Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Returning to Uganda

March 4, 2013

 

I remember the first full day of our initial trip to Uganda in October 2006 to produce a documentary about Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op. After three days of travel (one from NY to Europe, the second from there to Entebbe Airport, and the third by car up to the Mbale region), we enthusiastically showed up at the entrance of the coffee co-op’s clay-constructed storefront. We were eager to meet the legendary farmers who had formed a collective to bridge interfaith differences and generate economic development through a Fair Trade partnership with California-based buyer, roaster and seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Since we had been in touch via email for several months and the executive board had invited us to come, we were ready to break out the cameras following the handshakes and dive into work. Instead, the farmers asked that we sit down for a four-hour meeting that began with the question: “Why should we let you do this?”

At that moment, Curt looked at me and said, “You are the attorney. You can negotiate this. I’m going outside to take pictures. They may be the last ones we get!”


delicious peace, documentary, coffee, fair trade, Uganda

Now here it is, six and a half years after that meeting and three years after the premiere screening of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, and we are returning in two weeks for our fifth trip, this time (as the last) with a group of friends in tow.  Dual goals motivate this journey: (1) adding an extra 15-20 minutes of footage for a one-hour TV release focused on co-op updates and the impact of climate change on the farmers’ crops, and (2) introducing more American consumers to the work of the Mirembe Kawomera co-op, helping to spread awareness about their truly delicious coffee and the myriad families whose lives orbit around it.

In many respects, the first aim parallels corporate video production shoots we do around the world for many clients. We have done our homework and know what we want to record, all the necessary equipment is packed and ready to go, a basic schedule is in place, and we have the contact information for folks who will be crucial data-providers.

This assignment, however, comes with advance bonuses. We already have established friendships with farmers in the co-op, who are excited to help with the new phase of the project by devoting days of time when we are present to providing assistance; they understand and appreciate our role in helping to publicize their messages. And – New Yorkers — you know that excited feeling of being with out-of-towners who arrive in New York for the first time and stand in transcendental wonderment upon their initial ascent out of the subway? We will have the opportunity to experience that feeling through the eyes of our trip participants, multiple-fold, beginning with the moment our friend/tourguide Samson drives our group out of the airport onto the streets of Entebbe.

delicious peace, documentary, coffee, Uganda, fair trade

In response to the farmers’ initial question in 2006, I promised a long-term, mutual partnership in which success would be shared. I promised we would produce, complete, and screen the documentary. I said this would be an important avenue to spread the message of the work they are doing to bridge interfaith differences and educate coffee consumers about the hard work of farmers dedicated to specialty coffee production so that purchasing decisions reflect that knowledge. I told them that a successful documentary will trigger interest in their coffee. I told them that we have always established long-term friendships with the people who are the subjects of documentaries we undertake – as we have often done with our corporate video production clients.

Almost seven years later, the documentary has screened (and continues to do so) at over 35 international film festivals with a TV debut in the near future. We have partnered with a distributor committed to creating local educational “Peace Party” screenings around the country. Countless people have watched the program and learned about the important work of the farmers – many are busy talking about it on social media avenues everyday. And we are going back again to visit our friends and continue to develop the informational base.

We’re grateful the farmers took a leap of faith with us and proud to have earned their trust. Uganda, here we come!

 

Video Production From the Road: Interview Space

October 24, 2012

This is not atypical: We travel to the other side of the world for a corporate video shoot, then the interviewee takes us to a generic conference room that could be located in Anywhere, USA. I say, respectfully: Are there any other options for a background, and they respond, respectfully: No!

If possible, the story can’t end there. It just doesn’t seem fair to our clients, who – trusting our production values and committed to consistency in video production — invest in these international jaunts. And so the search begins for elements that resonate place (Melbourne or Hong Kong or Paris – or Houston or Wilmington, Delaware) or industry space (software or manufacturing or law or whatever). Decisions about backgrounds depend first, upon the substance of the material in the video; second, upon availability; and third, upon creativity.

corporate video production, travel, business, melbourne, australiaFor example: Two weeks ago we videotaped at two different companies in Australia, both of which escorted us straight into their conference rooms upon arrival. The first company is in the medical software business, the second in HR compliance materials for online consumption. The actual industry background for these speakers are rooms occupied by individuals at computer desks – a setting almost as common as white-walled conference rooms. But in both cases, the companies sell solely into the Australian market, so backdrops that say “Australia” fill in some color. In the first case, we set the interviewee in front of a large window that overlooked a recognizable panorama of Melbourne. For the second, we added to the side of a window view some distinctive company props that had just been used at a trade show the week before, emphasizing both geography (the view) and branding.

Note that skylines can be tricky. Natural lighting is not uniform in places around the world or during different times of day, and familiarity with details of how it might fall in a particular place at a specific hour cannot be easily predicted from another corner on the globe. Key to successful execution is a good knowledge of lighting that ensures thoughtful yet expeditious set-ups as well as a good kit that not only contains all the necessary components, but is also mobile-friendly.

At a video shoot a few months ago in Washington DC, the nondescript conference room into which we were taken was windowless.  With only about 20 minutes to set up a two-camera shoot, our director of photography washed the walls in colors reflective of the interviewee’s agency – another alternative when few tools and no time were at our disposal.

Hong Kong, corporate video production, business travel, video marketing, interviewsOutdoor interviews work well, too, if the choice is between a quiet space that says nothing and an interesting street scene where noise might be a challenge. Here the interviewee must feel comfortable with the setting, and proper audio is crucial; if carried out well, the end result can be very visually interesting.

Last week in Hong Kong, we conducted an interview from the top of the Peak, overlooking the city below. It was a beautiful scene, unmistakably highlighting the speaker’s location, which is an important aspect of the nature of his work. We walked around the path for a bit to find a spot less populated with passersby. Nonetheless, there were a number of cold stops in the middle of sentences as people passed or made other noise. It was a small price to pay for the beauty and inherent message of the background. And it was a far better solution than videotaping in another typical conference room, indistinguishable from millions of others everywhere.

Read last week’s entry for Video Production From The Road on Flying Tips.

Video Production From the Road: Flying Tips 2

October 12, 2012

Having become a semi-learned student of the airline rules, I wield them like constitutional rights.

Last year I chose to become an APP (my designation for the 25,000 plus mile status) on two airlines: United and American. The former is part of the OneWorld network, and the latter is a member of Star Alliance. Since my home bases are Montclair, NJ – 10 miles from Newark Airport – and Los Angeles, the most convenient airline for me to fly in the US is United, which has the Newark-based hub of its recent mergee, Continental.  American sometimes flies out of Newark, but more frequently its NY flights originate in and go to JFK and LaGuardia, making it a second choice for me.  However, the Star Alliance has more airline partners than OneWorld, and they fly to many more destinations, so I’m glad to have at least the APP-1 (more than Any Passenger and less than Any Passenger Plus) benefits.

video production new jersey, corporate video nj, flying tips, travel, business

I write this blog now aboard a flight from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong. I am traveling with my husband/business partner Curt. We are videotaping for a corporate client in both locations. The decision to do the shoot happened late in the game, so arrangements were made last minute, when few flights were still available.  The only feasible and affordable option required traveling with Cathay Pacific from JFK to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Adelaide, Australia, then Adelaide to Melbourne, where we worked for three days. This flight goes from Melbourne directly to Hong Kong, where we will stay for two nights. The next leg is to San Francisco, where we will work for a day. The last segment will take us from San Francisco back to Newark.

Cathay Pacific is a Star Alliance member. With our American gold status, we are classified as Ruby travelers on Star Alliance, going through the first and business class check-in and security lines, and boarding earlier in the game than other passengers. Since the economy class tickets had been sold out for the eastward bound flights at the late time of our booking, we purchased the next level: premium economy. That gave us a little more room and an APP+ status. But here is how being a partner airline APP member served as an advantage: The flight from NY to Hong Kong was 15 hours; the one from Hong Kong to Adelaide was another 9. When we arrived in Hong Kong, a ticket agent was waiting for us, informing us that we had been upgraded to business class. With open seats on the plane, priority went to us instead of others who had bought premium economy tickets since we had a combination of those slightly more expensive tickets and APP status on another Star Alliance partner airline.

Business seats on these eastern airlines are amazing for a number of reasons, but best of all, the seats fold down flat like beds. As someone who has a hard time sleeping in planes, I slept more than half of the journey, waking up refreshed enough to work for the afternoon in Melbourne. It made a huge difference!

curt fissel, voices and visions, travel, business, corporate video new jersey

Director of Photography, Curt.

The seats en route back west are only economy. But because of our APP status with Star Alliance member American, Cathay Pacific was able to offer us bulkhead seats, ie, front row in economy, with unlimited leg room.  For non-ruby passengers, these seats would have cost an additional $100 each, but our status ensured we could get them, and at no extra charge. We have reserved the same seats for the trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

The last leg of our trip will be provided by United, enabling us to return on a direct flight to Newark Airport. Checking over the seat availability, it seems we will be doomed to the last row. But as APP members, we stand a chance of getting upgraded, if anything is available.

I am well aware of the disadvantage of accruing miles in more than one airline per year. By this year’s end, I will have accumulated just short of 100,000 miles on all my flights combined. Had I stuck with one airline or partnership and taken a few extra trips to reach that mile marker, I would have been a lifetime status holder. Instead, the status I’ve earned over the last 10 months – which in another three weeks will be APPP on United and APP on American – will be good only through 2013. Come January 1, I will have to start all over again for 2014. But the offerings didn’t leave me much of a choice. The flights that gave me the most miles were available at specific times on particular airlines. At least I will enjoy my status in the coming year, always keeping an eye on changing rules and new opportunities.

Read Flying Tips 1.

Corporate Video on the Road

October 3, 2012

The end of the calendar year brings corporate meetings of all kinds. In today’s visual world, a constant flow of intermittent video throughout the course of these lengthy gatherings ensures more interest and participation, which ultimately translates to greater success for hosting firms.

Enjoying fish soup in the Traveler’s Lounge in HKG Airport (Hong Kong).

As a full-service corporate video production company working in this world, autumn ushers in a heavy travel schedule for us at Voices & Visions Productions as we work this year in Australia, Hong Kong, France, Finland, and various cities in the US – all in a single month.

Success with a schedule as hectic as this requires a deep-seated knowledge of how to travel as lightly but completely as possible to ensure the video captured looks as beautiful as it does when we shoot in our home territory.  Another important factor in preventing plane and road burn out is knowing how to plan the travel experience on a limited budget, to ensure comfort and even playtime in the after-work hours (when they happen). Over the coming few weeks, I will write blogs that address a bunch of video tips on the heavily traversed road.

Traveling with Equipment

September 21, 2012

curt, photography, video production, lighting, voices and visions, corporate video production, professional video production

This week’s tip is for businesses who travel with equipment and comes from our director of photography, Curt:

“When you travel as much as we do, it’s crucial to ensure our equipment can take the abuse of the road. I would never check a camera underneath an airplane, but a lot of the rest of the equipment can be thrown around if it’s well protected. I recommend investing in a hard, waterproof, protective case for microphones and other delicate equipment. I remind myself that these are my tools and I need to make sure they’re going to be in proper working order when we arrive on the job.”

Where in the world…?

September 5, 2012

Who know where today’s Photo of the Week was taken?

 

Canal, photography, curt fissel, voices and visions, new jersey video production, new york video production, los angeles video production, professional video production company

See last week’s photo.

Business Travel Tip

August 13, 2012
Ellen Friedland, Voices and Visions, Business Travel, Video Production, Los Angeles Video Production, New Jersey video production, New York video production, corporate video productionWe travel all year round to videotape for our corporate video production clients, but this month marks the beginning of our busiest travel season, something Voices and Visions‘ senior producer, Ellen Friedland, has learned to manage with ease. Here are a few tips from her on business travel:
If you’re traveling for business, you need to plan to get there with enough time to make the meeting or, in our case, to ensure we arrive in time for the pre-arranged interview, even if that means a day early. If you’re traveling on a plane with equipment, make sure you bring essential items as carry-ons.
See last week’s tip on Video Editing.