The Ups and Downs of Video Production

The above piece was conceived by my colleague, Addie, during a meeting where we were discussing new ideas for employer branded content.  We chose Felicia to be our host because she’s adaptable and can make people feel comfortable in awkward situations…like when your elevator ride turns into an interview.

I love projects like this.

When I studied video production in college, the number one thing I learned is that projects never go exactly the way you plan them.  That’s probably why I tend to gravitate towards concepts that are unpredictable.  I love the challenge of adapting on the fly.  I love it when things go wrong and chaos ensues.

So naturally I was drawn to the idea of putting a potted plant, 3 cameras, two chairs and a host in an elevator and seeing how things played out.  And after two hours of chasing our set up and down four floors, I was very pleased with the outcome.

Photographing The Little Things

This turned out to be my favorite video so far.  And, as per usual, I didn’t really plan ahead much.  I knew I wanted to shoot something about my mom, but I wasn’t sure what the story was going to be or how I was going to do it.

Fortunately, my mom is an interesting subject, and her interview touched upon both her story and storytelling itself.  I’ve always loved the idea that you can find a story in anything.  Any moment or object can have beauty and meaning.

I see now where I get this philosophy from.

How Game Mechanics Tell Stories

This past week I wanted to try my hand at something a little different.  I’ve recently become a huge fan of in-depth video game essays.

Like Mark Brown’s Game Maker’s Toolkit.

Or Cagey Videos.

Or [Game Array] (which is run by a friend of mine and I help fund because the videos are awesome).

My video is not nearly close to the quality of the those from the channels above.  Yet, I love storytelling and I love video games, so I figured I would give it a shot.

Story #5: Mindi is a Progressive Woman

This week I tried something that I find very difficult  I told a story that didn’t have me as its central figure.

My colleague, Felicia nominated Mindi for this award and we were all very excited when it was announced that she was going to be honored at this event in the Cleveland area.  I decided to document the occasion.

There wasn’t much planning involved (for better or worse, that’s my style).  In retrospect I should have thought about a more focused story.  Ultimately, I did one sit-down interview and captured footage at the event.

I even went to Mindi’s daughter’s softball game at a local elementary school to get shots of her with her kids.  As I passed the playground next to the field , sporting business attire, a full beard and a camera in my hands, I immediately regretted the decision.  I didn’t end up using the footage and I might not be able to step within 500 yards of a public school from this point on.

The price we pay to make art.  Congratulations, Mindi!

Story-a-Week Challenge

Having gone through a bit of a dry spell with this blog and creative personal projects in general, I’ve decided to challenge myself to tell a story every week using video as the medium.  Some might be vlogs, some might be short films, some might be mini-documentaries…I’m not really holding myself to a format.  The only goal is to have one posted every Wednesday on my YouTube Channel.

And, oh yeah…I’ve already been doing this for four weeks.

I find that if I make a big deal about launching a project before I launch a project, it will never get done.  I’m all talk.

But if I dive right into a project, get the momentum going and focus on the content first, then I’m more likely to keep at it.

After four weeks of developing projects and getting into a flow, I now feel confident that this is going to be “a thing.”  Not like the time I was going to develop my own board game… or the time I was going to code a video game…. or the time I was going to make a gaming blog about coding a video game….or the time I was going to start washing my pants between every use.

Here’s what I’ve made so far…

  1. How I Learned to Cross-Pollinate – A vlog I shot on a trip back to Ithaca College talking about how I use the skills I learned there in an unrelated field.
  2. I Saved 100 Women – A vlog about my shortcomings as an ally for women in the workplace.
  3. The Big 15,000 – That week I challenged myself to get 15,000 steps a day and then ran around a big-ass lake.
  4. La Pomme – A short film I challenged myself to make using basic French.  It’s weird.

As for this blog, I’m hoping to use it to tell stories as well, while also providing insight into these projects.

How long will this go for?  Hopefully the rest of the year, but now that I’ve announced it I may have jinxed myself…



How I Killed Chivalry

On a flight from Tampa to Akron, I encountered a woman with a big, red bag that was almost twice as large as as she was.  She was about forty years old and 5’ 2” with dark hair, glasses and very little patience.  I was walking behind her when boarding the plane, giving me a front row seat to the discomfort of having to watch her cram all of her worldly possessions into the overhead bin.

At first, she had no trouble at all, lifting the bag well over her head and slamming it into the tight compartment with ease.  But one of the pockets was bulging out a little too far and suddenly nothing was moving.  Without taking a moment to figure out what was causing the problem, she began to beat the gargantuan obstruction into place as though it had once murdered her father with an ice pick in a previous life.  I became captivated with the one-sided boxing match that was unfolding in front of me.

I’m not sure why I didn’t help her.  I could say it was because I felt bad for her abused baggage.  I could say there was simply no room for me to move in.  In the end, I blame my social anxiety and inability to be comfortable in most everyday situations.  With all eyes already trained on this pissed-off passenger, I found myself frozen in both fear and fascination.  She noticed relatively quickly.

After a sharp glance in my direction, she turned over to the woman she would soon be sitting next to.

“Look at this guy.”  She muttered, almost inaudibly.  “Just watching me.”

Now I was directly involved in the situation.  The passengers in the back of the plane, who had once been eagerly waiting for an annoyed traveler to have a mental breakdown, were now staring directly at me.

In another socially awkward moment brought on by fear, I decided to do something without actually doing anything.  I just smiled, took a few steps towards the struggling woman, and raised my hands as if to help her push the bag in.  I was still at least two feet away.

The view from the back of the plane was priceless.  A middle-age woman ferociously pounding on a red bag with her fists while a grinning, twenty-something male stands behind her, groping a forcefield.  Had I not wanted to crawl into the overhead compartment myself, I may have chuckled at the absurdity of it all.  Then it got worse.

“Well this is just great.”  The woman shouted, this time ensuring that no passenger on the plane couldn’t hear her.  “I didn’t realize we were living in an age where a man won’t help a woman in need!”

Everything fell silent.  If you listened carefully enough, you could hear the faint sound of a hundred travelers stabbing me with a broken bottle in their daydreams.  I made eye contact with a woman in her late seventies a few rows back who just shook her head at the decline of modern society, otherwise known as me.

My first instinct, which is testament to how sick of a person I am, was to pretend to be deaf.  With a few clever movements of my hands I could have instantly become the most misunderstood person on the flight, and this angry passenger would have to live forever with the guilt of having verbally castrated a person with a disability.

Yet another large part of me wondered why I remained frozen.  Perhaps the embarrassment and shame of having not risen to the occasion to help a fellow traveler in need was something I deserved.  At the very least, nobody in this situation was correct.  Maybe had the woman asked me to help, I would have been less reluctant to move in.  Then again, I should have seen the signs and offered without hesitation.

Before I could do anything, an older gentleman in another seat stood up and, with one successful push, fit the bag in the overhead compartment once and for all.

“Thank you very much, sir.”  Said everyone on the plane.

“Yes, thank you.”  I said, handing him my testicles and making my way down the aisle to sit next to the bathroom and wonder how this became the best seat in the house.

The Imposter

Looking back, it was my fault that I only gave myself an hour connection time after an international flight.  It was also my fault that, out of all the lines in U.S. Customs I could have chosen, I picked the one behind the old foreign woman who was carrying a shoebox peppered with makeshift air holes. 

Yet somehow I made it.  I arrived at my seat, dripping sweat after sprinting through the airport terminal like a chubby cheetah who would do anything to avoid having to spend the night at the Houston airport.

I was one of the last ones on the plane.  Most of the seats were taken.  Most of the seats including my own. 

24A.  A window seat with a beautiful view of the wingtip embedded over the night sky and the slowly passing lights below.  I was looking forward to resting my head against the wall of the plane and staring out into the abyss, reflecting on my life.  Where am I going?  Where have I been? 

But the biggest obstacle between me and the seat of my dreams was that there was already a man in it.

The imposter was my age, but Hispanic and skinny enough that I could vaguely make out the shape of his fragile, tiny skull.  His arms, which extended from the t-shirt that was made for someone of my size were lined with angry-looking tattoos and his baseball cap was just crooked enough to cover one eye.  His other eye, which looked like it had seen some shit, was sunken deeply into the back of his head. 

“Excuse me, sir.”  I exclaimed, dropping straight into the character of a Mormon missionary interrupting a redneck with a shotgun at dinner time.  “I believe you might be in my seat.”

There was a pause when I finished speaking.  The young man’s gaze never left the seat back pocket in front of him.  I felt like I was barging in on a staring contest between him and SkyMall.

Just as I was about to repeat myself he raised his head, revealing his other eye which was sunk further into the back of his head and looked like it had seen even more shit than the first eye I saw.  Both shit-seeing eyes were now focused directly on me.

When I finished explaining that he and I were victims of, what I prayed to be, a hilarious misunderstanding, he didn’t blink nor say a word.  That was when I gave a nervous chuckle and started scanning the plane.

There were a few other empty seats, but they were all middle seats.  The one closest to me was between two passengers so big that only approximately sixty-three percent of the seat between them was usable.   

Like a television lawyer pulling out a piece of irrefutable evidence, I snatched my ticket from my bag and stuck it right in front of the imposter’s nutrient-deprived face.  24A.  The seat that was assigned to me.

“That’s where I’m supposed to be.”  I explained pointing to the seat and then back to the ticket.  “See?”

Without moving his head, his eyes shifted from me to the ticket and then back to me.  He then reached into the seat back pocket and pulled out his own crumpled ticket.  With the same amount of confidence, if not more, he showed it to me.  24B.  The empty middle seat right next to mine.

We stared at each other.  Locked in an awkward showdown.  Neither of us backing down from what was easily a one-sided argument.  I was showing him proof that he had taken my seat and he was also showing me proof that he had taken my seat, but with the belief that I was the asshole in this situation.

“You’re right here.”  I said pointing to his actual seat right next to where he was.  “This is you.”

With one last expressionless glance, he shrugged his shoulders and slid over.  At this moment, I expected everyone on the plane to burst into wild applause, but all I received were nasty glares for holding up the plane after already arriving late.  Perhaps I was an anti-hero.

The first hour of the flight was one filled with tension.  In my drive towards victory over the window seat hijacker I never gave myself a chance to realize that, win or lose, I’d be sitting next to him for the next three hours.

My thoughts raced.  What if he turns around and stabs me in the neck with a pen?  What if he strangles me with the cord from his free pair of cheap airplane headphones as soon as I try to sleep.  His tattoos suddenly looked more menacing.  His expressionless eyes looked cold and hateful.  I pretended to stare out into the night, but in reality I was ready to act if he made any kind of move. 

And about an hour and a half into the flight, he made a move.

I had almost forgotten that I was fearing for my life when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned my head and was faced with a pair of sunken eyes.  That’s when I expected the knife in my throat.  His mouth opened for the first time since I met him.

“What…”  He began before the rest of the sentence seemed to escape him.  “What is…?

What is what?  My last word?  What is God going to say when I meet him or her in the next thirty seconds?

“What is…”  He tried again with no luck.  At a loss for words, he simply raised his knife-less, boney arm and pointed to his wrist.

The universal sign for time.

I looked at my phone. 

“It’s nine thirty-five.”  I replied hesitantly.

He stared blankly. 

“Nine thirty-five.”  I repeated.  “That’s the time.  You want…the time…correct?”

He was listening, but nothing I was saying was getting through.  Just like our awkward encounter moments earlier.  This time, I understood why.  The only words he knew in English were “what” and “is.” 

“I’m sorry.”  I apologized and let out a laugh, realizing that my life was no longer in danger.

I showed him the clock on my phone and he understood immediately.  He nodded.  He even smiled at me.  I smiled back.  Two smiles.  The universal sign that the tough, angry looking man who you thought was going to shank your judgmental ass turned out to be friendly, Mexican citizen with limited English skills.

We spent the rest of the trip in calm silence.  Me with my head against the wall of the fuselage, staring out into the abyss, reflecting on my life. And him, staring at the seat back, feeling a sense of satisfaction that he had given up his window seat to a strange man who would do anything for place to rest his head. 

Tooth and Nail

It’s embarrassing to tell the truth,
Of how, last week, I chipped my tooth.
I was answering emails of high demand,
When my mouth clamped down upon my hand.

I was munching away when I heard a crack,
I pulled out my thumb to examine the snack,
It appeared I had an epic fail,
When my tooth came down upon my nail.

While that sounds a bit deranged,
I promise you, it’s not that strange.
This reasoning should do it service;
I bite my fingers when I get nervous.

Last week, as you can probably guess,
I was under a lot of stress.
And it wasn’t just me who who felt scared,
The news of the world left us all impaired.

An Ebola patient decided to fly,
to a city that is real close by.
The panic we felt was impossible to measure,
the one time someone went to Cleveland for pleasure.

The stock market outlook was murky,
as ISIS drew closer and closer to Turkey.
There was just so much news that we feared,
We didn’t realize Kim Jong Un reappeared.

The good news was that my tooth was okay,
There would be no filling, there would be no decay.
The tiny piece that broke and fell out,
was small enough to do without.

I decided it would be best,
to give my senses a rest.
With plenty more teeth to lose,
I picked up the remote and turned off the news.

The Hunter’s Coat

I saw it right away, which completely defeated its purpose.  A green-patterned camouflage jacket is useless unless its found in the woods or deep in the jungle.  Had this clothing been piled up next to a bush somewhere in the Congo, it most-certainly would have eluded me.  But lying in the middle of the grey washing machine tub, it stood out like a minority at the Republican National Convention.

There’s one washer and dryer for every building in my apartment complex.  That means I have to compete against twelve other rooms of people when I decide my clothing has reached an unbearable level of nastiness.  During the Great Depression, it wasn’t uncommon to have one Whirlpool, front-loading, high efficiency washer for every four-hundred families, so it’s difficult for me to complain.

Yet, as I do with all my first world problems, I continue bitch and moan.  Especially when the only thing keeping me from doing a wash is someone else’s sopping wet camo.

When you have three floors of residents in an endless battle over a Sears appliance, war criminals will rise from the ashes.  The worst offense you can make is leaving your clothing in the washing machine for an extended period of time.  You’re inadvertently clogging up the entire clothing-washing system.

It’s evil.  It’s careless.  In my opinion, you’re more likely to make friends with your neighbors by taking a dump in the communal stairwell.

On this particular Monday night, I had a basket of dirty clothes ready to go.  I had checked the laundry room several times during the course of a three hour period.  The camouflage jacket remained.  Had it been snow camouflage, it might have blended in a bit.  This camouflage didn’t even try to hide from me.  It stood out more than anything I had ever found in the washing machine and that irony deeply angered me.

Imagining the culprit angered me even more.

I pictured a white, middle-aged man with a long, braided chin beard.  His head is shaved.  He has a tattoo of an eagle on his left shoulder and the misspelled name of his high school ex on his right.  He’s overweight from a diet of Burger King and microwaveable breakfast sandwiches.  He doesn’t read.  He doesn’t know what the second amendment is, but he would take a bullet for it.

He hunts on weekends, spending hours in the woods firing his rifle at defenseless deer.  They never see him coming.  He blends in with his surroundings like a fat tree with a NASCAR hat.  When he’s not using his camouflage to destroy the lives of animals, he’s wearing it as a fashion statement to impress his buddies at tailgates.  He takes his wife to Pizza Hut on their wedding anniversary.

This man was easy to despise.  But then again, I did make him up to put a face to the attire that was ruining my laundry night.

Like when you encounter a car that’s moving obnoxiously slow on the highway and, even though it’s not safe, you can’t help but crane your neck to see the driver as you pass.  It doesn’t matter who is behind the wheel.  You just want a face to hate and any man, woman, grandfather, teenager, or handicapped person will do.

Another hour passed and the camo remained.  By this point it was looking more and more like I would have to wear a bathing suit and a hand towel to work the next day.  All because of one man who doesn’t care about the people he lives around.

I decided the culprit’s name was Dwayne and he runs local skinhead gatherings, plotting hate crimes and shouting “white power” at the top of his lungs.  He has three daughters between the ages of five and sixteen.  He drowned the youngest in a bathtub for crying during Wheel of Fortune.  The middle child was expelled from school for lighting a teacher on fire.  The oldest listens to Katy Perry on her Samsung Galaxy S4.

I thought about pulling the camo from the machine and tossing it outside the building.  It would lie on the walkway in a sad puddle of soap, water, and lint.  Everyone who entered the building would see it and know what an asshole Dwayne is.  We’d rise up against him and run him out of the building.

I was so caught up in the fantasy of evicting my imaginary neighbor, that I almost didn’t notice the sounds of somebody in the laundry room right outside my living area.  I pressed my ear up to the door to listen.  I could hear the distinct sounds of somebody putting quarters into the dryer, closing the door, and firing it up.  Then they left the room.

Quickly, I pressed my eye against the peephole so I could get a better glimpse at the chubby, hillbilly who had caused me so much anger that night.  But all I saw was a young man, about my age, with a healthy physique and short haircut.  He walked past my room and down the stairs.

“That’s not Dwayne.”  I said to myself.  My face still pressed up against the door.  That’s the first time I realized I could have been very wrong about the situation.

Maybe it wasn’t Dwayne’s jacket at all.

Perhaps it belonged to Kevin…

Kevin has lived in Ohio all his life.  He comes from a small, midwestern family with very little money.  He joined the Marine Corps right out high school and has since served multiple tours of duty in Iraq in Afghanistan.  He lives with his pregnant fiancé and their dog, Steve Jobs.  His best friend was killed in the line duty last year and he blames himself for not being fast enough to jump on the grenade before it went off.  He spends every day wishing it was him and not James.  James didn’t deserve a fate like that.  He hopes that, by continuing to serve his country, he can save the lives of many more men and woman.  Which is why he was shipping out again for another tour of duty.  All he needed to do was wash his uniform and spend one last night with his wife.  A night that was so magical, he completely forgot he left his stuff in the wash.

And even though, like Dwayne, Kevin was a figment of my imagination.  At the very least, he still served to make me feel like a huge dick as I poured detergent all over my dark hipster jeans and my cheap polo shirts.

Limericks on Hypochondria

I found a strange lump on my limb,
At the doctor’s I showed it to him.
He said, “Just to recap,
That lump is your kneecap.”
And now my condition’s not grim.

My girlfriend was sharing her Coke,
When she started to cough and choke.
I spit out the Cola,
For fear of Ebola.
She was only laughing at a joke.

I awoke to a real dreadful scare.
I saw herpes had started to flare.
How did this emerge in
these parts of a virgin?
Turns out it was just ingrown hair.