Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

seminarThere’s no doubt that this little thing called the Internet is here to stay. Having an online presence, for many, has meant ditching traditional printed marketing materials forever. Once a static medium, the Web has now matured into a multimedia platform that can broadcast messages directly to customers and followers in fractions of a second. However, the technology has evolved so quickly that many of us can’t keep up with it. You know that video is one of the most effective ways to communicate but where do you even begin? Shooting a video on your phone and then uploading it on YouTube and hoping for the best is not the greatest of strategies.

As well as actually doing a lot of stuff, Glenn and I also love to teach stuff. I’ve had the privilege of doing all-day hands-on video and photography workshops with some great people and Glenn has mentored young musicians who have since gone on to great opportunities. Both of us have a lot of experience working with video for the Web so we put our heads together and decided that we should share some of that wisdom with others.

So, over the next year or so we’ll be testing the waters and hosting a series of seminars about creating video content for the Web. It’s aimed at businesses but really anyone who wants to put video on the Web can benefit. It will be a fun and informative affair with lots of audience interaction and hands-on work. You’ll learn about cameras, lighting and sound and how best to market your finished video. Watch this space for more information.

Unless you are a “gear head”, you probably don't care about the technical side of filmmaking, but even so, the technology of today always amazes me…that, and the fact that it only takes a couple of people to operate it.

Take us here at Americonic Films for instance. We are about as lean as it gets, comprising two core people; Glenn Scott Lacey and myself, Steven Dempsey. Even with the exceptional and dedicated people who assist during the shoot we are still a tiny crew. It all works so well because we are a mulitalented bunch. Glenn is a film composer, director, editor, schmoozer and solution-finder. I am a camera operator, lighting director and, well, that's about it but we do kind of share roles when it's needed. So really, our combined skills could be spread out over at least six or more people. But because we love doing what we do and keep going until we literally fall down, we don't ever regard this as actual work. No way, it's play…(n.b. on our invoice it's still billed as “work”).

But back to the technology part. It's now possible to shoot a really really high quality video using just a still camera and some decent lenses. Canon introduced the first full-frame video-capable camera about 5 years ago and the technology exploded in the world of independent filmmakers. Before that, I was attaching all kinds of adapters to my regular video camera to get the “film look”. Hey wait, what's a film look and where can I get one? Well, for some reason people think that when the subject of the frame is in focus and the background is out of focus, it looks more appealing (or filmic). You see this kind of aesthetic in most movies and TV dramas and, up until recently, only movie cameras using actual film could make a moving picture look this way.
Regular still cameras have been capable of shooting this way for eons but companies like Nikon and Canon only recently figured out how to make these still frames move. The benefit to people like us is that we no longer need a fork lift and associated crew to move our gear. Most of it can be carried quite easily by our lean team. Not only does this give us many more options in terms of location but most of all it allows us to work faster and more efficiently. Of course, you can't just pick up one of these cameras and suddenly make beautiful pictures…at least not on purpose. There is a wealth of knowledge that goes into framing, exposing and moving the camera as well as learning the actual language of film and knowing how to direct actors, etc…oh, and don't get me started on how much work goes into post production.
Still, I never become complacent about the fact that I have everything I ever wanted now and the capture quality of my beloved 5D MarkII, the camera that really started it all, continues to blow my mind.
Despite the copyright watermark on the photos, they were taken by Nicholas Nascimento.

Although our company is still new, we have already racked up some special memories. This endeavor of ours goes way beyond shooting films, it has given us the unique opportunity to meet some fascinating people and to be invited into their private lives for a brief time. More than anything else we do, that is what is most rewarding.

Laurel Marie Hagner is a glass artist and owner of Glassometry Studios and her work can be seen nationally in public and private collections. Glenn met her a few weeks ago and expressed interest in shooting a mini documentary about her work. She responded with enthusiasm so we set a date and I traveled down to the Portland area.

The drive to her studio took us into the countryside once again. We had planned to get started at 8am in anticipation of a full day of shooting. We wanted to capture lots of action shots of Laurel and her team creating some glass pieces and then interview her towards the end of the day. Actor Michael Patrick Connolly came along with us to help with the logistics. We knew we would have to move fast and also stay out of the way of the hot furnaces and molten glass.

Laurel arrived shortly after we got to the studio and greeted us warmly. She struck me as someone who was confident and completely in control of what was going on. She quickly briefed us about the day’s schedule and Glenn and I worked out some basic shot ideas and soon we were rolling camera. It became apparent that the speed in which Laurel moved was going to be a challenge. She and her team were very accommodating and worked closely with us to get the shots we needed. Laurel’s command of her art is mesmerizing to watch. It was like witnessing brain surgery in the way she handled the delicacy of her designs, while shoving the glass into the furnace, pulling it out at just the right moment, cooling it, using her bare hand to hold the long handle and the other hand to cradle the glowing material in layers of newspaper, gripping it like a baseball glove.

The energy level reached a frenzy and beads of sweat could be seen on every forehead, including ours. We found the team’s rhythm and moved the camera in concert with it, running here and there for the shot, alternating between a dolly, a crane and then the tripod and then running around with the camera handheld. Were we getting good footage? I didn’t know and at one point I was so wrapped up in the magnificence of these moments of creation, I really didn’t care. I trusted my instincts and tried to stay present to the orange glow of the hot glass and the deep blue of the flame.

We broke for lunch and got to know each other a little and then we were back shooting. The studio itself is basically a large warehouse so there was an abundance of things to capture. We could have easily spent a week there.

As the evening approached, things began to wind down and we prepared for the interview portion of the day. Laurel was so patient and gracious and we tried to make everything as comfortable as possible for her. When we got going, we witnessed an amazing metamorphosis; Laurel as the confident engineer of elaborate glass art to Laurel the vulnerable and sensitive woman of the earth. She shared her wonderful philosophy with us, deeply rooted in nature and how it is the biggest influence in her work. She also shared details of her recently deceased filmmaker father, his impact on the direction of her life was clearly significant and emotionally wrenching to hear. There were tears shed and I felt an undeniable bond with this woman who I had just met for the first time a few short hours earlier.

In the end, we walked away from this experience with some great footage and some deep appreciation for the wonderful glass sculptures all around us. This is why we love what we do. This kind of experience is transcendent and we are so grateful to have met this wonderful artist. Thank you Laurel, it was a pleasure getting to know you.

You can view the film on our Film Clips Page