It’s All Connected

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had numerous experiences where things I’ve done in the past have resurfaced in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Last week blues musician Willie “Big Eyes” Smith passed away. He was one of the only two Delta blues musicians still living who had been part of my first short documentary The Delta Bluesmen. That same week, I had a photograph hanging in an exhibit by the Copyright Alliance, Recording Our History: Faces Behind the Camera, in the Senate building rotunda in our nation’s capitol. It was a portrait of blues drummer Sam Carr, who I had photographed and interviewed for that same project, over ten years ago.

I knew if Sam were alive he would have been humbled and honored,

Gail Mooney with her portrait of blues drummer Sam Carr in Senate Rotunda, Washington DC ©Eugene Mopsik

as was I, to have his portrait displayed in such a historic setting. I couldn’t help but “feel” proud at that moment in time. Sure, I felt proud of myself and Sam but I also felt a sense of pride to live in a country where I could still freely walk the halls of the Senate building, past the offices of the powerful of today and the ghosts from yesterday. I didn’t expect to feel that way. I was surprised and comforted that we still have this kind of access to our representatives.

It got me thinking about the trip I took last summer with my daughter when we left the country for 99 days, shooting Opening Our Eyes. We had circled the globe and had visited countries that crossed the spectrum politically, economically and socially. Our journey truly did open our eyes and when we returned to the U.S., it was a big adjustment. What hit me most was that everyone needed to be right, especially in Washington DC. I couldn’t watch TV for months because all I saw was 500 channels of “experts” pontificating and no one was getting anywhere. Worse yet, we all suffer.  I remember a time, when I was growing up during the Kennedy era and we asked what we could do for others, instead of what we could “gain” for ourselves.

It’s a year later and I still don’t watch much TV. I’ve found myself  absorbed back into the “culture” of America. But as I walked through those venerable halls of the Senate building, I was reminded of my purpose. I’m a storyteller. I voice the stories of people like Sam Carr so that future generations will remember the way things used to be. History gives us perspective and we can learn from it – or not. Without perspective – we can’t remain free.

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Editing and the Story

I’ve grown to love the editing part of the video production process.  It’s where I “craft” the story and take it where I want it to go.

Last Spring I attended a conference at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan.  The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MichiganWhile staying at this historic gem, my goal was to create a short web video on the hotel and the island.  I shot the property in a dozen different ways getting b-roll footage of carriages, guests on the porch, tea in the parlor, the orchestra and other areas of the hotel as well as scenes in town. I also interviewed third generation owner and President, Dan Musser III and carriage driver Tom McCarthy.  Those interviews as well as some soundbites from a talk given by concierge Bob Tagatz – gave me my narrative track.

When I returned I gathered all my assets – interviews, b-roll and music and started to layout the story. Generally, I lay down my best soundbites first.  This drives the story.  I’ll then go through all my b-roll and live action shots and select the best clips that best illustrate the narrative track.  I was fortunate on this piece because I was able to capture footage of the harpist at the Grand Hotel and this not only provided me with some nice visuals, but it gave me a music track to work with that made sense in the context of the story.

After piecing together the story in Final Cut Pro, I then went  back and “cut” it.  Given time, I may even live with it a bit, going back and cutting more each time giving it more punch.  I’ve uploaded my first two cuts on vimeo.  Here’s a link to my latest rough cut. I’ll probably live with it a bit and then go back and cut out another 20%.  It’s always hard to cut but it makes the piece stronger and these days – people don’t take the time to look at long web videos.

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