H-Town Stories II on MediaStorm

From the MediaStorm blog:

In this new installment of H-Town Stories commissioned by Neighborhood Centers Inc., MediaStorm takes an intimate look at two lives that have been transformed by the power of work. Neighborhood Centers provides services to 400,000 Texans every year and MediaStorm hoped to create intimate portraits of just a few of these men and women who benefit from such assistance.


Fred, a pilot and Vietnam veteran, spent decades taking care of his ailing wife. As a cargo pilot, he split his time between the stress of flying and the stress of watching his partner slowly die. With his savings finally gone and the passing of his wife, he decided at 60 to start his professional life again.


Teresa was born in Mexico. She and her ex-husband traveled to Houston as undocumented workers. Despite the stress of her new life, and even an attack on her life, Theresa has managed to not only survive, she has thrived, starting a new business to support her two daughters and one on the way.

Watch here.

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Undesired Wins Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award

Undesired by Walter Astrada, a project I produced at MediaStorm for the Alexia Foundation was honored with a 2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and I couldn't be more proud.

From the MediaStorm blog:

The duPont Awards, administered since 1968 by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, are considered to be the most prestigious broadcast journalism awards and the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes, which are also administered at the Journalism School. Selected by the duPont Jury for excellence in broadcast journalism, the award-winning news programs aired in the United States between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011. The honorees will be presented with silver duPont batons at a ceremony held at Columbia University in January 2012.

Congratulations to my MediaStorm colleagues and all the winners.

Watch Undesired here.

MediaStorm Workshop: Broken Lines

I’m excited to share my latest production from the MediaStorm Advanced Multimedia Workshop.

The talented team consisted of Martine Fougeron, Richard Kendall,
Frank de Ruiter and Simon Schorno.

From the description:

Joe Soll never met his birth parents. Raised by upper-middle class New Yorkers, he spent half of his life tormented by the death of his mother.

But then one day, that story suddenly began to unravel.

“I felt crazed,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do with it.”

What followed was a three decade search for the truth and a mystery that would haunt him for years.

Through almost unbearable personal pain, Joe has devoted his life to a single question, where did I come from?

The quest for that answer has redefined him, setting Joe on a mission to help others.

Broken Lines was co-produced with Jennifer Readfearn plus two awesome interns: Leandro Badalotti, who helped with post, and Tucker Walsh, who created some lucious visuals.

The piece was made better by the insights and audio assists from teacher-extraordinaire Bruce Strong.

See Broken Lines here.

Also, make sure to check out the other, excellent workshop story Voice co-produced by Tim McLaughlin and Rick Gershon.

Edit: I committed a huge oversight. I forgot to acknowledge Brian whose vision touches everything we do at MediaStorm.

Thoughts on Errol Morris' Tabloid

The most striking thing about Errol Morris’ new documentary Tabloid, besides the literally unbelievable story, is the director’s decision to leave whole sections of interview footage uncovered.

Minutes go by without b-roll.

Instead, we see the exposed footage, jump cuts and all.

To complicate the matter, like many of his recent documentaries, Morris continuously tracks the camera when shooting interviews. So what might be a subtle right-to-left movement when seen in its entirety, in Tabloid becomes not only a jump cut but a startling shift with head shots jumping across the screen.

For transitions, the director simply fades to black before fading up again, sometimes to the same speaker.

Altogether, it’s a pretty dramatic technique.

At first glance, I’d say the decision to do this was made, in part, to combat a lack of archival material. Many of the scenes were simply never filmed. But Morris is no stranger to reenactment. He’s recreated scenes in many of his films. So why not here too?

It’s a good question; one that I’d like to hear him address.

The more pertinent question though is, does it work? I have to say, given the film’s reliance on point-of-view as a narrative device, I think it does.

Oddly, that just might be Tabloid’s most startling revelation.

A Darkness Visible: Afghanistan by Seamus Murphy

This one was a beast. Some numbers:

  • 30-plus hours of interviews
  • 26,000 images
  • 9 months of production

  • It was the most complex project I've ever undertaken. But now it's done, and I am so very proud.

    From the description:

    Outsiders often see Afghanistan as a problem in need of a solution: a conflict region that needs more troops or another election. But in seeing Afghanistan as a problem, the people of the country, and their desire for self-determination, are often overlooked.

    From the Soviet invasion and the mujahideen resistance to the Taliban and the American occupation, A Darkness Visible: Afghanistan examines thirty years of Afghan history. It is the story of ordinary citizens whose lives play out in the shadow of superpowers. There are tales of violence to be sure, but there is also love and even romance.

    Based on 14 trips to Afghanistan between 1994 and 2010, A Darkness Visible: Afghanistan is the work of renowned photojournalist Seamus Murphy. His work chronicles a people caught time and again in political turmoil, struggling to find their way.

    This was, at every turn, a collaborative project and special acknowledgement begins with Seamus Murphy and his luminous photography. At MediaStorm, the continued support of Brian Storm and the design skill of Tim Klimowicz; as well as a great epilogue co-produced by Tucker Walsh and a tremendous sound mix by Bruce Strong, without which subtitles would have been a necessity.

    Fianlly, a special thank you goes to my partner in crime, Leandro Badalotti, who gave me guidance when I was lost and humor when I was in need. He made this project better in more ways than he knows.

    Please watch A Darkness Visible: Afghanistan here.

    Final Cut Pro X: First Impressions

    After spending a week with Apple's remodeled Final Cut Pro, I wrote a short piece about my impressions for the Mediastorm blog. From the review:

    Instead of a transition–a continuation of the Final Cut Pro story, if you will–Apple redefined the narrative without preparing editors. As blogger and editor Adam Lisagor noted, it’s like Apple is a TV network that suddenly decided you’d be better off without the main characters you’ve been following closely for more than a decade. No warning, no nothing. One day they just decided, Those old folks, don’t worry about where they went, you just pay attention to these the new, hip youngsters and everything will be fine.

    Read the essay here.

    Editing Stutter

    When you edit a stutter–for instance, someone who says, "I'm going to the, the, the car"–as a general rule try to keep the tail end of the stutter, the final "the." Cutting there will usually offer the best cadence with the following word. But not always. So trust your ear, too.

    The Five Stages of FCP X Grieving

    Denial: "No support for FCP 7? You're joking, right?" Anger: "You have to organize clips by date now? What the fuck."

    Bargaining: "Just give me multicam support."

    Depression "I'm never going to relearn all these new shortcuts."

    Acceptance "Hey look, Avid is having a sale."

    MediaStorm and Oil Spill Commission Collaborate

    I'm proud to announce my latest MediaStorm production, an overview video for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

    I was charged with creating a six to ten minute project that describes the causes of the Deepwater Horizon spill, its immediate aftermath, and long term fallout.

    From the MediaStorm blog:

    Along with the informational overview video, the site will be expanding to include interactive timelines, historical information, and more on how industry, government, and the people of the Gulf region will be working to restore and move forward. Check back soon for the full media site launch.

    You can view the overview video here.

    Teaching FCP at the Northern Short Course, March 2011

    I will be teaching two classes of Final Cut Pro at the upcoming Northern Short Course in Photojournalism in Warwick, Rhode Island, March 10-12, 2011. The first class is for absolute beginners and will focus on organizing your project, the Final Cut interface, and the basics of non-linear editing.

    The second class, for intermediate users, will emphasize keyboard shortcuts as well as advanced editing techniques.

    Hope to see you there.

    Undesired by Walter Astrada

    I'm proud to announce my latest MediaStorm project, Undesired by Walter Astrada.

    From the description:

    In India, all women must confront the cultural pressure to bear a son. The consequences of this preference is a disregard for the lives of women and girls. From birth until death they face a constant threat of violence.

    This was very much a collaborative project and surely would have been a lesser work without the efforts of two great interns, Shreeya Sinha and AJ Maclean.

    Undesired was made possible with support from the Alexia Foundation.

    View Undesired here.

    MediaStorm to screen Walter Astrada’s ‘Undesired’ September 30 at Galapagos Art Space

    Mediastorm will be screening Undesired, by Walter Astrada, a project I produced.

    The screening will be held September 30 at Galapagos Art Space, at 16 Main Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Doors open at 7:30.

    Please RSVP to rsvp@mediastorm.com.

    From the project description:

    India is a diverse country, separated by class and ethnicity. But all women confront the cultural pressure to bear a son. No woman is exempt.

    Society’s desire for boys originates from the belief that men make money while women, because of their expensive dowry costs, are a financial burden. As a result, there is a disregard for the lives of women and girls. From birth until old age, they face a constant threat of violence and, too frequently, death.

    Since 1980, an estimated 40 million women have been “missing,” by way of abortion, neglect, or murder. The government has banned the dowry and sex selective abortions, but both practices still thrive.

    Undesired tells the stories of these women and girls.

    Hope to see you there.

    Words to Cut On

    Linear storytelling is about progression. It's about the ordering of events to create a beginning, middle and end and thereby a compelling narrative. As an editor, I constantly ask myself, how do I get from here to there?

    One road post to look for are transitional words like but, however, and therefore. These words connote change. They pivot the narrative making them great words to cut on.

    "I was was walking to the store, but" - walking-to-the-store image.

    "I decided to go home. " - relaxing-at-home image.

    As a general rule, I cut after the transition.

    The grammar of language and the grammar of editing flow together. Don't overlook their connection.