This past week I had the opportunity to work for Richfield Video Productions in Oklahoma City at the Morgan Grand National Horse Show.
We had a crew of about 20 and created a live webcast, individual recordings for riders in their specified classes, as well as general "scans" (recordings of each class for future use by anyone who might require it).
I acted as a sales representative, isolated recording camera operator, live camera operator, and webcast director. My primary function was as a director. I directed around 10 of the session which lasted from 2 to 5 hours long.
It was a great experience as I learned the best ways to shoot horses and their riders to showcase their skills, give an educated viewer a detailed show, and provide an uneducated viewer with an appealing experience with the opportunity to learn.
This company continues to grow and have more demands from other national horse shows seeking their services. They labeled this week their best show yet. I was honored to help them this past week and hope to do so again in the future.
You can watch the final night's webcast below, as well as more of the week's sessions on Richfield's website (linked to the image above).
The lot was centered in an industrial district, somewhere in Glendale, CA. I inched my way up to the gate and handed over my i.d. "Do you have an appointment?" the guard asked. I told him yes, with who, showed him the emails, and he sent me on to the parking garage. I parked and unfolded myself from my car, straightening my dress and heels. I felt overdressed. Most production people I'd met sported the jeans and Hawaiian shirt look. While I was all about the colorful and comfy, my grandmother taught me to dress up when in doubt.
I found the building I'd been told to enter, approached the receptionist's desk in the immaculate and professionally decorated lobby, and gave my name. She made a call. Pretty soon I was face to face with a man who joined DreamWorks when it was being started because he knew Steven Spielberg and was visionary about story and characters. He is a friend of a family I'm friend's with and they'd been kind enough to share my information so that I could glean some wisdom.
We headed to the buzzing cafeteria and sat in the shade as he told me his story. He'd started typing up receipts for a toy company. Now he's number 5 at DreamWorks. Because he was passionate and pushed the envelope of perspective and how he did the work that he did.
He works as a "shepherd" for franchises. He is a liaison between the director and the audience, making sure that there are "distant mountains" as Tolkien used to say to make sequels possible and be sure the content, themes, and emotions are relevant to this generation of children - and what their parents are looking for them to learn.
His philosophy and approach to story is beautiful. He wants aspirational characters that are relatable. He looks for not distance between viewer and character, but someone the viewer can assimilate to their personality, views, and perspectives. He thinks stories should help shape, inspire, and explore - like toys. Aid in the playing and realizing of real life.
He graciously offered me a tour of the lot, explaining how the animation process looks different than the live action process because cutting 2 minutes of animation loses $1.5 million. Thus, they send 5-6 years making each film, have that many in the process at once, and make the movie over and over again before actually making (animating the movie). This happens through a loose script, storyboard artists who determine the action, voice artists, and a temporary score. They essentially make the movie, playing through each scene to make sure the beats land. This saves time later and money, ensuring the story is watertight. The entire development process fascinated me and as my guide has the type of job I hope to reach one day, I was completely enraptured.
Overall, the day was inspiring, educational, challenging . . . it left me speechless. I'm so thankful to my friends for sharing their friend with me and for him to be generous enough to give me his time and hard-earned wisdom. I feel I have a better grasp on the business side of Hollywood and what I want to do eventually. look forward to more opportunities like this and finding my own way into the industry.
Everyone has been looking at Russia with held breath. Would they finish in time? Would protestors make an attack? What about all the history between the the USA and Russia-could it be forgiven?
My announcement for my employment within the broadcast realm of the Olympics was met with a double-sided reaction: fervent excitement checked by anxious anticipation. Those who couldn't remember the Olympics boycott of the summer of 1980 and the tension resulting from the Miracle on Ice game prior to the second Olympic boycott in the summer of 1984 have seen the news reports of the treatment of the protest band known as Pussy Riot. And if neither of those stories has anchored in the modern mind, the caricature of Russian culture has: barking language, thick makeup, rude treatment, and selfish natures. I went to Russian in spite of the world's fears, because I believe in the demonstration of unity and the pursuit of understanding despite off-putting exteriors, because often those perceptions are misread.
Russia was no exception.
As American student intern, I was in the minority. For most of the Olympic games, the host countries students are employed in order to benefit the economy, engage the country with the games, and provide valuable work experience. However, my school had some connection and was able to send around 30 students to work in that environment because it sees the value of such a unique and diverse situation. My entire team was made up of Russian students ranging from ages 18 to 23. At first, we just looked at each other. They were self-conscious of their English and I knew no Russian. In order to do our job effectively, we needed to act as extensions of each other to cover a wide area. We needed to communicate. They graciously struggled to share their thoughts in a language not their own for my sole benefit and inclusion. At first, they kept their speech to a minimum, fearing mistakes. But as I encouraged them that their English was quite good and understandable, they ventured further. Soon, they were joking and testing idioms and asking how to communicate different thoughts and feelings in English. The most comical was then I used some form of interpretive dance to explain the difference between "giving in" and "giving up". It got to the point where my English tapered to theirs so that I spoke in a light Russian-English accent with grammar broken to match how they spoke English to maximize effective communication. We created our own hybrid language.
That being said, there were still holes. I was fortunate to see them every day for almost two weeks and be able to read their patterns of physical expression and tone by familiarity. However, we often worked with broadcasters from countries such as Finland, Japan, Sweden, Germany, Russia, USA, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, etc. All of these different nationalities came with their own languages and unique styles of communication. I became very comfortable with not understanding and moving forward in spite of that fact. Furthermore, I loved it.
I loved comparing and sharing culture. I enjoyed being the minority and being able to represent my country through my own actions and not through stereotypes. I found a beautiful relationship with people I'd only just met because we were in a place unlike any other, doing a job we'd never encountered before, and celebrating unity on a world stage together. My Russian crew adopted me as I relied on them to navigate the strange new world of Russia. They made me sit if they thought I'd stood too long. They led me to the dining tent if I got caught up in work and forgot to go to dinner. They constantly checked in with me to see if there was anyway they could help. Their kindness and devotion was overwhelming and not at all what I expected from strangers or Russians. When they discovered my love for chocolate, I was inundated with 5 Snickers bars, 2 Twix, and a Milky Way in one day. I had to start hiding it in my backpack as to not offend them that I couldn't eat it all.
We took care of one another. We knew where the others were at any given time, how they were feeling, what they were struggling with, what they hoped to be, and what insecurities were haunting them. In the short course of two weeks, 137 hours of constant work and learning, we became a family. And that bond created an efficiency and natural progression to our work that would not have been possible had we been unable to release all expectations and accept one another where we were at in order to maximize our strengths and determine where we need to be stronger.
I expected to be thrown into a harsh world where the job is the top priority and feelings are thrown out the window. I expected to be mocked for my ignorance and chastised for my learning curve. I expected to suffer and earn my stripes the hard way. I was surprised.
My two supervisors were tough. They expected us to learn our stuff and carry it out, but they invited questions. By opening up the communication line and space for learning, they created trust. They asked about our lives, made sure we were sleeping enough, etc. They knew that we were dealing with a lot of people who were end-goal oriented, people who would treat us as if we were not humans but objects to be used on the way to victory. But those people weren't worth going home and crying over.
I watched closely my higher-ups' dealings with challenging broadcasters and tense situations. I watched their dealings with my fellow students. I watched their personal investment into our workplace. I watched everything. From it I gleaned a deeper understanding of leadership and the communication, patience, and perspective it demands. I began to look for opportunities to exercise those skills in my own smaller responsibilities. I developed closer relationships with the broadcasters themselves and earned a level of trust and grace as a result. I found my bosses treating me with more potential instead of an extra set of hands and feet. Furthermore, I found a deeper attachment and pride to my work that enabled me to work 12-14 hour shifts and barely feel them. I loved learning and my experience with the Olympics facilitated that pursuit in every aspect of every day.
Coming home from such a whirlwind experience is always a bit of a rocky landing. Something has just become a part of you and then it must be left behind. You always come home a bit of a stranger. Your friends and family don't always notice the rift of unspoken, unshared moments and feelings, but you do. They're something to be treasured and shouldered. Something to be poured back into the ground to fertilize the next growing opportunity for learning. I'm still reconciling exactly how my time at the Olympics in Sochi has changed me and will change my future. I'm sure some of the ways will activate without my knowledge. I'm glad because that means they've become a part of my very self. Whether the wisdom and habits I picked up were professional or personal or both, I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity of a lifetime.
Sochi 2014 marks my first Olympics. I pray it is the first of many.
I was given the unique opportunity to attend Sundance Film Festival this past week with 8 other students and 2 professors in order to study filmmaking by watching 11 films, attending numerous panels, and engaging with the culture of the independent film industry.
During my time at Sundance, the power and depth of story was revealed to me, inspiring me to push the limits of my own perspective and craft. My vocabulary for discussing story and its impact on an audience was enhanced as I allowed myself to be an unbiased viewer by not studying the films' hype before seeing them and then comparing my experience to others' afterward as well as conversing with the directors face to face.
My Sundance experience consisted of films like: Hellion, Blind, Little Accidents, Cesar's Last Fast, Camp Xray, White Shadow, Frank, Web Junkie, and Ida. In addition, we also saw several Slamdance films such as Little Hope was Arson, The Big House, and White Earth.
I was exposed to the wisdom and experience of many filmmakers, famous and not, and allowed to meet anyone and everyone on an equal playing field. The intensive experience not only grounded me on the films I hope to make, but also gave me ideas about how to go about making them. I am thankful for the openness of those who poured into me at the festival. They are mentorships I hope to maintain for the entirety of my career.
Sundance was an incredible experience, the Disney World of filmmakers. I hope to attend next year via a different perspective, perhaps as a volunteer. And maybe one day, as a presenting filmmaker.