Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The great photo migration of 2018: RIP Flickr account

Flickr is dead to me. No, really. As of this year, I cancelled my Flickr Pro service and began migrating everything off of the platform.

This is the end of an era, as I've been using Flickr since I purchased my my Canon T2i back in 2010.

While the service has definitely served its purpose, I am trying my best to unify the tools and resources that I use as a creative. So begins the migration to another platform. While it is definitely going to be a bit of a difficult process, I have pulled all of the images from my Flickr account and plan to dump them onto my personal website.

Now, you might be thinking, "why didn't you back up all of your raw images on on a hard drive?" Well, I tried. And then I moved. Several times. And packed my things. Which got separated. Several times. And files kept shifting around. And computers got updated. And hard drives crashed (that was a nightmare). So, I basically could spend some time to gather together the files I want from various locations, or I could just download them in bulk off of Flickr and be done with it. I chose option B. If I ever need the original quality images, then...I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Anyway, Flickr is not what I remember it used to be. It forced me into a paid plan, then gave free accounts the same perks to entice newer users, so then I stopped paying for it. By that time, I realized that I had better resources at hand. Google slowly became the place where I kept a majority of my images, and that's not even counting professional photography. Plus, I had the option to make any albums public, essentially making it another photo portfolio. And now, I have my personal website, where I in the early stages of creating my own photo portfolio (web design is love/hate for me). So, I'm dropping Flickr. And taking my pictures with me.

It took some digging to discover how the process of exporting photos is handled on Flickr. I found the option to export my albums under the Camera Roll tab.

Under that tab, it gives you the option to select each album in your account, and with that, the ability to download those albums, each into a designated ZIP file.

In hindsight, Flickr does give you some analytics to monitor, if you're into that thing. Numbers aren't really that important to me. At least not now.

The next step for me will be to get everything dumped onto Google Photos and my personal website. The website is a constant work-in-progress, so that will also give me the opportunity to update some things.

Oh hey, is that my film reel on the front page that I haven't update in probably three years? Maybe that will be my next project. I will definitely have more to come on the management of portfolio items.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Film contests, time, & deadlines

Last month was the annual 48 Hour Film Project for Pittsburgh. I've participated in several of those contests in the past, even taking on the role of team leader. Unfortunately, for this contest, I had to step away. I've probably touched on this before, but it's great experience that really tests your talents as a creative. It's also one of the most draining experiences I've ever been a part of, which is why I elected to sit out this one, in any capacity.

While it is fantastic to work towards that goal of creating a film under time constraints and work with my friends in colleagues around Pittsburgh, I've become a little hesitant towards working long hours on set to reach that goal. Not that it happens every time. And sometimes it has to be done to get the job done. I understand that. It has just been very taxing in the past, so I needed to step away from any offers to participate this time around.

I'll be back in the game next time around. Maybe even in a leadership role, like I swore I'd do again. In the meantime, I never got a chance to share the film projects I worked on late last year. I had some photos I wanted to share from both shoots, which I finally uploaded to my website. I've been moving everything off of Flickr and migrating onto my own website in order consolidate on creative content locations. Check them out if you get the chance. It's always fun to capture the magic that happens on set.

For a little background on the photos, I had the opportunity to participate in the horror-themed 48 Hour Film Project, something that I've become familiar with over that last couple of years. As I just mentioned, I have led a couple of teams in the past, but my ever shifting and busy schedule has led me to take a back seat on the more recent projects.

It's nice to take a less prominent role on set, after working as a Director of Photography over a majority of last year (on the set of Body Farm). I've been asked to work as a gaffer or grip on various other occasions, but my day job always had to take priority over the course of this year. Thankfully, a few contests cropped up that allowed me to help with some filming on the weekends.

As I've mentioned previously in my blog, the 48 Hour Film Project is something that I've become very familiar with over the past few years. As a team leader for both Suture Films and Cipher Eye Media, I was able to work with a great group of talented individuals in all aspects of the filmmaking process. Of course that also included all of the costs and frustrations that came with being involved with the whole process, including the lack of sleep and unexpected hiccups in the process (camera overheating issues, editing software crashing, etc), which I experienced a lot of during my team in charge of teams.

After my third outing as team leader, I decided to help out on an 'as needed' basis, as my crewmates became busier with their lives and I battled some personal demons. As I also mentioned before, I eventually had to take a break from the film scene in Pittsburgh to get some things in order.

2017 proved to be an improvement over the disastrous 2016 that I endured. Anyway, not to get too personal, but I eventually became eager to return to that film grind that I loved and missed so much.

So, when the projects rolled in for 2017, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of them. Pittsburgh's 48HFP also hosts a horror-themed contest in the fall (closer to Halloween). The guys at Reckless Amnesiac (of Hobo Hunters fame) put together a team to participate in the event.

I was invited on by the team to assist with audio recording and any other duties that required extra hands on set. As always, it was a pleasure to work with these guys.

Since I had only operated sound gear a handful of times in the past, this was a bit change to operate a boom and recorder on this production. Sound had never really my thing, but I had always understood the importance of getting good sound on a shoot (something that could be overlooked newer filmmakers).

With the change on responsibilities on set, there always comes the process of thinking of how to efficiently do those responsibilities to the best of your ability. I had the think outside of the box, as this was a different department than what I was used to. How do I get close enough to the actors in wide shots? How do I keep up with actors while they are moving, while also avoiding the frame while the camera is moving with the actors? These were questions that I constantly had to ask myself.

The Reckless Amnesiac crew is also good at finding very unique and appropriate locations to shoot at. This was no exception. They had tracked down an abandoned house with old, creepy objects that were left behind: the perfect location for a horror shoot.

As a side note, the South Side Slopes (our shooting location) have many, many steps. It feels like they go on forever when you're carrying around production equipment. I still get horror flashblacks.

Anyway, the inside of this house was every bit of weird, gross, and intriguing, making it one of the more interesting shoots that I've been on. The dedication, professionalism, and good nature of the crew also made this a very fun shoot to be on, even after we had wrapped in the late hours of the night.

The final product is a film called Infective, which is available on YouTube.

Moving on from that, I was invited to assist with a different crew a month later. This time, I was back in the camera department, assisting with any lighting setups and camera needs. This shoot was very unique, as it allowed us to explore facilities available at Point Park University and Pitt and utilize them as shooting locations.

The contest, the Four Points Film Project, follows the same basic idea as the 48HFP. The result was an awesome little film called Low Probability.

 I enjoyed assisting in this film because I had the opportunity to work with individuals that I had never met before, providing a different approach to the filmmaking process and showing me different techniques.

It was a great new experience, complete with unique locations and some real insight to the screenwriting process. Once again, it was a late wrap, but I was very happy with how the film turned out and hope to work with this group of creatives in the future.

Speaking of screenwriting, I've decided focus more on writing going forward. While I won't be completely leaving the filmmaking scene, my focus on writing will take up more of my time, meaning less film/video/content production (for the time being). I will be updating frequently on how that process is going and what I've learned in the process.

In the meantime, I hope you are all still feeding your creative needs. Feel free to contact me for any assistance in the future.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Inspired Traveler

Though I've not traveled much in the past couple of years, it has always been in the back of my mind. When can I get away and how can I afford the luxury only select few can afford?

Well, it also hit me that time is very limited and traveling is often used to inspire artists and creatives. I, for one, have been looking for something to kick-start the creative writing that I've been holding off for far too long.

My personal belief is that travel can help to move along the constipated condition that is known as writer's block. Travel can also be used as a motivator, helping you to find the right creative state of mind.

Sometimes it's important for me to remember my priorities when I have so many things going on in my life. Stepping away from the chaos of everyday life helps to re-prioritize your daily tasks and find the time to let your creative energies flow.

In my ever growing struggle to maintain a personal life, juggle several hobbies, produce content, work a 9-to-5 job, and freelance in both video production and writing, several things tend to get lost in the shuffle and priorities constantly shift on a daily basis.

For example, my podcast has a total of nine episodes recorded, only six of which are currently out. Two were recorded back in January, but due to the constant barrage in my ever shifting routine, I had to bench a couple projects while I got a few other things sorted out.

Life as usual.

Anyway, to escape from the constant grind of things, I was able to make a trip to the city of Minneapolis. Originally planned as a trip to see one of my favorite bands play (Closure in Moscow),  we mapped out some fun adventures as we scoped out the city.

This had been the first time that I had gotten away in about three years. In that time, I had forgotten the true importance of getting away.

Certain college and university institutes actually provide the opportunity to study something called Travel Writing. Particularly, Chatham University comes to mind.

When I was applying for graduate programs about six years ago (christ, I'm getting old), I looked into the particular Fiction Writing program that was available through Chatham. It was interesting because it placed an emphasis of moving around to faraway locations and using that experience to help get the juices flowing.

As writers/creators, we are constantly pulling from our real-world experiences to create a world beyond our own. Travelling certainly has its perks, as it gets you away from the daily repetitive grind to show you something new and exciting. We can ultimately expand on ideas with this fresh take on the world around us.

Even just having a "staycation" can help with clearing a cluttered mind, filled with the fragments of our "important business" that we take priority over. How doI benefit from stressing over our short-term accomplishments in our 9-to-5 grind? It comes down to just wasted time and money that has to be thrown away to the rising costs of living.

Of course, we're all wired differently, so maybe my needs are much different from yours. Some people do very well with the time that is given to them, and I always admire that. Unfortunately, I can get drained by the barrage of repetitive work, which is why I find such love for an "escape" every now and then.

If you find yourself in a tough spot creatively, just remember that it's important to step away from the routines of life and explore something new, helping to provide something fresh to bring to the table.

To see more from my trip to Minneapolis, please check out my newly updated photo section on my website (Sorry it's not more organized. It's still a work in progress).

Until next time.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Behind the camera with Reckless Amnesiac

After discussing the next big project by Reckless Amnesiac, I was offered to assist with the first two episodes of the hilarious series known as Hobo Hunters. It was a fantastic experience and I'm always honored to work with the legendary Ian Altenbaugh and Joe Bucci.

SHAMELESS PLUG: For more on the series and the creators, check out the second episode of the Decipher the Media Podcast
Photo credit: Rebekah Lehman

So, I figured it would be a good opportunity to talk about it in my blog. How did it feel to get back behind the camera after wrapping the long-in-development Body Farm? Obviously, great. To work on a comedy series that spoke to my dark sense of humor...well, that's what made this so wonderful.

We shot two episodes in one weekend. Each episode only took up a day of production (about 10 hours). Working with these gentlemen before, I know what to expect. The level of knowledge and professional demeanor of these guys was directly reflected in the quality of the production.

I was lucky enough to be one of the two on camera in a two-camera setup. It gives me a bit of envy when I work with a camera like the Blackmagic. My personal setup throughout Body Farm was a Canon EOS 6D with an L-series zoom lens, so I've always wished for something more. Unfortunately, Blackmagics were always a bit out of my price range, so it's always great to work with one on a production.

Photo credit: Rebekah Lehman

The only difficulty I experienced with this production was the physically demanding aspect of a documentary-style production. Carrying around a rig all day took a lot out of me. My shoulders and arms were extremely sore by the end of the weekend, which is probably a direct reflect of how out-of-shape I am. I guess that's more reason than ever to get back to the gym.

I'm hopeful to have a camera setup like this in the near future. In the meantime, I'm just happy that my background in camera operations still finds a use in the local community of filmmakers.
Photo credit: Rebekah Lehman

The strongest aspect of Hobo Hunters, by far, is the writing. Ian and Joe clearly know how to write something that is both hilarious and socially relevant. Sure, the comedy might not be for everyone, as it pokes fun at topics like religion and cultural stereotypes, but it does so in a way that is relevant to today's bubbling climate. It teaches you that you shouldn't take life too seriously.

It especially speaks volumes to me.Maybe this wasn't the creators' intention, but we, the audience always draw our own interpretation of an artist's work. In this case, that was my interpretation.

Maybe this will finally be the fuel I need to hop back into the world of writing after such a long hiatus. Time, always being my enemy, will tell.

In meantime, I am grateful for being involved in another project from these fine gentlemen. We'll certainly cross paths again soon.


Photo credit: Rebekah Lehman

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Soap Box: Relationships as professionals and effects on the job

Moving into 2018, I wanted to look back and touch upon some tidbits of knowledge that picked up along the way. It has been a great journey so far and I'm very appreciative of everyone that has come into my life. I have made some strong bonds that I am very proud of. As creatives, it's all about understanding and reaching that common goal that makes it all worthwhile.

We are as strong as our weakest link. I'm sure that's been quoted many times before by many different people. Personally, I heard it a lot when I play sports in high school. Of course, I was never really good at sports, so maybe that quote was directed at me in that respect.

Anyway, the quote reverberates to many aspects of our lives. I think of this quote as I'm writing this because I think back to the many creative productions I've been on and how they've panned out based on every individual's strengths and weaknesses.

I feel my biggest fear is letting down my teammates, no matter what the job may be or how closely I'm involved. Specifically, my roles in film projects come to mind.

There have been times that I have worked myself to exhaustion with moonlighting then came to a film set and felt useless as I struggled from the lack of sleep or energy. So, why did I continue to do this? Because I felt every project was worth it. I felt my crewmates were counting on me to get the job done. Most importantly, I understood that I was a piece of a puzzle.

A puzzle? What good is a puzzle with a missing piece? They each play a part to create something that is much bigger than themselves. And when finished, the results are beautiful and create a larger understanding of the roles of each interlocking piece.

At the point of this photo, I had gone at least
36 hours without sleep.
We, as a crew, interlock to create cohesive matter. At the time, we might not be able to see that. It's not until we witness the finished product that we understand.

In a film production, it can sometimes be hard to see when it matters to work together as a well-oiled machine. I know there are times that my flaws can get in the way of seeing the bigger picture. Nobody is perfect, and it is our duty as human beings to work around our imperfections to achieve a greater goal.

Each position and department on a film set has their own specific set of duties. However, they should never work against each other. It is our job as a crew to create an understanding of the overall goal and how to achieve it. We operate to obtain the same thing.

As I mentioned before, that can be overshadowed by our personal demons. I know there are times that I can be selfish, which can go against the common goal.

As a Director of Photography, I may have a different vision that the Director. Understanding the importance of understanding each other is something I always try to keep in mind. Everyone works differently. It is our job to use our own strengths to build upon our crewmate's strengths.

It feels good when it all comes together. As you all have heard, Body Farm is complete and had a
very successful premiere. I'm very proud of everyone involved and I feel that we all shared a very special bond over the past few years.

I know I can be difficult at certain times because my stubbornness and pride get in the way. For those of you out there who were patient with me, I am forever grateful.

I also know that I'm not the most technically educated in the terms proper set etiquette or techniques. I did not have the opportunity go to a proper film school. In fact, I did not know where I wanted to go with my life until my junior year of undergrad. And I have Juniata College to thank for helping me along the way, even though I only scratched the surface by the time I graduated.

However, I feel that it is important to continue to learn even after our educations have finished. Even without a proper education in professional filmmaking, you will still find me assisting in any capacity on set, making mental notes of how others do their jobs and being observant of how everyone works together. I will then do my best to fill in where needed.

Large egos can sometimes get things done in a production. Conversely, large egos can also create a very toxic environment on set, if one individual places themselves above all else. It is important that we all remain humble and understanding of each others needs in a film production.

Why am I speaking of the importance of teamwork? Because I don't want anyone reading this to make the same mistakes that I have made. I've made a lot of connections over the past few years. But I've also burned some bridges, not realizing until it's too late.

It's inevitable in this industry that we can't always please everyone, but it is important to understand their perspective to help complete a common goal.

I'm very thankful to everyone that I have ever worked with. No matter the size of the project, I appreciate the efforts that are always put forth. You guys are what keep me going.

Wrapping up the last few projects, I wanted to share this clarity and insight with you. As artists, we are a community of like-minded individuals.

We are a family. And I'm so proud of my family. I'm looking forward to growing with you in 2018 and beyond.

Much love, my friends.