Low budget does not have to mean low quality. I shot this 30-second commercial over the course of two days with a minimal crew of three people. The client, a leading plastic surgeon in Alaska, flew me in when he couldn’t find a production company in Alaska that he was comfortable with. He was very pleased with the results and we are planning more projects together.
One of the more unique projects I’ve worked on annually for the last few years is the Minnesota Idea Open challenge, which invites people doing good work around the state to present their ideas in the hope of winning a $15,000 grant to further their work. I was approached by the Minnesota Idea Open people in 2010 and again in subsequent years to create short, fun, informative videos for the top three finalists. People around the state then watched the videos and voted on who should receive the grant. The tricky task for me was to plan, shoot and edit the three short documentary-style videos all within two weeks. I was given a mostly free hand in creative styling, which was helpful given the tight time-frame. The fun aspect was getting to know these great ideas growing right here in our state, and helping to promote them. The Farmwise folks won the grant for 2011.
To promote their feature film Phasma Ex Machina (AKA Ghost From the Machine), filmmakers Matt Osterman and Jennifer Kramer decided to go on a real ghost hunt with two of their stars. They hired me to shoot and edit the project, so I happily tagged along as they were led through the haunted Mounds Theater by two folks from Minnesota Paranormal Investigators. In editing, I made strong use of atmospheric music (some from the film) and visual effects to create an appropriately spooky yet fun mood.
I’m humble enough to know when I’m around people smarter than me, and these folks definitely fit the bill! I was hired by the Bush Foundation to document a gathering of the international leaders of the Art of Hosting movement, as they trained dozens of local leaders in their methods for organizational communication and project success. It was a real treat to capture the wisdom in the room and organize it into a video that was then sent out to the growing Art of Hosting movement. Bush Foundation has called me back a few more times to shoot further Art of Hosting gatherings, and you can see the more than half-dozen videos I’ve made in this series on my Vimeo channel by clicking here.
Improv sure looks tough, and it can’t be any easier when you’re asked to riff on something as depressing as the economy, but that’s exactly what happens here to great effect. I was hired to make a promo for The Theater of Public Policy, which brings in featured experts for interviews on serious topics and then proceeds to pick it all apart with humor, courtesy of a group of Minneapolis’s best improv performers. If you’d like to see the full one-hour show, you can watch it here.
Many clients are intrigued by the LED lights I use, so I thought I’d explain their advantages. The benefits of LED lights are numerous: they’re quick and easy to set-up, they’re dimmable 0%-100%, they’re daylight temperature balanced so they’re easy to mix with sunlight, their low heat output lets on-camera talent stay comfortable and makes break-down faster, they use so little power you can put five or more lights on one household circuit, plus these models can be IDX-battery powered for shooting literally anywhere in the world. The lights I use are manufactured by Flolight. Lightpanels also makes very good LED lights, but I did a side-by-side test at rental house Cinequipt and found that Flolights were much brighter. They’re now my #1 lights for interviews, and I still have my four-light Arri tungsten set plus a Dedolight for when more light is needed (e.g. lighting sets or backdrops). When you need interviews shot quickly and efficiently, LEDs are a fantastic answer. Here are some screengrabs and a photo from recent shoots. The interview screengrab is from a shoot in which I used LEDs and a background practical lamp. The other set-up used LEDs on the talent and Arri lights on the background paper.