Pay me

As a budding photographer and videographer I’ve definitely taken my fair share of low or no paying gigs. It comes with the territory. That’s how you learn, make contacts, get known. I’ve noticed though that when it comes to these pro bono gigs that I can barely muster the energy. Even doing a shoot for a friend like I am tonight I just don’t feel like it. Its not exciting. Standing behind the lens, snaking through the crowd, its fun sometimes, but a lot of the time its just work and I expect to get paid and paid reasonably well when I work. Sure there are times when a job is just fun, exciting, challenging, but my standards and my expectations are definitely on the rise.

The trouble is that during slow months like this one I tend to say yes to jobs that I shouldn’t – those with little to no pay that also just aren’t interesting enough to warrant the effort. Maybe I’m still generating goodwill and contacts, but if I’m not having fun or there isn’t a decent amount of money on the table its hard to take things seriously and deliver the best work. I think sometimes I’m shooting myself in the foot.

Fortunately I’m not alone. When I read about famous actors, comedians, artists and entrepreneurs rarely did things go smoothly for them from the start. Usually it was a jagged progression of successes and failures, excitement and drudgery. I’m in good company and will just keep doing what I love and what I’m good at. Photos tonight, even if I don’t really feel like it.

Click

A piece of the puzzle may have just clinked into place. Yesterday I found out about an idyllic fruit farm in B.C. that’s run by an older couple that bring in seasonal help for the fruit harvest. I could harvest cherries for two to four weeks. A working vacation! In a lush valley of trees, mountains and lakes. There could be worse things.

Maybe I could even get into some trouble with the B.C. burners and make that beat poetry film I wanted to make with Shayne Avec I Grec. Not a bad month. That sounds like a contract to me, a contract of my own making. I don’t even know what month this is I’m looking at… looks like usually late July, early August – thanks Google.

Mind you that’s prime wedding video season, but who wants to shoot wedding videos all summer? Not I. Maybe a few.

But the virtual house tours seem like the way to go. I just want to wander around mansions in Westmount and get paid for it – I’ll admit it.

Oh, put up a screen in the living room. We’re ready for winter now.

Except maybe that beach party…

Gotta get on with Cirque du Boudoir for that one. Also feelin’ a real yearning for some circusy fun.

Back to the wonderful life. Bye bye Internetland.

Wire Art?

I’ve been thinking about building some kind of wireframe art for a while along the lines of this piece by artist Benedict Radcliffe though going with something a bit smaller… maybe. Anyways in my research to find out exactly what kind of wire coat hangars are made of (an ideal mix of strength and malleability) I found something, well, cool. Behold, coat hangars work just as good as high priced audio cables! Well shit. That’s fucking awesome. Instead of going out and buying expensive cable for the Living Room Cinematheque’s audio setup I think I’ll just rig up some kind of horribly complex steampunk contraption instead. A complicated wire sculpture winding around the ceiling and walls might be just what the doctor ordered, and why stop there? Why not add homemade variable resistors and other techniquities along the way?

While the rest of the world tries its best to go completely wireless I’m going to embrace the most primitive wiring I can imagine and turn it into installation art. All the better if there’s a shock hazard (sadly I can’t find the article on art designed to nearly injure spectators, but think Survival Research Laboratories and you’ll understand my muse a bit better). What better way to keep houseguests on their toes?

Just some stuff

There are many things I could write about tonight, so the question becomes, where is my passion right now? What is burning to get out? What needs to be released, or lost, aflutter on the breeze or buried in the long term memory banks, not to be seen or heard from again until some night as an old man a thousand miles from here? What indeed.

I suppose the quickest and easiest thing to do, if not necessarily the most insightful is just to make note, tick off the items that I’ve accomplished lately. How about that? That’s a reasonable start at least.

  • My application to Concordia University is ready to go. A bit of a revelation behind that. Its due tomorrow. I finished it today. See what I’ve discovered about myself, or rather accepted is that I work best under stress. That’s a positive way of saying that I procrastinate. And why not be positive about it? I mean if that’s the way I am, why be any other way? Planning, preparing, taking your time and being careful – that shit’s for chumps. Give me a three alarm deadline in half an hour – that’s when I shine. Ask for the impossible and you’ll get it. Ask for the possible and I’ll probably sleep in.
  • I bought a Macbook Pro. Now this is kind of a counter to the prior point because I planned the hell out of this one. Extensive research into Apple’s product rollouts told me that something was going to happen at the end of February, so I waited, and fastidiously kept track of the pricing on my particular model of choice. Sure enough when I looked today I found rumours circulating that Apple was upgrading its Macbooks to a new processor and a push was on to get rid of the old. When I looked at my model there it was… $650 cheaper. Bang! Sold! Should arrive sometime next week. Did I mention I hate Macs?
  • Carmella asked me to go to Cuba with her. She found a great deal and she’s going stir crazy and needs to get off this big glob of dirt we call North America. Fair enough. Trick is she wants to go SOON. How the heck am I going to get the time off? How the heck am I going to pay for it? Sure I just saved $650, but does that entitle me to blow it on a week in Cuba? Then again, she has a good point – once Castro’s gone things will start to change down there very quickly. Tempting…

Nuit Blanche is Saturday night. Best English translation is all night city wide art party. I have no idea where to go or what to do, but hell, its going to be fun. Chriz might even drop in for the night. Tomorrow night is the more pressing concern. Which of two or three parties to go to? I wussed out on the Pound tonight since I’ve got to deliver my application before work tomorrow and see if I can get an April 1 takeover for one of the St. Henri lofts. I still wussed out. Whatever. There’ll be plenty of time to boogey. I need to get some things done first.

Wow. What an efficient blog post. Not entirely profound or entertaining, but it gets the job done. Perhaps a 20/20 travelogue in hindsight for Chriz and I’s little Dominican adventure next. Why not?

No Such Thing as a Wasted Trip

It would be understandable if I were upset. After all getting a projector is a big part of my plan to create the Living Room Cinematheque. Without a projector the whole thing kind of falls apart, unless I can manage to convince people that staring at a blank wall is somehow entertaining.

Today I ventured out across town to meet the seller of the projector, do a little demo and hopefully seal the deal, giving me a super cheap solution to the projector problem. I got on the metro and headed out, almost to the end of the line, went to the designated meeting spot and ordered myself a coke. Five to ten minutes later my phone rang and the seller informed me that A) he was running late and B) he had just tested the projector and it was “acting funny.” He told me he’d call back in fifteen minutes trying to resolve the problem.

The night before I’d done some research on the projector, obsessively googling it and also checking out the alternatives on eBay. There were some misgivings from “the experts” about the video performance of the unit though consumers didn’t seem to mind. In terms of alternatives there wasn’t much in a comparable price range. It was either this or something substantially more expensive. I figured for the Living Room Cinematheque pilot project a cheap projector that wasn’t perfect would do just fine – at least until such time as I could afford something better.

Waiting for the seller to call me back I decided to explore the neighbourhood since its a part of Montreal I haven’t been in before. My interest was quickly piqued by a rather tall old smokestack and a large circular tower a few blocks away. I set out to discover what exactly this architectural marvel was. As I drew near I figured it out, the smokestack was the physical plant for Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine. Trying to get a closer view of the impressive old tower I ventured into one of the buildings. Immediately upon stepping onto the grounds though a strange feeling tingled at the back of my consciousness. As I walked the corridors I began to figure it out.

Checking up on Google when I got home confirmed it, Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine is a psychiatric hospital. The old halls were permeated with that distinct aura that inhabits these places. The people I saw in the halls had that forlorn, confused and in some cases totally removed look. Some hunched and uncommunicative, others alert to things that nobody could see but them. Electric maintenance trolleys and floor polishers rushed through the facility like busy worker ants, almost oblivious to the patients around them as they slid around with their quietly eerie electronic hum. Most of the hospital was quiet, forlorn, except for the area underneath the tower, the apparent nerve centre of the facility. Here a freight elevator waited to ferry supplies up and down the imposing structure and staff scurried back and forth. Temptingly one of the first doors I walked through was right next to a door marked “Tunnel Access” (in English no less), but psychiatric hospitals probably have more vigilant security than most, and I’d hate to be mistaken for a patient while trying to talk my way out of a sticky situation.

At the end of the day it was an inspiring backdrop with incredible story potential. Sad to think of what it was in reality though, with its fenced off outdoor yards and that panopticonic tower. Suffering from paranoia and delusions I’m sure that tower’s iconography and symbolic power did more to push patients to lurking paranoia then to stability and peace of mind.

With perfect timing the seller called me back as I was walking off the grounds and informed me that the projector still wasn’t working right and that it might be an issue with the fan. He apologized profusely but was glad it’d happened before he sold it rather than afterwards, and this in part is why I’m not upset.

Buying the projector and having it subsequently break on me would have been a much bigger hassle than going out and having a coke and home fries this morning. The projector probably wasn’t my best buy for my purposes despite the excellent price anyway, now I don’t have to worry about it. Not only that but I got to see things in the city that I haven’t yet seen – the eerie mental hospital and the science fiction inspiring Radisson metro station. It got me up and out of bed before noon which is something I haven’t done in… weeks. In the end much more good came of the experience than bad and I’m sure that before you know it I’ll find the perfect projector at a price I can live with. No worries.

So… I have every reason to be upset. But I’m not. I’m actually quite happy. Let’s see what else the day holds in store!

So if you snuff it…

…would you be willing to make it into a snuff film?

Perhaps I should rephrase that lest I manage to alienate the lot of you and not get my question answered. Okay, trying again;

If you were to die doing something you love, be that sky diving, mountain climbing, autocross racing or exploring storm drains (you knew it was coming) and your death was captured on video – would you want anyone to see it?

As a media producer I find it an interesting question. As a person who engages in dangerous hobbies it interests me doubly. The video that immediately springs to mind is the Steve Irwin vs. stingray video.

Talk to me people. I want to know what you think.

Super Super 8 Haul

super-8-haul.jpg

I admit it. I am a bit of a retro gear addict. Super 8 being one of my particular inflictions. Through a series of synchronistic events super 8 has splashed back down in my life after a two or three year near hiatus. Not only do I have a prospective job shooting on the old home movie format but my friend The Editor Formerly Known as the Producer suggested we do our next project on super 8. I bought some super 8 film today for that project from the Kodak warehouse in Montreal, met a really cool, enthusiastic young guy working there and then, and then…

I saw a posting on craigslist in the Free section for a super 8 viewer. I responded. Not only was there a previewer, but a camera, light meter, two microphones, splicer and two vintage super 8 b-grade films. My best super 8 haul yet. All free. The universe is smiling on me. Thing is, I am the universe, so I guess I’m smiling on myself. That’s positive thinking in action! Its always been there in the back of my head, doing something of merit with super 8, now its all coming together, spontaneously and effortlessly. Fucking hell, sweet as!

So, watch for more super 8 productions in the near future. The bug is back, and this time he’s got more bite!

Did I mention the splicer even still has tape?

Promise

“That’s three times you promised.”

– Tyler Durden, Fight Club

I just realised in the shower this morning that Edward Norton’s character “Jack” (if that is his real name) in Fight Club never breaks his promise to Tyler not to talk to Marla about Tyler. Why did I realise this in the shower? This is rather inane isn’t it? No. Not entirely.

Fight Club is, among other things about masculinity. One important part of masculinity is steadfastness, trustworthiness, dedication. When a man gives his word, swears to do something or gives a handshake its supposed to mean something. It means, “I will do (or not do) to the absolute best of my ability this thing that I have said, no matter the personal consequences.” This is when a man is a rock, solid, permanent and unmovable. I thought of this in the shower when I was thinking about expressing to someone my stance on something and asking myself whether in this particular instance an oath was really called for.

In Fight Club “Jack” promises Tyler that he won’t discuss Tyler with Marla. Eventually it becomes very important for “Jack” to know just what the relationship between Tyler and Marla is, but instead of asking her about Tyler, he asks her about the relationship between Marla and himself.

“Jack” finds a workaround and keeps his honour intact. A minor detail given all that’s going on, but I think, an important one.

And what have you done?

Today was destined to be a productive one. After I got up. At noon. Well it happens. That’s how I roll. The whole process of waking up is sacred, and besides, I was having some delightfully weird dreams. If I’m going to start lucid dreaming I’ve got to really get into my unconscious state now don’t I?

Anyways. I hopped into the car and whipped a quick 180 in front of a disbelieving Aveo, which has the distinction of being in the awkwardly un-cool category of bigger than a SmartCar or Mini but smaller than any other “real” cars. Dweeb. Rolled east, then north to get to Sono Video which had been recommended to me by the production guru at Mainfilm. This now is the true test of my French speaking skills. Describing the technical problems I’ve been having with the CommandoCam to the degree that I can get the little soldier fixed to fight another day – before I break her again. The PD-150 is probably one of the most robust DV cams out there, but she’s still not really designed for hour long alkilai dust storms, humid sewer air, dirty mine tailings or breaking the fall of a videographer trying to climb a fence next to Niagara Falls in January. She’s survived it all with only some minor glitches, but those glitches are becoming annoying enough that its time to fix her.

Next I dropped the car off at Canadian Tire, again trying to ask for a cleaning of the fuel system, and oil change and engine diagnostic all in French. For some reason not all of the appropriate terminology was a part of my grade school French education – considering I wasn’t even of legal driving age before I left French immersion. Even so I managed to get the oil changed, though there wasn’t time to do the other stuff today so I’ll have to go back. I hate spending all this money on the car, but if doing all of these different things to it can bring up the fuel economy by 2% here, 5% there it could work out to saving me lots in the long run, not to mention the environmental benefits and such.

While I was waiting for the car the dude at C-Tire called me to inform me that the battery was pretty crappy – trying to incite me to buy a new one no doubt, which eventually I will do but not now. I mean let’s not blow all my money in one visit! Anyways I didn’t really understand him at first and I gave a pretty akward reply. Immediately after hanging up I figured out the better way to say it. And so it goes with learning. Those neural pathways got a little workout, figuring out how to say that one phrase better, so that next time it comes up, chances are better that I’ll get it right, more natural.

This is the essential thing. Making myself operate in French despite the opportunity to do so in English. I could probably have done both transactions in English, but I chose not to. I even went so far as to use the Canadian Tire to the east, knowing that it would be more French. So… personal immersion continues.

Anyways, some decent stuff accomplished today. Some photo/video work prospects finally coming up. My goal for 2008 is to almost double my take home monthly income by the end of the year. If that’s the goal I’ve got some work to do. Ta.

Panasonic – 1, Sony – 3

Sorry Panasonic but Sony just trounced you with a three pointer swoosh, not that I wasn’t utterly charmed by your opening point, but…

I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad I didn’t buy a camera. Panasonic’s HVX-200 was a sexy piece of machinery when it came out. For the past few years Panasonic has really been taking the lead in making us creative types drool, first with the DVX-100 that shot in 24P and had film-like gamma settings (in other words you could make video look like film), then upped the ante with the HD version, the HVX-200 that also boasted the tapeless P2 recording system. No more fucking dropouts, tape snags, dust or hours long capture sessions in editing. Hallelujah!

All the while Sony just sat there. Quietly. Turns out they were paying very careful attention and they’ve come out with something that blows Panasonic out of the water.

Behold the PMW-EX1 XDCAM. It shoots HD. It shoots in 24P. It has cine-gamma settings. It records on flash cards, but not P2, oh no. The EX1 records on a smaller, cheaper, faster card format, SxS. Right now only Sony and Sandisk make the things, but fortunately Sony learned its lesson from BetaMax and Memory Sticks. Its open format, so there will be more manufacturers and the price will go down. Thank fucking god.

So my needlist has been changed. For a comparable price I can get a superior camera. Probably a year or two away, but Sony’s done what needed to be done to get this transition to HD really rolling. Only trouble is I’ll need bigger hard drives…