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Archive for May, 2011
During the process of researching anything and everything about this documentary I was in constant contact with the executive producers. I am sure they were getting annoyed with my questions and me. But since this is something I have never really cared about I had to think and look at this subject matter in every way possible. I didn’t care if they were getting annoyed, I just had to try to understand this topic, wrap my head around the possibilities and tell a story that impacts lives. During my line of questioning one of the EPs told me about a woman in Los Angeles who is very well known as a humanitarian and activist. Her name is Sister Alice Marie Quinn (Sister Sam to everyone in LA). The EPs didn’t want to feature her since she is very well known, has been featured in videos and was written about in the Los Angeles Times. We were looking to create a new story, one that I could call my own and didn’t want to re-hash old stories that have been covered many, many times. The one great thing about this film is I, once again, have complete creative freedom and control. As I stated in earlier blogs, that was something I was concerned about. I have creative freedom but needed a little guidance since this was something of which I know nothing. I got around to calling Sister Sam and set up a meeting with her. I told her about the project and what I want to accomplish but need some advice or direction. She provided me with directions and a meeting time and said she would be happy to talk with me. A few days later I jumped in my Jeep and headed toward downtown LA to meet with Sister Sam. She happens to run the Meals on Wheels program in Los Angeles and had been doing this for a number of years. So, I knew that I would glean a wealth of knowledge from her. On the way to the St. Vincent Medical Center (where her office is located) I was at a stoplight at the corner of W. 3rd Street and Alvarado when I noticed a man standing in the middle of this three-lane road. The light was red and I was in the middle lane. I was the third car from the light and I started watching the man in the middle of the street. He was walking through the cars, knocking on the rolled up windows of the different vehicles and rubbing his thumb around his pinky, ring, middle and fore fingers. This is the common symbol for money, scratch, greenbacks, etc. I have never seen someone so brazen. Sure, I have seen the people standing on the street corners asking for money or holding a sign that briefly describes their plight and why they need help. At that time I was on the phone with my mom informing her of my meeting with Sister Sam. I had sunglasses on and was staring at the begging man while talking with my mom. Yes, I openly admit I was trying desperately to ignore this man hoping the light would change before he got to my window. It didn’t. He approached my window, knocked aggressively and did the thumb/fingers rubbing action. I tried to ignore him while I was talking but that didn’t work. He knocked again on my window. I asked my mom to hold on for a second, put the phone away from my mouth and yelled, “NO! I don’t have any money. Go away!” Shortly thereafter the light changed to green and I was on my way to my meeting with Sister Sam. http://kck.st/hof7M7In that short drive to St. Vincent’s Medical Center (2 additional blocks) it finally hit me. The average grandmother or grandfather isn’t standing on the street corner asking for help. I openly admit that I don’t give money to the people standing on the street corner asking for help. I have become just as jaded and desensitized towards the panhandlers or beggars as most people in this country. We have seen the stories about how a lot of those people are conducting a scam, make $40k-$60k a year and use that money for alcohol or drugs. Yes, I know, not all of those people standing on the street are performing a ruse but we tend to lump them all together and assume they are trying to scam. It’s hard to separate the real people in need of help from the people preying on our sensitivity. It made me start to wonder if this is just one of the many factors that have made our society less sensitive to the needs of others. But I also kept thinking that if my grandmother needed money or food then she would NOT be standing on a street corner asking for help. That made me wonder how many seniors really need help that we just don’t see or know about. I proceeded to go to my meeting with Sister Sam and meet some of the people who work with her. When I first walked into her offices I had to pass through their giant kitchen where food/meals are prepared. I had never seen anything like it and couldn’t believe how a kitchen like that could feed thousands of people. It was magnificent, large, shiny and spacious. There were around 10 people finishing up the cleaning after another successful day of preparing meals for the seniors of Los Angeles. Then I walked around a corner where I finally got to meet the infamous Sister Sam. The meeting was supposed to last for 30 minutes. 2 hours later I was leaving her office. It was a great conversation and a tremendous learning experience. That woman is a wealth of knowledge and she provided me with some great direction. I look forward to catching up with her again some time. When I drove home I passed by the same intersection where I had witnessed the man knocking on windows for money. He was nowhere to be seen. I know this was a long post but a story I think needed to be told. Please help us tell the entire story by donating to our production on Kickstarter.com -
When given this project and asked to make it I was incessantly wondering why I never cared about the subject matter of senior hunger. And, the more I kept thinking about it the more I realized I had to include myself in this documentary. In a lot of documentaries the viewer rarely sees the person asking questions or narrating the story. Sure there are some exceptions like Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Roger and Me, Fahrenheit 9/11) or Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) who completely immerse themselves into the film as their journey. I really believed that I needed to make this film more about my journey than someone sitting behind the camera asking questions and narrating the story. Again, since this issue was something I never thought about I believe I cannot be the only person who wasn’t thinking about this matter. I thought that if I have never cared about this topic then there have to be others like me who have never thought about seniors, hunger and ageism. So, telling the story from my vantage point will hopefully make others relate to what I was thinking (or not thinking about) and how it can affect any of our lives in the future. My generation (Generation X) is a big part of the “ME” generation. I also refer to it as the “NOW” generation. We have grown up with getting everything we could possibly imagine NOW. We have never had to want for food, clothing, cars, houses, electronics, etc. If we don’t have money we just put whatever we want on a credit card. So, my thought process is that my generation and younger doesn’t really know what it’s like to “want for something.” I may be completely off base here but I have to believe I am not the only person in this society that never really thought about hunger, getting older, health problems, money problems and life challenges. But then I remembered – I am a small business owner with no 401k or pension plan. I live day-to-day and week-to-week. Yes, my wife has a great career and savings plan but my situation is completely different. And, all of sudden, I really started caring about this documentary and MY future. I got scared… literally. This solidified my direction and style for this documentary where I had to tell the story, let people see this through my eyes and bring to light this issue with the hopes that others will start to think about their lives and the future. So, you will be seeing this documentary through my eyes and will see me (sporadically - I don't want to completely turn people away) throughout the film. I hope you like it… 🙂 See ya tomorrow.
Once I started telling people about the documentary I was creating I started receiving loads of information from all my friends and contacts in LA. I had fliers about hunger, names and phone numbers, locations of organizations helping people and personal stories of people they have known who are going hungry. It was amazing to have so many people wanting to impart their knowledge for the benefit of this film. It was overwhelming but that the same time refreshing to know that maybe, just maybe, this project is going to be more sexy than I had ever imagined. I knew I was going to have to spend the next 2-3 months doing nothing but research, “Googling” everything imaginable about senior hunger and ageism, making phone calls and trying to determine what direction I was going to take to tell this story. The first thing I realized about this documentary is I CANNOT have it take place in Los Angeles. Most of the people outside of LA are completely fascinated by the celebrity lifestyle. This is evident by America’s zombie-like following of “reality” shows based in LA like the Kardashian’s or TMZ or The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Orange County (even though some people in LA refer to the OC as "Behind the Orange Curtain"). Let’s not forget about the many successful television series that take place in Los Angeles (Way too many to mention here). And. I can't count how many times I have heard people not living in LA refer to it as “La La Land.” Those people see the city as a fantasy world and in many ways they are right - you would not believe the amount of "posers" I have met in the time I have lived here. A lot cities don’t have a “Rodeo Drive” area or multi-million dollar homes comfortably nestled in the hills or mountains, a Maserati here, a Bentley or Rolls Royce there freely navigating overly crowded freeways and “celebrities” (yes, I use that term loosely) walking down the streets. LA is a beautiful, amazing and heartless city but one I think the rest of the country may not care about or relate to when it comes to hunger or thinking of people in need. I really couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than Los Angeles but I am acutely aware that this film needs to involve the rest of the country so that my audience watching this film will take notice. This is solely a “creative call” on my part. I had to determine what type of story I wanted and need to tell so it will impact others. The EPs were in agreement on this direction and we are on the same page for the purposes of telling this story. While parts of the film are in LA the majority of the story will take place around the US. The second realization is that this story is more complex than I first imagined. Initially I thought many seniors just didn't plan well or were using their money for travel, clothes, furniture, etc. Basically, I thought they were trying to live a life that was beyond their means. I was proven very wrong very quickly. What I found was most seniors are barely getting by with whatever money they do have. Some of this money is from their savings while other monies are from Social Security or Social Security Disability. Many seniors are having to make choices between food and medication and rent. Food usually falls to the bottom of their priority list. This realization made me angry and scared that this could happen to me or any one of us in the US. But since we live in the wealthiest country in the world it shouldn't be happening, right? That's another point this documentary will be exploring. So, that's what I have for now. I need to keep researching and finding more great stories to share with America. What started out as a laborious project is now starting to become something I am in which I am truly interested. Let's see what else I can find... Another post tomorrow.
Once I fully committed to making this documentary, I have had several people ask me about what I am getting in return for this project. Well, I am here to answer that question. When I spoke with the executive producers (EPs), I informed them that I no longer have any video equipment. I gave all of that up when I left video production to pursue photography. I stopped editing, motion graphics work, sound editing, etc. I wanted to focus solely on photography so ALL my extra money when into buying lights, lenses, light modifiers, renting studio space and other photographic accoutrement. The bottom line is that I had none of the equipment to make this documentary. In the process of working with the EPs, I shared this information with them and informed them that to make this documentary I would need the following:
- A new Mac Pro Computer and monitor
- Video camera
- Light for camera
- Audio interface equipment
Getting motivated for a project that I never really cared about is hard, damn work. I sat down at my computer and started researching this project and found my self getting distracted by Facebook, Twitter, L.A. Times (online), photography blogs, etc. I couldn’t get motivated to care about researching this senior hunger epidemic (as I had been led to believed). I had to force myself to look up some of the items the EP and I spoke about the previous days and thought I would just go from there. Fortunately, I had been forced to research topics and subjects while in college so working on something that wasn’t very interesting wasn’t new to me; I just thought I left that behind several years ago when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. I went and grabbed my trusty can of Diet Coke, cracked it open and sat down at my computer bound and determined to start researching this subject matter for the film,. When I started researching information about seniors, hunger and ageism I started to realize that this is something that is running rampant in this country. What I found over the next few days and subsequent months is this problem goes beyond senior hunger. Clearly, we live in a society that likes to throw away our elderly. Yes, there are some cultures and societies treat their seniors as sages but it seems to exist in Asian, African, Middle-Eastern and some European countries and cultures. But, for the most part, in our Anglo-Saxon, Caucasian world we have come to throw away our seniors by putting them in nursing homes, decreasing our visits or phone calls and thinking that once they retire they can no longer contribute to modern society. When was the last time a Fortune 500 corporation hired a 65+-year-old person to head up their corporation? It has probably occurred in the past but I am not sure about it. According to Wikipedia, the average age of Fortune 500 CEOs is 56. For some reason we think that once people hit the retirement age of 62 they can then no longer contribute to society. For something that wasn't initially interesting to me, I am finding myself more and more intrigued by this topic. Perhaps it's because I was never interested before and am experiencing an "awakening" of sorts. Or perhaps it's because I realize I am going to be old one day and this may affect me. Regardless, I find it fascinating that I am starting to become completely interested and immersed into a world I couldn't have cared less about . Perhaps it's because we, as a society, don't want to think about getting old and love to live in that little, comfortable world known as "denial." I am just glad I'm starting to care about this. Maybe my documentary can be good after all. More on Monday.
After receiving the phone call about making a documentary and learning about the subject matter, I asked the executive producer if I could have a day or two to think about it, mull it over, talk with my boss (the wife) and see if this was something that I really wanted to do. I had been building my photography business and knew this project would take me away from LA and slow down the progress of my business. Plus, I really didn’t care about the subject matter, well, I had never really thought about it and didn’t think it would pertain to my life and me. I had the obligatory conversation with my wife, told her about the subject matter and thought I would call the executive producer (EP) and graciously decline his offer. One thing I have failed to mention at this point is something the EP said to me during the initial conversation. He said, “I think this is a story you were born to tell.” For some reason that statement had been lingering in my mind like an itch I couldn’t scratch or like a fly that keeps buzzing by my head and just won’t go away. Well, that’s where it starts to get interesting. The more I kept thinking about that statement about “story you were born to tell” the more it resonated with me that maybe I have to make this documentary. I knew that if I were to take on this project I would have to give up my photography business during the production/post production period… 9 months! Knowing this was the second biggest deterring factor for me. I still have to get over the fact that I really don’t care about the subject matter. It wasn’t sexy enough for me. To this point, I have made music videos, television commercials and programs that were conceived, developed and produced by me and no one else. I had always had creative freedom and this time I was under the direction, supervision and scrutiny of an executive producer. And, I have to have this film researched, shot, edited, mixed and completed by September 2011. This is a tremendous amount of pressure for something that didn’t hold my attention. Really, a story about senior citizens and hunger, how interesting could this story be? As I went to bed that evening I started replaying everything that was discussed between my wife and me, my thoughts about the film racing around in my head, the idea of putting my photography dream on hold taking on a project that I really didn’t care anything about. The photographing thing was really weighing heavy on my mind because this was what I really wanted to do with my life. I had just rebranded my company and redesigned my website. Did I really want to take a step backwards? But then that annoying “fly” kept buzzing around my head again. I kept hearing “story you were born to tell” over and over and over again. And, that’s when it hit me like a tractor-trailer driving 100 mph into a brick wall. Why didn’t I care about this subject matter? Why did this subject mean nothing to me? What could I possibly create or say about this subject when I don’t know a damn thing. Well, that’s when I realized that I have to take on this project because if I didn’t care then there have to be others like me who aren’t thinking about this issue and just maybe this subject matter is a major problem in America. Perhaps it’s a story that just has to be told. The following morning I called the EP and told him I would take on the project. So, I have put the photography business (and ¾ of my yearly income) on hold, rolled the dice and jumped head first into this project determined to find out why I never cared and how I can tell this story so that others might ask themselves the same questions I had over the last few days.
I made it a point to leave video production when I left the Midwest and moved to California. Video production, especially working for a television station, can really steal your soul. What I mean by that is most TV stations are all about the advertising dollars and not about content. So when you are an executive producer and host of a program you are constantly looking at ratings and advertisers rather than creativity and content. That’s why I was happy to leave video production and focus on my dream of photography. I have always loved photography and knew this new opportunity to pursue my dream would allow me to be creative and my own boss. Fast forward a year or so later… I am building my business, redesigning my website, making contacts and getting new clients for my photography business. I was determined to make 2011 my year for greatness and growth. Things were moving along nicely. I just had a photo shoot with a great artist at his solo gallery opening, started getting some “headshot” clients and was impressing several people with my portrait work in LA. Then it happened, I received the phone call that would change my life. In early January of 2011 I received a phone call from an executive producer asking me if I would be interested in making a documentary. I was interested because I have always had a tremendous amount of success in video work. I have won awards, made ground-breaking programs, had the most successful commercial advertising campaign in Indianapolis history and was very well known for my work. The only way I would take on this project was if it was something that I really cared about, something “sexy.” Let’s face it, after seeing some of the great documentaries I wanted to take on a project that was sexy, cool, interesting and something I really cared about. When the executive producer told me the project was about Senior Hunger (hunger amongst the senior citizens in the United States) I was a little, ok a lot, disappointed in the subject matter. After all, I really don’t care or think about the fact that senior citizens are going hungry in this country. I mean, come on, haven’t they had a lifetime to plan for their retirement? So, I have a major decision to make. Am I going to take on this project when I really don’t care about the subject matter? I don’t find it sexy or interesting. I am lucky to call my own grandmothers once every two or three months. So why should I care about someone else’s grandmother/grandfather and whether they are going hungry. Decisions, decisions…