Bach & Parachute – Sound & Image for You

Classical guitar

Here’s a video just for you. Cinematographer Andy Bowley was seriously captivated by this billowing parachute at Arcosanti.  I love listening to, learning and playing Bach. Two great tastes that taste great together. I hope you like it.

Prelude for Cello Suite No. 1 for Guitar.  Recorded super lo-fi in my living room.

Why Crowd Funding Now?

Soleri bells

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.

Drone Pilot at Arcosanti: Guest Post by Cinematographer Andy Bowley

Today’s post was written by cinematographer Andy Bowley.

i can’t remember if we drank a lot of beer that night.

but i do remember parting ways with david, after a nice meal on the upper west side of new york, saying yes! drone! arcosanti!

or something like that.

a few days later, he wrote to let me know he really wanted to do it.

really?

i had a few weeks to prepare, so i bought a syma x1 quadcopter (about $35) and flew it all around my apartment.  my tweedy green chair became landing pad #1,  my other tweedy green chair became landing pad #2, and a pillow on the leather couch became landing pad #3.

lil uav, aka Mr. Droney

i practiced everyday i could and crashed and crashed and crashed.  and after a couple of weeks, found i could wing the little thing around — landing and taking off from pads 1-3 in nimble succession.  i knew i was ready for arcosanti when i could actually fly without sticking my tongue out of my mouth.

days later, i found myself standing in front of a whirring DJI phantom in the arizona desert. and now, the playground was vast.
instead of gliding from pillow to pillow, i was doing 1500′ runs thru canyons, over cliffs, and over top of paolo soleri’s glorious creation.

i couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  which meant i pretty much kept my tongue in my mouth too.

 Andy may have been able to keep his tongue in his mouth at Arcosanti, but I was unable to lift my jaw off the floor after seeing the footage. Here’s one of the strafing shots he took of Arcosanti.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIrNnlXnFFo[/youtube]
==
Andy Bowley is a NYC-based cinematographer whose projects have won many national Emmys and one Peabody. He can be found here and there on this blog. Other posts by this generous man:

E-mail Andy: a b o w l e y at  e a r t h l i n k d o t n e t

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What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]

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.]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9b3U3t26vw[/youtube]

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.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/HXcKf0ErJF0[/youtube]

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?

Falling In (and Sometimes Out of) Love, the Filmmaker Way

Tango Octogenario

Not that long ago I went to an event near my home, Midsummer Night Swing. It’s put on every summer by Lincoln Center. They erect a dance floor in one of the plazas, invite some amazing musicians to perform danceable music of many genres (swing, merengue, salsa, disco and more), and let the paying public on the dance floor while a whole other dance scene takes place beyond the dance floor. There is a lot of joy concentrated around Lincoln Center when Midsummer Night Swing is happening.

Dancers at Midsummer Night Swing.
Dancers at Midsummer Night Swing.

I started attending Midsummer Night Swing when I first moved into this neighborhood. It inspired a screenplay, Wigs by Coco (1999), that was set in the then burgeoning swing revival scene, and later it inspired Tango Octogenario (2003). I went several nights this year, but anticipated tango night most of all. I had hoped I would see an old friend, Alex Turney, one of the stars of Tango Octo.

And I did. Alex is in his 90s now, not as spry as when we filmed him and his wife, Jean, who died several years ago. But he was still on the dance floor. I yelled his name and he and the person he was with, an attractive woman of about 40, turned. (Alex is beloved and has many people who check in on him and take him where he needs to go, whether that’s a doctor’s appointment or a milonga.) They found me on the perimeter of the dance floor — I was not one of the paying public. He didn’t recognize me at first, but when I repeated my name and added “the filmmaker” it came back to him. He began to gush about me to his companion in superlatives that make me uncomfortable. But what touched me most was when he began quoting lines from the press materials I used to send out. (Alex requested every little Tango Octo thing that I created, postcards, poster, stills, press kit.) Alex said, “’the portrayal of seniors as active, vibrant, and independent is a much-needed antidote to the stereotypical representations of America’s graying population.’ Who writes such a beautiful thing? Can you believe it?” Alex is quite the sweet talker.

David Licata, producer Tom Razzano, choreographer Nancy Turano. Seated, Alex and Jean Turney
David Licata, producer Tom Razzano, choreographer Nancy Turano. Seated, Alex and Jean Turney

I once heard Alex say, “Tango is a three-minute love affair.” One might say the same thing about making a film. You work very intensely with people, you share meals, war stories, secrets, and then suddenly it ends, and you’re on another set with another crew where it happens again. It lasts longer than three minutes, but it’s still pretty brief. I’m not sure if people who are born with that tendency gravitate to the profession or if they become that way because of the profession. This happens with documentary filmmakers as well, often with their subjects. Filmmakers woo them to be in their film, lavish attention on them, making them feel special. We share our secrets with them and get the subjects to share their secrets in front of a camera.

And then we leave. And what’s worse, the trust we established with our subjects is violated, because we reveal all those secrets to the world, edited in a way they can’t control with moving pictures over their words they did not intend to be there. It’s part of the deal, and if you can’t stomach it, documentary filmmaking is not for you. Sometimes I have a difficult time stomaching it.

Anywho, note that I did write “some.” I know many filmmakers who develop lasting relationships with their subjects and crew. I happen to think I’m one of those filmmakers. Alex Turney and I, we are bound for as long as life will allow. He knew that and expressed it once he saw the finished film at New Directors/New Films. We don’t see each other frequently, and mostly that’s my fault, but judging by the way Alex held my hands that night, frequency isn’t an issue.

It’s the same with the subjects of A Life’s Work. I like to think that we will be linked for a good many years and, in my fantasy world, the subjects are also entwined, though they’ve never met each other. (Yet!)

This tight bond the work creates, it’s one of my favorite things about filmmaking and compensates for the less savory aspects. I don’t know that I’d do it if that weren’t part of the deal.

Coda: I started writing this July 17. On July 18th, I was surprised to learn William Swearson was stopping in NYC for a couple of days. I met Will on the second SETI shoot in 2007, while he was spending his summer in the SETI REU program (Research Experience for Undergraduates). I offered him my couch and he took me up on it. Will is one of the students I stayed in touch with and he contributed one of the most moving posts on this blog. We had a swell evening full of good food and stimulating conversation.

Coda coda: On July 19th I received an email from someone putting on a tango event in NYC on July 20th. They wanted to screen Tango Octogenario. Alex Turney was to be present and I was invited to attend. I did. It was a small affair. Alex and I sat in the front row, and afterwards answered a couple of questions. When it was over I said goodbye, hugged Alex, and as is his way, he kissed me on the cheek. I love that.

Here’s Alex and Jean and I after I called “that’s a wrap” (there is no sound) and a clip of me thanking Paolo Soleri for sitting down to speak with me.  You can read more about this clip in this post.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/101522967[/vimeo]

See also: The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

Birds of A Life’s Work

Like most people, birds fascinate me. I’m not a birder, not even close, but I enjoy listening to and looking at them. I also enjoy filming them, when they’ll cooperate, which isn’t often. Working with cats and kids are a cakewalk compared to birds.

Here are some shots the cinematographers of A Life’s Work captured. The first two minutes were shot by Wolfgang Held in Copemish and Manistee, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, and Cordes Junction (Arcosanti), Arizona. I shot the next thirty seconds at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.* Andy Bowley shot the remainder of the clip at the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California. There is sound throughout, but it’s very quiet. The first shots were taken from inside looking out, so you won’t hear any chirping or squawking or feather-rustling or nothing.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/98448380[/vimeo]

It was fun putting this clip together and I find it very soothing to watch. I tried to tell a little story with the SETI footage.

What do you make of it? Do you have a favorite shot?

And if any of you birders out there would care to identify some of these beauties, please leave a comment here or on Facebook or send me a direct message. Thanks.

* My lame shots have no business being sandwiched between such fine work, but I like the sound of grackles, so I decided to use that footage.

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.

A Present for You – Music and Video – Brouwer’s Etude No. 1

For all of you who have donated to A Life’s Work, read the blog, liked the Facebook page, left a comment somewhere, or supported me and my work in some way, here’s a wee present for you — Leo Brouwer’s Etude No. 1. Hope you like it.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/90887869[/vimeo]

Video shot by photographer and friend Peter LaMastro.

Special thanks to the awesome Kate Schutt, who re-introduced me to this piece.

If you’re new here, you should know this blog is about a documentary film, A Life’s Work, currently in post production. The director, David Licata, who also plays classical guitar, invites you to support the film. In addition to monetary help (the portal accepts $5 to $50,000), there are many ways you can support A Life’s Work. Why not consider being a part of  the film’s growing community?

Want more classical guitar music?

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.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/OKcQ-Ccg1ns[/youtube] 
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.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxtEO1JGWoQ&list=PL851B3C5054DEB92F&index=3[/youtube]