I figured that'd be awesome (meh, it wasn't) and I got some blurry photos of fireworks like everyone else in America that night. My blurry photos were intentinoal though. "Slow-shutter speeds, you're the best." he said in trying to justify carrying around a full-frame DSLR all day.

Back in NYC

Work last week had me back in New York City for the fourth time since November – that's a personal record for those keeping tabs. The first time I was in NY was summer 2002 while on tour with a music group from college and both work and personal travel have kept me going back over the years. I swear I’m slowing getting more and more familiar with the city.

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Days one and four of this most recent trip were travel days. Days two and three were spent wearing dress blacks and shooting b-roll of a corporate event in downtown Brooklyn. Crazy thanks to Rik & Heather at Rusty Dog Films for having me out again. They run a Chicago based production house and I’ve shot for them several times over the last couple years.

The now beardless David Bizzaro and I met up once I got in town and dropped off my luggage (Side note: go check out his short "The Pits" finally out on Vimeo). We hung out and got coffee near his office space in Dumbo and ended up watching a couple guys choreographing a sword fight with plastic light sabers.

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Afterwards he left for home and I trekked into Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, dodging selfie taking tourists, runners, and bicyclists along the way. David and I met up again with along with his wife in Washington Square Park and then went for dinner at a German spot in the West Village. That night had me falling for this part of the city and spending most of my free time there chasing food and non-tourist traps the rest of the four day trip.

The morning before my flight home got me re-connected with Ed Gungor. He was a pastor, mentor, and boss of mine while I was in Tulsa for undergrad and grad school. He and his wife Gail now live in NYC to be close to their kids/grandkids in the city as well as finish up his Ph.D.

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As an outsider who's spending more and more time in New York City, it feels like a place that's absolutely fine with different ideas. There's the smoosh of all kinds of people getting on and off the subway. There's the huge metal and concrete skyscrapers within walking distance to nice parks with grass and trees. I saw a homeless guy take a full-on piss facing the curb not far from the open air restaurant full of trust fund kids. That neighborhood sex shop was just as accepting as the children's bookstore and fresh squeezed juice place it sat between. The more I'm there, the more it feels like the kind of place I'd want to be part of.

Springtime in New York

Anne the Wife and I made it up north for a Spring Break in New York. Days one and two played nice weather-wise, but day three being the first day of Spring ironically brought a solid day of snow.

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We've done some of the touristy stuff before, but most of this trip had us intentionally wandering around a few different neighborhoods and dramatically adding to our daily step counts. We met up with a few friends living in the city and made some new ones as well. Anne's mom and my parents watched the kiddos while we were gone.

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Have Gear, Will Travel

The travel side of what I get to do is honestly worth the uncertainties and stress that are also part of the work.

A couple months ago a client hit me up about a shoot in south Florida scheduled for mid-January. When possible, I’ll head out a day earlier on my own dime to take in being in a new place or city. I’ve already been to Florida, but I’m not about to say “No” to a beach and a chance to find another decent coffeeshop; Thank goodness West Palm Beach didn’t let me down.

It’s still slow season this time of year and every dollar counts, so I booked a CHEAP room for the night, got a rental car for less than it would have cost to pay for a ride share or taxi, and saved money by eating dinner at the United Club durning a layover.

I’m a huge fan of sticking to one airline and taking advantage of the perks. Years ago a buddy of mine introduced me to the idea and I’ve not looked back. As much as possible, I fly with United Airlines. I don’t typically fly enough to get club membership via elite status so I pay roughly $450/year in membership fees for a United MileagePlus Club Visa card. It gets me Premiere status with easier check-ins, earlier boarding, and two free checked bags each flight, as well as United Club access. The money I save with the two free checked bags perk alone saves me and my clients crazy money and more than covers the yearly membership fee. There are other perks too, but those are the main ones keeping me a loyal United customer.

Yelp found me a solid coffee shop in downtown West Palm Beach and after breakfast I walked up and down the beach till my parking meter ran out. Before meeting the rest of the crew, I picked up some gear I’d rented and had shipped to a local FedEx branch. Again, I’m all about saving money with membership and loyalty programs – thx lensrentals.com.

We scouted the first location that afternoon before heading back to the hotel for the night. I’ll typically have my Canon 5Dmk3 with me on scouts along with my iPhone. For sure I’d rather scout the location during the same time of day before the scheduled shoot, but that wasn’t an option. The Sun Seeker app let me know when and where the sun would be during our shoot and Artemis helped me make some shot choices by being able to plug in my camera, resolution, and lens choices.

The shoot itself went well the next day. The creative agency, Signal Factory, hired me out with my RED Weapon Helium package and CP.2 lens set. We used their Oconnor 1030Ds fluid head and sticks plus their Dana Dolly. For the Dana Dolly, Signal flew out with their setup and we bought two 10’ pipes from Home Depot near the location. They’d also rented some additional grip & electric but we didn’t end up using it – pretty bummed we didn’t even turn on the ARRI Sky Panels.

Signal had also hired a couple local photogs to shoot stills and drone footage so we had to coordinate on set as necessary. The client actually nixed the second location and we were able to get all we needed at the first.

We dumped footage back at the hotel, cleaned up, and went out for dinner. Our flights were stupid early the next morning so it wasn’t going to be much of a late night.

One thing I plan to look into this year to try and make my life in airports life easier is TSA PreCheck. In addition to my checked bags, I travel with two carry-ons: a larger backpack (personal items, 13" MacBook Pro, and iPad) and a roller bag for my "must-have" camera gear (camera bodies and lenses). I always carry on my main camera gear just in case a checked bag gets lost. Clients are paying me and my travel expenses so it does them no good for me to show up to a shoot without my camera – it's happened before. I typically run into issues with TSA because they freak out having to check all my gear during screenings. There have been more security measure updates recently and when I was leaving Oklahoma City the TSA agents took out all my camera gear, batteries, and iPad to X-ray again without giving me a heads up. I understand their goal is to protect our safety, but experience has taught me they seem to have more to think about than how to properly handle camera equipment. TSA PreCheck is something like $85, lasts five years, and because the TSA has already done a background check it helps get you through security much quicker. Their website mentions that “In December 2017, 93% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 min.”