Tag Archives: Documentary film

Maine Media Workshop

First of all, this is not an advertisement; however…

A week ago, I spent a week in Rockport, Maine, attending the Maine Media Workshop. Maine Media has a number of workshops, most of which I would love to attend. In fact, I met several people who were spending their entire summer attending many, if not all the courses. I can understand why. Rockport is beautiful. The Maine Media workshop is exciting. The subject matter is engaging. And, most importantly, the people you meet are inspiring.

I was attending the Director’s Craft workshop, under the tutelage of Alan Myerson (look him up on IMDB, or, google him). I wanted to brush up on my directorial skills after spending the last few years exclusively working on documentaries. Alan was wonderful to work with. Under his direction, we spent the week working with some amazing actors. Alan took us through the process of auditioning, rehearsing, blocking/staging scenes and finally, shooting a scene. There were nine of us in the workshop. We had plenty of individual attention. We were able to explore our vision with the actors, and help the actors reach a level of performance that was awe inspiring. Alan was perceptive and insightful in helping us expand our directorial skill set. He was kind as he shepherded nine aspiring directors with widely varying skills and experience. And, he was responsible for bringing some amazingly talented actors.

Third Floor Sunset
The summer days are long. The sunsets are beautifully impressionistic.

Our days in the workshop were long, exhausting and invigorating. Each morning and each evening, I had a ten minute walk from my hotel to the campus, through a forest and past New England homes and farmhouses. One evening, long after dark, I stopped to consider the day. As I looked through the darkness enveloping a meadow, I saw hundreds, maybe even ten-thousand fireflies. Completely magical. Owl city must have been there before me. The next morning on my way back to campus, I stopped again, to consider the wild flowers where the fire flies had been.

Wildflowers
In a meadow near campus, wildflowers flourish.

On our last night of the workshop, Maine Media put on an all-you-can-eat lobster feed. There really isn’t anything quite like Maine lobster. After dinner, we watched a show of the weeks production work and then went out with our workshop group for a wrap party. I don’t think any of us were anxious to go back to the real world. However, we all knew that we could go back to our real lives and carry with us the gift of renewal and inspiration our week of hard work had brought.

I came to Maine with a hope to increase my skill set. I gained a wealth of new friends. I left Maine inspired by possibilities.

On my last day there, I turned on my still camera.

Faces of Brazil

I’m usually shooting video on assignment. Too often, stills are second priority and I never have enough time. However, when I go out in the streets, I have this compelling desire to capture the essence of the street–documentary style–a story in every frame–a thousand stories in a single image. I don’t consider it stealing, although, I try to take the spirit of a place with me.  I try to be invisible so that I and my camera don’t interrupt the realness of the moment. I rarely succeed. At least, that’s how it feels. Sometimes I get lucky and freeze the moment I was seeing in my mind.  People are my favorite and hardest to shoot. I love to capture the stories that are written in the lines of faces and hands, or, deeply etched on the soul through the eyes–stories I can only invent–stories you will see differently. Perhaps our own stories are written by the ways and means with which we see the world.

Brazil is exciting, vibrant, constantly moving. The scenery is diverse and beautiful. So, too, are the people.

La Ville Lumiére: but first you have to get there

Eiffel TowerThe good news–Tom and I were going to Paris for a documentary film shoot.  The bad news–we only had one day in the city for B-roll. Fortunately, our contacts in Paris agreed to provide a driver who would take us wherever we wanted to go.

Great! We’ll meet him at the airport.

We arrived in Paris early in the morning. Our flight from England had been bumpy and a steady rain was falling in the city. In spite of the early hour, Charles De Gaulle airport was crowded. I’d been to Paris before and knew what to expect.  Pushy people. Cranky travelers. Still true.

Charles de Gaulle AirportWe retrieved our gear and made our way toward the exit, passing the line of people holding signs. I didn’t see my name. We came to the end of the row.  No sign. No driver. Finding a spot for our carts, I made a call.

“Pierre, where are you?”

“I am here.”

“Where?”

“Here.”

“So are we.”

“This is good.”

I don’t speak French.  Pierre spoke English, but I had the impression that complex concepts were not part of his capabilities.

“How do we find you?”

“Do not worry. I will find you.”

Really? How? The call ended before I could ask. Tom looked at me skeptically. He had listened in on the conversation. He decided to swim against the current and take another pass at the sign holders.

“No luck?”

“Nada.”

“I didn’t know you speak Spanish.”

“I don’t.”

“Bonjour mes frères.”

True to his promise, Pierre stood before us, holding a sign with our names on it. His smile was encouraging.

“Bonjour,” we said. “How did you find us?”

“This way,” Pierre said, ignoring our question and stepping into the stream of transient people.

“How did he find us?” Tom asked me. I shrugged, following Pierre’s example and pushing my cart into the stream.

As we made our way through the airport, I noticed that Pierre was older than he sounded on the phone. He had a shuffle-step limp and didn’t seem to see particularly well. When the crowds thinned out and I could walk beside him, Pierre assured me he could drive us anywhere we wanted.

“Perfecto,” I said, not really sure which language, if any, that was.

Parking terminal 2FOur carts piled high with equipment, Tom and I forded the river of humanity-in-transit as Pierre lead us to parking level minus-2F.  We followed him, slowly, through the underground depths to row eleven, space twenty-six.  Pierre stopped abruptly and stared at the car in space twenty-six.  Tom and I stared at Pierre, staring at the car in space twenty-six.

“Pierre, I don’t think this car is going to work,” I said, as the truly Parisian mini-smart car waited proudly before us.

“No,” Pierre said.  “This car will not work.”

Tom and I looked at each other, not sure if this realization was just dawning on him or if Pierre had known this when he rented the car.

“Pierre, can we exchange it?”

“No,” he said with his strong French accent.

“No?” we repeated.

“No!” he repeated.

“Pierre, this car won’t do.”

“This is not my car.”

“Not your car?”

“No.” Pierre said.

Tom and I looked at each other again, relieved.

“Okay.  Where’s your car?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” We had picked up the habit of repeating everything Pierre said.  It was comforting but not really clarifying.

“No.” Pierre continued to stare at the smart car. “This is where I parked.”

Now what?

Pierre began to shuffle down the row of cars. “Sometimes I have memory problems,” I think I heard him say—not sure—he was facing away from me—maybe I just imagined he said it.

“What kind of car is it?” I asked.

“Use the clicker,” Tom suggested.

Pierre didn’t answer.  He just got further away.

“I’ll help him,” Tom said, abandoning his cart and racing down the opposite row of cars.

Charles de Gaulle parking 2EIn moments, Pierre and Tom had disappeared from view and I was left alone with two carts of equipment.  The air in the parking garage was stale, carbon monoxide mixed with French tobacco.  The temperature seemed to be rising.  The ceiling seemed to be getting lower. The lights were growing dim… I sat down on my baggáge to wait.

Charles de Gaulle airport is big.  Really big. So is the parking structure. Pierre and Tom appeared and disappeared at regular intervals, emerging and submerging into and out of the bulkhead dividing rows.  This was comforting and disconcerting, for awhile. Then they were gone. For a long time.

When he eventually did return, Pierre assured me he had parked in one of the rows.

“Good to know,” I said, trying not to be cynical. “Which one?”

“It should be here,” Pierre said.

I could only agree, both of us shrugging as if the car had moved by itself.

Tom finally returned, breathing hard.  He had jogged the entire length of the section.

“Volkswagen,” Tom said. Pierre had remembered somewhere down one of the rows.

“Any luck?” I said.

“No,” Tom said matching Pierre’s accent.

After one hour of searching for the car, using the clicker, we began to think maybe someone had stolen it.  However, Pierre assured us that was not the case. He gave me the impression that Paris was without thievery of any kind.

“Have faith,” he said.

What else could we do? There was only so much daylight available.  So, we kept looking—faith and prayer tinged with a hint of desperation.

Charles de Gaulle parking section 2EAfter two-and-a-half hours, in a different terminal, we found the car.

“Voíla. Right were I left it,” Pierre said, smiling sincerely.

“Voíla,” I said. My French accent was not as good as Tom’s.

As we got in the car, Pierre asked, “Would you drive?  I don’t know how to drive a stick shift.”

Tom and I looked at each other, uncertain now how Pierre had actually parked the car.  “Sure,” I said, “Let’s go see Paris.”

“I will show you,” Pierre said.