(Belated) News for the New Year

It’s been almost six months since my last update. In that time, I’ve done more union work, entirely paid off my school debt, directed and edited a project, and started my graduate school search. With this new year, I’ve pledged to work on my personal portfolio content, especially for the purposes of grad school. My creative content banner, Pseudointellectual, is the biggest part of that venture, and I hope to produce a variety of pieces for this new brand. Check in here or on Facebook for more information regarding Pseudo. It’s very much a fluctuating, ever-growing project, so stay tuned for more!

I’m proud to announce that one of my Pseudo projects, Dump Truck Bounty Hunter, has raised a little over $1,200 for cancer research and preventative awareness measures sponsored by No Shave November. You can read more about “Dump Truck,” and the background and intent of the piece in its press release. I couldn’t have achieved that level of success without the help of my amazingly dedicated crew and donors, so thank you to all who participated! This is my second project writing and directing since leaving college, which I’m proud to say given the amount of other work I’ve been balancing as well.

Continue reading (Belated) News for the New Year

Absurdity at Work

Each day, 22,000 people die from cancer worldwide. Each one of us has been affected in some way or another by this horrible disease. That is insane.

No Shave November is a month long commitment to forego shaving as a means of promoting the cause of cancer research and preventative awareness. That is absurd and hilarious.

I personally find that the pursuit to find meaning in the tumultuous lives we lead can often be resolved with good humor. No Shave November is a fascinating case study of absurdity at work – allowing something as mundane and routine as hair growth to literally save lives.

In the spirit of absurd humor, I used No Shave November as a platform to create a humorous short about mutton chops. It will premiere online on November 30th.

I ask that if you find this to be something interesting, engaging, humorous, weird, stupid, or if you have no opinion about my hair growth, that you consider donating to or sharing my No Shave November campaign.

Summer Giggin’ Happened So Fast

Since leaving school, I’ve spent my summers shooting with Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, an accelerated learning program for child prodigies. I always enjoy the month I spend with them because the content is fascinating and I get to dabble in every department. This year in particular, I operated camera, gaffed, and ran audio on three weeks of travel work up the east coast. Most notably, we filmed at an oyster and sturgeon rehabilitation center, then rode the Chesapeake skipjack Sigsbee from Cambridge to Sandy Point. If given the opportunity in the future, I’d love to learn how to crewhand on a sail boat because it was awe-inspiring to watch.

Skipjack Sigsbee
Skipjack Sigsbee

My favorite part of the CTY jobs is watching classes so passionate about education that everyone involved, teachers and students, get to nerd out about a specific subject. One of the teachers we followed was formerly a professor of a medical college before becoming a high school science and drama teacher. The diversity of his skillset brought fascinating pedagogical methods to his classroom, including discussing the W.H. Auden poem “Musee des Beaux Arts” and Pieter Brueghel’s “The Fall of Icarus,” as an example of humanity’s apathy towards the suffering of others. These are middle school students taking a “History of Disease” course, mind you. It was incredible to watch.

Production continues on “What Happens Next Will Scare You,” the microbudget anthology film I am gaffing and assisting camera on. We finished a segment in August that I am particularly excited about. I can’t give details, but I’ll say that it’s shot like a news package and will be digitally degraded to look like it was videotaped in the 1980s. Multiple times our first night, I would set a frame and then realize that I had to re-frame for 4:3 with a broadcast aesthetic. It was a fun challenge.

BTS Photo of the latest WHNWSY segment.

Revolving Doors, a feature documentary about the faults of the national prison system, was shot in Baltimore over the last two years. With this latest round of shooting in mid-August, production has come to an end. The New York crew on the project came down to tie together the pieces of their current edit and I’m excited to say that I they have an amazing film on their hands. When I shot with them last year, I was merely an extra set of hands for their skeleton crew footprint in East Baltimore. However, I struck up a relationship with the director and producer on set and they asked that 2nd Unit DP Kyle Deitz and I watch a rough cut of the film to give notes on.

Subject Tard Carter, shot by Kyle Deitz.
Subject Tard Carter, shot by Kyle Deitz.

This year, when they returned to finish out the film, we were again invited to look at the latest cut of the film. This allowed me to suggest future interview questions and edit notes to our director and producer, who openly welcomed the collaboration. I gaffed our interviews and camera assisted for Kyle Deitz on the back half of the film, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see it premiere. Although my role in the grand scheme of the film is small, I felt an immense contribution to production because of the way our director and producer invited us in to the mix. The documentary process is fascinating, invigorating, and important to me, so any experience in that world further pushes my heart and mind in that direction. It’s what I ultimately want to end up doing, and so I always jump at the chance to flex my departmental skills in documentary.

Speaking of which, a new Amazon docu-webseries, tentatively called Human Kinda, came into D.C. a few weeks back. I worked with the DP and production to assemble a package on budget, did a fair amount of run-and-gun doc style shooting, and wrapped out our week with a big, staged lighting scenario. Needless to say, it was a ton of fun and immensely rewarding. I can’t talk much about specifics, but be sure to look for it in the near future!

The most surreal experience I’ve had lately was being in a sports bar full of TVs and seeing a  commercial I worked on. I worked as a third electrician on a Sportscenter promo featuring the Nationals racing presidents back in August. The content itself was funny, but watching the President mascots goof around in their costumes after hours was hilarious. We had the whole stadium to ourselves overnight, so I and my fellow G&E crew posted up on the first base line to watch the events of the evening. If you’ve never had the opportunity, trust me when I say that it’s a unique experience to see the content you watched live on a director’s monitor projected to a national audience. I hope to never lose that excitement for the work I do.


Raven’s Stadium.

I never expected to find myself on the field of a professional baseball stadium. Literally the only scenario I could anticipate finding me at home plate would be as part of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Needless to say, when my girlfriend invited me to camera assist at Raven’s stadium a few weeks later, I jumped at the opportunity. We filmed a youth group’s scrimmage football match during halftime. Our DP took a direct hit from an over-eager tackle the previous week, breaking part of the follow focus, so we were told to be on the defensive. Luckily nothing bad happened, and I walked away with an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

IPsuedo’m spending the coming weeks gearing up for graduate school applications, but I hope to find some time to work on a new project I’m calling, “Pseudointellectual.” This is something I’ve spent a long time thinking about, and most excitingly, it’s something I hope to structure and flesh out through the process of making it. I have two projects that I feel are representative of what I want the “brand” to be at this point, but I have ideas for many more. My plan is to release more content first before coming to any ultimate conclusions about what the project actually means to me. If you follow the link above, you can learn more about Pseudointellectual.


Too Late for a Spring Update

So I intended on posting a late winter update. I intended on posting a list of New Year’s Resolutions. I intended on managing my time effectively for both creative, self-fulfilling work and the normal day-in-day-out kind of work, and providing updates as that process went along. As you can see, life happened.

I’d had friends and mentors tell me that once you enter the freelance work world post-graduation, your “life” gets sucked up and put aside for a bit. Freelancers can become machines, chugging along from gig to gig, only to return to the necessary normalcy of laundry, chores, and sleep during the available free weekend.

I didn’t anticipate this for myself for quite a while. Given that I had only graduated last May, I fully expected a winter of long bouts of TV binging, occasional personal projects, and the tremendous self-loathing that comes with being an unemployed college grad.

I hit the ground running. Hard.

Channeling Beaker.  I hadn't shaved since No Shave November.
Channeling Beaker. I hadn’t shaved since No Shave November.

All through the winter, Sirens Media kept me afloat with a variety of PA and Grip days on their TV series’ House of Horrors, Hell House, and Southern Fried Homicide. Look for me soon in the role of Muppet-faced Police Officer! Hell House asked me to step into the acting role while PAing one day and I was happy to oblige. I don’t have any lines, but I do have a massive beard that was hanging around from No Shave November.

Then, I had the opportunity to Swing in the Grip and Electric departments on Mike Rowe’s new CNN show Somebody’s Gotta Do It, when production came into Baltimore. It was a terrifying experience when I initially entered into it – filled with a variety of firsts. I collaborated with our DP and Line Producer on selecting a Serious equipment package for my out of town crew, I drove a stake bed truck and loaded in and out of location by myself, and I rigged a variety of scenarios based on my DP’s direction – including Leko lights, a Joleko spotlight, and a Joleko Menace Arm.

The Menace Rig is not as long as it looks. The perspective is stretched because of the panorama. Set safety!
The Menace Arm Rig is not as long as it looks. The perspective is stretched because of the panorama. Set safety!

IATSEI then joined IATSE Local 487 in March and worked my first day on a Union set in mid-June! Mercy Street is currently shooting in Richmond and I had the opportunity to day play in the electric department. The show is being touted as the replacement for Downton Abbey, which is in its final season. Between playing with brand new LED technologies and actually getting to run big ass lengths of cable on set, I was stoked to be exposed to and feel like a part of the life of a union crew. Much thanks to my Best Boy Electric and former lighting professor Wade Tyree for the invitation! Wade was one of the few professors who made the effort to show his students what the world of a local working professional can look like. He’s always been an inspiration and I admire his consistent dedication to teaching.

Outside of these projects, I’ve continued to light on corporate and commercial work that has kept me incredibly busy, including a 30 for 30 ESPN documentary and an Under Armour docu-shoot.

ESPN 30 for 30
ESPN 30 for 30

However, beyond the scope of my professional work, I am proud to say that I have committed to and stayed true to my primary New Year’s Resolution of remaining personally creative. Since January, I have written, produced, and directed two shorts.

The first of these is an anthology film project of shorts created by Baltimore filmmakers, done in the style of an Exquisite Corpse. The second is a narrative promotional video for No Shave November, a fundraising driver for the American Cancer Society. They’ve been the projects I’ve been most passionate about because of how much personal growth and satisfaction I’ve derived from them, and I can’t wait to share them both. I also have to endlessly thank my amazing crews for their time and skills. My crews have given me such a gift and it humbles me to work among them.  Expect to see these shorts later this year, but in the meantime, here are some BTS photos from set!

Exquisite Corpses.
Exquisite Corpses set construction.
Actress Christie Czajkowski, production still from “Exquisite Corpses.”
Production BTS, photo courtesy of Spencer Grundler.
Production BTS on “No Shave November Promo”, photo courtesy of Spencer Grundler.
Production BTS on
Production BTS on “No Shave November Promo,” photo courtesy of Jena Richardson.
My much adored
My much adored “No Shave November Promo” crew at our wrap dinner.

Finally, I’m gaffing on Maryland Film Fest filmmaker’s Chris LaMartina and Jimmy George’s new film, which is currently in production. I can’t give too many details, but I will say that I’ve been incredibly excited to see the use of a variety of older video cameras and being able to light for unique aesthetics. The film has been shot over nights and weekends for a few months now and I continue to love the low-budget, DIY, band-of-brothers environment that LaMartina and George instill on set.

Production BTS from in-production LaMartina/George film.
Production BTS from in-production LaMartina/George film.

It’s hard to say that I wish I had more free time to post content because that would take away from actually making content. All I can plan for is to try and find a balance in the coming months 🙂

“Be well, do good work, and stay in touch!” – Garrison Keillor

A Quick Note About Thanksgiving

I have much to be thankful for this year, but instead of going on about who or what I’m thankful for, I want to extend a proposal to you. Ignoring the fact that this is about Christmas for a moment, “Thankful Heart” from A Muppet Christmas Carol is the most beautiful song about the act of thanksgiving ever recorded. Michael Caine’s “dulcet” (this is his first time singing on camera) tones epitomize the joy of brotherly love and grateful expression perfectly.

Like Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” itself, the song is universal regardless of time of year or religion – thanks to Muppet composer Paul Williams’ lyrics. I always play this song on loop starting right about now through to the New Year to remind myself how beautiful life is when viewed through a thankful heart. Please give it a watch, a careful listen, and consider the message that Dickens first wrote about and Williams wants you to take away.

“Life is like a journey
Who knows when it ends?
If you need to know
The measure of a man
You simply count his friends”

Peace my brothers and a very Happy thanksgiving 🙂

is a freelance filmmaker and a lifelong student.