Discovering Timeless Dances: A Finale

This post bears much fruit, the juiciest of which being the presentation of Discovering Timeless Dances. If you follow through the link, you’ll see what is definitely a team effort. This site, minor late-night adjusts excluded, will be presented tomorrow morning as my group’s final project.

It’s a fairly simple set up (and looks remarkably similar to this site), yet has some goodies in it. The package includes a written piece by Taeler DeHaes, an audio portion by Paige Wheeler, and some other multimedia constructed by myself with the gracious    input of my team. Group projects can be difficult for a myriad of reasons, but this one seemed to go off without a hitch. Thanks, guys!

The Mid-Missouri Traditional Dancers gave us all access to their community which made the journalist’s job fun. There was no need for persuasion or persistance. Everything seemed to flow. As my roommate says, “Hey dude, when you force things it gets messy.” I would have to agree.

If your foot starts tapping at some point during your exploration of the site, I count it as success.

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The Traditional Dancers

My dad taught me to think quickly and decisively. When he stepped on a a yellow jacket nest during a family hike, “Run!” was the obvious call. But whenever a situation arises like the time my wrecked car had to be considered totaled or repairable, my dad is the master of combining thoughtfulness with haste. Capturing some of this resiliency has saved me from the stress I see plaguing the faces of reporting students when sources don’t call back or stories fall through.

Well, a quick decision had to be made when my final project team discovered that Columbia’s sacred drum circle (mentioned in a previous post) actually has a no photo/video policy, which will prove incompatible with a multimedia project. I considered trying to salvage the story and meet with drummers outside of the organized meeting. It seemed impractical. Thus, my project team is moving on. C’est la vie.

The optimist in me thinks this is a providential nudge toward a better story. During an emergency session to plan a new story, I pitched an idea to cover the Mid-Missouri Traditional Dancers. I danced with the crew several times last summer and knew they would be a solid choice for a visually rich project. I reached out the group’s president who encouraged me to stop by a Friday night dance. More to come on this eclectic group. In the meantime, here are a few of photos from the dance. Our group is looking forward to exploring the dynamics of the traditional dancers.

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Out of the Woods and Into the Circle

This week concluded my seven-week multimedia project with R&B producer Brandon Collins. Because Columbia, Mo. has more journalists per square mile than Washington, D.C. (unverified), allowing a journalism student to follow you around is almost a charity act. For this reason, I want to thank Brandon, now affectionately known as Beezy, for access to the scarce time around his gigs, music production, and full-time job outside of the studio. He has also taken my under his wing musically throughout our months together, and I look forward to keeping up with ventures.

Here’s the video portion of the project. Although it is not necessarily a promotional piece, I hope Brandon can use it in the hype surrounding his forthcoming album, “This Little Space,” due May 2012.

To cap off the semester, I will be a part of team covering a sacred drum circle. If you have ever spoken to me for a combined 30 minutes or more, you will know that I will love this. I look forward to the rich visuals and natural sound and learning about what makes the group sacred. This should be fantastic.

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Thoughts from True/False Film Festival

I venture to believe that the “/” in the festival’s title represents the blurred line between truth and fiction in documentary film. The True/False Film Festival returned to Columbia, Mo. over the weekend for its ninth and largest documentary exposé yet. I had the privilege to creep behind the scenes while doing some volunteer/contracting work (There’s that forward slash again.) with the festival’s tech crew.

When I was not running microphones for harpists and folk bands during pre-screening performances, I viewed a several swell documentaries. I encountered stories with topics ranging from life inside a Pakistani orphanage to jazz musicians waiting for their heroin fix. After seeing four consecutive films on Saturday, I spent a few moments reflecting on film as a journalistic medium.

My musings brought me to the backslash in the festivals title — that blurred line on which a story falls. Life (at least our perception of it) goes from camera lens, to digital storage, to computer, to editing software, then is spit back out as a digestible, exported product. At what point does a film move from documentary to fiction? I am proponent of truth, but I don’t know if it can always be deciphered through a documentary. Yet, I also don’t know if it really needs to be.

I want to challenge myself to look for the spin on a story across all media. Sometimes it might be necessary to condemn an agenda, but I wonder if in certain cases we should take away a greater message communicated through the storyteller’s input.

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R&B in the Woods

There was a miscommunication on what time we would meet, so I drove through the rural edges of Columbia, Mo. until Brandon Collins finished a rehearsal on the other side of town. The usual lone ranger will be joining a gospel band to play a convention in Los Angeles next weekend so scheduling has been somewhat difficult, but Brandon has been most accommodating.

I’ve been meeting with Brandon for the past two weekends to document the final preparations and hopeful independent release of his solo album, This Little Space, due in late March. On Sunday, we sat down for what was planned to be a 10-minute interview, but what resulted was an hour-long confession of a man who escapes into his art. This was purely to my delight.

Brandon first shared memories of sitting in on his uncle’s basement jam sessions until the early morning. There he encountered an ensemble of characters, some questionable, who planted the seeds of his passion for blues, gospel and soul music. He was also willing to evoke difficult memories of a successful stint in New Orleans that was cut short by Hurricane Katrina.

The following audio clip does not capture the scope of our entire conversation. It rather touches on what his studio means to him and how his escapism is not an ends to itself, but a means for a greater outward connectedness through his music.

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The Ones That Were Cut

I’m going to show you the photos that would not garner a good score on my next multimedia assignment.

As you may know, I was recently introduced to expensive cameras, and I’m actually growing quite fond of them. I took the ol’ Nikon D7000 out to a small music studio on the outskirts of Columbia, Mo. last weekend to begin a project that I’m tentatively calling “R&B in the Woods.”

For this piece I’m showing the beauties and struggles in the life of musical recluse Brandon Ray Collins. He works as an information technologies specialist by day but races home to his auditory oasis at night to put on his headphones and escape. I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with Collins in the last month after he helped record and produce an EP for a musical collaborative in which I’m involved. Besides helping amateur musicians, Collins has been recording a solo R&B project over the past year that he expects to release this spring.

My main goal is to tell the story of the psyche of an isolated person. This isolation not only comes from Collins’s physical reclusiveness but also from creating a fresh, urban style of music that is not always appreciated in Mid-Missouri. Expect some updates on the project in forthcoming weeks.

Until then, I will share some interesting pictures that I captured. These wouldn’t necessarily score highly on the grading rubric for several reasons, but I think they have some intrinsic energy.

Spiral StaircaseInterfaseCamelA-Frame

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My Introduction to Expensive Cameras

I have the fortune of attending a college that takes pride in its technological prowess. An iPad 2 and a dusty book can be checked out from the same library. A prime example of this dedication to technology was a recent vote by journalism faculty to freeze pay raises in order to front the bill of an exorbitant amount of Nikon D7000s for my multimedia class. Not surprisingly, many of my assignments necessitate that I check out one of these with a flash of my student ID. I hardly know anything about still photography (hence the stock photo on my header), so I’m not complaining.

My background is in audio production with a dabbling of video work, often paired. That type of multimedia production thrives in the editing room. A mistake or unwanted moment can be tweaked to portray the intended message more cleary. This is not so much the case with photography, specifically photojournalism. Excessive editing on a picture intended for news publication, minor lighting adjustments notwithstanding, confronts major issues concerning journalistic ethics. Thus, a good photojournalist must be prepared to capture the decisive moment in the field, not behind a computer.

With only a brief lecture on photo composition and some advice from friend, housemate, and media man Keith Montgomery, I embarked with a freshly borrowed camera to practice a life without the comfort of the auto setting. The only guideline of the assignment was to take a photograph with the dominant theme being red. Here are some of the more interesting results. There is some unintended graininess that I would like to tighten up as I become more acquainted with balancing ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I hope there is only room for improvement.

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