Category Archives: Becoming an Independent Videomaker

Our digital world

A UT student visited me at the station the other day.  She wanted to interview me — a media practitioner — about my job and talk about technology.  I think I overwhelmed her.
We talked about how the traditional way media has been looked at is changing.  When I was in school… you chose one path… broadcast or print journalism.  Now there are multiple paths and they are constantly intersecting.  Media outlets that fail to recognize this fact don’t seem to be as successful as those that do.  At my station, the website has taken on new prominence.  It’s not just a place where the newscasts send people for a web link.  Now the reporters contribute and video and other extras are extremely important.  It’s that way at a lot of other places too….
Look at the Statesman.  They break stories on their website… and their reporters are shooting video and recording audio for it.  They’ve got blogs and tons of surveys just to engage their readers.  Talk about a convergence of media.

The student that visited me seemed to be blown away by all of this.  I took her around the building, and one of the people we spoke with talked about how exciting these times are.  We don’t know how exactly media is going to change, but we know its important to be there and change when it does.  We can’t play catch up and expect to succeed.  But he also pointed out how its all of us who didn’t grow up with the Internet and crazy tiers of cable that are having to stay alert and learn all of this… it’s the student’s generation that knows the “digital world.”  They grew up as “digital generation,” and soon they’ll be taking the reigns.

Those words have hung with me.  And I believe them, but after my TSP meeting yesterday, I started to become worried that while the digital generation may instinctively know how media is changing, college communication classes may actually be teaching them old-fashioned ideas.  We had to choose the Managing Editor for the Daily Texan, and the candidates each spoke to us about their qualifications, but when questioned about how the Texan should work with the other student media entities (i.e. television and radio) and the web, they either shunned the idea or seemed hesitant to dive right in and take advantage of the opportunity.  My sense is that the Texan leadership doesn’t seem to understand how important convergence of media is in this day and age.  The Texan should not feel threatened… but instead it should explore and embrace the incredible opportunities out there….

I’m making these comments as an outsider looking in, but also as someone who’s seen a huge shift in how media works in my short 10 years in my industry.  Hell, the Internet barely existed when I started college… let alone blogs, YouTube, and the plethora of other amazing things happening right now.  The audience has changed, and successful media recognize that it will continue to change.  We don’t know where we’re going… but we know it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

A new spark

Dr. Britt Bousman holds an artifact from the Aquarena Dig/KVUE.comYesterday, my dream of becoming an independent documentarian was rekindled.  I went down to San Marcos to report on a dig for KVUE.com.  The story published this afternoon.  I’m pretty proud of it, especially since I got overtime to do it… and ever since I got pregnant, I’ve been more interested in staying in the newsroom in the air conditioning and going home to rest than being out in the field reporting.  So… as I told the archaeologist… it takes something that really interests me to get me away from the newsroom.

Anyway… he was telling me about the incredible rock art down in South Texas, and all of a sudden I got excited about shooting archaeology projects again.  He told me to give him a call when I was ready to head down there.  They do a field school in May… if I can pull the funding together and make some headway on my other pipeline project (Keyser Farm)… maybe I can pull it off… even with a newborn.  We’ll see… but at least I’m thinking about it again!

Overwhelmed by reality

Ever feel like there’s so much you have to do… you’re so overwhelmed by “to do” tasks… that you don’t accomplish anything?
Oh gees… that’s how I feel.

I could go on and on about the tasks around the house that Andy I undertook… the landscaping… the home improvements… making room for baby… but that’s not what bothers me the most.
It’s that all my video projects got shoved into a corner and I have no idea when I’ll be able to pick them up again.  It makes me sick.

My brother asked me last week how long I was going to stay with my job… when was I going to quit and go after my dream again?  All I could do was studder some response like I needed the money… but the question caught me so off guard… I hadn’t thought about my dream of producing documentaries in a long time. 
It seems so out of reach.  I think I finally understand how Andy feels when he tells me he has no time to pursue his dreams.  And no money.
I swore to him that I would find a way to make it possible for him…  I really did.  I will find a way to save up the money and give him the time.  I really will.

As for my dreams… well, it would help if I could get up off my lazy ass and spend some time researching and writing the Keyser Farm documentary.  You think there will be time once baby arrives?
Who knows…  I’m sure lots of people would tell me, “No way in hell”… but then again, they might not be quite as determined and stubborn as I am.  I really hate it when people tell me I can’t do something.  I’m usually more bound and determined to make sure I do it.
The same is true when people say I’m going to do something I really don’t want to do… like buy a minivan.  No way in hell.  But thanks for helping me stick to my guns.

Going back to KVR

When I left UT and KVR-TV/Texas Student Television 8 years ago, I never imagined I would eventually go back and work with them.
Has it really be 8 years?
Damn I feel old.
Anyway, not too long ago, I was asked to serve on the Texas Student Publications Board, which oversees the TSP, which runs the Daily Texan, KVRX radio, Cactus yearbook, and KVR-TV (which they re-dubbed TSTV recently).  I accepted, and now I’m waiting approval from the University, so we’ll see.
I had lunch with my old station advisor and the TSP director today… and in that short time tried to get caught up with them.  My years at KVR were awesome.
But I thought differently then.  Maybe it was my immaturity.  Okay… more than likely it was.  Now that I’ve aged a few years and put in time at several different TV stations, I see things a little more clearly now, and I see the enormous potential of student tv beyond campus. 
Not that I plan on going in there and trying to change the world.  That isn’t the point. 
But what an awesome opportunity to help out the place that taught me just about everything I needed to know for my career.
And yes, I already have a lot on my plate, what with the baby and all… but I just can’t wait for a better time.

Returned to sender

I just found out why I didn’t hear anything from that film festival in Belgium.
My tape never made it.
I’m not sure why… I sent it Express International, and the guys at the post office even helped me.  Today I got the tape back in the mail with a from the mail center in Atlanta that the package had been opened and was undeliverable.
Unfortunately, nothing was marked to tell me exactly why it was undeliverable.
My last tape made it to the same address. 
Was it a victim of Homeland Security?
I can just see it now… a bunch of security jerks ripping open my package, believing they were saving their country, only to find a harmless tape about an archaeological dig in Tennessee.
Thank goodness I’m taking muscle relaxers for my back (I strained it yesterday and have to stay home from work for a few days), because if I was completely lucid I’d be pretty steamed.
That package cost me $68 to send… and it looks like it never made it.  They said they would keep all entries in their library after the festival.
I should have sent it FedEx.
Let that be a lesson.  Don’t trust the USPS.

The editing process begins

Little boy at Keyser Farm watches the cowsI’m taking a different approach as I begin the long-overdue process of writing and editing Keyser Farm.  The documentary book I’ve been reading, Directing the Documentary, has inspired me to turn away from the journalistic way I normally write, and instead focus on the action I shot.
I will begin by piecing together the video through a paper edit, then insert voiceovers if necessary… that way I won’t rely on the narration to tell the story.  In theory, this will force me to work with the video I already have, so I won’t be scrambling to find other materials, like I did with Shiloh.
I now have more than 100 pages of tape logs and transcripts to go through.  The book recommended I make copies of the original transcripts so I can mark them up… then I’ll cut out the marked up sections and assemble them on paper… like of like a jigsaw puzzle.  This is totally different from how I did Shiloh.  But I wanted to take a different viewpoint with Keyser Farm.  I don’t want to use a narrator if I can help it.  I want the natural sound and interviews to tell the story.
I was just going through my photos from Keyser Farm to remind me of what it was like… it was so long ago…  We were in the middle of this huge field in the blazing heat, with only a few tent canopies to shield us from the sun and thunderstorms.  A herd of cows walked nearby, and we’d have to steer clear of their patties.  One of the archaeologists told us to watch out for the bull… he had a nasty temper.  One of the volunteers couldn’t understand why the Forest Service continued to let the farmer run his cattle through the field, because he wasn’t taking very good care of it… the field was full of thistle at one end, and cattle won’t touch it.  The farmer is supposed to help the FS maintain the land in exchange for his cows being allowed to graze there.
It’s amazing what you learn in the course of shooting a video.

My film's big in Belgium…

Suddenly my inspiration has returned.  Tonight, while checking email, I learned that my video, Voices from Shiloh’s Mound, has been accepted into the Archaeological Film Festival in Brussels.  They sent me an email asking for a projection copy.  I guess this means I’ll be shelling out some more money, but it seems worth it.

Since I finished the video back in June, I’ve felt more and more depressed that my video was just sitting there, doing nothing.  I’ve had no time to go after distributors.  But now, after getting that email, all that time and money I spent on the video feels better.  It’s actually going to compete, and my interest in it and all my other ideas has been revived.  I never thought Shiloh would be accepted into a film festival.  I really didn’t.  Wow.

Kineon (the Brussels festival) is in December.  The Archaeology Channel Film Festival is in February, so I still haven’t heard from them.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but there’s no way I’ll be able to attend either one.  I have no time off until next year AND, February is a ratings month at work — ALL HANDS ON DECK.  Gotta love TV.

I’m definitely going to dive into the Keyser Farm project this weekend.  I had planned on it anyway, but now… well… my resolve is stronger.

Negative thought overdrive

I hate leaving work, then realizing, 2 days later, that I forgot to do something before I left.  I forgot to make a link to Friday night football.  Very small in reality, but a responsibility I totally forgot about, and I really hate that.  Now it’s going to gnaw at me until tomorrow morning when my boss asks me why I forgot.  Gees.  It’s not like I would lose my job over that, but it just screams irresponsibility, and I don’t want that hanging over my head.

I guess it’s obvious I’m a little on edge if something like that bugs me.  I’ve been thinking about that documentary I haven’t sat down to work on since June.  I had a whole day free to work on it, and what do you know?  Wow.. I didn’t work on it.  Big surprise.  I often question my own dedication and drive.  It would get done if I really wanted it.  Apparently, I don’t.  Apparently, I’m just living for the moment… taking that paycheck to tide us over now instead of spending time on something that, at one time, I thought was really important. 

I almost had a nervous breakdown today when Andy echoed some of those same thoughts about his project.  I made him swear not to quit.  I begged him not to give up.  In my mind, he is the guy who’s inspired me to dream outside of the 9 to 5 job, because he’s been working on something he believes in.  And if he gives up, who will I look up to?  His work reminds me of my own.  Yes, I’ve been goofing off, and subconsciously subverting his work at the same time.  I guess this is a wake up call to shape up and get back to business.