Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Process

Resident chickens at 20 Coop.

Since Thursday, the iBeat Reporting team has spent the majority of its time in front of the computers in the arctic chill of room 653.  We've spent long nights capturing, editing, re-capturing, and re-editing.

The process has been like brushing out a serious knot in  tangled head of hair.  There are so many tiny details in the editing process that you just have to keep combing through the sequences until it's perfectly smooth.  With two days left until we go live, I feel like my video has just some mild frizz (Final Cut and its finicky text feature- blast!) to take care of before it's a stylish do.

Also, still have to edit my voxpops (curses to them!!!), additional b-roll, the audio component, the written story... oh, it never ends.

I think it was Adrian who said, "You never finish a project.  You just abandon it."  It's true- we could go forever tweaking material and adding new multimedia components.  But we're down to the line now.  I think it was Adrian who also said, "It's good to have a goal."

I say, "It's good to have a vacation."

I've seen bits of my team members work and I'm feeling very optimistic about all of this.  It's going to be spectacular and worth every second of bloodshot-late-night-work.

Monday, 8 June 2009

On the Farm

Hugh and Hanna of the Threshold Farm were kind enough to share their home and their farm with me this weekend as I chased everyone around with the camera.  I was a media magnet- pulling in every image and sound I possibly could.

It was only a couple of days but it felt like a week or two.  I could ramble on about all the sights and sounds of my farm adventure, but that's what the iBeat multimedia explosion is for.  So instead here's a brief summary of the highlights:

Day One- Thursday June 4th (my birthday)
-Took a train from Penn Station to Hudson, NY.  Realized travel by rail is my new favorite mode of transportation.   
-Arrived in Hudson and  met up with Hanna who drove me to the farm in the village of Philmont.
-Greeted by a juvenile water gun firing squad upon my arrival
-Made hay, took photos, saw a turtle, learned how to thin apples, ran from a peacefully sleeping black snake, walked around in cow crap
-Had a very energetic discussion with Hugh about the politics of food production
-Canned chutney
-Met the WWOOFers 

Day Two- Friday June 5th
-woke up at the crack of dawn (approx. 6:30)
-filmed the WWOOFers having breakfast
-did Hanna a favor by making sure the kids got on the school bus while she and Hugh prepared bunches of vegetables for the CSA pickup
-hiked a mile or so to the farm (the house is in the village away from the actual farm land) schlepping my gear up and down hills
-filmed and did interviews in the orchard while the WWOOFers worked
-helped make lunch
-ate a giant feast of spaghetti with meat sauce, green bean salad, beet salad, and steamed beet greens: all of which was from the farm except for the noodles
-interviewed WWOOFer Andrea  a little more.
-WENT TO A HO-DOWN!!!!!  Learned how to contra dance and do-si-doed until midnight

Day Three- Saturday June 6th
-slept in (which on farm time means waking up at 7:45)
-Biked through the foothills of the Catskill mountains with the WWOOFers to another organic farm called Hawthorne Valley Farm
-went on a foraging walk led by conservationist Russel Cohen- ate flowers and grasses and such straight out of the ground
-learned how to make Dandelion omelets, Cattail biscuits, and Sumac tea
-biked back 
-filmed WWOOFer Mirabelle playing guitar and singing in french
-caught a ride back to Hudson to catch the 5:10 train back to the city

that was quite the experience.
I had to pull my weight while I was there especially since Hugh and Hanna were feeding me and allowing me to stay in the farm house.  So, I washed a lot of dishes, thinned some of the apple trees, and tried to be generally helpful.
Needless to say, I got really immersed in the story.

Now I get to spend the next 6 days reliving it all as I begin the editing process.

Friday, 29 May 2009

So many farms, so little... time.

I received responses from three organic farms that are interested in the project and are willing to let me come film for a few days. So now the challenge is deciding which farm will yield the most interesting story. Of course, there will be amazing stories to dig up on each farm (pun intended), but I want to make rational decision and really consider the logistics.

Here they are listed geographically closest- farthest away from NYC:

Threshold Farm
Two hours by train from New York City
45 acres of farmland that includes an orchard
they grow vegetables for a Community-Supported Agricultural network (CSA)
animals include cows, pigs, chickens, and a few dogs and cats
"the farm is off the grid and has no running water"- this sounds like it could be good
bicycles are available for the WWOOFers to ride into the village of Philmont 1.5 miles away
WWOOFers either camp in tents on the farm or if there's room they stay in a guest room in the farm house
farmers have two young children and seem very friendly and welcoming

Turquoise Barn
Three and a half hours from NYC by car
located in the foothills of the Catskills
owned by former residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
farm includes an art gallery space
the farmers offer cooking classes which are held in one of the barns
one of the farmers has a "raw" vegan diet
they offer the farm as a space for retreats, wedding, etc..
WWOOFers stay in a room in the main house with the family

Bittersweet Farm
Over five hours by car from New York City
in fact, I think this one is closer to Montreal than it is to NYC
112 acres where they grow vegetables and raise hogs, sheep, and chickens
WWOOFers stay in a log cabin in their sleeping bags or camp in tents if the cabin is full
Off-farm activities include canoeing, hiking, and swimming.
This farm seems pretty isolated which could make for a good experience

My plan is to go on Thursday and film until Saturday. If I go to Turquoise Barn or Bittersweet I will need to rent a car which is a significant expense, but may be worth it in the end. I'm leaning more towards Threshold or Bittersweet because they seem to be a little more WWOOF-oriented which is ultimately what my story is about.  Also both those farms have a variety of animals which will, no doubt, make for good, possibly funny B roll. I'm still working out the details with my farm contacts so if one falls apart at least I have two backups.

I really need a personal assistant to plan my trip and make sure I'm ready to go by Thursday. It looks like I'm going to go by myself which is a little daunting, but I think I can handle it.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


A major part of my story is a network called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or WWOOF. The network connects small organic farms all over the globe with people willing to volunteer a few days or even a few months of their time and hard work. These volunteers are called "WWOOFers" and their travel to farms around the world is called "WWOOFing."

My story focuses on organic farms in the North Eastern United States. So, my journey began at WWOOF-USA. In order to gain quick access to the directory of farms and their contact information, I paid a $20 membership fee.

The directory includes a description of the land, the farm activities, the lifestyle etc... for each farm. From reading the profiles of these farms I'm noticing some trends in the lifestyles of the farmers. For example, many of them are vegetarian, vegans, or have "raw" or "live" diets- details that will make the story even richer.

As for the chores, most of the farms don't just grow food. Many have barns converted to art galleries or classrooms for lessons on renewable energy and agriculture design. So a volunteer's responsibilities include planting, weeding, and watering plants as well as assisting with art shows or cooking classes. This adds a new dimension to the story as well.

Here is a selection of various chores I found while researching the New York farms:

-milking goats
-collecting eggs
-building or refurbishing farm structures
-wine making
-soap and lotion making
-pickling and preserving foods
-bee keeping
-grounds maintenance
-selling produce at farmer's markets and roadside stands
-breaking ground for new gardens

and these are just a few of the ones that stood out to me!

There's going to be so much to film- these places are not simply farms, but compounds of DIY activity.
Very cool.

Great News: I got access to the Threshold Farm! The contact person sounds really nice and eager to participate in this project. From the email I got this evening, it looks as if I can start filming pretty much ASAP. This is very encouraging. More to come as I work out the details for my first shoot on a farm!!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

First shoot

My first weekend with the Sony DCR-VX2100 and its coterie of accessories was an exhausting experience. It began on Thursday night as I schlepped all the gear home. With a huge camera case slung over my shoulder, my messenger bag strapped across me, and a tripod sitting in the crook of my elbow, I must have looked like a one-woman media gathering machine.

In fact, as I approached my apartment in the East Village a group of guys -who had clearly been enjoying a happy hour that ran a little long- approached me and said, "OH! Let me guess! Film student? Photographer?"

It took me a minute to register the correct response. Mainly because it was a little flattering to be considered either of those; but then it occurred to me that my career involves a little bit of both of those things and whole heck of a lot more. So, with a really satisfied smirk I declared, "I'm a journalist."

They responded with an impressed "Ooohhhhhh!" followed by some garbled chatter.

It was an encouraging scene, and it certainly gave me momentum for the challenge ahead of me.

The Park Slope Nacho Crawl
5 hours
4 restaurants
3 blocks
2 tapes
1 really tired journalist

I filmed the entire crawl and spent the whole time gathering B roll and interviews. I honestly don't know how I could have done it without the help of Miss Flora Fair who not only helped me drag the equipment from restaurant to restaurant, but held mics, took still photos, gave valuable input and kept morale high.

The crawl was fun and light-hearted. I also enjoyed getting to know a little about the neighborhood. There was plenty to shoot. In fact I pestered myself with the nagging thought that I wasn't shooting enough, but geez, I didn't want to overwhelm myself with footage to edit later. Baby steps.

At the end of it all, I was completely beat. I slouched over the equipment on the train ride home like a weary soldier returning from the trenches. Filming is hard work. Filming and doing the interviews and getting the story is a battle.

I kept thinking that as a writer, I could have spent the whole afternoon lounging with the Nacho club, getting interviews and chatting them up, making occasional notes about the ambience, food, and people. It would have been so easy. I could have written the article on the train ride home and moved on to the next story.

But no. Filming takes all kinds of work. Hard work. 5 hours of hard work, and the story isn't even told. Who knows how many more hours of editing lay ahead of me.

I'm sure it will get easier with time. I'm so glad I had a chance to do this before I go on my big shoot on the farms- it will definitely help my final project come mid-june.