Mar 4, 2013
We recently had the pleasure of putting together a promotional video for Hollywood Access Services. In addition to closed-captioning for the hearing impaired, HAS provides audio description, giving blind audiences the opportunity to enjoy a more complete movie going experience. HAS will be providing both closed captioning and audio description for our upcoming feature-length documentary, MILE... MILE & A HALF. We're really excited to offer these features on the DVD & BluRay as it's not common for independent documentary films.
Feb 18, 2013
If you're reading this, you've probably already seen the mindblowingly beautiful first video from Project Yosemite. The project is a creative collaboration between Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty. Yosemite HD has received over 3.5 million views, and the number is growing each day.
Not only are they super talented photographers, but a lot of fun to hike for hours with. And they're big supporters of The Muir Project to boot. They're working hard to finish their much anticipated follow-up video. Until then, you'll just have to be content with video #1:
Feb 14, 2013
Jan 21, 2013
Jan 14, 2013
Dec 31, 2012
Dec 23, 2012
Last week, I had the opporunity to join Matt & Summer Bowen during their annual Bowen Beer Bottle Band night. Matt has played (Mandolin, Accordian, Guitar, Ukulele, etc.) at a few of our events for The Muir Project, and when I learned of his unique take on Christmas caroling I offered to document the evening. It was pretty great to watch first hand many talented musicians work through a difficult song... with beer.
I hope you enjoy! Merry Christmas.
Nov 15, 2012
We've been crazy busy on our documentary the last few months, but hope to be returning to more regular posts.
This is a tie-in to our documentary, but also may help those of you considering a Kickstarter campaign of your own.
So before I get too far, I should answer that initial burning question: Why Kickstarter?
Well, we went this route for a few reasons:
- The most obvious: It allowed us to raise the funds needed to finish the film and get it out the door.
- It’s a great way to show there’s a viable audience for the film. We knew we’d be approaching sponsors and distributors, and this campaign proves we had an audience. This also allowed us (and forced us) to really concentrate on building the community that would appreciate the film.
- We chose Kickstarter (as the crowd-funding platform) because we thought the notoriety of Kickstarter would allow us to raise our lofty goal, and as crazy as it sounds, we liked the “all or nothing” approach. In retrospect, I think I would have chosen IndieGogo, so we could have raised funds for a charity as well. You’ll see another reason under the “what we learned” section
Here are 4 DOs & DON'Ts We Learned from our Kickstarter Campaign.
1. Your research:
- Learn about all of Kickstarter’s Rules. We wanted to donate to a charity, but that’s not allowed. We built a fun calendar with giveaways. Again, a “no go.” It’d be a shame to do all the work and then have your project removed for poor planning.
- A strategy that worked for us: Mirror another Project. Choose another project (or several) that have similar sensibilities to yours and really watch what happens for them – reactions from fans, how they interact, their rewards, results, etc.
- Google Search other articles like this one. You might learn another bit of information that’ll make your life a little easier after the launch. Better to know now than once it’s too late.
2. Keep a Calendar.
- Before the Campaign Make sure that your calendar includes everything you’ll need before the campaign starts. Will you show samples of the rewards? Do you need anything else ready to go before you launch? We were scrambling just before our launch because Amazon had trouble linking our bank account, but didn’t inform us of this issue until several calls later.
- Every Day we scheduled everything from Updates to Thank Yous to everything happening outside of the Kickstarter platform. This helped us to remain on top of everything and keep our fans (and us) motivated the entire time.
3. Make a Budget: You’ve got one for your project, and you should have one for this too. Yes, it’s difficult to guess which rewards will get the most play, but knowing the out of pocket costs and your profit for each is very important. And don’t forget to calculate Kickstarter & Amazon’s fees and fees for packaging & sending rewards as well. (We chose to set $15 as the first level we would mail, and that was for something that would fit in a #10 envelope.)
4. Thank People & Keep Them Informed.
- We were nervous that people would tire of our updates. (We posted every 2-3 days.) But we also made sure that posts really had something to say – revealing new info, additional footage and sneak peeks, thanks and a call to action – they weren’t just a call for $.
- THANK EVERYONE. We took turns every night thanking our new backers, and we thought it’d be nice for them and the right thing to do. Bu the truth is, doing al the updates, reminders, posts and all during the day, WE needed that time to remember that people were taking the time to give their hard-earned money to be part of our project, and thanking them for that was incredibly uplifting.
- Give Up.
- There were times when we wondered “is this really worth it?” and “we’re not going to make it!” We started our campaign ahead of goal, but the last 5 days, we still needed to raise $8,000 to meet our goal. Talk about tense! But true to statistics from other campaigns, tons of pledges came in right at the end (and we ended up over goal.)
- There will be nay-sayers. No matter how wonderful and altruistic you intend to be, someone will say your project sucks, that they could do it better, and may even call you a liar. It really hit us hard when it happened for us on one blogosphere, and even though we had such incredible responses hundreds of times over, that one piece nagged at us. We chose to stay positive, not engage the person and we luckily had a Backer that was our voice and gave a positive position. All we could do was make sure that we are honest and true to the project, our followers and ourselves.
- Set Your Goal Too High. Our initial goal was closer to $100,000. And although we’ll be spending that higher amount (and more) before it’s all said and done, we decided to go bare bones to hit our goal, finish the film and show a success. We also knew we had a film that wasn’t high drama and had no celebrities attached. Best to keep the budgets low, right?
- Keep the Conversation Just on Kickstarter. We posted more than six times a day on Facebook. We kept up our own web blog, wrote numerous guest blog posts and fielded interviews from bloggers. We tweeted and pinned on Pinterest. We held live events and sent newsletters out to followers. We made friends with companies with high followers on Facebook so we could do cross-promotions. (Making friends is much easier than you think, as so many companies are hungry for content – especially on social media.) And this community is still part of our project today, even though we’ve pulled back on the number of times we reach out to them.
- Go It Alone. Because we had five of us working on the project, we were able to have new voices telling the story (and asking for support.) Trust me, you WILL want help with this. From coming up with fun rewards that actually provide revenue, to updates, thanks, conversations on other platforms and ultimately reward fulfillment – having a team you can rely on makes all the difference in the world.
4 More Things we learned (without Kickstarter’s help)
- It Takes a Village Or more to the point, you need to already have a village in place. Yes, more people will find your project than your initial group, but don’t count on that being the majority. The actual Backers coming in straight from Kickstarter were less than 4%. We brought the rest there.
- Hello Crazy Person. I hate to inform you, but this will probably be you the second you hit “Launch” on your campaign. You WILL be checking your progress every second like some sort of addict, praying that people back it. And if you’re doing well, wondering just how well you could do and inventing grand schemes of how you can thank people for helping you raise $1 million. And yes, you will probably also haunt Kicktraq – which never helped determine how well we were be doing, it just gave us another way to agonize about the campaign and feel with “certainty” that we’d make it above and beyond goal or fail miserably, depending upon the updated feed.
- You CAN change things after the campaign has started. But not everything. A Kickstarter staff member suggested we lower our prices, and we did. But the higher tiers that people had initially chosen still remained, and became a constant question for new Backers. Not until every Backer from that former tier had changed levels on their own, could we remove the old tier. Some were never removed.
- That money goes fast. $77k (the amount we received from $85k after Kickstarter and Amazon took their cut) was handily spent on everything we detailed in the campaign’s overview. So much money, and yet it doesn’t even cover our initial investments. Ah well, I guess that’s why they call it a labor of love. Which leads to this point: Make sure YOU Believe in your project. If you don’t… how can anyone else?
A special thanks to our 814 Backers for their support of the campaign, The Muir Project and our documentary film, Mile… Mile & A Half.
Sep 4, 2012
Over the last year and a half, I've had the pleasure of becoming friends with Paul Bessenbacher (or PB). I've listened to him play the ukulele next to a campfire, witnessed him write lyrics during a 14,496 foot summit, and seen him perform with his band, Opus Orange, in bars across Los Angeles. Last month, he was recording a 20 piece string orchestra in his studio, Emoto Music, and I had the opportunity to document the session.
His talent would be extremely intimidating if he wasn't such a humble and nice guy (okay, it's still pretty damn intimidating). I look forward to collaborating with him again on the original soundtrack for our feature documentary, MILE... MILE & A HALF.
Aug 30, 2012
Jul 10, 2012
It was a year ago today that we all put on our heavy packs and headed into the Yosemite backcountry towards the John Muir Trail. Our batteries were full, our memory cards empty, and our expectations uncertain.
On our first anniversary, it’s only fitting that we’ve reached a major milestone in this epic journey: we’ve locked picture on our feature film, MILE… MILE & A HALF, and we are now ready to head into final post-production stages.
As part of our upcoming Kickstarter Campaign to raise finishing funds, we held our first free public event last Friday night at Adventure 16 in West Los Angeles. The evening was an overwhelming success, drawing a crowd of more than 200 people. Our panoramic photos were displayed, a new featurette was screened, and Opus Orange performed a powerful acoustic set that blew us all away. We equate the evening to making it over Mather Pass (a difficult & technical climb for us all). A lot of time & energy brought us to that moment, but seeing the crowd’s response made it all worthwhile and re-energized us for the challenges ahead.
Wait! Does that mean we still have to climb Forrester Pass?
In addition to daily updates on our Facebook page commemorating our journey last year, we’ll be making a concentrated effort to continue our blog postings, including photos and other fun updates. For those of you who are interested in helping us along the final stretch of this journey, we’ll be sending out announcements about our Kickstarter campaign.
Thank you, again, for being so supportive of our project, and many thanks to Adventure 16 for hosting our first event. If you’re in the West LA area, some of our photos are still on display for a limited time.
Jul 5, 2012
As I was submitting my second [ahr-tuh-zen] documentary on Jeremy Thomas to film festivals, I came across The Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles and thought it was a perfect fit for the series flagship on Dave Lefner. Dave is a native Angeleno, and his art is focused on old signage in the Los Angeles area.
The film had been completed nearly two years ago, but I never sent it to any festivals and the DFFLA didn't have a completion date requirement, so I sent it off. Why not? A week later, I received a phone call that the film was invited to screen during one of their shorts programs.
If ever there were a project I could be proud to say was my first festival screening, it's this one. I always have so much fun creating my films, but I hate promoting them once they're complete. Over the past two years, I've been getting much better about it, and it's led to some success with our upcoming feature documentary, MILE... MILE & A HALF.
Durand Trench (audio) and I during one of our shoot days.
Jun 18, 2012
Have been having a blast working with so many musicians lately. Coming up with concepts and helping them redefine their look makes for wonderfully challenging and diverse images. I'll have some shots from session with Neil Nathan soon, but here's a new fave of mine - a compilation image of Amanda Mae Steele.
Jun 12, 2012
May 23, 2012
It was just a coincidence that our daughter checked out a library book about mustaches the same time my friends at CBS held their first Upfront Mustache Contest. Because CBS is now my client instead of my employer, it was an honor to still be invited to participate…even if I couldn't due to an upcoming interview shoot in the Sierras for our documentary, Mile…Mile & A Half.
The Upfronts are an exhausting few weeks in which the networks determine their fall schedule. It's marked by long hours and little sleep, so contests like this one help add a little silliness to the routine.
Although I couldn't officially participate in the competition, I decided upon my return from Yosemite to trim my beard back…revealing only a mustache. My daughter was by my side, directing me as to how I should shape this "moostash."
I looked ridiculous.
It gave me an enormous amount of respect for those able to pull off such an endeavor…to don the hair on the upper lip without thinking twice. After a few hours, I would start to forget about the small animal living under my nose only to be reminded when when Jen would break out in laughter during a conversation.
The mustache didn't last a full 24 hours on me. I guess I just don't have what it takes. But kudos to those who do, and I hope you enjoy a little laughter at my expense.
Apr 30, 2012
It's always exciting to see your work in a new light, and there's something magical about seeing your work come alive in print.
Images and visuals we created for The Muir Project and our documentary, Mile, Mile & a Half, are now being reborn as canvas prints are being made, and promotional DVDs and packages.
the first 20x60" print for one of the images from the trail (to be used in our upcoming A16 exhibit on 7.6. It was on one of the rare rainy days, but has such a lovely dream-like quality.:
and the temp logo, DVDs for the rough cut & business cards:
When you're able to see your work in a new way, it keeps it all fresh.
So here's to new beginnings and coming to life IN PRINT!
Apr 20, 2012
Her hands were not petite. They were not soft, nor manicured. My Grandma's hands were large and worn from years of labor…cleaning passenger trains, office buildings and the homes of those less fortunate.
She drank her coffee black and rarely paused in her day. She enjoyed the occasional late-night cigarette, and her drink of choice was Vodka and Orange Juice.
Pride never got the best of her, but it sure came close. At the age of 54, after having raised three children in marriage, she took back her maiden name and was single again. She struggled to make the mortgage...to keep the home where my cousin and I were being raised. Losing was not an option, but it was an ever-present threat.
And, I’m sorry!! You didn't know her last name was COX once again??!! Maybe you missed her screaming that announcement at the top of her lungs…or the announcement she scribed in shoe polish on the giant picture window of our Second Street Home.
Her conversations were seldom cohesive. The information was accurate and plentiful, but it was on you to connect the dots. I grew up with notes upon notes taped to the walls, cabinets, appliances, etc. clueing us into little bits of wisdom (or instruction):
“FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! (unplug the toaster)”
Some made sense. Some did not. All were priceless.
Her politics were...hmmm…vocal. She’d say, "Growing up, we were NEVER to ask anyone whom s/he voted for.” Then, in the same breath, turn to a complete stranger and quip, "Why would anyone ever vote that idiot Bush into office?"
She was convinced I was a registered Republican.
She has been described as INDEPENDENT, STUBBORN & FASCINATING. All true.
She celebrated her birthdays by treating others to ice cream. I don’t have a “K” in my name because she thought three lettered names were good luck. When I was eight, she hauled two large garbage bags of snow on a train ride from Virginia for us to play with in our warm Florida yard.
And she always loved you more.
No, her hands were not petite. But, I loved holding them during our walks. She didn't need my assistance, but she allowed me nevertheless. Through downtown Sanford, through Central Park, through Harlem and Santa Barbara…she'd let me hold her hand. She'd tell me her success had been seeing the world through her children’s and grandchildren's eyes. My only regret is that I never had the opportunity to take her out of the country so she could see some of it with her own.
She died strong…eighty-five hard, loving, painful, generous and joyous years. Upon cleaning her home, my Mom found a note she'd penciled in. It read:
"Thanks. It's been wonderful."
It has, Grandma. Thank you.
Mar 21, 2012
We haven’t been short on footage during our edit of the documentary film, MILE...MILE & A HALF, and for that I’m grateful. But there are certain moments when I lament we didn’t do justice to the beauty and grandeur that surrounded us. Blame it on exhaustion, uncertainty as to what was in store for the remainder of the day’s hike and, occasionally, excessive caution for gear that's made to withstand at least some weathering.
One such instance of over-protection was our climb of Pinchot Pass. A storm started rolling in during our ascent, and as we rushed to cover our packs filled to the brim with electronics, the thought of getting dumped on (or worse, struck by lightning at the top of the pass) weighed heavy on our group.
Safety trumps artistry in moments like these, but I wish that I would’ve stopped and allowed myself the opportunity to fire off a few shots. There is nothing more impressive…more indicative of this amazing planet's power…as the storm clouds unleashing their fury on mountain passes.
We rushed up and over the pass as quickly as we could, salvaging a handful of opportunities to snap off a shot, but that pass will not be showcased nearly as impressively in our documentary as it was that day.
In the past few days, I’ve finally come to peace with that.
We set out to capture the trail in the only way we knew how. THAT goal was accomplished. I do hope to return one day and do even more justice to what we saw on the trail. But no matter how many times I return…no matter how many shots I take…they’ll never leave me breathless like seeing it with my own eyes.
And for that, I’m glad mine weren’t always behind the lens.
Mar 8, 2012
File it under the category "Better Late Than Never." Just barely mailing before the end of February (thank goodness it was a Leap Year) we sent out our New Year's cards.
It's always fun to reflect on the creative and personal projects we were able to produce throughout the year, and these cards allow us to do that, while we start to think about where we want to go in the year ahead. It's also time-consuming... hence the oh-so-late mailing.
Ric has been directing for new clients and we've had the opportunity to work together on a few more assignments. Our JMT: The Muir Project was a big undertaking in 2011 and will continue to be a focus for us this year. The delightful Iz continues to amaze and enchant us, and inspires us to explore more, try new ideas and just be better people. Hopefully, we are up to the challenge.
PS -If you haven't received a card, let us know and we'll put you on the list for next year.
Best Wishes to All.
Feb 15, 2012
We did not leave adventure on the John Muir Trail. Today, one year after we secured the permits for our amazing adventure last July, we're releasing the first official trailer for our documentary, MILE...MILE & A HALF.
And please check out all the awesome content on The Muir Project's website.