Space and Pace

I’ve been thinking a lot about space. Not as in “outer space” but as in breadth. I’ve also been thinking a lot about breath, about the unconscious breath that occurs between sentences, and about catching one’s breath after a dramatic moment. And of course thinking about the cinematic equivalent of these things.

Part of this is jazz guitarist Bill Frisell’s fault because I’ve been kind of obsessed with his music lately, and Frisell is a master of space.

So many of us get caught up in the pyrotechnics musicians employ. We swoon when we hear/see them play dazzlingly fast passages, playing more notes in five seconds than we can count. Frisell is the opposite. He controls the space between the notes like few other musicians. Not playing notes may seem like an easy thing to do, but trust me, it is VERY difficult to do well musically. Here he is playing the Beach Boys Surfer Girl.  You’ll notice his speech is very deliberate as well. Oh, and you may also notice that his tone is mighty tasty. For my money, he has the sweetest tone around.


The director watching the brilliantly and deliberately paced masterpiece, "Early Summer" by Yasujiro Ozu.
The director watching the brilliantly and deliberately paced masterpiece, “Early Summer” by Yasujiro Ozu.

This thinking of space, of breadth, and of breath comes at a time when I’m looking at the previous cut and seeing that I have perhaps allowed too much space in it. I always wanted the film to be deliberately paced, to have a meditative quality, to allow the audience to reflect on the moving image before them as they would a painting, to consider what the subject just said as if the subject had just finished reading the last line of a poem. But I don’t want to put people to sleep. I realize we all have different ideas of what “well-paced” is, but at the moment, I’m dealing with my own notions of well-paced, moderately-paced, slow-paced, and too slow-paced. I’m finding that I’m tightening. My concern is I’ll swing too far to the other side of the pendulum. I could perhaps blame my day job for this; it’s there that I put together tight (that’s the goal, anyway), three- to five-minute videos. But perhaps once I get through this cut, I will swing back and feel the need to add more space. Hopefully, eventually, I will find the right amount of space, breadth, and breath, for me, at least.

Any thoughts on finding equilibrium when it comes to pacing? Care to share the titles of films or plays you’ve seen that were perfectly, deliberately paced?

And just because, here’s Frisell playing a bunch of Beatles (Lennon penned) tunes. It’s gorgeous. About 10 1/2 minutes in he talks about seeing the Beatles on TV at age 12 and relearning these songs now, despite the tunes being in his blood. And then he launches into Strawberry Fields. Stick around for the trippy part, where he employs a host of effect pedals.


Time + Distance

Around the turn of the millennium I took a drawing class. At one point I asked the teacher how he put distance between himself and his work.


“I take several steps back.” He said. He understood I was asking him how he went about looking at his work objectively, but his answer was in measurable terms.

Of course his answer was also metaphorical.

I have been obsessed with this question for as long as I can remember. It’s a major challenge for me and, I suspect, for many other people.

The only way I can achieve any sense of objectivity–take several steps back–is by putting time between me and the work. Fortunately, time is something I seem to have a lot of, and putting time between me and A Life’s Work has never been a problem. Mostly, the time has been involuntary and frustrating. During production I ran out of money and I had to stop shooting. Now when I’m trying to get into an editing groove, I have to concentrate on making a living to pay my bills. Something always seems to put the film on the shelf for a bit. Yes, it’s very frustrating. Yes, I want to keep moving forward at a steady pace. But since I can’t always do that, I’ve decided to be positive (today) and proclaim that for the last couple of months—as I was working full time at my day job—I was also putting distance between me and my real work.

Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and close up that distance. I hope the time away will bring some new ideas.

Do you do something that requires you to see it objectively? How do you do it?

Drop me a line. You know I love hearing from you.



I Need More Archival Footage!

A little context: I’m working on a Soleri clip wherein he is critical of hyperconsumption and suburban sprawl — and how sprawl creates a reliance on cars. I’m using interview footage of Soleri and Jeff Stein, AIA, as well as a lecture we shot of Soleri speaking to an audience at the New School here in NYC.

Okay, where to begin?

The first thing I did was set some parameters. What am I looking for? (Images that say suburbs and consumerism.) What decade am I looking for? (1950s and 1960s, this is when Soleri begins coming into his own as a thinker.) Black and white or color? (Both.) Commercials, industrials, home movies, b-movies, or something else? (Commercials and industrial.) I’m especially excited to use commercials. The hucksterism of commercials from that era makes us laugh now (and that’s welcome) but the message is the same. Buying stuff you don’t need or want will make you happy, successful, sexy, etc.

Great, I head over to the Internet Archive, and search “consumerism” and presto-change-o! An embarrassment of riches. Ads for appliances featuring ballroom dancers. Images from the 1950s of housewives in evening gowns. I like that, it echoes what Jill Tarter said about the gender bias she had to deal with growing up in the 50s and 60s. A nice layer. I’ll use some of that.

Search for “suburbia.” More goodies. Lots of white picket fences, middle class families, children playing in yards with trees. A really wonderful industrial made for Redbook is chockfull of images, including people shopping at malls. A banner that reads

Easy Living”! Good stuff in there.

Search for “car commercials.” And here, jackpot.

Take a look at this commercial (one and a half minutes). This suburban housewife felt like a prisoner in her home, until they bought a second car. Now her life is awesome!

The prisoner line and the “it’s a whole new way of life” are perfect.

I found another great industrial about the 1956’s new GM cars that will work nicely with Soleri’s riff on the American Dream, and other images of consumerism will be used, but this commercial will be the centerpiece of that section.

Now to edit it together and have it all make sense. That’s the really difficult part.

To see how editor Cabot Philbrick expertly did that in another clip, click here.

Give Me Tourist Eyes

I went for a walk through Riverside Park (NYC) today and took my little point and shoot camera. I walk through this park frequently, but take my camera along infrequently. The sun was low and there were many things to photograph — people, trees, flowers, oddities, the New Jersey skyline. I thought about the things we photograph and why. And then I remembered this photograph I had taken in Berlin when I was there with Tango Octogenario.


I took this photo because I had never seen urinals shaped like these before. If I were a Berliner, the chances are pretty good I would not have taken this photo. This led me to think about all the photos in NYC I do not take because I’m not a tourist here. Maybe something like this (which I did not take):


If I were visiting Amsterdam, I have no doubt I would take a photo similar to this one:


(I probably would have taken a close-up of the bike in the red rectangle, framed by some of the bricks.)

I have often tried to explain to people who think I should be editing A Life’s Work why I need to hire an editor. I think from now on I will tell them because, when it comes to the film, I no longer have tourist eyes.

Send me a photo of something in the place you live, taken with your tourist eyes, and I’ll put it on the blog [if you want], and I’ll send you an origami crane. You can attach it to an email:
d a v i d [ a t ] b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s ( d o t ) c o m .


There’s a tool editors use called ripple.

The ripple tool in Final Cut Pro leads to unwelcome earworms.
The ripple tool in Final Cut Pro leads to unwelcome earworms.

What it does doesn’t concern this post. What you need to know is I’ve been using this tool frequently, and every time I do the Grateful Dead song “Ripple” lodges itself in my brain.

This does not please me one bit.

Does anyone know how I can avoid this and therefore keep my sanity!

Thank you.

Note: Apologies if the song is now lodged in your brain.

March in Wyoming – Thank You, Ucross!

For the month of March, my home computer monitor will look like this —



— that is, off, because I’ll be at the Ucross Foundation artist residency in Wyoming.

“What Is It with You and Artist Residencies, Licata?”

I’ll be writing, but I’ll also be working on A Life’s Work. It seems I’ve reached a point where I have to start thinking about putting together all these sections (three to six minutes long) I’ve been editing, some of which I’ve revealed on this here little blog.

The film’s narrative structure is straight forward. It begins with a brief Overture where each subject speaks in broad terms about their  subjects. For example, Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute says —

Throughout recorded history humans have wondered what their place in the cosmos actually is. Are we alone? Where do we fit in? Is life somewhere else going to be at all like us?  And how much more is there than what we’ve been able to experience on this one planet?

Following the Overture section,  I have the rest of the film organized thematically, so that Tarter, Robert Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, David and Jared Milarch of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, and Paolo Soleri of Arcosanti talk about their Goals, Beginnings, Challenges/Meeting Challenges, Setbacks, Successes, and Other Successes. Organizing the themes to create a narrative structure is pretty straightforward, but organizing the order of the subjects within each theme will be a huge challenge, and that’s where I’m at. You can see the mathematical possibilities are quite numerous.

So I’ll be shuffling all these sections around within each theme. I will be looking for strong transitions, because this film is going to … not live and die by the transitions, but sparkle or not by the transitions. I’m taking a laptop loaded with iMovie and these sections. I’m not looking to do any fine editing. I just want to move stuff around and see what happens.

It should be an exciting month.

And though the posts may slow down a little, you can be sure I’ll be uploading some photos of the Wyoming landscape. Hopefully  the blizzards will wait until I’m back in NYC.


About the Clips

There are a bunch of original clips using footage shot for A Life’s Work on this blog. You can see a list of posts that contain clips by clicking here. If you visit the A Life’s Work Youtube Channel you can watch them without reading the text.

What’s With the Clips, Anyway?

Each time I put a clip up I have a little fear that someone will see it and think it’s part of the finished film. And then look at another clip and say, “Huh, what the hell are these two clips going to be in the same film?”

Editing at the MacDowell Colony, 2010.

Some are taken from the 36-minute sample editor Cabot Philbrick and/or I put together (“The Redwoods,” “Looking for Rare Gospel Vinyl,” “Jill Tarter on Growing Up in the 50s”), but most I edited especially for the blog. The film right now has a somewhat sturdy outline and many of those clips don’t fall within its parameters. Does that mean they won’t be in the finished film?

My Notebook

Some most definitely won’t be (“First Shots”)*, and others will most likely not be (“What’s My Favorite Tree,” though part of David Milarch’s answer and the archival footage might be). And the rest? Who knows? This blog has become a notebook for me, a way for me to focus what I’m working on and try some new things. Editing the clips makes me review footage and think of new possibilities. “Paolo Soleri Discusses Arcosanti Residents” is a good example of this. It’s quite possible that some of those shots and edits will make it in the final film, and that clip was really put together exclusively for here.

So, when you watch a clip, you might be seeing something like the birth of an idea that will be in the final film, or something that might make it to the DVD extras, or, in the case of something like “Ends,” just a favorite shot of mine that will only be seen here.

No matter where they wind up, it’s exciting for me to share them. Do you enjoy watching them? Let me know.

You can view most of the clips I mentioned and a LOT more by visiting the A Life’s Work Youtube Channel.


* “First Shots” and nine other clips are on Vimeo. These clips are mostly tangential, more like outtakes. They are usually just a series of shots or some weird little one offs such as this one: “Banter at the Allen Telescope Array.”



Panic! Is It a Valuable Part of the Process?

In a previous post (The First Cut Is the Hardest), I mentioned how I edit the sit down interviews first. I go through the transcript and select everything one of the film’s subjects said about a certain theme. I then try to construct some kind of arc from that material.

Right now I’m doing this with the “different successes” section.

How Does the SETI Institute Measure Success?

I was particularly interested in how the SETI Institute measured success, and Jill Tarter spoke eloquently about this. So, I edited and edited and edited and came up with these two-minutes.


It’s not finished. I’m still ambivalent about “and therefore you take your success incrementally.” And the timing will change once the images are on top of it. But overall, I’m somewhat pleased with audio.

I decided I’d keep the beginning as a talking head because she starts off in this contemplative pose.

Jill Tarter
Jill Tarter contemplates my question: How does the SETI Institute measure success?

But  I wanted show Tarter doing something other than sitting in a chair and talking to me, so it  was time to find the visuals that would go over much of this. But first …


Yes, panic. Panic that I don’t have the right footage. Panic that I used all the good footage already. Panic that I didn’t shoot enough. Panic that I need to fire up the camera and shoot more. Panic that I don’t have a clue what to put over this audio in the first place and therefore I’m a total fraud of a filmmaker and I should just go eat some worms. Panic, panic, panic!!!

 And Then About an Hour Later …

I took a breath, closed my eyes, and listened to what Tarter was saying.

“ …my colleagues and I…” “We…”  (seven times in one minute) “For us…” (her emphasis).


Though A Life’s Work is about these subjects, I also want to show at some point that they are not engaged in these endeavors alone. They stand on the shoulders of giants, and they are all part of a team. This is what I heard Tarter saying and this was my opportunity to show the teamwork.

Did I have the footage?

Yes. I had footage of Tarter’s SETI colleagues working, sometimes together, sometimes on their own.

At the Hat Creek Radio Observatory Allen Telescope Array
SETI Institute offices in Mountain View Frank Drake



But there is no mini-narrative as there is, for example, in the Searching for Gospel Vinyl clip.

Does This Matter?


But Back to the Panic!

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little on how much I panicked. But I did panic.

I don’t think panic is a bad thing, as long as you don’t let it take over and/or paralyze you.

A Life’s Work is not on a deadline. This can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I have plenty of time to think and make decisions. On the other hand, there’s no sense of urgency, and sometimes urgency isn’t such a bad thing. Urgency demands quick and often creative decision making. Panic kind of works the same way for me. Sometimes. Maybe. At least in this case it worked.

And now, back to dealing with images that will cover the second half of the audio above. First order of business: some panic.

Has panic ever worked for you? Or is it just bad, bad, BAD!


Editing a Setback Sequence – Process

Previously, on A Life’s Work blog

In a previous post I wrote  about the process of editing a clip from the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project section of A Life’s Work. Since I’ve been working on the subsequent section of the BGMRP story I thought, why not share that process as well?

You don’t need to view the previous clip, but it might put this one in context a bit more. So here’s the clip. Or read on.


So in that previous clip that you may or may not have viewed, Robert Darden lists the numerous challenges the BGMRP faces while the visuals take us part way through the process of archiving some rare vinyl. Audio engineer Tony Tadey role is prominent. What’s not in the clip above, but is in a newly re-edited clip, is Robert expressing his concern about the project’s reliance on the audio engineer position, and how that position is not financially secured.

“… if he’s gone and we don’t have money to hire another audio engineer, then everything comes to a halt,” Darden says.

I wanted to resume showing the archiving process. The newly re-edited clip ends with the needle dropping on the record and the sound of the pre-music scratchiness of stylus on vinyl. I liked the idea of ending that section with some suspense. What are we going to hear? (Note that the clip above starts playing music, a different song than you’ll hear at the start of the clip below.)

Right here’s the new clip.


Where to Begin the Editing Process?

As with every section, the editing process begins with the subject telling the story in his or her words. In this section, the narrative was all about the hurdle the BGMRP encountered. There really wasn’t that much editing to do to the spoken word. When Bob described what happened, he did it in his usual articulate manner. Sometimes I’ll ask essentially the same question twice, but rephrase it to see if I can get something new the second time around. Here, it wasn’t necessary.

When I put together the talking head selex, I had three longish sections that were very rich. In fact, I considered using just these three extended interview bits, going to black briefly between them. But I thought better of it. One reason: I wanted to use some music, and this was a perfect opportunity to do that. What you’re hearing is the first minute of a gospel standard, Old Ship of Zion by an ultra-obscure gospel quartet called the Mighty Wonders of Acquasco Maryland. Very little is known about them. If you know something, please let me know.

What Images Shall I Use?

I was picking up where the last section left off, so we’re in the digitization room. But what shot should I start with?

I could have simply resumed with the last shot from the previous clip, that beautiful extreme close up of the stylus riding the grooves of a 45. I dismissed that idea quickly. I wanted to start somewhere new. For the first few versions, I started with what is now the second shot — the tilt down that is a little abstract. But since this section is about Tony, I decided to start on Tony. I liked the medium shot of him at the console. The lighting is bright. The shot looks kind of  … pedestrian, but I liked how this shot would set up the ones that would follow.

Deciding to Go for It

I really liked the idea of this music showing the listener’s world as colorful, fluid, dynamic, maybe even ecstatic.

And layered. (0:33 to 0:53)

Tony Tadey Digitizes Vinyl

When I first looked through footage of Tony at the monitors, the distortion in his glasses grabbed my attention. Then I noticed how prominent his ear was in some of these over the shoulder shots, and I knew I had to use one of those. Audio engineers hear more acutely than most of us.

When I was putting these shots together, I was timidly crossfading them. Then I thought, why not try superimposing. I had seen a few effective instances of this recently, so I decided why not. What did I have to lose?

Right now, I’m very happy with the superimposition. I can hear some film editors I know grumbling, but for now, I’m going with it. I like how expressionistic it is. I lucked out with how the audio waveform seemingly went right into his ear. This bit is a stretch for A Life’s Work. It isn’t really in keeping with the rest of the style of the film, but I think that’s okay. I’m comfortable leaving my comfort zone here.

The waveforms you’re seeing do not correspond to the song you’re hearing, and I know of at least one audio engineer who will bristle, but for now, for this rough cut, these shots work for me. That’s how it is with documentaries. You fudge sometimes. Actually, it could be argued that whenever a cut is made, even the most verite of cinema verite filmmakers is fudging.

 One Very Short Minute Later

A minute in, Robert appears. That minute goes by very quickly to me. The music makes the time fly.

I have a fondness for starting stories, paragraphs, and sentences with the word “and.” It immediately signals that something came before this moment, that this moment is not the beginning. I thought starting with “And” here was a good way to go. I’d like to start the film with one of the subjects saying, “And…”

He’s on screen unedited for 20 seconds, which is actually a relatively long time. But I felt it was warranted because he’s emotional here and I wanted to show his passion.

Cut to the extreme close up, which cinematographer Andy Bowley shot with his Canon DSLR and some exotic lens or other.

Stylus rides vinyl, shot by a Canon DSLR

Back to Reality

As Robert is talking about the setback, so the images leave the ecstatic and return to that pedestrian real world. Tony at the console. Tony listening, no superimposition, no distortion in his glasses.

Back to Robert. Earlier in the film (the first clip above), we saw Robert and Tony going through recently donated records, and I think Andy captured their friendship — it’s a relationship full of respect and admiration for each other. Robert and Tony have nothing but great things to say about each other on camera and off. I wanted to show early that Tony was more than a guy turning knobs and pushing buttons, that he was a beloved part of a team. That way when you heard and saw Robert speaking about Tony’s departure, you knew what that departure meant.

Back to the studio and Tony lifting the needle off the record. I have many shots of the needle being dropped and the needle being lifted. Those were important moments to me. These shots happen all over the 45, beginning, middle, and end. I couldn’t resist using a needle lift in the middle of the song. Just as I like starting with “and,” I also like ending abruptly in the middle of sentences and songs. It was really the only way to go here. The BGMRP’s story was being interrupted.

Full Stop

Then the record stops spinning.

Often with editing, it’s what’s you don’t include that makes the difference. In previous cuts of this clip, this bit included shots of Tony shutting off the monitors, turning off the room lights, and exiting the studio. It was clunky and not working at all. It took me having to go through the pain of editing those in before I realized the record coming to a stop worked much better.

Back to Robert. By the way, Andy shot these interviews with his Letus rig, which gives it that nice, filmic, depth of field. When we discussed using it, I was a little concerned about matching it with the other interview segments, but Andy was very reassuring. Once I started cutting it in, I knew without a doubt it was the right decision. It also gives us a visual cue that something is different from it was back when we saw Robert in the previous sections of the film.

Dark Light Dark

Baylor University's vinyl digitization room

This is where the clip shifts a little, and this shot sets that up. For the next minute, most of the visuals will be about darkness-light-darkness.

The headphones. As I recall, Andy was kind of drawn to these headphones resting on that table like that. If you look very closely you’ll see a little movement in the silver part of the headphone — a reflection, probably mine. I like the idea of rooms containing some kind of ghostly presence, and I thought this was one way to show that. Maybe it’s too subtle, but I like to think this kind of thing is communicated even though we may not consciously register that small a detail.

I’m not totally satisfied with the pans and tilts of the LPs. Those will be worked on. But I think they get the idea across for now.

“I Need More Faith”

Back to Robert on screen for 20 seconds. This bit… my goodness. Often, when you’re conducting an interview, you don’t know what’s precious and what’s not. I don’t know about other people, but I usually only realize it when I’m transcribing or editing. Your attention is divided when you’re interviewing, but the captured footage tells you all. But I remember when Robert said, “Okay, I need more faith,” during the interview, I had to stop myself from crying. Every time I see it tears well up in my eyes. Maybe I relate it to the struggle of making this film, that sometimes “I need more faith” to finish this project, but to me, this is one of the three best lines in the film. Maybe the best outright.

I ended this clip with the tilt down the Mahalia album cover. I chose this album cover when we were shooting because it referred back to Robert talking about the first gospel album he heard. At the time, I didn’t have the darkness-light-darkness motif in mind, but as I was assembling this, it made sense to me. In its own small way, those shots are what the film is about. They say when we embark on long-term projects, we travel through periods of darkness and light, fallow times and productive times, periods when everything is going right, all the stars properly aligned, and periods when everything seems to be not that.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you made it this far, thanks for going the distance with me.

If you felt like going a little further, leave a comment or ask a question. I love hearing from you.


Lost Gospel Music Clip – Process

Before I get to the clip, some background. My first meeting with Bob Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project was in Chicago, August 2009. During our sit down interviews it became clear very quickly that I would have to go to Baylor University (Waco, TX) to shoot audio engineer Tony Tadey in action. And so I did. The footage with Bob and Tony was shot April 2010, the interview footage is from that Chicago meeting.

Here’s the clip.


First Things First

The first thing I wanted to do was edit the sit down interview. In this section I wanted to present the reasons why so much Black gospel music is lost, so I went through the paper transcripts and selected each bit where Bob spoke about this. I cut and pasted these instances and put them in a separate document and edited and edited and edited this text until I thought it contained the important information, had a narrative flow, and was the right length. But the spoken words and its transcription are very different. Sometimes what works on paper cannot be made to work in the audio. For example, a subject’s sentences may rush into each other, or an intonation might suggest he’s continuing to speak while on paper you can make the sentence come to a full stop. For this clip I was lucky and I was able to make the digital audio work without much hair-pulling.

When to Show What

Great. I have Bob’s sit down stuff strung together. I’m trying to make this film with minimal talking heads, but there are times when I want to show the subject’s face during the interview. So I marked the bits where I thought Bob’s face was especially expressive or telling us something in addition to the words he spoke. I definitely wanted to show Bob deliver the “pool of wax,” and “given them to you!” lines.

While I was editing the audio, I was thinking about what visuals I could put over it. I thought it might be an effective contrast to show the process of the music being preserved as Bob spoke about why it’s lost, so I decided to use the digitization process.

Before we shot anything at Baylor I had a made a few practical decisions. One was we would shoot a couple of 45s as they made their way through the process. The record I chose to focus on for this clip was The Unfolding Book of Life, by Rev. Cleophus Robinson on the Peacock label. I liked the title a lot. You’ll see it throughout the clip.

Establishing shot. I have footage of the Baylor campus and exterior shots of the library where the archiving and digitization takes place, and that will be used — must be used — at some point, but for the purposes of a discrete section like this it wasn’t necessary. So I decided to use the exterior of Tony’s office. I liked the little move (a Canon 5D on a mini dolly). The office nameplate was a simple way to introduce Tony. (In the whole film, we were introduced to Bob long ago.)

Gospel Music, Love, and Money

When I was choosing selex I was struck by how delicately Bob and Tony handled the vinyl, how much they smiled and laughed as they looked at the labels, how much they enjoyed each others company. There was a lot of love in that room.

Bob listed many reasons why so much gospel music is lost; I wasn’t going to order those reasons randomly. What in his litany would work with the love in that room? Collectors, definitely. That’s a special kind of love. And capitalism! In this case, the love of money trumping every other kind of love, including the love of doing the right thing. Showing Bob and Tony’s love for this music was a great contrast to what Bob was saying about corporations interested only in the bottom line. I knew I had to have this “on the fly” exchange during the capitalism bit —

Robert: “Man that is battered.”
Tony: “You can tell that really was loved.”

I was really excited about that one. The first minute came together pretty quickly, the images and spoken words had a nice symbiotic relationship.

Time to get out of Tony’s office and into the scanner room. Cinematographer Andy Bowley and I loved this room, what with that giant scanner and its high contrast dark and light. I liked the idea of contrasting the high tech and very expensive equipment in this room with the picture Bob was painting of mom and pop record labels that had no money for good record keeping, good storage, etc.

The Exciting and the Boring

Editing these shots in the scanner room I wanted to focus on light and the movement of light. You’ll notice the light traversing the bed of the scanner and the light shifting on Darryl Stuhr’s face. I wanted to time this sequence of shots so that we came back to Bob’s sit down interview for his line, “So when we got there it was just a pool of wax.” Light moving like that can evoke revelation and it can evoke the passing of time. I like to think here it evokes both.

On to the next challenge and another step in the process. Inputting of information needed to be shown, and though someone sitting and typing doesn’t usually make for exciting film, I do have a fondness for closeups of words materializing one letter at a time on paper or a monitor. So we shot Amanda Harlan entering the data — “Unfolding Book of Life” — and a closeup of the words “unfolding” on Amanda’s (and your) monitor. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.

The transition from Amanda typing to Tony examining a 45 is my least favorite edit in this clip, and probably will not remain. I tried to make it work based on the tilt up of the camera, but it’s awkward and takes place off the beat during Bob’s audio — too much off the beat. If you watch the entire clip closely, you’ll notice that the edits occur during natural strong breaks in Bob’s speech — at the end of sentences or clauses. This one does not. I did like the contrast of “took them to the dump” and Tony cleaning the 45.


By the way, this part of the process, the cleaning, took place before the scanning, but I played with the truth a little bit. Us documentary filmmakers do that sometimes, play with the truth. Why did I do that?

I wanted to focus on Tony for an uninterrupted chunk of time. Two reasons: He’s the one who does the technical stuff. Bob is the first to admit that he is not the tech guy and he does not have the super sensitive ears of an audio engineer. Tony is an audio engineer extraordinaire. I also wanted to show that these endeavors, BGMRP, SETI, Arcosanti, Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, are not one-person operations. This is obvious, but up to this point in the film I’ve been focusing on one person per project. (I treat Jared and David Milarch as one person.) In focusing on Tony (and showing other people in the other projects — like the students at SETI) I’m hoping viewers will have an a-ha moment and see that these projects are undertaken by a community and have heirs. There is another reason I decided to spend so much time on Tony here, but I can’t tell you what that is just yet.

Wrapping It Up

We shot a ton of great footage of Tony working. I choose the shots I loved. I have a fetish for those little yellow inserts, so that had to be in there! The care Tony takes centering the 45 shows the attention again, the love. I wanted to draw out the needle dropping on the vinyl as long as I could because I think that moment is magical — a stylus finding its groove, very rich. Andy shot that with his Canon 5D and some bizarre old Eastern European lens and I love the look of it; the depth of field is amazing. (You can watch a clip of the 5D footage, put together by Andy. Gearheads can read about Andy’s equipment here.) And from here I wanted to go to the monitors. I asked Andy to shoot the heck out of the monitors because those lines and bars are mesmerizing. I played with the truth again by using a shot of the monitor that is not from the sound you’re hearing. I think I matched it well enough so that I could sneak it by, unless you are an audio engineer. (Sorry Tony, I know that drives you crazy, but I had to do it.)

And then a simple fade out.

Hope you enjoyed this look at how I put this clip together. In a future post I’ll write about the material that didn’t make it into this clip.

[cross posted on]