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An Embarrassment of Hubris

Island Life

In a time when I have been sitting on butt a lot while working on things in my magic computer box, to say that I walked uptown and back twice in one day is a bit of  a something. To say that I did it to be interviewed  for a live broadcast from the expansive studios of our own Voice of Vashon and for an article in the Beachcomber is something else. And to say that I did it in order to get the word out about two video projects of mine that will be screening at our own Vashon Theatre within the next couple of weeks is all bordering on something that I’d almost rather not be congratulating myself about. One of the things that I am slowly learning though about this new game in town that I seem to be playing is that hype of a self-congratulatory nature is a somewhat necessary part of the action.

Another thing that I am learning from this process is that it requires thought and articulation as to what the hell you are doing and why the hell you have done it, which is something I thought I was covering here already in this space, although it also seems that what is required on the outside in this process is more self-aggrandizement and less self-deprecation. Talking up a photograph is one thing- it is a moment in time that you decided to grab out of the continuum and call your own. A film or video project is a collection of those moments intended to convey, in somewhat the best of ways, a story, through what one would hope is a coherent and cogent arc. That would at least be the case in a documentary- the other thing I have attempted here is to imagine a visual for a piece of music, or in this case twelve songs in a row. There could be a story to be told along with the lyrics of the music, or it could just be a visual augmentation to ride along with the song- it seems that both came into play with my second project.

My first ever idea for a music video will probably continue to remain unrealized. For some reason that I cannot explain (other than perhaps I should have been listening to my create urges a long time ago) my first inclination to do a film illustrating a song was way back when I first heard the Beatles sing about an eggman and a walrus. For some reason I began to create in my head a filmic visual for lyrics like “sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.” I don’t know why. My unrealized super 8  interpretation never happened, although I  still, very briefly and soon passed, sometimes wonder what I would have come up with if I had had access to the video ease of these modern times. And then,  with the onset of cable and MTV came the actual music videos, at which point I decided that my earlier notion of cinematically illustrating a song may have been completely off. Along with my fascination with cable and MTV and v-jays, I came to see that while the music videos were intriguing and another way to become familiar with songs, my problem was that the visuals involved soon became my only visual construct that was permanently ingrained in my brain, so that was the only thing I saw whenever a given song began to play anywhere, even without the visual accompaniment. Given the popularity of MTV and their format, this did not however seem to be an issue with most people.

And so it was in these times of now, when I was asked to create twelve videos to accompany twelve songs written and performed by Ike Harmon and others on a soon to be released CD, the creative challenge that presented far outweighed my misgivings about the genre. And so it was that a little over a year ago we would meet every couple of weeks in various places around the Island and stage various types of lipsync pageantry in order to produce visual imagery for the entirety of the album which is soon to be released at the Vashon Theatre on September 30th at 1pm.
While the musical part of this endeavor involved many multiples of takes and mixation overlays, pretty much all of the videos we did were achieved in a single take, sometimes with multiple cameras. This of course makes for a certain degree of pressure on this person here to get it all right the first time through. To coordinate the desired recording so that it looked mostly like Ike was singing, we had off camera recorders of various sizes playing the tracks so he could look like he was singing along in real time. Along the way there were intentional fires and lights and drone flights and all hopefully fitting in with the recording that had gone on before. As I was finally assembling all of this a few weeks ago it came to light that one of the songs had changed so much along the way that I could not get what we had previously video recorded to reconcile with all the new audio, so we restaged what had gone before and everything happily merged in a new, updated version.

There is in all of this a reality of scale that one finally has to account for. While previously existing as imagery on computer monitors and our big screen TV here at home, I finally did arrange a test screening up at the Vashon Theatre this past week and, as with everything else, this was a multi-layered learning experience. Although it should have been obvious going in, with a really big screen and a big sound system, everything becomes a larger presence. This was particularly emphasized in the audio department, where slight variations and deviations from the established norm of -12db become very large swings in what is heard on the soundtrack. Ever since then I have been re-tweaking the sound on my documentary. I was pleased to see that the visuals there, particularly the color on Chris Gaynor’s photographs, were all close or on parallel to what I had seen on my large screen TV and my editing monitors. I am also now aware of sound issues on Ike’s CD release video, something which we will address once the Soldier Boy screening has happened.

And that is why, in part, I was pacing up and down the highway a couple of times today, as I expect to be in the Vashon Theatre on both the Greentech night of 19 September at 6pm and the CD release party on September 30th at one in the afternoon. I do not expect to be able to sit still at either screening. What will be on display from my perspective is a merging of both my early and current attempts at documentary filmmaking, along with my latest efforts to create a visualization for songwriting and musicianship. Admission for ‘a Soldier Boy Hears the Distant Guns’ is free or by donation on this Greentech Tuesday, and for the Ike Harmon CD release it is $25, which gets you in, a free CD and free popcorn. I will be at both events- hope to see you there.