Indiegogo Poem

Last 10 days of the campaign.

I’ll be updating every day.

Please share my indiegogo

in every possible way.
Why? Support this film

for you.
Wisdom is hard won.

I’m not the only one

who will tell you this

leaders will say it every time

experience beats training,

and if you like to rhyme

then for sure,

this movie’s got something for you, too.

It’s abso*ing-lutely true!
And that’s the only truth you’ll find in here.

Even though it might seem queer,

the rest is stories with names and places changed,

making it fiction. All facts re-arranged.
In order to help you empathize with your enemies

and come to terms with those who’ve done you wrong,
To help you work as a team, to face threats to the earth

told by way of a story, starting with a song,

before my birth, travelling back in time to 1969.

That trip, the first (chronologically) of many crimes.

The meandering through lines

of this story

are morality,

and lapses in modern life

mostly of men,

in disservice of children,

mother, mistress, and wife.
But also of failures

and triumphs. A drama.
Why a crime? Time travel is contraindicated

for those with anxiety, paranoia,

personality disorders

those with porous personal borders

or plates in their heads,

screws in their teeth,

also clients who pay after more than 2 weeks.
Also any who fail to properly bequeath

their assets to their worldly heirs.
If any of these happens to be you

I’m sorry to say you’re totally screwed.
Get ready, then, to dry your own tears,

you’re stuck in the present, except between your ears.

and we know for sure that data gets corrupted.
That’s why in spite of my own doctor’s advice

I’ve time travelled. On the black market. Taken a vice.

In order to know the truth, and sell it to you, twice.

Back to 1945

when one of our progenitors

was left lucky to be alive

but came home changed

personality rearranged.
Unable to talk or share his woes

bottled it up for a lifetime.
Eggshells or tippy toes,

or let it out – that’s how it goes!
Something we’ll talk about a lot on this show

Personality change and how to guide it just-so.
I’m no expert, just a test case,

a good one, with a past that’s impossible to erase.

Sorry about that, if you’re a sci-fi fan –

we can’t change the past, just go back,

and see it again through another perspective.
We’ll do that a few times

reanalyze often unreported crimes

to see exactly how they go

from multiple perspectives.

Not like the usual documentary you know

It’s only the courses you like – all electives!

For example:

Crime Fiction

Heist/Adventure

Sci-Fi

Space Opera

Romance

Horror

Astronomy

Religious Appreciation

Sports

We’ll also travel forward in time

that’s not at all a crime

We already alldo it every day

or so some curious scientists say.

So, if you’re a do-gooder

you can watch only do-gooder parts.

Just skip past the gory start

and you’re good for the rest of the series of shorts

We’ll be starting that particular section with Sports.

 

That is why

no matter who you are

you should fund me

on indiegogo.

 

For yourself, for me

to raise the bar

Now Go! Go!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/golden-rod-meditation/x/3329889#/

DOC ORG POEM

To start, nothing in this documentary is true.
I’d say it’s a true story, but I’d be lying to you.
To quote A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth”
even if overheard in a confession booth.

You’ve already heard about the poison tongue
and in testimony, here’s one.
See a past Thursday – at a once a year thing.
A bell tolled, a nationwide furious ring.

All gather near the Bone at the centre of the universe.
They meet, laugh, enjoy their time, cordially converse
in modest groups of two or three.

The honest ones bitch and moan
on behalf of others, of course. Me?

After 3 days of social media
where I outed myself as crazy
My social experiment began
Your memory may be hazy.

But not mine, and not some of your peers
whose gracious and sometimes listening ears
will have already heard gossip and falsehoods
about yours truly. Maybe from John,
Jill, or Julie. Maybe you think I’m a con
or perhaps you know I’m a fool,

so intimated by a hostess
on whose behalf I did school
last year, hoisting a camera
on a Steadicam, parading for Pride
with a trusty assistant and bike by my side.

Nevermind that day. What she said on our night
was important. She said “you’re dead right
or a fool if you work on something for 10 years.”
I’m nearly both. Think you lost your ears?

The truth is, she didn’t say dead right
she just said “a fool.” What a dark night
of truth it was for me
of the 10 year documentary.

If only it were my first. It’s the second.

The first was worst. For 9 years I reckoned
without receipts or a paper trail
only text files and quicktimes. A CRA fail.
Given continuing large posted losses,
a two year hiatus. For what causes?
No wonder they think I’ve gone wrong.
What sort of fool would continue so long?

Goddamn you, it’s to make this work of art.
Which, without you I’ll finish as an old fart.
I’m the fool, with PTSD
along with anyone who supported me.

Fuck you, CRTC, and producers too.
I’ll raise the money from family and friends,
And then I’ll raise you.

I showed up at your party
looking like a flea-ridden misanthrope
because that’s what you all looked like
when I showed up full of hope
in a suit, back in 03, your laughter so hearty
in my days of five movie plays
loving your trailers and watching you pitch
Someday I’ll be there, I said. Now I bitch
that I can’t afford Hot Docs.

Because I’m crazy
What have you got?
You think I’m lazy?

Lazy? I’ve freelanced and wrote
and researched and recorded
and on top of it all, I tote
it all in a bike. Yes transported
by legs and stored on hard drives
enough data to edit for 3 more lives.

I thought twice about what I tried.
Attending the party looking like a crazy guy.
Most of you who I looked in the eye
looked away, or fixed, to run and hide.

Empathy! Action! Sister! Brother!
That’s what documentary’s for.
A door out of your life and into another.
And why I’m still here, knocking at your door:

TO BE FRANK / GOLDEN, ROD
A roller coaster ride across space and time
Bear witness to many compassionate crimes.
Find out what it’s like to have a half-brother
half-dad, obstinate mother, second mystery dad,
kept at a distance. In dark history. Super bad. So sad.
Enough that his name was kept in shrouds,
and will remain there for this film. In the clouds.
It’s possible someone might kill him, if I say it out loud.

What it’s like to run a cult. To get medical weed.
To, without conscience, spread your seed.

Find out what it’s like to have six fingers
and a name no-one can pronounce;
the same name when you get to the city
for which every jew will give you an ounce
of their budget. That is, because you’re one of theirs
yes, they are the sacred Jared sayers!

My people, I guess.
Except my mom’s an atheist at best.

Feel what it’s like to only be able to see your nose
or to have a dick the size of a fire hose;
to try out virtually every drug
to have the friendship of two lawless thugs.

And as an example of how to bring life to a stop
to be dropping acid and pulled over by cops
on the day your driver’s carrying three ounces of weed
a scale, six pills, sticks, and seeds.

What it’s like to be a woman giving birth
What it’s like to endlessly roam the earth.

If you want, i can take you to Saudi
I’ve been there, or to go see a Gaudi
I’ve got friends there
Really, I swear!

I’ve got a story like no-one else
And it’s great for talking about mental health
So come on and put your cash on the line
Please, even the score, your handicap for mine.

(applause)

Speaking of golf, Bell, if you wanted to talk,
Lets talk about my bill,
which creeps up like a stalk
of GMO corn every month. Kill
me it does, or my future self.
A lower bill would help my mental health.

Now that that’s done,
wasn’t it fun?
If I may be so brash,
how about some cash
In exchange for those meetings
and all your pre-recorded greetings?

And as for you Rogers, with your doc-u-mentary fund
why don’t you tell me exactly what happened
on that trip to Maine, where antidepressants seeped
into my brain, and made me forget about the creep
at the end of the bar, who stole 8 phones
that night. How many other loans
can you call in? How many extra bills
without service assessed, and for what, the thrills?
You sent me to collections
on fraudulent charges
because i’m vulnerable,
a bankrupt. Your largess
amazes me, and by that
I mean your corp-ulent pride –
but lets put all that aside.

Where’s your documentary fund today?
Send some of that fund my way!

Oh and you. Blue ICE? COME ON NOW.
AFRICA? I’M CANADIAN! HOW
am I supposed to make a film
with your money?
come on guys, this isn’t funny!
Just kidding gals
Thanks for hiring me, Blue Ice
for that BTS. Such a nice surprise.

No BS. Yes, as for everyone else
this is my life, and I ruined it for you
Toss me a penny or sponsor a brew.
Better yet, some cash will equalize
The lack of a documentary prize
for slowest filmmaker.
That’s what I am
a PTSD sufferer
and a bit of a ham.

Loosen your pursestrings,
DOC members.
This is your day.
From the burning embers
of your years of neglect
Put aside your tears of regret.

The point is we’ve been separated
made to share crumbs
while media-garchs sit on their bums
but what if we co-operated?

It’s time to pay.
Indiegogo launch day!

https://igg.me/at/golden-rod/x/3329889

Cinematography Courses to Turn Your World Upside-Down

The best way to learn anything is to do it.

All the same, I admit it, I’m hooked! I can’t stop taking courses and going to seminars.

It’s so much a problem that in the past, there have been periods where I was simply signed up for too much and couldn’t attend it all.  I was so ashamed by this that I stopped attending anything at all for a while, believing myself cloaked in an unshakeable stigma as the phantom RSVPer.  Not any more.  Now I only sign up for things I don’t attend on facebook.

What brought me back into the stream of learning was a chance conversation with another cinematographer, then an observation in a friend’s career that certain courses took his work from OK to WOW, and voila. In the last 2 years I have attended too many seminars and courses to list on my resume.

For your own improvement, here’s a list of 5 places to find courses and seminars on cinematography in the GTA:

  1. SIRT / Sheridan / IATSE 667
  2. Canadian Society of Cinematographers
  3. Vistek’s annual ProFusion
  4. DOC Institute
  5. LIFT

And if you can travel or are based elsewhere, here are 5 places or spaces you can travel to learn even more:

  1. AFI
  2. Maine Media
  3. Concordia
  4. UCLA
  5. NYU

Toronto Film School and Vancouver Film School didn’t make the list, but here they are in print all the same.

Where do you go to learn more?

 

Ford and the Forest of Memory

I caught the car bug young. My parents took me to the antique car show as a kid and I loved all the old cars. My best friend’s big brother could draw cars like nobody else. People used to take his pencil sketches of their cars and frame them. His family was loyal to Chevrolet. And, while the ’57 Chevy was the first car I learned to recognize on sight, Ford is the brand that resonates in my heart. Ford means family to me.

Aside from the fact that Henry Ford changed the world by creating the market for automobiles, the reason is this: my dad’s family farm has been loyal to the Ford brand for three generations. Ever since my grandfather finally ran his 1964 Plymouth Valiant into the ground, the farm family drove only Ford trucks.

The brothers had a very low opinion of the Valiant, but I think that car’s eventual failure had more to do with the 50km of hard gravel roads between their farm and the nearest town, and perhaps the reality of transporting five boys in the family, three of whom who grew to six feet or taller. The Valiant never stood a chance.

After the Valiant died, was stripped for parts and left standing, it rotted in the bush for two decades before an extremely stubborn prospective aunt finally broke the farm’s Ford run. She moved out to the farm and refused to give up her four-wheel-steering Honda Prelude. But it didn’t last.  After the wedding, she traded in the Prelude for a forest green Ford Aerostar.

As a rule, the farm trucks had the lowest possible trim package and no options.

My mom and dad’s first family vehicle was a blue 1981 Ford F100. It had a bench seat for 3. That’s what made it a family vehicle. I could ride on a booster in the passenger seat.

At the age of 12, dad strapped me onto another bench seat by way of a yellow pages, and attempted to teach me to drive on the top of the icy hill where our rural mailbox stood. I skidded that silver 1978 Ford F-150 4×4 right off the road and into the snowy ditch. The neighbour pulled us out with his extended cab 4×4, also a Ford.

Concessions to fuel economy and child safety eventually led our family into a maroon 1988 Ford Taurus. When that car began overheating on long, snowy winter drives, we moved on to a green Ford Explorer. I loved that Explorer but the keys were awfully hard to come by. I mostly got to drive Grandpa’s red and white 1984 Ford Ranger 2WD, great for burning donuts in the dirt. I took that Ranger to my first volunteer job, and on my first few dates, before buying my own car (a Dodge).

By that time, Grandpa had upgraded to a black and silver extended cab 4×4 Ranger with a tape deck and air conditioning. It was probably the first farm vehicle aside from a tractor with air.

After Grandpa passed, first his son, then an adopted grandson, drove that air conditioned Ranger.

Today, the uncles still drive Ford trucks with front bench seats, although they’ve given in and pay for air conditioning on all their vehicles. Another generation is taking over the farm, and as far as I know, Ford still rules their domain, an unbroken reign of 40 years.

So, given all that Ford history, when I got the call to work on a series of adventures for Ford by way of Blue Hive and Blue Ant in 2015, I jumped at the chance. Led by Alan at Blue Hive, Roadside Attractions was produced by Renée and Nick at Blue Ant, directed by Jim Morrison IV, and lensed by DP Christoph Benfey. Nick Coffin was a superb 1st AC. I had a great time operating camera and getting to know our participants. It’s worth watching the videos just to get their stories.

On the technical side, we shot primarily available light, mostly with Canon glass and cameras, working with everything from car mounts to drones to gimbals, and as always, there was a healthy amount of handheld work.

I found that as we crossed Canada, memories of camping with mom and dad and our extended family came unbidden, especially as we drove up and down the mountain roads of Vancouver Island.

I’m deeply thankful for the opportunity to live the roadside adventure for one of my favourite brands, working with a super-talented team. The campaign was successful, quickly garnering over 300,000 views on Cottage Life and Youtube. Today the six videos have over a million views.

A link to the campaign here:
http://cottagelife.com/ford

And the videos we worked on here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLym9X9U_mwOL4-o_0PLdv4M7MMKGUQwST

When I Refused to do a Woman’s Work, and was Humbled

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofE-mJFJR5w

This is a story about institutionalized bigotry, something I know something about as a cameraperson.

I was exposed to institutional diversity in University and working for Scotiabank and have since found that it offers tangible benefits, especially in a creative workplace. Working in documentary has further opened my once-bigoted mind. What changed me most was attending Hot Docs year after year, filling my brain with stories from perspectives far outside of my own. Over time I’ve become outspoken in arguing for inclusion and real diversity. On occasion this has led to my being blacklisted or called out as a bandwagon jumper.

Mostly though, I’m no pariah. Rather, I’ve benefitted from sharing these views.  There’s research backing this phenomenon.

And it has made me a much better person and improved my life in three key ways.

Firstly, by having diverse people around me, my viewpoints are broadened, making me a better filmmaker and storyteller.  I’m acquainted with the benefits of many divergent points of view, making me more sensitive as a decision maker, and, perhaps, less likely to fall victim to hoaxes on facebook or pseudoscientific thinking.  For the intelligent or discerning client, it is a hint that even if we disagree on something, I will be committed to working it out.

This forces me to adopt alternate points of view, meaning that I attempt to validate the people around me in a real way, by listening, and attempting to see what the world looks and feels like from somewhere, or someone else.

Secondly, it means that people who also believe in these values feel comfortable hiring me.

Thirdly, it means I am sometimes the only white person, or the only Canadian, or the only male, on a crew.  This is such a privilege that I can’t believe my luck when it happens.

This is one of those stories.

Someone found me on the internets and asked me about my availability to shoot some testimonials at a conference.  As the father of a young girl who wants to be an inventor, I was very interested in the job.

Initially, I expressed sincere enthusiasm, but after some thought, I responded to the producer. I gave her the names of 7 local, talented female Directors of Photography who I knew could complete the work at their rate.  My reasoning was, that this was a conference on WOMEN in science. Shouldn’t a woman be behind the camera? After all, camerawork suffers the same institutional problem as academic science: a sad lack of women working in the field.

In the TV business, there are so few female cinematographers and camera crew working, that sometimes, all the women I know and trust are hired out and busy.  However, that is less true today. As time goes on there are more and more women behind the camera. And this year, a group of female cinematographers started the International Collective of Female Cinematographers:
http://icfcfilm.com/

The producer thanked me for the names and then I didn’t hear back from them for a while.  

A few days later, the producer’s boss called me and made an offer.  “I understand all that,” he said when I explained why I didn’t want the job, “but they want you.”

I was stymied. I knew for a fact that some of the women I’d referred were far beyond my own abilities. I assumed he was buttering me up and that the women I’d referred were booked.  Nothing sounds better to a filmmaker than that someone actually wants you to work for them.  And, I needed the work. My weary therapist had just told me that sticking too rigidly to my values caused me a lot of trouble, so I decided to put my faith in the producer and the team, and go ahead with it rather than be stupid by turning down work I needed.

To balance the team, I sought out a female Sound Person slash AC with a degree in Physics, and a female producer who was working on her Masters.  My field producer fell ill on the morning of the shoot, so the remaining two of us packed into our rental car and headed to Kitchener-Waterloo with a C100 and C300, a few lights and soundkit in the trunk.

As seems to always happen on the way to Kitchener, an accident occurred ahead of us on the freeway. Although we had left in time to be an hour early, we sat on the highway inching forward for 40 minutes before receiving a warning on the radio that the road was closed starting one exit ahead of us. So, I pulled off the freeway onto a single lane highway, and headed West. Our move worked and we zipped along the highway, pausing periodically at 4-way stops. When we passed the blockage, we got back onto the empty freeway.

We checked in with our client and let them know about the sick call and the traffic.  We still managed to arrive more or less on time, a little flustered and down one woman, but ready to go.  

Word passed around quickly and our interview list filled up.  The client was very concerned with getting everyone’s story for the record, and so we respected that approach and shot tirelessly through both days.

I worked to channel one of my mentors, Henry Less, who had always shot beautiful and respectful portraiture, and who could operate two cameras simultaneously.  We rolled on their stories unfolding, playing mostly with available light and working with multiple locations at the school.  Our soundie did a terrific job working in very difficult conditions, at a live conference in a busy public space. Both of us were moved to tears repeatedly over the course of the interviews.

I felt privileged to meet and interview close to 40 incredible women, who forged success in the face of impossible odds, and who were brave enough to share their stories. I am grateful to Skystorm and the American Association of Physic Teachers for the opportunity.

Another interesting reading on the topic:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/opinion/sunday/she-wanted-to-do-her-research-he-wanted-to-talk-feelings.html

Ride to Work

In honour of the so-called snowstorm buffeting Toronto yesterday , I limited the errands, stayed in and worked on this trippy little thing for your enjoyment:

It’s my ride to work in honour of Ride to Work day, February 12. Since the wind gusts were 30-50km against me on February 12, I instead rode the bus to my work that day, shooting behind-the-scenes of a TV series in production at The Back Lot. This video was from Feb 10 when the weather was a little warmer.  I wanted to catch the snow!

Speaking of ride to “Work” that phrase gets a song stuck in my head.  Why? Check out the new DOUBLE video from Rihanna ft Drake: Work.

Shot in two cities by rival crews,
Drake and Ri Ri made the news.

 

Adventures in Bliss: Bridge to Clairmont Camera

 

This week, the weather was great so we hit the road to say hi to old friends and new. Each week I spend a day riding 40km with some cargo (including Bliss the dog) as part of my training regimen.

This was an exciting morning as the weather was a crisp 2 degrees above freezing. Our friend was prepping for another series, getting her DIT cart ready for a long stint on the road.

We started our day dropping family cargo 4km west of home base. From there we mapped our route, turned on the fitness tracker and hit the road.

Along the way, we found a shortcut across a lovely bridge. Discovering new bridges is one of my favourite parts of riding. Our map told us not to take this route, but we ventured it anyway.  It was so pretty we had to turn around and film it. Just one pass.

Pair it with some uplifting music.

The ride back downtown was much easier. Mostly downhill!

Musings on the Steadicam

If I emailed this to you, it’d be spam
but you came to my website and clicked a link. Damn!

Read on about my favorite deed,
that is: playing the trusty favored steed

to a Steadicam! (pause) Is this new?
No, it’s been a dream I knew

for too long! First, Sling Blade in ’96
Steadicam through the swamp, a long tracking two shot – SICK!

And ROCKY II! Watching Sly mount Philly, I knew:
I could run up stairs with a stick, too!

THE SHINING, Jack’s face on Memorial Drive
prompting Calgary commuters to see stability thrive

and amaze with uncle Stanley’s advice. Kubrick
that is, whose wide angle lens already the rubrick

that brought light and composition to the filmmaking party.
He’s always on my shoulder, a camera just partly.

Raise a glass to the evolution of the art!
And Agnes Varda, whose unctuous visual farts

nonetheless feature not one accidental frame,
and for that reason, on my left shoulder, she reigns.

Now, decades later, I’ve trained enough.
Tested too (some tests were rough).

Work for this year now at ends,
Nothing left but good cheer and friends.

Oh. And! Love of physical activity!
Back to the point, RE: Steadi –

As an early-year joke, the kit’s bespoke!
Customized, ridden to you and free*, it’s true!

My coming out green gift.
Book today and lets share a lift!

Willing to ride east or west –
If it takes days, I’ll rest!

Or take rails! Why? I’m launching (unproven, needing a valid test);
the profit’s to reinvest in a Klassen vest.

When I arrive for you, fit and ready,
I’ll strive, to do my best
you supply the rest
or put our kit to the test.

*Steadicam kit only (Other kit & lights not free.
Remember, IATSE!). Limited time only.

Alexa Mini

I still remember seeing Alexa footage for the first time. I had just been grading a number of projects shot on F900R, HVX200, and 7D.

To my then-jaundiced eyes, seeing the smooth roll-off and deep color of the sweaty flowers in that Alexa footage, at just 1080p… I was in love!

At the time that camera was out of the question.  When the Amira came out, I attended the seminar again, and this year, with the introduction of the Alexa Mini, suddenly the price of that fab sensor and electronics came into range.

Nevermind all the gack you need to carry it, I was compelled.

Now if anyone knows how to blow your socks off quietly, it’s Arri. Their presentations are always immaculate, everyone is on time (well there was that once with the thing on the Gardiner), shirts and pants pressed, and the footage is crisp.

This time, as with the Amira presentation, we got to view things on a 4k projector.  In the Amira demo, we were only able to view in 1080p. Even at 1080P, the architectural details rendered in their demo, and the astoundingly clean, rich colour in Bill Bennett’s aerials: love all over again.  There was a bit of showboating: did we need to see that many intersecting lines in the architecture?  Did we need to see the propeller turn in those aerials?  Yes we did!  The new tech highlight in that Amira demo was the new wide angle zoom. Clean and bright from corner to corner, the lens housing is physically long because it uses a light field to achieve this previously impossible clarity.  I didn’t ask about the price.

But this article is about the Alexa Mini.  After the technical presentation, we got to see another demo video from Europe, another demo from LA. Both beautiful with great color and pleasing detail.  The mini has the same 3.2K sensor you know and love, and their internal ND wheel with Arri’s superior ND filter.  The body was shown rigged up in several configurations for handheld, fluid head, on a Movi, and Octocopter.

Aside from the easy recording to CFast cards, my favorite development is the integrated follow focus system. It will present a real threat to Preston Fiz.   Notably missing from the demo setups was a Steadicam. For that application you might have to add weight, but the boxy form factor means it’s easy to customize and balance.

After, during the fun part, we test drove David Dvir’s Movi while he supervised and clucked at our inferior skills.  As with a drone, it’s a trick to navigate the image from a different perspective than the one your head is at.  In the distance, an Octocopter hung from a large frame ready to mate to the Movi. I was hoping they would fire it up, but that didn’t happen while I was there.

I walked away convinced of everything except the 3.2 sensor on the Mini.