1. I was able to seize a great opportunity to hear Al Gore speak (fo' free!) at Harvard University. Always love a chance to hear troubling data about the planet in a Southern accent. That experience turned out to be the start of many great speakers in February, including two BBC World journalists, the exiled prince of Iran, and Al Gore's former domestic policy advisor. Now to make sense of it all.Read More
While in Washington D.C. on a school trip, I used my moleskin notebook to record words and thoughts on speakers, visits, and work items. These are the words that repeated themselves.Read More
On top of having a beautiful apartment in a central location, I lived with an hilarious roommate and part-time caterer with a debilitating case of FOMO. Together, we worked and played in this international city that showed us both its best and worst. It was the setting for incredible discovery at school and major learning moments personally. There are nail marks across our apartment floors and airport terminals where we refused to leave.Read More
I like telling stories around the world: in written form, through snazzy visuals, and from both experiential and academic perspectives. I would do this of my own volition (ahem, Nomadderwhere), but thankfully my job allows me to do this for pay every day. From time to time though, I also make marketing videos to give more context of this visionary establishment that houses such endeavors. Here are the latest ones of note.Read More
It's time to navigate away from Indiana again. The school year is starting, and I'm about to move to a country I've never visited. Come Tuesday, I will have some new students, new co-workers, a new home with someone else's furniture, and a new culture to study...thankfully in a language I'm already comfortable with. Last year's school locations of Ecuador, Thailand, and Germany look to be replaced by some diverse locales, all brought to you by the letter "B".Read More
The upcoming term in Argentina will mark my 52nd country, and every once in a while I'm perplexed that this whole world obsession and world tour started from a town of 11,000 in rural Indiana. I talk about this town often–one I haven't lived in for 12 years to the week–and it's a weekend like my last one that confirms its hold on me. I continue to have those awe-inspiring moments in a place I thought I'd adequately covered.
Clean Out The Banks! is an annual event in Wabash, Indiana conducted by a volunteer group known as the Wabash River Defenders. If you were at Paradise Spring at 7:00am last Saturday, eating free donuts and preparing to wade in the silt, you're likely a member...or a donut enthusiast.
This year's 365 participants engaged in a community event for the benefit of their environment while spending time with that environment on a beautiful day. Being a recent student on the effects of community, I was eager to witness my first River Defenders event and document it for distribution.
The river stretches 19.2 miles across Wabash County from east to west, so my fellow documentarian, Chelsea, and I didn't have to drive far to reach the many scattered clean-up crews.
Walking along the river in Lagro, we found an ATV or mountain bike track that looked like serious muddy fun. We passed by many groups of fishermen heading to the water. One of the teams had a kayak, and its slender shape reminded me of rowing sculls torpedoing down the thin and shallow river. My imagination was probably stretching the water possibilities on this Mississippi tributary, but the flanking land offered no such limitations to outdoor enjoyment.
After a couple hours of tracking teams' progress, I was extended the opportunity to admire Wabash County from above on an antique open cockpit airplane from 1927. I couldn't stop relating myself to Snoopy. It was a beautiful aircraft, and it lifted effortlessly above the forests and farms to find the snaking river.
In the past couple years, I've had some very active shoots on land, while treading water, and even underwater with wild animals. Prior to this flight, I'd never had the chance to film from the air. The 90 mph winds pulled at the camera, but I had it strapped tightly around my hand, my arm anchored to my body. It was tough to shoot around the wings and stabilize with the turbulence, but the adrenaline rush from the open cockpit helped me achieve some awesome moments on film.
I wasn't at all surprised that such a plane existed in a hangar at the Wabash airstrip. The town is full of eccentric characters who collect distinct items, create unique artwork, build hidden bars in their basements, and wrangle community support for every facet of life, culture, and sport. A trip home can be comforting in its predictability or reveal a unique opportunity unfathomable hours prior.
It was this mid-morning flight that determined the angle of my documentation, supplemented by the mini-revelations along the banks of the Wabash. I spent the majority of my childhood outdoors, but my backyard was only a small indication of what my surroundings held. I won't always have an antique airplane ride to jostle my pre-conceived expectations of a place, but this one surely helped.
I'm currently in the process of editing a promo for "Clean Out Our Banks!" and will post once live. Here's a news package from WTIU of the event.
I've finally stopped moving for a while. Want to see what I've found as of lately?
World travel on Nike's dime
Nike made a new product that basically detects energy expended (a.k.a. Nike Fuel) throughout your typical, active day, and with this new product comes an intense online marketing campaign called #makeitcount. This video, created by Casey Neistat and Max Joseph, is reminiscent of the STA Travel Australia video "Move" and shows Casey plowing through his budget from Nike with 10 days of globe trotting. I just had dinner with one of the developers of this campaign. The world is small, people.
Advice for starting a creative career
This is good and giggle-worthy. Here are my favorite excerpts:
...it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either.
IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that's not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we've sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.
The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.
That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.
Getting better production audio: who wouldn't want that? STA Travel's World Traveler Internship 2012 commences: Matt and Amma begin the documenting of their European jaunt with this video of a Czech beer fest. Reinventing the office, how to lose weight and increase productivity: Though these days I have no control over what my office looks like, I like to take these tips and think of how they could again be redefined for this transient setting. The new MacBook Pro: No Film School explains the newest version of the MBP.
Update on Nomadderwhere
Throughout June, I felt incredibly confident in my role as media specialist for this world-touring school, TGS. I don't know if it was the homey accommodation we had, the energy of Berlin, the enthusiasm of the students, or something else. I created a rhythm of working and playing that felt solid and sustainable, which is harder than it seems to create structure in a fluid, ever-changing environment. It was so successful that I had time and energy to document for myself.
A few weeks ago, I packed up my ephemeral life and reverted to backpack living for about 25 days. After train journeys through Prague, Budapest, Salzburg, and Austria, I flew to meet friends in Denmark and said goodbye to Europe from Stockholm. Landing stateside in early July, I quickly picked up again to visit my hometown of Wabash and then the third place I'd call a 'home': New York City. Home is a loose term for me.
This summer break from school will consist of portfolio tweaking, reading of many travel narratives, home creative projects, and the ever-important duty of reconnecting with my community.
Here's my latest work:
- Q&A: Dealing with cash and cards on the road: Just my tips and habits at the current time
- Is it important to visit the places to visit from which your family originates: A reflective piece after a trip with a student to investigate her family history in Germany
- What creating art in a world art capital looks like: Two videos covering the Creative Arts curriculum in Berlin
Videos and captions are those of THINK Global School. The opinions stated in this post are mine and do not reflect the positions, strategies, or opinions of THINK Global School.
Freshly relieved of my Creative Art teaching responsibilities and greatly assisted with social media management, I not only had time to create videos, edit photography, and write blogs on the ground; after a 10-hour day, I regularly had hours to myself in the evening to produce work of my own volition and be in the incredible city of Berlin.Read More
I've been talking to a co-worker a lot lately about her balance of consuming and creating, and it reminded me of my old balance between absorbing what the industry is putting out and telling the industry what I'm adding to the mix. After almost two years, here's the latest Consume & Update!
Great use of soundtrack to arc story
This Vimeo staff pick, directed by Peter Simonite & Annie Gunn, is a stunning result of great cameras handled by great cameramen. It is also a great example of a singular soundtrack lending to the arc of a story in a short film.
I've begun teaching a new media lab at THINK Global School, which encourages students to share and reflect their world experiences using new media. An upcoming lesson will be on the use of soundtracks to carve out, structure, or heighten the message of a video. I'm on the hunt for great examples of this, and I'm also asking filmmakers to explain their choices to the students.
What Berlin looks and feels like to Berliners
Christian Andersen makes the second video in his series on the street aesthetic of a city, this one "capturing the culture and everyday life of native Berliners. In this short film, I also tried to capture the special urban vibe Berlin has and visualize the aesthetic of Berlin's street corners, parks, buildings and structure." I think the coloration and rack focusing fit really well to the soundtrack by Aphex Twin.
East Berlin architecture in game form
This video by Sergej Hein does what we all wandering East Berlin want to do with our telekinetic powers:
The idea is based on a kind of parody of the former Socialist building style. They used to build whole cities where each house was designed identically to create cheap housing for workers. These ‘blocks’ were so similar that in Soviet times, you could easily wake up at a friends place in another city and still feel like you are in your flat. Even the furniture was the same.
The Love Competition: A range of people are interviewed about love and then receive MRIs to measure their brains as they ponder love. The arc of the story is compelling, and the music is powerfully linked to the sentiment of the short film. Berlin Dynamic: A timelapse video of Berlin's many vistas and defining aspects, including the TV tower skyline, bright yellow subway, and famous buildings Little Big Berlin: A tilt-shift timelapse of Berlin set to Franz Liszt, if you're looking for a calming sensation.
Update on Nomadderwhere
For the last month, I've been feeling incredibly confident in my role as media specialist for this world-touring school, TGS. I can't tell if it's the homey accommodation we have, the energy of Berlin, the enthusiasm of the students, or something else. I've created a rhythm of working and playing that feels solid and sustainable, which is harder than it seems to create structure in a fluid, ever-changing environment. It's been so successful that I've been able to document for myself.
This weekend marked our first school trip out of Berlin. We hit up Bavaria for a look at Munich, a nearby concentration camp, the Alps, and the Champions League final game between Bayern München and Chelsea. Details to follow.
Here's that work from the last month in Berlin:
Guten tag and lederhosen and whatnot: bound for Berlin: I let ya'll know I'm going to Berlin...and planning on real-time blogging er'thang.
Photoblog: details of the hipster haven that is Berlin: I wondered around Mitte (the city center) with my camera, finding and having moments.
Finding the fulcrum below me in Berlin: A prose poem on the flight to, initial settling experience in, and eventual comfort found in Berlin, Germany while working for TGS.
What our experiences in Berlin look like thus far: A run-through of three Berlin-based and Berlin-focused films I've made so far for TGS.
The opinions stated in this post are mine and do not reflect the positions, strategies, or opinions of THINK Global School.
Though I'm not processing my own experiences in video form as of lately (due to lack of time), I'm really please with what I've been able to crank out in Berlin. There are moments when what I've documented for work has impacted me, mostly at Wannsee Haus where the Final Solution was created. In this great city of culture and history, cinematic moments abound. Here are the ones I've caught thus far.Read More
Just as in Ecuador, this is what I stared at every day of the Thailand term: my portable media HQ of two MacBook Pros, an iPad, an iPhone, and about 13 TB worth of storage power. I see pixels in my dreams. However, what wasn't just like Ecuador was my workload. With the addition of a co-teacher in Creative Arts, I earned days onto my work week. That meant videos were made on the ground, and (gasp!) I was able to shave off hours here and there to do things for myself.Read More
Dear Internet, I’ve been horrible, saying I’m going to write and then rarely following through. And it’s not for lack of noteworthy developments; this was an unbelievably unpredictable and diverse 2011, with certain promise of continuation in 2012.
Upon returning to Indiana this holiday season, to a world so different from my working one, I managed to find only one word that adequately describes my baffled reflection on the year’s events: weird. How did I experience the myriad twists, obstacles, and accomplishments that plopped me into the role I'm in now? Did that all really just happen? And I didn't even really get to tell you about it...
2011 was a weird year, and I don’t consider that word to be derogatory – for the most part. Here, Internet, let me fill you in on the tidbits worth noting.
Throughout childhood, New Year’s Eve was always an event I celebrated with gusto. Though I acknowledge it’s overrated nature today, it still feels like a beautiful night where the mind receives a flushing and a chance to redirect its thoughts at something more meaningful. Landmarks in time are meant to be celebrated, for they represent the act of highlighting the realities of our present.
Balls dropping, confetti clotting up my local sewage system, fireworks speckling the famous skyline - regardless of my surrounding atmosphere, I celebrated this widely observed holiday by sitting in my first apartment in my first real residence post-graduation, writing the previous observation and feeling pretty content to be warm, well-fed, and with a clean bathroom nearby. I braced for a big year in a conservative manner, apparently feeling the necessity for taking it easy when I could. It was on track to escalate quickly.
For months, I read books, studied Creole flashcards, and followed the news to develop an informed awareness of Haiti, my February destination for documentary work for The Haiti Project. Prior, the country seemed an inaccessible shell of a nation in my mind's eye, an unfair judgement based on insufficient exposure. It also seemed a destination only frequented by journalists, politicians, and celebrities seeking humanitarian glory.
After landing in Port-au-Prince, my silver dollar eyes focused behind a camera lens at both the headline-worthy and unexpectedly average. First conversations with this traveling crew - an investment banker, a doctor, and a politician - made my research immediately relevant. Smells, rocky rides, colors, and penetrating glances brought me back to Africa. The downtown area was the front page of the New York Times, the residential acres overlooking the city representing a side of Haiti I hadn't at all conceptualized - the affluent one. The stark contrast of my documentary subjects and nightly accommodations made for a racing brain, one that saw the nation as a whole - its past and present, the potential for its future.
Haiti is small, mountainous, and in possession of more culture than many countries exponentially larger. In pursuit of stories from Project Medishare, Hollywood Unites for Haiti, Edeyo, and the Cine Institute, we traversed the capital, the central plateau, and the coastal region of the south, also managing to witness a long-awaited Kanaval, fueled by pent-up emotion and necessary release from the earthquake thirteen months prior. Intensity, aggression, jubilation, and passion were on display from a hopeful and resilient crowd. Deep layers of humanity exposed put me in awe.
With the flavors of fried platanos and unmatched rice and beans still making my own cooking taste vastly inadequate, I stewed in New York City, contemplating Haiti and all that occurred on the whirlwind trip, including the unplanned encounter with then-candidate and current president of Haiti, Michel Martelly. As if that experience wasn't shocking enough, the dude started following me on Twitter a few days later. Still follows today. Is he messing with me?
Yes, that was odd to have a then-presidential candidate following my tweets about flying with cats and traveler's diarrhea, but what really defined the month was an impromptu visit by my favorite trail-blazing lumberjack, Alexis Reller. Together, we took advantage of Astoria's open spaces and Greek delicacies, free yoga and unseasonably warm St. Patrick's Day afternoons at beer gardens.
Qatar Airways plopped me at the Bangkok airport for production in Thailand, a project I witnessed from its conception. I found myself a girl in possession of $5 pants staying at the Shangri-La Hotel (or similar accommodations), where laundry services are clearly in proportion to my wardrobe value. The mission: to distill a country down to its identifying culture for use as academic resources in global education worldwide. My additional mission: to engage in a place I've pined to have an extended visit, absorbing all things food, massage, language, and culture-related.
Swirling a camera around a Muay Thai fighter, photographing behind the scenes of a Nang Yai shadow puppet performance, devouring multi-course tasting menus - I was fortunate to enter and exit Thailand with enough absorbed information as to get the country's cultural and historical significance on the world's stage. Getting cracked in half with Thai massages, mowing $1 pad thai from popular street vendors, meeting local restauranteurs down the beach from our hotel, hearing the story of a tsunami wrecking her family - I let myself be melted and molded by surrounding experiences in a more personal fashion.
Though Thailand is close to the counterpoint of Indiana, I found myself in close proximity of a fellow Wabashian also in the country for production. Cassie was in Phuket while I was in Bangkok, in Chiang Mai while I sat on a beach near Phuket, flying elsewhere while I was coincidentally getting trucked around by her former driver in Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, I couldn't meet up with her to chat on our polar opposing experiences in production (mine being a team of five, hers well over 100 for a hit ABC show) or reminisce about our childhood home. I'm happy we grew aware of the others coordinates and subsequently recognized the shared tendency to combine travel and film.
Post-Thailand was a much-needed personal trip to Vietnam and Laos. Joined by co-worker and friend Vijaya, we floated in the mist of Ha Long Bay, found an incredibly authentic bun thit nuong in a no-sign establishment, drank the blackest and most flavorful coffee from a makeshift street diner, and were surprised by the serenity of a Laotian night market. The trip was gritty. It was active. There were terrifying moments punctuated by relief and laughter. It was a trip that reminded me of RTW joy, though that desire for long-term travel has somewhat left my being, making space for the unexplainable urge to nest.
I returned to a mild New York City and emerged in the marketplace as a freelancer of all things content. I did things I never thought I'd get the opportunity to do. I unknowingly pitched an art magazine, exhibiting my photographic portfolio and leaving with affirmation that had me bouncing through Chelsea. I began writing features for Matador, for the first time really sensing journalistic accomplishment. I also did the unthinkable and flew my cat from Indianapolis to New York City. She hyperventilated to the point of drooling a fu manchu.
And things just kept happening. It was unsolicited confirmation that without direction to do work, I still do work - feverishly - so much so that I neglect my own writing and fulfillment projects. Within two weeks of this mad hustle, I obtained a job interview with a concept previously unfathomable to me: a traveling high school. It felt like travel, education, media, and youth combined to create my ideal activity. I had a long interview and a short lapse of time between the subsequent offer to visit the school in China.
And the cherry on top, my nephew was born.
I flew to China, met this traveling high school, and my mind was blown. Previously conceived notions of education were combined in a bag, shaken not stirred, and tossed like Yahtzee! dice onto my table of consciousness.
The offer came on the table to be the media specialist for THINK Global School - a full-time content creator, manager, and occasional instructor. In the meantime, before I began this first foray into salaried employment, I wrote like a fiend, took my portrait photography to new depths, celebrated a friend's marriage as a bridesmaid, and took advantage of my location by traveling to Boston.
And within months of the big relocation, I was organizing my departure, sad to leave the city but following a job worth the sacrifice. The feline went back in flight, and a subletter was en route. I accepted my return to the nomadic lifestyle with hesitance but eventual enthusiasm.
Just as I had done in May of 2008, I filled bags with my worthwhile earthly belongings and began living out of a bag. I had a bed thanks to cat-sitting in Brooklyn and started performing my new job tasks from every Asian restaurant in its vicinity - trying to consume every food I would miss in Ecuador. In preparation for my work as a one-woman production house, I investigated the art of the film title and reflected on my trajectory sans film school experience.
With a flight to the southern hemisphere looming a week away, I frantically tackled the goal of seeing New England - one of the reasons I moved to New York initially. Inspired by my trip to Boston the month prior, I rented a car to explore the coastline. Driving directions sat in my passenger seat but were never really utilized. It was usually dark outside before I knew where I was stopping or staying, but even with this seat-of-my-pants itinerary, it was refreshing, calm, and perfectly timed to see friends en route. Van Morrison serenaded me through five states, and my camera operated for no one but myself. For the first real time in maybe years, I was documenting my own adventures just for me.
Hurricane Irene did cut my road trip a bit short, but because of this highly-publicized natural disaster, I ended up driving around Brooklyn and Queens (an experience I always considered to scary to attempt) and meeting a long-time internet friend, Sierra Anderson; thankfully before her TLC reality show aired and she became an unattainable, high-rollin' television star.
This is me leaving New York City to Ecuador. Coincidentally, every taxi I took from the moment I signed my contract was operated by a chatty Ecuadorian. From the moment I hailed this cab until December 7th, my life never paused. After shooting back to Indiana for yet another great wedding of a great friend, September eased me into my future hectic schedule surrounded by international teens and ever-stacking responsibilities, which included:
Visiting the Amazon rainforest as the first high school group at Tiputini Biodiversity Station
Standing on an emergent atop the canopy, watching spider monkeys and killer ants
Floating down a piraña/anaconda/caiman/electric eel/vampire fish-invested river in nothing but a life vest for two hours
Spending my 26th birthday flying past three active volcanoes and taking six different types of transportation through the rainforest
Straddling the Equator, both the tourist line and the GPS-specific line, watching water swirl in opposite ways on both sides of the line
Taking over the creative arts teaching position for 26 students from 15 countries
Did you notice that last bullet point? Teaching. Not occasional instruction of the digital arts but all-out educating a classroom on the entire field of creative arts. Though had I gone for my Masters in Studio Art I would have taught more complex classes than this, I had to juggle my already-intensive job with learning how to manage a classroom of 26 international and inquisitive kids. I thought I was cognizant of the difficulty in a teacher's job, but it became screamingly clear of why it's full-time and worthy of at least four years of intensive study.
Maybe six days after returning from the Amazon rainforest, I marked off a Bucket List item and flew to the Galapagos islands. My class field trips were to the zoo an hour away, but here I was filming and photography 26 kids who got to cash in on a lucky life experience at age 15.
For one week, we lived on San Cristobál island, housing classes in a local university directly opposite a white and blue beach. It was here that I stood in front of two grade levels, wrote my first non-hypothetical lesson plan, and used advanced technology to engage students on some artistic concepts. I had what the profession calls a 'teaching moment' within first three days.
Following what some would already consider an immersive and whole experience in the Galapagos, we got on a boat and went island hopping. I photographed from the top of a truck up an unpaved road, hiked the rim of the second largest crater in the world, and saw tortoises bigger than a mini fridge. By the end of this entirely satisfying journey, I was wiped out and in need of a break after 37 days on the job straight.
I began teaching a medium I never even studied in school but only self-taught and learned through experience. But, of all the courses I've taken in my life, this area is surprisingly the one I feel most confident and qualified speaking about. For three weeks, I taught cinematic storytelling and film production, a unit which concluded with a film festival of original work by the students. It was a reminder of much we can construct for ourselves instead of waiting for a structure to provide life experiences.
What seemed previously like an infinity pool of time to utilize soon became a countdown clock drawing all of us away from Ecuador. I had to squeeze in another unit on social commentary, grade an intimidating stack of written critiques, continue to film, photograph, and edit the content reflecting our experiences, and simultaneously have my 'human being' time where I enjoyed the temporary coordinates of my employment.
With time quickly unraveling, we hopped in an SUV with our eyes set on summiting a magnificent hill: Barabon. It was one of the few moments we stopped to travel and enjoy each other's company in an environment of our own choosing. It was a refreshing morning.
Two terabytes of footage were beginning to burn a hole in my desk, impatiently awaiting their eventual coagulation into films for viewing. And so I grasped my week, squeezed it like a tube of paste for any excess time, and made an iMovie teaser for a trimester unseen.
Starting from our 3-month home of Cuenca, Ecuador, we took a bus and an SUV through the foothills of the Andes en route to Chimborazo province. The kids hammered into concrete, dug the foundation for a school, and shivered happily in a highland community for three days on a volunteer trip. This was our final Ecuadorian experience, other than a farewell party that had many of us in tears by morning's end. I was a mess, saying goodbye to a woman that shares many of my oddities and knowledge of northern Indiana 'culture': María del Mar, our host city specialist and Notre Dame graduate.
I've traveled alone for school, work, or play and returned home to the threat of reverse culture shock over ten times, and this one was (relatively) an absolute piece of cake. My longest duration in one place abroad; it didn't affect me adversely. I had some domestic hiccups, and at times I was inexplicably anxious to do anything. In the first 24 hours, I snuggled with my niece and nephew, drank cold ones with my brother, and got used to English interactions with strangers and driving everywhere. It wasn't until I visited my hometown that I realized the ride 2011 took me on.
Are you still working for that one company? Or is it now that other company? Where in the world are you these days? What do you do...I can't even keep up!
I attended a family wedding with hundreds of people I grew up with and answered my work question differently every time. I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to explain myself as I continue this organically-paved career path, and the further I move away from a 'travel phase' to a lifestyle choice, the harder it is for me not to brush it off as a weird and fleeting situation, for the sake of being relatable.
This all is weird. These opportunities all happen before I'm ready, and they defy the limits of this supposedly impossible job market. I've been learning how to swim by getting tossed in the deep end, and thankfully (so far), I've managed to adapt my strokes to stay afloat and keep swimming upstream. The only way 2011 could have accomplished a more elevated status of weird - edging into surreal - would have been if National Geographic called to fulfill the quintessential travel documentarian's dream. At least that would be a relatable job description that wouldn't leave me hungering for the right words for my self-definition.
More weird on the radar?
I rang in the new year with my lumberjack, mixing drinks behind the bar and enjoying our limited but valuable time together. Shortly after that stroke of 2012, I flew to Thailand, roughly my hometown's counterpoint. This year is already bound to be off course from the expected and normal. I've got my floaties on in preparation.
The opinions stated in this post are mine and do not reflect the positions, strategies, or opinions of THINK Global School.
There was rarely a time when I didn't feel the necessity to document something; it all carried the weight of potentially useful in the eyes of a one-person production crew. My schedule seemed the product of an ADHD-ridden ninja. And on those rarest of occasions, I was able to venture around the corner of my hotel home to see angles of Cuenca myself.Read More
But for me, nothing proves more fruitful than re-engaging in this multi-faceted industry. I like travel, media, the digital realm, education, art, and a unique combination of all. While my involuntary immersion practices don't allow for fully connected 'field' time with my peers, it's in those months between travels that I reemerge a human with new ideas and the ability to answer e-mails. And on this particular instance, I truly realized how few degrees are in between me and something I would love - the same goes for you, too, I'm sure.Read More
Yet another feature came out of my fingertips this week, one that started from the seed of a simple video on pixels. Entitled 'How to produce award-winning films without going to film school', this piece packs in huge amount of information from some of the most outspoken self-taught cinematographers on the net.
I went to art school, a study I'm sure many people would claim needs no formality or implied success with a degree, so I expected a little retaliation by film schoolers. Surprisingly, none have surfaced yet. Just I wait.
Without belittling the certain perks of attending film school (or formally studying any specialty for that matter), I believe if you’re motivated, there’s a way to teach yourself enough to obtain a great job, gain work experience, and prosper with continued self-improvements. As many advocates for the self-taught film path cite, it’s likely your favorite filmmaker didn’t study his craft at school either.
The underlined actions to take away from the piece include:
Get schooled for free at your own pace - with Vimeo Video School and online tutorials by self-taught filmmakers such as Philip Bloom
Get fluent in the ever-changing tools - Zacuto instructional videos, NoFilmSchool.com cinematography guide, and getting creative with basic tools like iPhones
Position yourself for the current job market - learn how to be autonomous like Alexander Fox of CrewOfOne.com
Get constructive feedback on your work - connect with other filmmakers, hear online critiques, or pay someone to watch your work
Connect with people that help you grow - submit to festivals, post online, and network with access you already have
Clarify your thoughts on higher education - because it might not help you achieve your specific angle
With ample video embeds and links, this is a meaty post worth reading and commentating. And if you disagree, please do provide the insight I need in order to determine if film school is on my path.
If you get a little tired of waiting for my posts on Nomadderwhere - which I admit have become incredibly random and sparse - I'll give you a little supplementary material. Recently, I wrote a feature for the Matador Network entitled 'Why the obsession with time lapse video?' Have you ever wondered this yourself? What's your reasoning?
I'm reposting here some of my points, but be sure to check out the full post on MatadorTV and provide your own commentary.
Why time lapse for storytelling?
As a member of the MatadorTV triad, I appreciate the whole spectrum of travel video production, from the cinematic to the gritty. Video is an accessible vehicle for storytelling that can avoid the obstacles ever-present with language. And even though written word can facilitate a sensory experience, the combination of visual and audio elements is powerful on fleeting attention spans.
In browsing TV’s most popular posts to date, time lapse comes away a clear front-runner of stylistic and technical approaches, and these videos tend to follow a different editing pattern than most. Cuts are longer. Static shots are still dynamic. The resident audio is usually stripped from the footage and replaced by a soundtrack, and people still manage to follow a storyline and maintain focus on the evolving subject matter. Warped time appears to keep viewers engaged.
If you haven't been keeping up with MatadorTV, I suggest you check out some of the amazing recently-featured content, like this month of nature footage in Iceland, Ross Ching's time lapse of roads not traveled, and his version of 'carmageddon' with tips on how to create the effect.
Believe it or not, I did some journalistic research for this feature. For real! Home girl went to Wiki!
Why time lapse the subject matter?
Among the most popular subjects for the time lapse technique is nature, as evident by Terje’s work. This isn’t a shocker considering time lapse was made most well-known by Dr. John Ott, a photographer who documented growing plants. From the first time I watched a bud morph into a full blossom and added my own soundtrack of “whoaaa,” it seemed clear we could forever capture these natural elements and continue to amaze virtually everyone.
Of course, simply pointing the camera and tripod at any old vista won’t make for a viral, compelling, and timeless video. Ross Ching, a filmmaker in Los Angeles, stipulates, “There needs to be originality. There needs to be pioneers. There needs to be something more than beautiful shots. There needs to be a human element. There needs to be a story.”
Though this one borders on just plain fast rather than time lapse, here's my personal dabbling into the speedy film realm with my 'Nomadderwhere's 2010 in a Minute' video. My experimentations are more successful with work footage, which will soon be visible to the public.
Maybe our obsession comes from relating the natural world to our own human interaction with it at an altered speed, warping our day to day, minute to minute perceptions of being present and active with the surroundings.
On occasion, I feel the perspective time lapse affords me is akin to a mini-spiritual awakening, an out-of-body experience while armchair traveling...
Time lapse is one of the many vehicles through which filmmakers and storytellers have learned to transmit concepts from the world to the world effectively. And with the amount of attention we give these works today, it appears to be an approach that works.
I haven't traveled somewhere new for the sole purpose of leisure in a long time. Ironically, my mind doesn't focus on potential trips I can take myself on without a 'work' angle - work being a very fuzzy concept often mistaken for hobby. Moving to New York and the east coast was a strategic escape from the Midwest region that I've already traversed and learned to appreciate. In this portion of the states, aside from the city whose Indian name is Big Apple (or more accurately, Manna-hata), I've only meandered through Rockport, Maine. And I'm not even sure a trip centered around a daunting photojournalism course counts for leisure.
I wanted to be surrounded by unknown territory and be inspired to constantly day trip or weekend elsewhere. There were music festivals to attend, mountains on which to frolic, friends and family to visit - an abundance of excuses.
Well, the inspiration and excuses weren't strong enough for the first eight months, but the road called me this weekend. Yes, she dialed me up - on Skype - and said:
Lindsay, it's Road here. Look, you've been flying over the North Pole and crap, hitting up Caribbean islands and such, all while your home base is here in the States...in the unknown land of New England! Why have you neglected me? I suggest hitting the...me for Boston this weekend. Why not? Join the rest of the working world and take a weekend. Make me screech --I mean proud.
Her video was super choppy, but I got the message. In the name of the road and seizing my potentially fleeting New York days, I booked some Megabus tickets to Boston to visit my good friend, Katie, and of course the puritanical motherland.
Museum cocktail parties, national park hikes, fancy sandwiches, ocean air - I'm not really sure what side of Boston I'll see this weekend, but if you have any recommendations, how about leaving a comment and spearheading a Nomadderwhere, user-generated guide to Boston! I took the same approach when re-discovering Chicago in 2009, and your comments facilitated a unique week. And I don't mean to draw uncouth connections between Beantown and the Windy City...
Before I publish an extensive post that dictates my next step in travel/work/life, which I've alluded to on Twitter, I wanted to share some videos I watched yesterday as a direct result of this recent thinking. If you follow Nomadderwhere, you may know I've spent the last couple years chasing and creating educational initiatives. Having uprooted the family for high school, sought study abroad programs with fervor, developed programs in Nakavika, and obsessed over videos on global education, it's ever-apparent I have an affinity for pursuing and cheerleading quality education, both in the traditional sense and otherwise.
Recently, I received an invitation to visit China with a group of teachers and students who were conducting a school there. And by there, I mean China. The school was China. China was the classroom, the subject, and the geographical home - at least for this trimester. And in this non-traditional learning environment, I began to wonder which experience in my own life had educated me the most: the pricey private high school, the college years that tested my application of academics in real life, or the tens of thousands of miles traveled after leaving 'classrooms' in my contrail.
Here are a couple TED talks on education that caught my eyes and ears. Give yourself something interesting to listen to during your lunch break.
Many of my good friends are teachers, and I don't mean to belittle their training and/or approaches to imparting knowledge. I just think this is a thrilling concept of shaking up education, especially by means of travel and the world playing the role of inspiring application of thought.
Work and life update coming soon.
I call myself a writer, but I haven't written - really written - in two months. Since my last real musing, I traveled to three regions of Haiti, frequented my second Carnival celebration, had a random reunion with a travel friend in the middle of a street parade, hosted my best friend and travel gal for a week in New York City, and traveled across the world to Thailand for production. I should have many a post on my site by now regarding all the previously mentioned events and experiences. Instead, I am a chicken sans head with too many things to say and not enough time to process them. And you know what else is sad? I wrote the previous paragraph in the middle of March. I call this type of article a 'Frankenstein'.
I've read others discussing this interesting phenomenon - the travel writer's Catch 22 - and I know I've dealt with it using various methods in the past. Even though I've been based out of home between these escapades, there is still the delicate balance between experience and reflection, one that I usually miss due to overindulgence of one.
Sadly, my mind is a sieve. Without documentation and over-processing of real-life experiences, I tend to forget or reconstruct my life. Therefore, the neglect of noting certain meaningful experiences seems dangerous and irresponsible for someone mortal wanting simply to thrive on memories in the end.
Why Write About Travel?
It began as a way to inform my family I was still alive. Once they gained this comfort, the detailed accounts were meant to illuminate a black hole on the world map of one's understanding. Soon after, it became a job and then a way of life through which I felt fulfillment. While documentary photo and video work easily allow for simultaneous experience, I write the way the Social Network dudes code: plugged in with total concentration and all-consuming fervor. After the arc of adrenaline subsides in a travel day, it's all I can do to charge up the batteries and coordinate logistics for the next day. Writing in the moment hasn't been a real possibility since my 7-month discovery tour.
Upon returning home, the act of processing begins involuntarily through dreams - brutally honest reactions that make for sturdy foundations later. Of course, errands to the laundromat, outings with friends, job applications, and other life logistics eventually take precedence over mental fermentation and readiness. And so, what's left from a life-changing "away game" is a brain of floating and incomplete thoughts like a bowl of Alpha-bits.
In January, my friend Jazmine departed on a two month journey throughout Southeast Asia. Aside from recommending the occasional splurge during her budget initiative, my one adamant piece of advice was to write. Especially on a whirlwind adventure, sometimes it's only in the observation of a blinking cursor on a word document that we realize the confusion of our interior. And alternately, scribbled sentences on mounting scraps of paper are the necessary mastication of the experiential piece of gum. In my opinion, there's no better way for anyone to savor that flavor, and this isn't just for those who consider themselves capable crafters of written word.
The Bottleneck Effect
I'm passionate about writing relevant and satirical travel narratives, and these such stories are exactly what have been lacking in my recent blogging pursuits. Instead, when people inevitably ask about Haiti or Thailand, I have to use words like "amazing" or "incredible," as though that really demystifies the destination for them. Writers should have distinct voices, based on objective truths, unique observation, and subjective viewpoints on humanity. To call Haiti an incredible experience is like saying Mariah Carey is a good singer. Thailand is a beautiful country with kind people. Earth is a planet with land and water. That's all hot air. I'm looking to add insight to the sea of declarative sentences born and syndicated every day.
The goal: document experiences uniquely and dynamically The reality: confusion, sloppy schedules, and a mere 24 hours taunting me in the day The problem: time brings new experiences whether or not I'm ready The solution: force thoughts to make a single file line outward, all with purpose
Imagine the wiggly line as my pool of thoughts, the fish-eyed text as concepts to ponder, and the bottleneck as my avenues of expression restricted by time, ability, and external factors. This isn't adult swim when the kids are back at school; this is noon at the public watering hole on July 4th. These thoughts aren't conscientious swimmers. They all need to get out of the pool safely or else they start pruning and eventually peeing in this uncertain limbo.
The Token Freudian Analysis
I hope by now the irony of this post has hit you. Am I not still treading water with this time and energy to vocalize the fact that I haven't vocalized my thoughts in a while? Why share this when I could obviously be sharing what I aim to produce? And why has this venue of blogging to the world wide web become so darn important to the sanity of man?
Even though life is a constant linear chain of experiences, the mind doesn't necessarily process them as such. And even though traveling seems like an itinerary of visits, challenges, and conversations, the entire concept of 'travel' is far more existential an arena of thought than it is a modification of geography. If I don't dedicate time and energy to sorting through what transpires in my life - big or small - I run the risk of disconnecting unconscious interpretations of superego standards from conscious actions of the ego. Translate the previous sentence with a couple of Freud's favorites:
Ego: the part of the personality which maintains a balance between our impulses (id) and our conscience (superego)
Unconscious: the area of the psyche where unknown wishes and needs are kept that play a significant role in our conscious behavior
Subconscious: that which exists in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness*
It's like stepping over the question repeatedly, multiple times a day, every day, "What is this life I lead?" Are we - dare I say - robots that power forward with the sequence or humans that react to the varied stimuli we encounter daily, especially on the road. I say leave your robot on the dance floor. Experiences are had to be felt and purposefully utilized to make a person better.
The Selfish Act of Not Sharing
The liquid inside a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino doesn't motivate or fulfill a person's palate. Once it passes through the aerator and clashes with fresh oxygen, that sweet nectar becomes something of value. A book in Hungarian means nothing to me until it is translated into something Latin-based I can recognize. Unless an experience runs through the necessary steps to become useable to a person, it is a waste, a missed opportunity, a neglected tool for burrowing efficiently and successfully through time. It is only in this translation through the sieve of human standards and emotion that an understanding can pass through the nonconscience to the subconscience to reach the active, living conscience.
In non-Freudian terms, going somewhere or doing something means nothing if you don't understand how it affected you.
So when I say I haven't really written in months, it means I haven't actively processed that which has the great capacity to improve my being, including: • traveling through Haiti's Port-au-Prince, the Central Plateau, and cultural Jacmel. • meeting President-elect Michel Martelly (candidate at the time). • attending my second Carnival celebration in a country pent up after a year of recovery. • randomly running into a woman that saved me years before around the world. • hosting my best travel comrade, Alexis Reller, in New York City. • spending three weeks in Thailand on production for another travel series. • reliving my first third-world solo trip in Vietnam. • finding peace and creativity in Luang Prabang, Laos.
...all experiences that drip with the tantalizing prospect of organic value, not just for me but through the informative and experiential butterfly effect. It's why we read books and talk to our friends. Sharing stories, especially via such a mobile force like the web, makes for an even greater learning experience across international and industry borders. And if we don't analyze why this process isn't happening, it threatens to repeat until we come to.
Action Plan for the Neglected
Thus ends my soliloquy of why I'm thinking too much of how I can't think enough. And of course, one cannot ramble without a conclusive caboose. I plan to revive the elicited emotions from said unprocessed experiences and craft some posts that remain relevant to what's going on today. For instance, May 14th marks the presidential inauguration of Haiti's Michel Martelly, the wake of which provides a perfect moment for reflection of our meeting. Expect 'Lost'-esque flashbacks to experiences in Thailand that dictate my present endeavors. And as always, it's not my intention to provide a static, one-time commentary but instead evoke an elongated discussion through comments beneath. I hope you're on board with that.
Surely there are others that have too much to recall or process and are grappling with this feeling of neglect. What have you neglected to process, and in your opinion, is there only a small window of opportunity for intake?
I'm such a sorry case for a writer that I'm actually stalling the publication of a post on how I haven't written anything in a while! 2011 for Nomadderwhere is a Catch 22 kind of year. If that's not clear, then stick around for the explanation coming whenever I get my act together. In the meantime, my interview with the Black Informant found its way onto the internet for your listening pleasure! Prior to this, I'd never done a radio interview before. I thought for sure my charming stutter would shine through, but it turns out radio is just about the easiest kind of interview there is (aside from letting the publicist type your answers while you're busy getting a pedicure and playing Xbox, so I would imagine).
In this podcast, Duane Brayboy and I discuss:
the genesis of my travel obsession.
how travel transformed my personality, my learning, and the way I expressed myself.
storytelling and the power of descriptive detail with words, photos, or video.
documentary and editorial photography while on the road.
the most meaningful photographs I've ever taken.
impressions of Haiti and the apocalyptic media uproar.
where to next.
I enjoyed chatting with Duane and also hope this little update post whips me back into content cranking gear.
What did you think of the podcast? Now, I didn't do this interview just to hear myself talk. Please do share your own insight on what we discussed: Haiti's media coverage, your own travel obsession genesis, the most meaningful photos you've taken, and anything else.