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Part IV: The Promotion - Mr. Gold

Be sure you check out the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd post in this series.

This is probably the question I got asked the most by industry folks. How did you get it to blow up? Obviously the first piece of advice is to have something that's good (hope that doesn't come off as conceited). Beyond that I think there are a couple reasons this film had the legs it did. 

Florida Film Festival

Florida Film Festival

First, and I didn't realize it until after it started picking up steam, Mr. Gold is a very sharable film. It's about a local celebrity barely anyone knows a thing about. Thousands of people know who Mr. Gold is. On top of that the film is an uplifting/feel good piece. There isn't a lot you can argue with in the film. It's not divisive. You end up rooting for Jose in the end. I think it's natural that people want to share these kinds of stories, especially nowadays. 

While those things are important I knew they wouldn't be enough to give Mr. Gold the kind of reach I wanted it to have. After reading a really good blog post on how to promote your short film I sat down and sketched out a marketing plan. I have a cousin who's a great writer and I asked him to write up a press release. I pulled frames from the film so bloggers/publications would have pictures if they wanted to run the piece. I spent days researching people, companies, and websites who may want to see the film. 

After doing all this I put my plan into motion early on a Monday morning. I chose Monday because I wanted the film to pick up steam throughout the week and knew things would pretty much die out over the weekend, making it harder for the film to pick up steam again. So on a Monday morning I sent out an ungodly amount of tweets to website curators, bloggers, publications, etc. Here's an example of the tweet I sent: 

Understanding that blogs want your content I emailed to tell them about the story in hopes they would want to feature it. I also sent them the press release and the pictures in case they wanted to use them as well. I also reached to local news and radio stations, the newspaper, and websites who have previously featured my work. All in all I reached out to over 100 people over several days.  

One of my main goals was to get the film featured on Short of the Week and/or Vimeo Staff Picks, knowing one of these would propel the films reach. Short of the Week liked my film but ultimately decided not to run it because they felt it was too short for their audience and they wanted to know more about Jose (fair enough). Vimeo Staff Picks did pick it up and from that point on people started reaching out to me offering distribution (which I turned down) and wanting to know more about Jose. 

Going the film festival route hadn't crossed my mind. It wasn't until after the dust settled that I thought festivals could be a good idea, the film had obviously struck a cord with people. I entered about 20 festivals and so far have been a featured selection in 4 as well as winning a Gold Addy award (they're like the Oscars for the advertising world). I'm still waiting to hear back from several film festivals.

Our local public radio station did a piece on Mr. Gold.  

And I was on the news!

I cleared a whole week out of my schedule so I could focus solely on promoting the film. It was a lot of work but the result was worth it. For my next film I hope to do some of the promotion and possibly hire someone to help with the task.

I'm pretty excited with how this all turned out. Since it's completion I've received several offers from ad agencies about doing some work for them. We'll see what comes next...

Part III: The Edit - Mr. Gold

I've covered the concept and the process of shooting Mr. Gold in two previous posts. This time I'll tackle the post production side. About three quarters of the way through filming I had an idea of how I wanted this to look. I knew I wanted to introduce Jose in a very mysterious way at the beginning. Showing close ups of his outfit would work really well. Plus this adds some mystery which causes people to keep watching (very important because of our short attention spans). I also knew that I wanted to keep it under 5 minutes. I would have loved to make it a little longer, maybe 10-15 minutes, but I knew this would work well as a web video. From what I've learned anything over 5 minutes on the web gets drastically lower view counts (there are exceptions, like niche markets and if you get featured on a very popular site). Making it shorter would cater to more people.

The first thing I had to do was buy some editing software. After some research I settled on Final Cut X. I know some of you are probably gasping for air but hear me out. I've never edited anything before this so I didn't have the need for an editing program. I wanted something I could learn quickly so I could get this sucker out to the masses. From what I read X was very user friendly. Yes, everyone using 7 hated it because they couldn't import their old projects (I would be pissed at this too!). But I didn't have any old projects. I was starting from scratch so X would work fine for me.

Ok, now for the editing. I'm not going to lie...it was hard. Really hard. Telling the story wasn't the hard part. Understanding the program and all it's intricacies was hard. It's one thing to know how you want something to look. It's another thing to know how to get it that way.  After purchasing a Ripple Training series it became a lot easier.

There were a few things I set out to accomplish while editing. After sifting through the interview I knew it would be a good idea to highlight his background. I really thought the prison photos were great. They were a harsh reminder of his background and I thought the one of him in front of the painted backdrop was funny (I have a weird sense of humor). At one point I looked into filming in a prison but there were too many hurdles to jump through.

It was a windy day when Matt and I were filming high-speed. I had Matt grab a shot of Jose's coat waving in the wind. During editing this became a crucial shot. I used it at 2:36 and it's where the story climaxes. The shot reminds me of a superhero's cape flapping in the wind. I placed it where I did, when the music becomes more engaging and amidst him telling his most memorable story, because I knew it would further drive his story home.

You'll notice that I tried to put more of the personality type shots (him dancing, waving, etc.) near the end. If these were placed at the beginning I feel they wouldn't have meshed well with the story of his background. I think that would be my biggest piece of advice to someone editing, and it's pretty simple. Probably one that doesn't need to be told. But I'll tell it anyway, make sure your dialogue, music, and visuals match. Peppy music and a sad story just don't go well together. That being said all rules are meant to be broken.

Mr_Gold_Brian_Carlson7.jpg

The footage after the credits was too good to pass up. I tried to put it in the body of the film but couldn't find a place where it flowed smoothly. The irony of it is subtle but great. His gold teeth represented his past life (something he talked about in our interviews but didn't get included in the film) and getting them removed represented a new chapter for him. The irony is how well they work with his job. I mean, come on! You're named Mr. Gold and you have gold teeth but you get them removed to shed the old you! It's movie making gold (get it?)!

Seriously though, it was a very moving thing to witness. The smile on Jose's face was a mile wide and he couldn't stop saying, "Woah!" for 30 minutes. The owners of Diamond Exchange found a dentistry practice to donate their services, which made it even more touching.

A good buddy of mine named Kyle Cox scored the piece. At first I wanted some subtle ambient music (think Explosions in the Sky). Kyle did some research and was really inspired by the urban nature of the film and by the score for the move Drive. He had this once piece of music laying around and thought it would be the perfect fit. I'll have to admit it took me a few days to warm up to. The music wasn't bad it just wasn't what I had in my head. But after sitting on it for a bit I was convinced. I think the score really helps set Mr. Gold apart from other shorts because it doesn't sound like them. It's different and catches your attention. Also, Jose's voice doesn't fluctuate much when he talks. The music brings some energy that another score might have lacked.

Have any questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll make sure to answer them.

Up Next - Part IV: The Promotion

Part II: The Shoot - Mr. Gold

After I had approval it was time to shoot. This is my favorite part. It's where the creative side of my brain gets churning. I didn't set up a lot of guidelines for how I would shoot but I did know one thing, I wanted to try and only shoot at sunset. You get that beautiful golden light at sunset and it obviously makes visual sense with a video called Mr. Gold. Plus, I think it framed Jose in a different light. Some people would see this guy working long and hot hours on the side of the road and think, "What a crap job," or they would look at his history and automatically dismiss him. By framing him in the light of the sunset I wanted to show the viewer what I saw in his story; hope, determination, joyfulness, and spunk.

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While I was shooting I ran into a few hurdles. About a third of the way into shooting I started realizing the difficulty of shooting him while he worked. You see, Jose works on a street corner. That limits the angles I can shoot him at (at least on wide shots). Furthermore he pretty much repeats the same actions and motions (I joked with him that he's a master at knowing the timing of the lights at that intersection). I had to figure out how to break things up, which was good because it made me think outside the box. Besides doing the simple wide/long, static, and detail shots I incorporated some steadi shots. Now I'm not a steadicam expert...by any means. I really suck at it to tell you the truth. It's an art. Thankfully I only had to do enough steadi for a few shots. I'm really proud of how they came out, particularly the one at 2:46 (which was fun to do. Probably because it was dangerous).

Speaking of steadi, my buddy Matt Hutchens is an excellent steadicam operator (among a list of other things..ham radio operator, chess master, ballroom dancer, marksman, butterfly collector). He also knows how to work a mean high speed camera. High speed has slowly become a gimmick (ha...I made a pun). Kinda like shallow depth of field was when DSLRs came out. I didn't want the use of high speed to be a gimmick, something to use just because it was available. I think I succeeded in using it appropriately (especially at 1:55 and 2:36).

I had a couple happy accidents while shooting too. The shot where there is a police car in the background (2:30) happened inadvertently (I didn't call a cop for that one). I like how this shot plays off the dialogue of Jose talking about his most memorable experience as Mr. Gold. It was also a great way to juxtapose his past life with his current life. The shot of Jose at 1:06 was also a total accident. I was setting up my camera and checking my exposure and just happened to have the camera rolling. Thankfully he thought I was paying attention and flipped his hat. That scene really shows Mr. Golds character and attitude. The shot at 00:43 of Jose showing me his prison photos on his broken phone was another happy accident. At the end of our interview at his apartment I asked him if he had any prison photos on himself. The phone is such a great illustration of his life at that time. It always pays to be curious and ask lots of questions.

In case you're interested. Here is the gear used in making the film:

Canon 5d Mark II

Sony FS700

Some kind of Nikon Dslr that shoots video (Steve was shooting it for the interview. I'm not a Nikon guy)

Canon lenses (16-35, 50, 85, 70-200mm)

Monopod with fluid head

Glidecam 2000 Pro

Rode Videomic microphone

My Honda Civic for the driving shot

Sennheiser Lavs

Final Cut X

Up next: Part III: The Edit

Part I: The Concept - Mr. Gold

Last year I finished my first major video piece called Mr. Gold. I have done video plenty of times before with other shooters but this was my baby. I've had a lot of people emailing to ask how I did it. Rather than email everyone individually I figured I'd do a few blog posts detailing the whole process. If you're reading this looking for flashy images you'll probably be disappointed. It'll probably be a lot of words. Visually boring...yes. Informative...that's what I'm shooting for. The concept to do Mr. Gold came out of one major epiphany. It was this: I really need to get into this video thing.  You see, the landscape for still photographers has changed. Everyone is asking if we do video now. A few years ago I began to see this and knew I needed to start preparing for this shift. Some old crusty guys were appalled at this shift. They're the same guys who got angry when digital broke onto the scene. Thankfully for me I've always loved the art of "talkies" (as those old crusty guys would call video). I grew up in a movie loving family and looking back on it I believe my first love was film, not still photography. All that to say taking up video wasn't a difficult mental leap for me.

Since this was the first major piece I would be doing alone I knew there were some things I needed to consider. First off, I needed to do something close to home. I had tossed around doing a project in another state/country. Ultimately I decided that I needed to stay close to home. This would allow me to shoot as much as I'd like. If I didn't capture something or the weather wasn't right I could easily go back and shoot. Since this was more of a personal project, being close to home would also mean I couldn't use the distance excuse to not go shoot. "Well it's so far away and I only have 2 hours and blah blah blah..." How many times do we do this? Jose (the subject) literally worked 2 blocks away from me at the time. Distance wouldn't be an issue.

So how did I find Jose? Like I said above, he worked about 2 blocks away from me. While driving I would pass Jose nearly everyday. I would watch Jose while sitting at the red lights (and boy do those Colonial Drive red lights take forever). He'd flip his hat, wave to every vehicle that passed, sing and dance, point enthusiastically with his right index finger at those who honked at him. He did everything with such flair. It was fascinating. And the fact that he did it in the sweltering Florida heat was even more impressive. Something about him reminded me of Rick Flair (yes, I grew up on wrestling. No, I am not ashamed).

The idea I mentioned above of the need to get into video started to creep into my head around this time. I started thinking Jose might be a good subject. After doing some research I found this article in the Orlando Weekly. After reading it I knew I had found my subject.

As a kid there were times when I was nervous to ask for something or ask for help. My mom, the wise sage she is, always gave me this advice: the worst they can say is "no." Pretty simple. Armed with this I marched up to Jose and told him I wanted to make a short documentary about his story (I use the term "marched" very loosely. I'm sure my palms were sweating and my voice was cracking). Jose's a nice guy and he knows his story is pretty powerful so he said yes. After getting the approval of his employers we were good to go.

Be sure to check out the rest of my motion work by clicking here!

Up next - Part II: The Shoot

James Mollison Talks Shop

I really love James Mollison's work. It's straight forward, direct, almost in your face. Although he photographs some touch subjects, I don't think he takes advantage of the people he photographs. I feel his photos are showing what real life is like without being manipulative. He has some good things to say about photojournalism and documentary photography in this video. Check it out.

On a similar note, what is the line between showing reality (what is really happening) and being manipulative (like the stereotypical poor, bloated, flies around the eyes african child)? That's a question I've been wrestling with a lot lately. Leave your comments below. I'd love to hear them.

Video: Letterpressing My New Business Cards

A little under a year ago I went through a rebranding with the help of Davis Brand Group. I decided I wanted to get some nice letterpressed cards printed up. I met Adrian Gonzalez on a previous shoot and turned to him to do the printing. He did a stellar job and I would recommend him if you need anything printed. Because I love anything that is done by hand, like letterpressing and darkroom printing, I decided to make a short video on the process. Hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think in the comments!

Video: What is photojournalism?

I'll be brief. I promise.

2:05 into this video Pierre Gleizes is asked if he is a journalist or an activist. He believes he is both. While I consider him an activist I do not consider him a journalist. He is paid by Green Peace, whos goal is to "use peaceful direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future." If you are being paid by an organization to further an agenda you are not a journalist, even if that agenda is noble. Essentially you are in the business of marketing.