Trip to Bay Area for War Tax Resistance Doc Shoot

I'm up in Berkeley at the moment working on a film about war tax resistance. (I posted a rough first trailer on the Pan Left site the day before I left to come here.) The shooting is going pretty well, given that I have a very minimal crew. I tried to recruit some volunteer skilled help from the ranks of bay area indymedia-connected videoactivists. A few people responded with interest but with questions about schedule, and then begged off. I'm frankly kind of surprised and disappointed. I thought there would be enough activist videographers in the area that I could find sufficient help - why is it so hard? Is it that all those people around here are moving on into trying to do it professionally and so can't be bothered to do something for lunch and a good cause?

I guess when I put the shoe on the other foot and imagine some random activist filmmaker visiting Tucson to do a shoot, I don't think I'd help out for free unless it was a subject I was really really personally interested in - I'm just too busy. So I shouldn't be surprised. But it's a shame, because the concept and logistics of this film make it important to have a crew, and a skilled crew.

Anyway, it was an interesting day yesterday. We went to a workshop in the city about WTR put together by Northern California War Tax Resisters, and then back to the east bay to visit famous activist and war tax resister Julia Butterfly Hill, who happened to be back in town, resting and refusing most interview requests but who had said yes to us since it was about war tax resistance. Then we went across the bay again to talk to David Gross, a WTR who has a blog about the subject and is very knowledgable.

We "wrapped" for the day and the evening led to thai food and drinks in the Mission with an old friend. Being back there, my old hood, made me feel a little wistful - San Francisco is so cool and beautiful. It's changed a lot though, and those memories that bring up that well of emotion are just memories, flowing on.

Today we head up to Sonoma county to meet some WTRs there. Lots of driving but I'm hoping for some beautiful scenery as backdrops.


I'm working on 3 different major (to me), funded video projects right now. Pretty exciting, but all 3 of them are in pre-production, though for one of them I have already shot some preliminary material. This means that I've been spending hours and hours every day for weeks just planning shoots and associated travel and logistics. Calling, emailing, asking for location permissions, poring over maps, looking at calendars, buying plane tickets, renting cars, etc etc etc.

I'm sick of it. This is why, I now viscerally understand, there are producers, as a role separate from directors. I need one, or 2 or 3. I'm exhausted and I haven't even shot anything. Dammit.

Riseup Network TV

Josh Wolf, the Bay Area blogger (and current San Francisco mayoral candidate) who was jailed by a grand jury for not turning over footage he shot at a local protest, is now free and running a 2-hour TV program called RUNtv - RUN standing for Rise Up Network. It airs on Peralta TV, which is evidently a cable channel run by Peralta Community College in Oakland.

For each installment of the show, he includes segments from radical videographers around the country, and then places them online and lets people vote on their favorite. The winners receive cash prizes and a chance to compete in the end of season contest.

The latest episode of the show includes my short doc about Sandhill Cranes. Go check it out and cast your vote.

Dry River Doc

I've been working for the last week on a newish project: a DVD/doc about Dry River.The 2nd anniversary of DR having a physical space is coming up November 3, and i thought it would be fitting to get it done in time for that. I've been recording video and audio of various events, mostly music shows, at the space for 2 years, since it opened. So it seemed a simple process to pull all that together with some stills, add some interviews, and voila, a quick and dirty documentary. But, it's not as quick as I thought. there's so much footage to sift through. and i have keep reminding myself that i said it would be quick and dirty and sloppy. my natural tendency is to labor over edits and get fancy and, maybe even get arty, and in general, well, have some pride in my work.

Anyway, I hope I can resist spending too much time on it because there many other projects i should be spending time on, especially ones that might earn me money. It's just like me to get excited about something that's completely voluntary and unpaid, and neglect other things that might be more lucrative, or even more important to the world.

But for what it's worth, I have uploaded a rough draft of the first 30 seconds or so.

Stop Panning! Stop Zooming!

Lately, for a few reasons I won't go into, I've had occasion, as an editor, to look at a lot of video footage shot by others. Some of it is just atrocious. It is just stunning how badly people handle a camera sometimes.

All it takes is just a few minutes watching TV or a movie to get the basics, and it really is the basics that people seem to be missing (Maybe that's the problem, many activists don't watch TV, so they've forgotten what good camera technique looks like). The boiled down rule of thumb: Hold the shot for awhile. That's all you need to know. Everything else comes from that: Don't pan and tilt around constantly. Don't zoom in and out all the time. Just fricking find a shot and stay on it. Even if it might not be the best, perfect composition, just stick with it for at least 5 seconds, 10 seconds, hell, 30 seconds, and THEN move and find your next shot. If you're worried about missing some action, then pull out and stick with a long shot and stay on it. Just stop waving the damn camera around for god's sake. Just stop. Please!!!

(All this advice and more is readily available online, for example at the excellent Video Activist Network site.)

My Hands Are Bananas

Ze Frank on Somalia

For the past week or so, since my brother told me about it, I've been starting to get into this super cool video blog called "The Show with Ze Frank." It's an amazingly entertaining daily videocast that consists of mostly just this guy, Ze, camera close-upped on his face, as he rants in this really witty but spastic, tweaker kind of way. like the the smartest funniest speedfreak you'll ever meet.
Friday's episode was a rare political one, mostly about what's been happening in Somalia. He has a great way of mixing the standard news take on something with his own little comedic asides.

I want to do a videoblog sort of like that. A continuation of my so-far still secret series "Meditations on Nature with Esteban Caliente" - it would be sort of mix of Ze Frank, Geraldo Rivera, Nick Broomfield, and.... myself, i guess. yeah.

PEEVE #4785

FWIW, I really hate it when people call documentaries and other films "videos." It bothers me for some reason.

That's all.

Saving The Sandhill Cranes on YouTube

I'm getting more into You Tube. I like it. I hate Myspace (tho i have an account), but I love Flickr and I like You Tube. I think it's a function of 2 things: interface and intention. Myspace's interface just sucks, and also the purpse is nebulous. It's a sort of trendy friendster substitute with no requirement for sharing any creative material. Flickr and YouTube are social sites that involve the sharing of what I think a friend recently called 'tokens of value.' There's a reason you're there besides the networking, schmoozing, macking. Myspace, tho it originally was about bands, is now mostly people just macking. Plus it's owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Anyway, here's my 2nd upload to YouTube, a video I just finished about Arizona Earthfirst!'s response to the hunting of sandhill cranes.

Stretched Too Thin

If my blogging software permitted, this post would be marked not only in the personal category but in every other category that I've defined, and more. That's because this entry is about how many different things I'm involved with and how that's a problem.

But before I get too far into that I will link to a post i just published on another blog that I seldom use, on the delete the border site, relating recent news about arizona border crossing deaths and stuff.

Now I move on into saying this: I'm doing too much and I need to figure out how to jettision some stuff if i intend to feel better about myself and stay sane, because very little of it is getting done in a quality way. Here's the list, or everything i can think of now:

  1. dry river
  2. no more deaths media work
  3. arizona indymedia
  4. panleft (i've just agreed to be a board member! argh! what am i thinking!?)
  5. Root Force
  6. new Tucson "border radicals" group
  7. my juarez film - setting up the tour in july
  8. War Tax Resistance video projects
  9. editor of Indymedia Newsreal
  10. bolivia computer project
  11. a newish relationship that's very important to me and needs lots of care.
  12. work, for a new job with lots of annoying bueaucratic obstacles to being paid what i'm supposed to be, not to mention lots of work that requires my creative and thougtful input.
  13. green scare - at least this will be over after the event we're having this saturday.

The most important things are 2, 7, 11, and 12. A few other things are impossible to get rid of right now. The rest I need to just tell people "sorry, I can't be there." Sigh.

The nice thing, though is that, as usual, just making a list of everything makes it seem like a lot less of a problem. so, yay....

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