As I mentioned earlier, last weekend I went down to the river with a bunch of gear to help Dan Huiting shoot a music video featuring Charlie Parr for City of Music and the video is premiering this coming Monday on the site.
See more stills from the shoot and read the article in City Pages
Like music, there is a time and place for a long song and a short one. We like them both. We do listen to waaay more short songs than long ones, though. This is the reason we love still images more than films. If our house was on fire and we had to save still images or films, we would have to save the stills. We know. Sounds surprising! We work in motion but, like most of our favorite filmmakers, we think in stills. Moments. In a moment, a still image can change our lives. Films take a little longer.
Which is one reason we created and curate 10secondfilms.org. In 10 moments, a film can pack quite a wallop. Some maybe not so much, but are still worthy as friendly exercises in media literacy.
Howard Rheingold called this site “genius, funny, and yes, friendly expression of participation media literacy” via his Twitter account.
Compliments coming from fellas like these make us feel pretty darn swell, to say the least. Thank you, Gever and Howard. You both have our most humble admiration and deepest respect.
This is all just to say that we believe the experience of producing media should be a friendly one for all ages, especially as technology can still be an obstacle to the creative process for many of us. As an exercise in media and visual literacies, the 10-second format is vital. It minimizes the need for complex tools. These moments as movies are gratifying and occasionally inspire larger, more ambitious projects.
Make a 10 second film with any device that captures motion pictures.
No editing — One take — 10 seconds maximum length — Sound is optional.
Have a 10 second film you like?
WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d love to hear about it and perhaps even feature it on the site Ã¢â‚¬â€œ click here to tell us more.
Meanwhile, thanks for reading and — keep playing.
I’ve met some cool musicians while living in Barcelona and traveling elsewhere. Why not shoot some vids, have some fun and help them spread the word? In that vein, Coldcuts was just created to showcase these pals’ work. This weekend, we shot some tunes with Reuben Palmer in my flat here in the Born:
One thing keeps coming into my mind now that I’ve been back in Spain from Senegal for a couple of weeks: grace and generosity are a completely different sport there, as shown to us by our hosts. It was astonishingly unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Anywhere.
Generosity is the habit of giving freely without coercion, which leads my mind to something else: while there, our hosts would typically and immediately describe to us their need, listing specifics in some cases, leaving no margin for egotism or hidden agendas. They relinquished any such notions, admitting freely that they needed our help and welcomed us wholeheartedly into their intimate communities. The best part of this is: this freed us all up to then enjoy each others company in earnest, having gotten the “business” of expectations quickly out of the way.
In the developed world, it’s all about the poker face, which I wonder what the effect of is, exactly, over time to the way we relate to each other.
Once past the meeting stage, the graciousness displayed by all of our hosts was unrivaled. Truly. Letting a complete stranger into their home to film them: me and my camera shooting the poverty surrounding them and yet also how little it seems to matter to their general satisfaction with their lives. The people of Keur Mbaye Fall need little to make them happy. In contrast, I worked hard not to project my own guilt about taking so much for granted in my own life, for having problems that aren’t really problems at all outside of the traps my Western mind sets for itself for seemingly no reason at all.
One example of what I mean is worth relating here: after one particularly long and hot work day, one of the community leaders invited a few of us to his home to wash our hands and faces. Upon entering, I felt a most peculiar feeling come over me. It felt familiar. Deja vu. Familiar as if from an early childhood memory, from a room in my mind that had had its door shut a long time ago, only to have it opened on this day. It certainly could have been the heat, however, I choose to believe there was much more to it than that.
Upon preparing to leave his home and return to our team and the shuttle that would return us to the compound where we were staying, he offered us the most unlikely of things: from a freezer (photo below) he removed four small, plastic baggies, twisted in half with an orange-ish substance in them. As soon as he placed one in my hand (it was cold, frozen) my entire body shuddered from the shock of it – pleasantly. I was stunned. Here was a man who had exponentially less than any of us could ever imagine, sharing something of a most exquisite nature with us, something not just anyone could acquire in this place. Something that surely took him a great deal of trouble to finagle into his own life for his own family and here he was, sharing it freely as if it were no trouble at all.
As we left the shady comfort of his home, we bit off a corner of our baggies and began manipulating the frozen stuff out through the hole using our lips to smash it gently without further tearing the baggy. It tasted not unlike a Push-Up, yet another childhood memory that I couldn’t have known would be connected to this day. I dawdled along behind the others, savoring it, wondering whatever had I done to deserve such an amazing experience and this selfless and so very fine a gift from a man of such simple means. Right then and there I stopped in the middle of the road and stood, humbled, with a cool and soothing ice cream in the harsh desert climate of Africa.
These were the words spoken by one of my young, student directors as she attempted to motivate her 3rd grade counterparts appropriately during one of our practice shoots:
A small window into the experience of students from the Benjamin Franklin International School in Barcelona who spent a week near Dakar, Senegal in Keur Mbaye Fall, working in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity.
“If we wish to teach fish to swim, it helps if we put them in the water”
The Senegalese are among the friendliest people in the world. Given the challenges they face as a people, this is magnified ten-fold when considering the grace with which they shared their homes and hearts with us this past week. Below is a rather large sampling of still images from our week-long visit to work with Habitat for Humanity outside of Dakar. We are grateful to the people there for their kindness and generosity and are very happy we could make a contribution to their community.
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As I write this, I am taking meds to fight off malaria. I am leaving for Dakar this morning for a week and the meds are a final, though ongoing, step in a series of vaccines administered to me en masse (The first of two rounds knocked me for a loop for a week. I had not ever felt that kind of energy depletion as my body immediately began building up antigens, fighting off the militia of micro-infections introduced into it) in preparation for the trip. The bottle told me to start taking them two days before entering the malaria risk zone. It says to take with food. It says to take them with plenty of water. It says to take one every day I am in the malaria risk zone. It says to continue taking them for 4 weeks after I return.
I should be surprised at the types of reactions I get upon telling others where I am headed and what steps I have have been required to take in order to be eligible to go, but I cannot say that I am, given the current mode of the media, especially in the West, full of anger and fear, some justified, though mostly misguided. The information given out at the infectious disease center is intimidating enough to make many change their travel plans. I have heard stories from others about these malaria meds who have experienced nightmares throughout the prescribed duration. This is all to say that the general culture in the developed world effectively conditions us to be afraid of anything that poses even the slightest amount of risk – and there are plenty of excuses around for us to use and give in to it.
Before today, I have not stepped foot upon the continent of Africa. I honestly do not know what I am expecting. When I think of Africa, the only images and ideas that come to mind are not my own. They are the images and sounds of films, emblazoned with romance and exotic, timeless beauty or violence and timeless unrest. Then there are the various agendas of the associated news agencies and television ad campaigns to raise money for the developing world, full of images chosen exclusively for their compelling attributes. All told, a polarized mix of love and hate, reverence and fear.
There are many ways of interpreting those messages. Realities are ethereal things, existential and elusive. They are relative, just like the physical. Like biology. What constitutes a cold to one person, requiring a trip to the doctor, may be just a sniffle to another. So they wait it out and in a couple of days they are just fine.
I do not know what we will eat there or if the water will agree with us. I do not know how I will fare in the heat of the day while filming the team. I do not even know if there will be enough electricity to power the equipment I will be using to shoot. I have learned what little I can about the region from what is posted on the CIA’s World Fact Book and related sites about the history, populations, languages, political and economic stability of the region. The work of Ben Herson, Democracy in Dakar, is some of the more current, compelling and poignant information out there and I am thankful for it – the struggle of the Senegalese people, politically similar to that in other regions of the world, is set apart by the conditions under which they muster the spirit to persevere in order to bring change and any improvement in their quality of life. How they manage to create such beautifully compelling art amidst such adversity and poor living conditions is a triumph in and of itself.
I do know that I feel a sense of mystique about it, having been so glorified by my own culture as a key piece of the anthropological record and also demonized for the strange differences of culture hidden within it. Is it natural for us to fear or discount what we do not understand? My culture has made the same mistakes as those that have gone before it – including insulating its people with convenience and luxury, softening minds and hardening hearts.
Naturally, I am invigorated by the idea of leaving these burdens behind if only for a few days. The mere thought of what it will be like to see, taste, smell, hear and feel Dakar for myself stirs butterflies of the best kind within. However, I am clumsy the way others are graceful. My only concern about the journey is making some bumbling move or inadvertently inconsiderate statement relating to something I take for granted in front of our less fortunate hosts. A good solution for this: I am focused on doing more listening and less talking, which should serve us all well. Being behind a camera lends itself to this.
The trip will mean something different to each of us on the team, though our primary goals are the same. One of the goals is clear: to move us out of the comfortable security of an illusion of our own design about the world. As I have said, the team is coming from a place of extraordinary comfort when compared to that of our hosts and our own struggles will be put promptly into new perspective. The other goal is to contribute to the construction of a house on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, which will power our third goal to create in the process a documentary of the journey, both for posterity and for the benefit of Habitat to use to promote their own future efforts. Our work shall leave an indelible impact on all of us.
In the case of the few who believe such a humble contribution is equivalent to a screw falling out of a deck chair off the back of the Queen Mary, they may have have a point of merit, given the obstacles between what is right and fair in the world and the sad fact that justice does not always prevail. Nonetheless, there are those who give up and those who, in the presence of great adversity, continue to do what they can to push the world to a better place. This is in line with something I read in my only surface-scratching study of the region’s primary religion – Islam:
None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself – Number 13 of Imam – Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths
Such thoughts are small changes in thought which act as catalysts for larger ones. Through subtle shifts in our perceptions we are able then to move forward in bigger ways that would not have been possible without them. Whether we like it or not, as tough as they often are to initiate, these small changes are the stuff. Moving ourselves out of our comfort zones is arguably the only way to growth, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, physically and metaphysically. The metaphor of dropping of a pebble into the glass stillness of a lake is spot on here: the ripples fan out towards shore, bringing with it perhaps a nourishing drink that makes it just far enough up onto the shore to provide a drink for a flower that may have otherwise perished were it not for a timely, though seemingly insignificant, toss. These are the risks that have value, that have the potential to produce beauty. Without taking risks, we risk living life without beauty. Beauty in our ability to be generous. Patient. Tolerant. Alive, curious and excited to learn about the myriad of things we do not know or have only heard of.
I raise my glass to anyone reading this with my most sincere wishes that all our travels, wherever they take us, may nurture and raise our understanding to new pinnacles and give us fresh vantage points from which we are naturally inclined to take less and less of our life and times together for granted.
We showed silent films that have been around for almost a century to 7-year-olds and they were rolling on the floor. Chaplin and Keaton are as relevant as ever.
Once they caught their breath, they made simple storyboards, title pages and backdrops for their own silent movies, acting out the scenes with toys.
Each crew of three had to rehearse at least once in front of the camera before we filmed their own, original silent film. Editing was done by me, to their specs, of course : )
There are quite a few of these, but the above is one of the favorites. Click on the image to watch. Enjoy.
Wanna see more? Click here.
We showed silent films to 7-year-olds and I was quite surprised at how funny these kids found Chaplin and Keaton to be – even after 100 years they are as relevant to entertainment as ever. Our little folks were rolling on the floor.
After watching the likes of these, they endeavored to make their own silent films using toys and backdrops they created.
Will post them as soon as they’re edited.
Tag isn’t just a documentary, it’s a chad-calease-made odyssey on the subject of a game that touches everything we do.
Enjoy the trailer.
Taken from wikipedia’s definition of the game:
The rules of tag are very flexible. Rules such as the following can be either decided upon before the game, or added as the game progresses to make play more fair.
At the beginning of the game, one player is designated “it”. After “it” is chosen, the other players scatter. “It” must chase them down and tag them, usually by tapping them somewhere on the body. A tagged player becomes “it”, and the former “it” joins the others in trying to avoid being tagged. This process repeats until the game ends.
In a typical game of tag, no score is kept, nor is a winner selected. Those who can avoid being tagged or who can stay “it” for the least amount of time are generally regarded as the best players. There is usually no time limit; the end of the game is chosen arbitrarily, perhaps when the players tire of the game, when recess ends, or when players get called home for dinner.
An anomalous property of tag is that although being “it” gives a player the most influence upon the game and thus could be considered the best role to play, the position is stigmatized and avoided. While most agree that the temporary stigma associated with being “it” is harmless, some have criticized tag because, they allege, a player who is often pursued to be made “it” or who is physically slow can be singled out and embarrassed. Because of this, tag has been banned in some US schools. In some variations, if the number of people exceeds five, then you may not quit until you are tagged first.
During this process of shooting a documentary on the game of Tag, one idea has emerged again and again from both experts [such as anthropologists] and laymen alike. This is the idea of how we have a tendency to internalize experiences. This means that we tend to think about these experiences mostly in terms that they are only affecting us or are only influenced by us, ourselves. Generally speaking, we have very little self-awareness about how our actions, and not just in games, affect others.
Truth is, the kinds of experiences that involve physical touch cannot be experienced by us alone. The act of physical touch bonds us and makes us both the subject and object of the experience.
This is a complicated way of saying we need contact with others in the physical sense in order to develop and grow properly. It is the very essence of what makes us who we are, how we learn, create and navigate within and without this world as its rules continue to change and evolve.
Heavy? Sure. But it’s just these kinds of obvious thoughts we overlook day-to-day that led me to become so fascinated by such a seemingly simple childhood game.
More soon – believe me, i’m full of this kinda stuff, thanks to the kind folks who’ve humored me on this adventure of Tag.
this was put together this past year and it’s still one of my favorites:
[thinfilms] is in post-production for a feature documentary about the game of Tag.
a trailer for the film is now on youtube. if you’ve contributed to the film in any way, please know what it means to us – this is a labor of love that represents over 120 hours of footage featuring interviews with people of all ages and cultures describing the game, its countless variations and the ways in which they shape who we are and everything we do. the making of this film has indeed been a remarkable journey and it couldn’t have come this far without all of you. Thank you.
meanwhile, keep an eye peeled for an update about the full release coming in 2008.
we trust this finds you well and enjoying some play time every day, nurturing the whimsical spirit that Tag brings out in each of us.