Researching with Facebook in Mumbai

Recently I went to Mumbai with a team from Facebook to do development research, and it was truly wonderful. I've never smelled anything like it.

Band pic

Band pic

The research we shot is of course classified, but I'm able to post an immersion video we produced. 

Lessons learned in Mumbai include-

DSC00287-1.jpg

1. Beware of the monkeys. They will snatch your juicebox if you let them. 

2. We need sweet trucks like this in NYC. Not my field, but I'm putting it out there.

3. We need ways to know more certainly which bathroom to go into. India has it nailed down. 

4. Count your blessings. There is immense poverty in this world, try to help where you can. 

The Facebook team was amazing, being around such bright and tactful people is always a huge treat. I feel as though I didn't get the classic India experience as I only went to Mumbai (which is a bit of an urban corner case), so I hope I can return one day and see more of it. 

Such a cow

Such a cow

SXSW: Documenting Music

SXSW with Kerry Blu

In March, I road tripped across the south from North Carolina to Texas with Kerry Blu (http://www.kblumusic.com/) and his band to make a documentary about their first trip to South by Southwest. 

The plan was to drive for 18 hours and have a few hours before the show to freshen up, as they say. Of course it didn't really happen this way, and we arrived an hour and a half before we had to go on.

GET TO THE STAGE!

GET TO THE STAGE!

We rushed to meet our producer, Camron Lawrence, who was already at the festival with our festival passes and the parking hookup. We rushed to the venue and made it just in time to setup comfortably. 

The crew really killed it. SXSW has such a tangible atmosphere of ambition and creativity, and being able to help document it was wild. 

Starting 2016 Off Right: Vignettes on the Arri Alexa Mini

I got a call last Friday from a director that I had interviewed with a few weeks before, Julian Klepper. I felt like we meshed well, but he ended up going with a different DP for his project- a series of vignettes about anger. 

The weekend of the shoot rolled around and I got a call from Julian; the other DP got food poisoning the day of the shoot. Luckily, I was available to pickup the slack.

We shot on the brand new Arri Alexa Mini, which was like driving a... nice car.. I know nothing about cars. It was like shooting on an Alexa! The image was unlike anything I've ever seen. The definition of light and shadow, the color depth, and the skin tone rendering was simply on another level (and with an 80k price tag, it had better be).

We shot on my Nikkor ai-s lenses and we couldn't have been happier with the result. The images were simply beautiful. All of the footage in this reel- https://vimeo.com/151732057 were shot on the described combination. 

Julian had an interesting philosophy about shooting. He's a sort of an experimental minimalist; He had a script, but he certainly left room for the actors to interpret their character, and he always looked to use as little equipment as possible, which I really appreciated. Most of the scenes were light with natural light plus some fill from my Ikan LED panels on gooseneck clamps. We kept the set very small and as a result achieved intimate performances. 

We shot almost entirely in a huge, airy Brooklyn Brownstone, using different floors as different sets. My favorite portion of the shoot was a surrealist vignette about a verbally abusive father and his son. The father, while watching Bob Ross on TV, yells at the son insisting he go draw him a bluebird, then has an out of body experience where he replaces Bob Ross on TV.

"Don't you know you're just yelling at yourself?"

"Don't you know you're just yelling at yourself?"

I think that the makeup artist was the most excited about that segment, for good reason! She brought a legend back from the dead. We shot that particular part on my iphone 6 with a VHS convert app, I never thought I'd be taping an iphone to a light stand when I had an Arri in the other room. 

It was a really fun shoot and I can't wait to see the finished product, Julian is a really talented guy with a great sense of humor and solid vision for the project. 

2015 Review: RIF Interviews for the "What This Journey Breeds" Gallery Show

I was recently commissioned to conduct and film interviews for a collaborative gallery show that will go up in June 2016. The subject of the gallery is asylum seekers, or those who flee their country for political reasons and seek refuge status in another country. I conducted 8 interviews with asylum seekers in NYC, mostly from Africa and South Asia. 

The stories were nothing short of amazing. Most of the subjects were activists who represented marginalized groups or spoke out against the government.

One subject was a gay rights and AIDS advocate in Nigeria. He was forced to flee after a law was passed that criminalized his work. He had to leave his wife and newborn at home and head for NYC where he knew no one. He expected the asylum status process to take less than 6 months, at which point he could send for his wife and baby; It's taken over two years at this point.

The aim of the project is to bring visibility to the process of seeking asylum. In short, It's long, exceedingly stressful, and very difficult to navigate for refugees, many of whom don't speak english or know anyone when they arrive in the US. 

The glue that holds the project together is the Refugee Immigrant Fund, or RIF. 

http://www.rifnyc.org/

RIF is a grassroots organization that looks to give asylum seekers the information and support they need to navigate the complex asylum process. RIF has partnered with the Brooklyn Grange, an urban farm on a rooftop in the Brooklyn Naval Yard, to provide work opportunities for asylum seekers in transition. 

The project promises to be poignant and exciting, and this post is but a taste! I'll be making some sort of short form web series out of the interviews, emphasizing share-ability on social media, while other contributors to the show will be working in different mediums, like photography, painting and drawing, and architecture. 

2015 Review: "Would You Be My Lover?" Music Video

"Damn, yous a sexy mutha uhuh, baby, would you be my lover?"

One day. One gimbal. One soul singer with one hell of an afro, and one fine mamacita with eyes that one couldn't despise. Such are the components of the Femi Onas video I shot for his banger "Would you be my Lover?". 

 

Rough cut- https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=bXkMpdC1aFU

What did I learn from this shoot? that I'd like to do more music videos. Some of the first content that inspired me to pick up a camera were music videos from the likes of The Weeknd and Young Thug, and being able to be behind the camera on that sort of project was quite the ride.

We dashed around Brooklyn in a Suburban from 8 am to 7 pm, and truthfully the whole day felt like a few hours. The director kept the schedule tight and the production moving with poise. We used primarily natural light, which was fitting for this video, but left me daydreaming about what I could do in a studio.