Tag Archives: Robert Darden

Why Crowd Funding Now?

A Life’s Work is  midway through a 30-day crowd funding campaign via Indiegogo, which has partnered with the New York Foundation of the Arts. Here’s the pitch video.

I’ve written about crowd funding here before, and the take away is if you want to reach your goal, start early (check), don’t do it alone (check), be prepared to work hard (my pecs are primed), and set a realistic goal. (Is $30,000 realistic? Is the $40,000 stretch goal doable? Guess we’ll find out.) (No, and no.)

I’ve also strongly advised that people have a campaign either in the early stages of a project or the very late stage of a project. People are more inclined to support beginnings and endings. “I’ve got a film project in mind and I have great people excited to work on it and I need a little money to shoot a kick ass short film that could be made into a feature if it’s seen by the right people, whom I know!” Or “We’ve finished shooting, we’ve finished editing, the composer is lined up. What we need now are funds for things like color correcting, sound mixing, E&O insurance and all sorts of boring but expensive stuff like that.”


A Life’s Work
is in the latter category, and that’s why it’s up on Indiegogo now. Personally, I know I’m more apt to give money to projects during these phases, and of the two, more apt to help out a project that just needs a little help to become fully realized. Knowing that my contribution is going toward something that will soon be in the world excites me. I and a whole mess of other people recognized that there was something special going on. We decided we could help, we could be part of it, and gave a hand to the creator. I feel like a patron. I feel a sense of pride and something like ownership.

Support ALW via Indiegogo or buy 5 Starbucks ventis.Being the person I am, I quantify my contribution. Let’s say I gave $25. A Starbuck’s latte venti, costs $4.45 before tax and is 240 calories. My $25 dollars could buy me 5.61797733 lattes and contribute 1,348.31461 mostly unhealthy calories to my body.

Now, a ninety-minute film is 5,400 seconds. Let’s say this hypothetical film was shot on video at 29.97 fps (frames per second), we have 29.97 x 5,400 seconds or 131,838 frames. Now, let’s just say that that the total budget for this hypothetical film is $80,000, from soup to nuts. By dividing the  dollar amount by the number of frames, we can calculate how much each frame costs. Each dollar will buy 1.647976 frames, which means that my $25  bought 41.199375 frames, or about  1.5 seconds of the film . So, if you, Dear Reader, were to contribute $25 to such a film, you would be responsible for making those crucial 41.199375 frames possible. If you don’t think that’s a big deal consider a film that’s missing that number of frames here and there. It might look like this:

So, if you feel like owning a piece of A Life’s Work,  go over to the Indiegogo page and buy yourself some of the film.  You’ll also receive some cool rewards.

Thanks for your continued support.

Record Store Day

Happy Record Store Day

Many many years ago I worked in a record store in Hackensack, NJ with a whole mess of great people, many of whom I’m still in touch with. (Hi Rita, Sam, Bob, Jack, Helen, and Wayne.) Though it was a chain store and not an independently owned shop, it was still very High Fidelity. Oh, the lists…

A certain kind of person works in a record store, then and now. Then the customers ran the gamut, from Kenny G. fans to people who couldn’t wait to get the latest Ministry 12″. Now, it seems the only people who visit record stores are more apt to dig for that Ministry 12″. Well, maybe not Ministry.

Certain things have been gained with the digital revolution where music is concerned. But some things have been lost, too. I miss two things. 1) That tactile sense of holding an LP, reading the liner notes, staring at album cover art groovy enough for framing. 2) As the number of record stores continue to dwindle, the face-to-face interaction with other folks interested in music is disappearing. And I think that’s a shame. (Yeah, I know, you can find folks with similar musical tastes online, but it isn’t the same, really, than, you know, leaving your house and talking to someone.)

So, to honor Record Store Day and the interactions that happen in such establishments, I put together the following blog-only clip from footage Wolfgang Held shot at Hyde Park Records in Chicago, when we first met Robert Darden. Mine is the low voice you hear in the beginning, talking about the Redd Foxx LP being displayed above the gospel section, “the sacred and profane in one eyeful.”

Big thanks to Redd Foxx and the wonderful customer for making this pretty special. I hope you like it. And why not celebrate the day by going to your local record store and taking part in the festivities. I understand many of you ditched your turntables, so maybe you can buy a cd while you’re there. [Do people still have CD players.]

So, what was the last CD/LP/45 you bought?

Click here to view a clip from the documentary, A Life’s Work (work in progress), featuring more footage shot in HPR.

Artist Rita Flores, who was one of my co-workers all those years ago, today coincidentally posted a piece about the joys of record stores on her blog, Through the Lava Lamp.

The Probabilistic Universe: A Clip

The Probabilistic Universe

Here’s a clip I’ve been working on. As the title of this post suggests, it’s about how chance and the unexpected can play a major role in what we find ourselves doing, the discoveries we make, and the passions that fill us.

I’ve always thought of this clip as kind of the equivalent of a sidebar in a magazine article. Will it make it into the finished film? Don’t know. Some pertinent information is contained in it, but the whole thing? Maybe I’ll flip a coin to decide.

Another coin decision: When Tarter says “We … we? Jocelyn Bell and her thesis advisor….” Cut the “We… we”? Right now, I like it.

I’d really like to know what you think of this clip, since it’s quite different than the other clips up there. And please feel free to like it, share it, comment on it, etc.  You know I always love hearing from you.

You can help finish A Life’s Work. Yes, you! Donating to the film is easy and all amounts ($5-50,000) are welcome and appreciated.  More than $1,600 has been given to the film so far, and that without the big hyped up push of crowdfunding.

In addition to monetary help, there are many ways you can support A Life’s Work. Why not consider being a part of  the film’s growing community?

Conversations with Friends, Part 2

Not too long ago I was speaking with my friend S. about something other than film and art. He said, “In my experience, whenever you try to force something, it doesn’t work.”

Advice like this no one wants to hear, myself included. I believe I can will things to happen. It’s magical thinking. It’s how I deal with the uncertainty of my life at various times.

But it’s also true of film and art. Consider….

I have written before about one of my favorite lines in A Life’s Work, when Robert Darden talks about a setback the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project encountered. It’s in the following clip, the line is, “Okay. I need more faith.”

Not long ago I had been thinking about Jill Tarter’s response to my question about whether faith plays a part in her life. She said, “Faith in terms of an organized religion, no, it’s not part of my life.” I had also been thinking how I could juxtapose these two responses. I was twisting and turning the footage, trying to ram square pegs into round holes, and it wasn’t working. The problem is context — they are responding to different questions, Darden’s response is to a very specific incident and Tarter’s response is to a poorly formulated question from the interviewer (me). Sometimes you can make such disparate things work, sometimes you can’t. And when you can’t, you can’t, no matter how much you force it. So, I’ve moved on. Darden’s response has a very definite place in the film, Tarter’s, we’ll see, but I think not.

Life lesson learned? Probably not. I’m sure I’ll keep trying to force things. But maybe yielding this time will result in keeping a confusing scene out of the film, and that’s no small thing.

Related: Editing a Setback Sequence – Process

Documentary Dilemmas: The Neverending Stories

Filmmaker Clams

Years ago, a friend and I referred to running, inside  jokes, phrases, or expressions as “clams.” I’m not sure where this came from, but I use it to this day.

The process of filmmaking results in many clams. When I think about production of A Life’s Work, one clam comes immediately to mind.

Andy Bowley and I were in Hat Creek, CA, at the Allen Telescope Array shooting. Andy brought his camera and gear and I brought mine, including a tripod that I bought used from a cinematographer, let’s call her Jane Doe. New York being the small place it is, Andy knew and worked with Jane, and he had, in fact, seen my tripod action. My tripod became known as the Jane Doe Tripod.

The Jane Doe Tripod
The Jane Doe Tripod at the Allen Telescope Array.

It developed a personality and it spoke in a sad, pathetic voice. Andy took photos of it and sent it to Jane with messages like, “In California without you and having a GREAT time with David and Andy.” This joke went on and on, each of us riffing on it, and it never got old. At least not to me. Eventually, Andy just needed to say “The Jane Doe Tripod” and I’d crack up. I still chuckle thinking about it, but you probably had to be there…

Postproduction also has its clams.  But right now, there is no editor for me to crack jokes with, it’s just me. There are two clams I have adopted based on the material. One is Robert Darden’s line when he talks about a setback the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project endured and how this affected him. “Ok, I need more faith.” I say this about the film, but also many other aspects of my life right now.

Another clam I’ve picked up is an expression Paolo Soleri uses in the following clip, shot at his first commission, Dome House. Look for it at two minutes in.

I find use that same facial expression when someone says something to me that would warrant a verbal response such as “So it goes …” If I were working with an editor, the full clam might be this expression and “Yeah, you know, he liked the floor.” But as it is now,  people get it when I raise my eyebrows and smile faintly. As Soleri also says in the clip: It works.

An interesting pair, these two: “I need more faith,” and “So it goes…”

Is there a catchall expression you’re fond of? Care to share?

 

 

Listen Up! A Clip featuring the SETI Institute’s Jill Tarter

Last week’s post, Please Forget Me, inspired a comment from friend and A Life’s Work subject Robert Darden:

I teach my Journalism students that they need to be invisible when they do interviews. I don’t want them to speak much and I sure don’t want the interviewee to know their political or religious views. In fact, I don’t know what any of the good reporters I’ve interviewed through the years think about such things … including the ones I see regularly. Their job is to get out of the way of the interview, to let the interviewee speak.

This reminded me of a comment left on How to Conduct an Interview, Part 2: Asking the Questions by friend and one of A Life’s Work’s cinematographers, Andy Bowley:

i think rule #1, to listen is supremely important. if you are listening — really listening and thinking over what the person is saying to you, they can really sense it. and if you’re doing it right, you should be listening and thinking. i mean you’ve got a lot to think about: you should be cutting their sound bites in your head, evaluating their ideas/stories for clarity, and maybe most importantly, letting your natural curiosity push you towards the next question. it’s nice to tell your interview subject that you’re just having a conversation — but if you ask questions that satisfy your curiosity or that clarify something — guess what? you really are having a conversation!

best of all, when you work this way your natural listening responses (nodding, smiling, scribbling, eyebrows whatever) tell that person that you are with them. no fake nodding necessary . . .

This in turn reminded me of an exchange I had with Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute. Why, I asked, is the Institute only listening for signals, and not sending them? What if everyone is just sitting around listening? (This is a hot topic in the SETI community.) She responds in this outtake.

 
What do you think? Should we be transmitting messages as well? And what should that message say? Write your thoughts in the comment box. I love hearing from you.

Keeping Up with Robert Darden and the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project

In December 2013 the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture announced that it would be welcoming into its collections recordings from the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, yes, the project started up by Robert Darden and featured in A Life’s Work. Big news. I asked Robert if he’d share how this came to pass. Ever the gentleman, he agreed to a mini interview. 

How and when did this come about? Who contacted whom?

Passing a 45Kathy Wright, then a Baylor development officer (now a regent), encountered former First Lady Laura Bush in Washington D.C. and, in the course of the conversation, told her about the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP). Mrs. Bush, who is on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), currently in progress on the Mall in Washington D.C., was intrigued with our work and shared the information with someone at the NMAAHC. They contacted us in Fall 2011 and invited us out to speak with them. Tim Logan (VP for IT at Baylor) and I flew to D.C. and made a presentation. Apparently, they liked what they heard.

What does this mean for the parties involved? Will the BGMRP continue its work at  Baylor? 

For the NMAAHC, this means they have immediate access to the largest digitized collection of rare black gospel vinyl in the country. How they are going to use that access is still a work in progress. At one point, the NMAAHC was planning to move an intact African American record shop from Philadelphia into the building. Visitors would have the total experience, complete with thousands of soul, R&B, blues, and gospel LPs and 45s. Somehow, there will be a link on the vinyl that will allow visitors to listen to the music, perhaps through their cellphones, perhaps through headphones. All of that is still being decided.

From the BGMRP, nothing changes. We will continue our quest to locate, identify, acquire (through loan or donation), clean, catalogue, and digitize America’s fast-vanishing legacy of gospel vinyl from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Our biggest challenge now is how to make that music more widely available, though the constraints of modern copyright law. It is currently available for scholars, but the general public can only hear 30 seconds of each song, save for those individual songs we’ve cleared through copyright control and have made available for free on iTunesU.

Robert Darden with Deacon Burton.
Robert Darden interviews Deacon Reuben Burton in Chicago for his book.

Will your role change?

For me, nothing changes. I’ll still teach at Baylor. I’ll still work on Nothing But Love in God’s Water: The Influence of Black Sacred Music on the Civil Rights Movement, Volume II for Penn State University (Vol. I should come out in mid- to late 2014). The connection with the NMAAHC gives us wider visibility and, hopefully, more access to their experts. I will continue to be the “face” of the BGMRP. For the future, I would love to explore with them the options of making this music even more available, perhaps through the Smithsonian’s Folkways Records.

What does this mean for gospel music and what do you think it means for the public at large?

For gospel music and the public at large, this partnership is another step in insuring that this irreplaceable musical and historical treasure is preserved for all time. This is the foundational music of all American popular music. Every step, hell — every piece of vinyl — is important, perhaps essential to understanding not only the history of music in America, but the history of African Americans.

If someone had told you on February 14, 2005 the day before The New York Times ran your OpEd, that all of this would transpire, would you have believed them?

First, I didn’t believe that the by-God  The New York Times would actually RUN my little rant. They receive hundreds of submissions a week. I had no expectations, no plans. I was angry and hurt and wanted to vent in the biggest forum in the world. If I had any secret wishes, I don’t remember them … although I may have hoped that somehow some record industry exec would read it, be shamed, and release some of the music they’ve got stockpiled.

So, no. I wouldn’t have believed any of this would have happened.

When the OpEd actually was published, I couldn’t believe that one of the first calls was from the office of Mr. Charles Royce, who wanted to brainstorm on HOW we could save this music. I was in a daze all day.

What do you do for an encore?

I’d like to stay involved with the BGMRP as long as I am physically able. I would like to help insure that every part of the operation is fully funded and endowed so that it is protected from anything that might (God forbid) happen at the university.

We are just starting to acquire the sermon tapes of some of the most famous African American preachers in the country. I would like to save as many of those as possible, particularly those active during the Civil Rights Movement. Most are on cassette tape, which is the absolute worst for preservation purposes.

Finally, my big dream is to raise money for an 18-wheeler with a mobile recording studio (and image-scanning devices) that we could take both the warehouses of the big collectors who have said we could digitize their materials (but that they won’t allow them to be mailed) and to the parking lots of the great African American churches in Chicago and Birmingham and open them up to the public. I’d say, “If there is black gospel vinyl in your attic, let us digitize it RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW. We’ll give it back to you AND give you a CD or MP3 of it. If you’ve got photos of grandma posing at church with Sam Cooke or Dorothy Love Coates, we’ll scan and digitize it RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW and give you the original and a scan back!”

Thanks, Bob!

Here’s a clip from A Life’s Work of Bob explaining why so much of this music is missing.