I went a little bit out of my element this past weekend and attended a dance theater workshop with one of San Francisco's most passionate artists, choreographer and artistic director Joe Goode. I've seen a few of Joe's performances over the years – most recently "Poetics of Space," which was more of an interactive experience than a performance. Audience members witnessed and participated in outpourings of passion in small spaces with the performers, sometimes as intimate as one-on-one exchanges. For me, the result was transformative. At a time when I've been so frustrated with the rapid change that has been happening in my city, when I attended this performance, I felt that I reconnected with the heart of San Francisco, right in the same location where it always has been, in that one block of Alabama Street between 17th and Mariposa – a community filled with artist studios, experimental theater and dance that has inspired me for decades. It's all still there. Still funky and quirky. Still surprising and inspiring. Still surviving and thriving against the odds.
So when I saw that Joe Goode was offering a workshop called "Start Simple" that was open to everyone, not just dancers or performers, I knew that I needed to go. I needed to heal my heart and soul through a weekend of practicing what Joe calls felt experience and embodied sound.
As a filmmaker, my art is mostly removed from any physical expression, which is probably why I need to balance myself out by practicing dance and yoga in my personal time. When I watch the Joe Goode performers, I'm inspired by how passionate their movement is, and how pure their verbal expression. The slightest touch carries the most profound emotion, and everyday words become unforgettable.
During the fourteen hours we spent during the Start Simple workshop with Joe and one of his dancers Marit Brook-Kothlow, we explored how to create powerful collisions between our words and our movements, how to use our voices in a lyrical way, and how to draw inspiration from our surroundings and add meaning to it. The workshop certainly pushed my boundaries because I am used to hiding in a dark room full of people while my art is projected on a wall. In the edit room, I weave together other people's faces and voices to tell a story, but I'm too afraid to be the one in the spotlight. The truth is – I am petrified of pouring out my soul in front of a group of people. I don't ever want to feel that vulnerable.
I learned a few things this weekend about how to overcome that fear. First, I found it easier to perform with a partner. Realizing that my partner needed me in order to tell his story, I knew I had to be there for him. I also really enjoyed combining movement with spoken word; the release of physical energy relieved my nerves while I told my story.
I learned from Marit that proximity to my audience and making direct eye contact with a few people removes the separation from audience and performers. The performer invites the spectator into a direct conversation, which doesn't seem artificial at all, and much more like the way we normally communicate with everyone we meet in our every day lives. We are no longer on stage and being judged. Art is no longer out there and something that they do, but something we embody and feel.
Joe led us through some writing exercises that would help us shape our stories. Although I felt a little guilty over the subjects he asked us to write about (people in our lives), I realized later that I can parlay this technique into whatever I write, sing, dance or make films about. For example, in personifying the Earth, I dive deep into my relationship with her. What would she say are my greatest misgivings? If I could change one thing about her, what would it be? And how do I communicate this story to others? How do invite people to enter that space with me? Such techniques for dance and theatrical expression can be translated into film of any genre about any subject. And I look forward to doing more of that.
The bottom line is this: I was drawn to the workshop because I have been feeling frustrated. I've been angry about what is happening in San Francisco and I wanted to participate in the City that I cherish. I dove into the creative process of Joe Goode, and the repercussions of this weekend will continue to ripple throughout my life and work. I'm grateful to live in a city where I can explore new pathways into the soul and touch the creative energies of great artistic shepherds.
Thank you Joe and Marit for an incredibly mind-body-soul expanding weekend right here at home.
For the Catalyst Workshop, we had to present what's called a Pecha Kucha, a short presentation about a particular subject. For most of us, it was our first time doing something like this, so the Catalyst leaders gave us some suggestions. I chose to talk about storytelling, my story and how it relates to ocean conservation. Contrary to what you might think, I prefer to hide behind the scenes instead of being a public speaker. So after scripting and presenting, I thought I might share my Pecha Kucha with all of you. Enjoy!
What’s my story? I am a spiritual being here on earth having a human experience. My story began right here, and since then, I’ve made 44 revolutions around the Sun and I still call 37 degrees North, 122 degrees West home.
This photo I call The Sun, the Earth, the Moon and the Stars. I took it in Golden Gate Park one morning. Capturing small moments like this makes me love the planet we live on more and more.
And what we love, we must protect! Because I am a filmmaker, I feel deeply that my films must represent my passions and worldview and that we must practice what we preach.
I chose filmmaking because I wanted to express my passions through sight, sound, color and rhythm. But even though I love my creative endeavors, I often have to work on projects that don’t match my value system.
I understand that we humans are part of nature and we need to forge a new relationship with it. And I also understand that we need to reach new audiences in a way that catalyzes systemic and behavioral change. But how do we reach new audiences? How do we engage them in a new story about our relationship with nature?
The earth’s surface is 71% water and the oceans hold 96.5% of that water. But water also exists in the air, in lakes, rivers, glaciers and in the soil. Even our bodies are 60% water. Our brain and heart are 73% water. Our lungs are 83% water. Our skin 64%.
So we humans are water! We evolved out of the oceans. This is Yemenja, the goddess of the sea, portrayed here in human form, or mermaid form. Let’s say she is the hero of our new story. If she is the hero, is humanity the villain?
Or maybe Yemenja is like Yoda, like a bodhisattva whispering to us as we gaze at the seashore, telling us what we already know. That we are all connected, and that we humans have a certain responsibility to protect the planet we call home and the other species we share it with.
In order to protect the earth, we need to change. If we are to envision the complete shift that the human race needs to make to ensure a livable planet for future generations of all species, what does that shift look like? Where are we headed? What's in store for us? What's at stake?
Because I’m only one human, I don’t know what the conclusion of this story is. Maybe it’s a never ending story. Just like the earth, the story is always evolving. And what we think might be the end is just a new beginning.
I just got back from New Hampshire where I attended the inaugural Conservation Media Group Catalyst Workshop. It's a lot to process, and I have a feeling that I'll continue to reap the benefits over the course of the next few weeks, months, etc. I can say that my outlook has shifted. I think there are enough caring people in the world to make a difference. We just have to accept the responsibility to do it, and than accept that we must work together. More later. But I'll leave you with this photo/wise quote from the retreat center for your own inspiration.
I was the Bay Area line-producer for the award-winning film Love Thy Nature (narrated by Liam Neeson). It's a great film by a female filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab. It's her life's passion project, and we all can totally relate to passion projects.
It was beautifully shot and has a great message - we are part of nature. I have seen the film a few times now, and am moved emotionally at each screening. It is 76 minutes long, and Sylvie Rokab will be in attendance at most of the evening screenings for a Q&A after the film.
I would love to see you at one of the upcoming screenings.
For those of you with kids, Sylvie would like to remind you that it's a kid-friendly film, and encourages kids to watch it. Feel free to invite others!
Check out the 2-min trailer: www.lovethynature.com
Hope to see you there. Let me know if you have questions.
As creative professionals, we're often asked to work for free. And because we're creatives, our desire to make art often pushes us to keep creating [working] even if there is no monetary compensation involved. Sometimes the indie films, PSAs, webisodes, etc. that we produce are simply a labor of love, and don't put any food on our table. Nonetheless, we're proud of our work. And we have to keep pushing the envelope by accepting new and intriguing challenges.
Because I am often asked to produce or edit an indie film or video for free, I have decided to set parameters for the type of work that I do pro-bono. I'm a committed conservationist/ecologist/nature-lover/treehugger. So when I choose to volunteer my time and energy, the project must fit in with my worldview and my personal beliefs. That way, I never fall into the trap of feeling like someone is asking me to work outside my parameters. I feel like I am doing the pro-bono work because I'm making the world a better place.
Call it good karma.
Even if I don't receive monetary compensation, I receive a reward that feels good in my heart. And I make valuable connections with like-minded individuals who care about the same causes that inspire me.
Finally, I need to make sure that my work schedule will allow for me to complete the pro-bono project within their timeframe, and that I'm not taking on too heavy a workload.
So that's how I choose my 1 pro-bono project per year.
BTW - this year, my pro-bono project is editing a fundraising video for Golden Bridges School.
I've been thinking about three-act structures lately. Mostly because I just spent the past weekend with Cloud in a cabin in Guerneville, California revising a screenplay that I wrote back in 1998. Sometimes it's easy to get lost in your story, especially when it's long like a feature length film screenplay. One good way to stay focused is to remember that your screenplay should have three acts. That way, your screenplay won't be one big blob of a story, and you can break it down into smaller parts. Also, each act should have its own trajectory, its own beginning, middle and end. It is a basic rule to screenwriting and storytelling, that we often forget! So today's tip: Don't forget about the three-act structure. It will help guide you through the end while adding tension and build-up throughout each section of your film.
Meet Cloud! She makes editing at home more fun! Here she is helping me track a mask in Adobe After Effects!
Thank you for visiting my site and clicking on my blog. This is a new experiment for me in providing little tips, tricks, insight and advice, and to also share with you how I approach storytelling and content creation. Hope you enjoy and please make comments. I love engaging in dialogue!