Posts Tagged ‘documentaries’

New Year’s Acrostic-olutions

December 30, 2013

On the 2014 work agenda (some personal items too):

Aesolutions: Reading – maybe not AESOp’s Fables – but other great books that trigger the flow of creativity to many video projects.

Besolutions: Finishing the documentary Flory’s Flame, about 90-year old Sephardic musician, composer and performer Flory Jagoda, whose compositions in Ladino – an ancient Castilian Spanish language — harken back to pre-Inquisition Spain. “BESO” in Spanish (“bezo” in Ladino) means “kiss” – many of which are crucial to happiness in the coming year.

Cesolutions: While we don’t generally attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Curt Fissel in our office annually goes to the gigantic National Association of Broadcasters Show (April 5-10, 2014 in Las Vegas) where all the latest and greatest technology in the video production and broadcasting industry will be introduced and exhibited.

Desolutions: DESolate is what I plan NOT to be.

Esolutions: Helping our clients be ahead of the curve with regard to video and all its new arms as the electronic highway continues to expand, and finding E-SOLUTIONS to interesting issues that arise.

Fesolutions: FESsing up to gaps in my knowledge, filling them with deep dives into research, and supplementing weaknesses with the collaboration of colleagues strong in those arenas.

Gesolutions: Learning rather than GuESssing.

Hesolutions: As the female president of Voices & Visions, I’m all about “SHE –SOLUTIONS” (as compared to “HE-SOLUTIONS”), and I look forward to networking, brainstorming and collaborating with women executives.

Iesolutions: Exploring substantive topics calling for video production in their depths, then reducing the understandings reached to simple messages – the onscreen equivalent of the textual use of I.E.

Jesolutions: Like GESso used in artwork as a base before applying paint, continuing my commitment to thorough preparation before video shoots our company undertakes, which will ensure and preserve the quality of the final product.

Kesolutions: An English variant of “BESOlutions” (see above).

Lesolutions: Focusing on more solutions rather than LESs solutions.

Mesolutions: Always aiming to MESmerize with video productions we create.

Nesolutions: While the northeast (NE) is our home base, we now have an office in Dallas and we videotape on location internationally. Hoping to continue to expand our national and global work in the coming year.

Oesolutions: The US Bureau of “Oceans, Environment and Science” (OES) advances foreign policy regarding climate change, renewable energy, resource scarcity, infectious diseases, and related fields. In 2013 we videotaped the ways in which the farmers of the Fair Trade, interfaith Delicious Peace coffee cooperative in Uganda are trying to overcome the impact of climate change on their crops. We will continue to pursue producing video clips about this issue and otherwise helping the farmers.

Pesolutions: Had I been PESsimistic, I would never have taken the risk of running my own business. Optimism about everything – from small projects to the world economy – will dominate my thinking.

Quesolutions: QUEStions are beautiful; they prompt intellectual and emotional growth. I am grateful that I get to interview and ask unlimited questions to so many interesting people around the world in connection with producing corporate videos and documentaries. Looking forward to new questions and answers in 2014.

Resolutions: All of the above and below.

Sesolutions: Who “SAYS SO”? Our clients say so. I will listen to their goals, concerns, interests, and parameters and help them build tailored solutions.

Tesolutions: Marketing in 2014 will continue to TESt traditional vs. social media methodologies (including video) and with regard to the latter, how to measure ROI, the most effective combinations of approaches, and a host of other issues made possible by ever-expanding IT solutions. The question I will explore with clients is no longer whether to engage; rather, it is: What? Where? When? And how?

Uesolutions: YOU are the e-solution! Our We will rely on our partnerships with our clients to ensure our brains and talents work together to produce the best solutions.

Vesolutions: VES, Visual Effects Society, is an organization representing visual effects practitioners. From motion graphics in 2D and 3D to animations, audiences are growing accustomed to fabulous visual effects in videos. Looking forward to watching their growth in demand and providing clients with videos rich in a wide range of creative elements.

Wesolutions: WESOłych Świąt: Polish for “Happy holidays!” Since we have produced five documentaries in Poland, the culture and language are close to my heart. Early indications are pointing toward an event on the calendar in Poland in 2014.

Xesolutions: Having many opportunities to use XE, an online currency and foreign exchange tool, which helps calculate expenses when traveling to foreign countries. Italy, Spain, Bosnia, Croatia, France, Poland, and who-knows-where-else are on this year’s travel plans, so XE will come in handy.

Yesolutions: Saying “YES” much more than “no.”

Zesolutions: Tackling challenges big and small with ZESt as well as love for the opportunity to tell stories through video.

NYC Bar Association Panel: From Lawyer to Entrepreneur

December 19, 2013

One of the most fun aspects about being an entrepreneur is the opportunity to live in a number of different and challenging roles on a daily basis.

Some hours each day I am a producer of corporate video productions and documentaries, figuring out and implementing countless logistics of a broad range of projects. Other hours I am a writer, crafting the scripts and storyboards on which the productions are built. Sometimes I am a researcher, diving into the substance of clients’ businesses to ensure that the videos we are creating accurately reflect the nature of the organizations. Importantly, I am often the head of marketing and sales, seeking prospective clients to keep the business engine humming. Whenever I find a few free moments, I become the chief dreamer, configuring new ideas to improve or change my current businesses – or create new ones. And of course, I’m also the “baker and candlestick maker” (never a butcher – I’m a vegetarian!) for all the behind-the-scenes details that make the businesses run.

A break during a documentary shoot in Paris

Equally as exciting for me, last week I had the opportunity to put on my “entrepreneur” hat and speak on a panel at the NYC Bar Association (NYCBA) entitled “Lawyer to Entrepreneur.” The forum, organized by Emilia Roll of the NYCBA’s Career Advancement and Management Committee, was billed as an opportunity to “Come and learn from successful entrepreneurs about their paths from practicing law to running their own businesses and how they are using their ‘lawyer’ skills to advance.”

I am very lucky to love all the hats I wear, and the entrepreneurial one is at the top of the list. I have been a part of a number of entrepreneurial groups with different foci, and I almost always find that the commonalities between entrepreneurs outweigh huge differences in industries, markets, and strategies. There are unstated understandings, shared experiences and generous support systems that fuel the passion to take multiple business endeavors to the ever-next level.

buildingfront_web

NYC Bar Association

That was certainly the experience for me on the panel last week. I was privileged to be joined by George Tsiatis of Group 113 and The Resolution Project, Rosena Sammi of Rosena Sammi Jewelry, Diana St. Louis of Bijte, Brian Trunzo of Carson Street Clothiers, and Suzie Scanlon of Bliss Lawyers. As I answered questions relating to the benefits of having a legal background as a jumping off point to becoming a businessperson/producer/writer/researcher/marketer/dreamer/baker/candlestick maker, it was inspirational to hear about my co-panelists’ paths, businesses, challenges, solutions, and ideas. It was also exciting to engage in discussions with an audience of lawyers poised on the verge of considering their business dreams. The experience was a reminder of the journey taken thus far, the never-ending possibilities offered by the entrepreneurial road, and the value of enjoying every step along the way.

Now back to a producer review of the latest draft video for a private equity client…

Videotaping Bonus in Austin, Texas: The Dedication of the Tejano Monument

April 10, 2012

As a producer, for each video shoot I attend – whether marketing videos, web videos, business videos of any kind, documentaries, whatever! – I bring a checklist of all the details I want to capture in interviews and b-roll (visuals). But I view this list as more of an outline than a blueprint; invariably we find surprises along the way, the inclusion of which enhance final productions (as well as our own experiences, since having fun is also, always, part of the program).

A good recent example happened a week and a half ago. We were videotaping in Austin, Texas, updating an informational video for the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas (more about the update tomorrow). We stepped outside during an interval between interviews to get some b-roll and chanced upon a huge ceremony unveiling the Tejano Monument which was taking place at the Capitol, across the street from TRS’ office.

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The Tejano was 12 years in the making, a grandiose undertaking by sculptor Armando Hinojosa, depicting the early Spanish explorers and Tejano families, who introduced cattle ranching and farming. The sculpture includes a life-size scene, encompassing an equine statue with a cowboy, two longhorn cows, a family of settlers, and a Spanish explorer standing on a raised mesa, surveying the land before him.

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The work was significant since it was the first of 18 others on the Capitol grounds to celebrate the contributions of Texas’ early Spanish and Mexican explorers, settlers, and their descendants. Attended by hundreds of people, the unveiling ceremony was heralded with a Mariachi band whose members are students at University of Texas and who paraded through the streets for much of the remainder of the day trumpeting their contagious dancing melodies.

Roll the cameras! One of the messages of the video is that the Teacher Retirement System benefits the entire state since members live throughout Texas, spend their retirement monies locally, and volunteer hours in their communities. Here – right outside the door of the headquarters of our client — we found a gathering of Texans from around the state, all focused on an art project of importance. What nice and unanticipated visuals to mix into the final video alongside many other shots and graphics! And how lucky we were to get an unexpected and interesting history lesson about Texas, made possible by a slight veering off the pre-planned path.

One other thought: The unveiling committee was obviously aware that along with an official dedication of a state-sponsored sculpture comes the traditional and welcome spate of publicity. But they might not have imagined that their special event would have web video ramifications far beyond their intended audience. While only accounting for a few out of numerous shots in the video we re-created for TRS, the Tejano makes an actual and symbolic appearance that will be shared with millions of people in the State who benefit from the teacher retirement system. Yay for the ever-multiplying power of online video!

 texas, teachers, retirement, corporate video production, professional video, business video, new york video production company, marketing video

The incredible support system that provides the foundation for our small business

March 27, 2012

When you look through the outside window into the Montclair, New Jersey office of our professional video production company Voices & Visions Productions, you see three people diligently working away everyday: Our cinematographer/editor/tech guy Curt, our operations director/office coordinator Krystal, and me – the writer/producer/dealmaker/proposal author/marketer. We are the incarnate definition of a small business – a few people tirelessly changing identities to suit the tasks that roll through the door on any given day.

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But as we prepare for a video shoot in Austin, TX this Thursday, I am reminded of the fantastic system of support invisible from that exterior window but on whose brains, dedication and enthusiasm much of our success lies.

The prompt came in the form of this question from our client: “Can you get us a few insurance endorsements immediately so we can gain admittance into some buildings for which they just gave us permission to videotape?”

We are insured to the hilt thanks to doing a lot of work in Manhattan, but my myriad jobs do not include policy review or preparation of insurance paperwork. Fortunately I know I can rely on our agent, Sherrie Uzzo of The Scirocco Group. All it took to accomplish the goal was forwarding the client request to her and asking her to handle it. I was cc-ed on a bunch of Q and A emails that flew back and forth, but I never stepped in, and the job was accomplished correctly and with good karma.

The day before a sales tax question arose over a service we don’t ordinarily provide but for which I needed to bill a client. I’m a lawyer by training, but I have never worked in the murky and confusing field of tax law, nor do I have any desire to wade through it. I don’t need to: We have a great tax lawyer/accountant, Harold Lorman, who swims in those waters. A few emails and a follow up phone call, and we had a plan in place – both for the invoicing of the client and for sending an inquiry to the state sales tax office.

These issues arise because we have work, lots of these days, and that is largely due to the social media marketing and search engine optimization that consultant Lea Spencer has been doing for us. When I tried about a year and a half ago to spread the word about our company through my personal Facebook contacts, I failed. In came Lea, who does this work for businesses, and voila! We are often on page 1 of Google searches for “Corporate Video.”

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It’s one thing for prospective clients to find us and another for them to hire us, but one reason they do so is because of the high-quality motion graphics and animation created by designer Lori Newman for those clients who want to go that extra step to get extraordinary results. Whether we are creating a video for a geotechnical contractor for which she needs to show animations of the activities going on deep underground or a popular, fun-loving juice bar in Australia  that calls out for motion graphics popping with color and happy smiles, Lori is the most talented and dedicated graphic artist I know.

In recent months as video and social media have collided, we’ve evolved to encompass this combined expertise, which has also led to requests to re-create websites fashioned in the latest technological capabilities. Enter Curtis Fissel III, Mr. Techie, the behind-the-scenes guy on the five websites associated with our companies. Curtis is always available for any kind of implementation and ready to dig into whatever new innovations crop up. Never overwhelmed by possibilities, he also never tires of trying them on and seeing which ones fit best.

All of the calls related to IT, graphics, social media marketing, accounting, and insurance pass through the phone and keyboard of Krystal Sancho, part of our core who CAN be seen through that outside window. Ever patient, always smiling, and never frustrated, Krystal fields them through their correct courses to resolution, no matter what that takes. She is the rock that enables Curt and me to go on our frequent video field trips around the world, recording (then writing and editing) stories that give personality to the organizations for which we create marketing videos, web videos, testimonial videos, industrial videos, recruitment videos, investor relations videos, and documentaries. I am grateful for a top-notch team of as-needed partners, whose optimism, creativity, intelligence, and passion play a major role in giving our small business the capabilities of a much larger entity.

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Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 11

December 13, 2011

Another way a Corporate Video Client Utilized the Documentary Genre

Yesterday I talked about a client who came to us anew with a documentary in hand that still needed a good amount of editing. Today I want to focus on a long-time client that recognized the value that a short documentary might bring.

Here’s how it started: A nonprofit staffed with creative folks had the idea to sponsor a three-day bike-a-thon along the Jersey Shore in honor of the birthday of one of its staff members. It was a last-minute idea which they shared with friends. Unfortunately, it was so last minute that only a handful of people agreed to participate, with each raising funds from supporters for the organization.

Having a fundraiser unbeknownst to an audience of funders is not a particularly promising formula, which is where the idea of a documentary arose. We sent two cameras to follow the bike riders in a shooting style that was reminiscent of reality TV shows. Our cameras were perched on the open window of our car driving adjacent to the bikers; they were sitting on tripods that had been positioned before the arrival of the bikers in specific spots as well as set to capture shots that were tracking them from behind. We had hand-held shots from every different angle and even miniature cameras attached to bicycles. At the end of each day we interviewed the bikers about the experience, why they chose to participate, and the importance of the cause.

We wove the story together chronologically, replete with little dramas that unfolded, like a flat tire in the middle of a huge rainstorm. We created a 15-minute documentary that was fun to watch but also packed with information, albeit in a subtle way, about the value of the nonprofit that motivated the event.

Our client used the film for internal fundraising purposes as well as to generate interest in future trips. Based on other experiences we have had, we imagine they would have had success at some local film festivals in the “short documentary” category, but their limited resources precluded them from diving into those time-consuming waters. At the very least, the fundraiser reached a lot more ears and hearts than those of the small number of riders and their supporters. With all the fun that potential bike riders learned they missed, I’m guessing the next such event will be sold out!

 

 

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 10

December 12, 2011

Since we specialize in both corporate video production and documentaries and find many similarities in the two arenas, our business clients in the New York / New Jersey metro area and other places with whom we work on marketing, web clip, investor relations, HR, testimonial, nonprofit, or other types of videos also come to us when documentary projects loom.

The term “documentary” is used here broadly, intended to apply to programs as short as five minutes and as long as 1.5 or more hours. Outlets for documentaries we have created have been as diverse as film festivals, PBS/cable stations, online networks, and internal corporate channels. Sometimes a company wants a documentary created to mark a special anniversary and plans to screen it only for its own employees and customers/prospective customers. Combining new video from all locations relevant to the storyline with the corporation’s archives of photos, past film or video, and other materials, a documentary can be produced that generates pride and excitement. In other instances, an organization is beginning a new and exciting project and would like to have it recorded as it unfolds, then create a documentary post-experience. In addition to internal audiences, sometimes these pieces contain messages worthwhile to share with wider crowds via the Internet or film festivals. And in some cases we are approached by an organization that has learned through one of our clients about our background in this genre and approaches us to help bring a special project to documentary life.

The last situation materialized recently.  An organization called Someday Melissa contacted us (via one of our clients) with a documentary in need of post-production about a 19-year old girl named Melissa who tragically lost her life to an eating disorder. The group came to us with the video shot and a first draft documentary of 60 minutes already edited; they said they wanted the hour-long version tweaked, then they wanted to have a 30 minute production edited. They also wanted a trailer for the program.

We recognized that the 60-minute version required more than tweaking. While we were limited story-wise by the interviews and video provided, we were able to envision ways of reorganizing the footage and changing some of the sound bites and shots to provide a much tighter and more compelling story. We worked with musicians on audio that underscored the feelings in the piece, and we edited the shots carefully and with emphasis on the most important events and messages. Transforming the project from its original version to the new one required two weeks rather than the day or two initially anticipated, but the end project was powerful.

Once the 60-minute version had been completed, we were fully familiar with the storyline details and materials supporting it, and we had the opportunity to re-imagine storylines in shorter time constraints, editing the half-hour piece and trailer were much less time-consuming. The latter can be seen on the organization’s website:

The documentary Someday Melissa: The Story of an Eating Disorder, Loss and Hope has just been made an Official Selection at its first festival, the 2012 California Independent Film Festival. It has been submitted to many others and is also screening at community forums and academic institutions. Now we are videotaping the stories that continue evolving as the film impacts its audiences, with the web and social media outlets promising additional educational opportunities for the new footage with the hope that Someday Melissa will help curb the devastation experienced by so many people suffering from eating disorders.

Corporate Video Production: An Idea A Day: Day 9

December 9, 2011

Last in the series of nonprofit video productions that I have written about this week, today’s blog is not accompanied by video because it focuses on a client who runs a battered women’s shelter. This is a sticky area for video: Always reliant on substantial funding, organizations like this require video to make emotionally moving points, yet ensuring the absolute privacy of their beneficiaries is paramount. Our video production company was delighted to have the challenge of aligning these seemingly contradictory needs.

We advised the client to focus solely on the stories of three of their clients. We understood that the video would have impact if viewers got wrapped up in the unfolding of events as told by the women who underwent them. No statement by an executive of the organization telling viewers in a third party way about their clients’ tales of violence or directly making a pitch for funding would be nearly as effective as hearing the obvious needs from the victims.

Finding the spokeswomen, of course, was up to our client. They opted for two women who had already had successful outcomes in their experiences with the organization and were now on their own as well as a third who was newly admitted to the shelter. The first two were comfortable being seen on camera with the understanding that the video would only be screened to a select group of donors. They were extremely grateful for the help they had received and felt that they would have talked to the contributors in person if asked, so video was a natural extension. The third woman wanted to remain anonymous. For the purposes of the production, however, we did not want the screen to simply be black while viewers listened to her voice. Rather, we interviewed her in a room that we set up with bare lighting that put her in a dark shadow, completely unrecognizable. We knew that in the final video we edited, the viewer would be able to see some movement as she moved her arms, for instance. It would be enough to keep an audience fixated on the screen at the same time as they heard her relate the frightening circumstances that had given rise to her decision to reach out to the shelter. Indeed, the shadowy backdrop would add to the drama of her story.

We were also cognizant that for this video to be successful, we would need the women to open themselves up in emotionally challenging ways — on camera! It is a complex art of interviewing to get beyond the superficialities of a first meeting in a short time and dive so deeply into a person’s heart that she (in this case) feels comfortable enough to reveal some of her most vulnerable memories. That was the task before us, for which we are able to lean on our vast experience in documentary production around the world interviewing a broad range of people in different cultures who confront countless types of situations. Yet every situation, every person, is different. Sometimes the right approach is difficult to gauge. Particularly in situations like these, each person must be treated tenderly and empathetically; at the same time, we need to be focused constantly on getting the sound bites and eliciting the emotions that will be effective in the final script and expressed in a way that will ensure smooth cuts in the editing stage.

The video we ultimately created had three segments of under two minutes each, one segment for each of the women. The opening faded from black to the name of the first woman the client wanted to highlight. Dissolving out of the black to a close-up of her face, the viewer was able to see the intensity of her eyes as her story unraveled. At its end, the screen again went to black, then immediately up to the name of the second woman, with the same pattern for the third, whose identity was written in an anonymous way. Some necessary cuts to accomplish the storytelling succinctly yet passionately required b-roll cover-up with the two women who agreed to be seen on camera. We were able to videotape a small amount of b-roll after each interview, and they provided us with a few personal photos to use. Cuts with the woman cast in shadows did not require b-roll cover; the dissolves between shots were so subtle that they were unrecognizable, and the viewer stayed focused on the scary screen image.

We received excellent reports from our client about the effectiveness of this fundraising video after they screened it privately to their select group of prospective donors. We are confident that it was successful, since a few weeks later, a member of that group called us for a quote for another organization with which she was involved!