Nancy Schreiber, Cinematographer, ASC
Kimberly Smith, Facilitator, Movie Games
Michele Yamazaki, VP Marketing, Toolfarm
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter, www.jhandel.com
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we are talking about jobs – how to get them and how today’s career path seems to veer all over the place. We start with the first woman ever given the ASC President’s Award for cinematography, Nancy Schreiber. Nancy started as a production assistant, then evolved into one of the most sought after Directors of Photography on the planet. Tonight, she explains how she got to where she is.
Larry Jordan: Next, Michele Yamazaki Terpstra is currently the VP of Marketing for Toolfarm, but that isn’t where her career started. It started in radio. She’s worn all sorts of hats as she explains tonight, including the key to her success.
Larry Jordan: Next, there’s a new term terrifying actors – synthespians. These new CGI creations are existing actors that appear in new movies with new lines after they’re dead. Jonathan Handel describes this new technology and the challenges it is giving living actors and SAG-AFTRA.
Larry Jordan: Next, Kimberly Smith invented Movie Games, improvisational exercises designed to enable pros to improve their production skills while amateurs can use these to create a movie without ever touching a computer.
Larry Jordan: All this plus James DeRuvo with this week’s DoddleNEWS update. The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts: production, filmmakers, post production and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, the Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: And welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry covering media production, post production and marketing around the world.
Larry Jordan: Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. This afternoon, Apple released new updates to Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor. Now, these were small dot updates designed to fix problems and compatibility issues, except for Compressor. The four dots pre-release of Compressor had major problems with watermarks, DVD burning and compression speed. I got more emails about that release than anything else to do with any part of the 10.3 release of Final Cut.
Larry Jordan: I’ve downloaded the latest version, but haven’t yet had time to test it. However, given Apple’s focus on fixing bugs within the Final Cut suite of software, I suspect most of the issues with this version of Compressor are resolved.
Larry Jordan: I posted an article about the new version on my website – larryjordan.com. You’ll find it at the top of the free resources articles page. Also make sure that you turn off automatic updating in system preferences. You look in system preferences, AppStore, otherwise your apps will update with every new release which, for most of us, is not a good idea. You want to turn off ‘Install App Updates’ and turn off ‘Install OS10 Updates.’ Instead of doing this automatically, you want manual control over when updates occur.
Larry Jordan: And thinking of updates, it’s now time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello, James.
James DeRuvo: Hello, Larry.
Larry Jordan: What have you got for us that’s news this week?
James DeRuvo: Well, last night was Rode’s annual roadshow in Las Vegas and they introduced a whole bunch of really cool new microphones. There were two of them for filmmakers that look really cool. The first one is the next generation of the Rode VideoMic Pro – it’s called the VideoMic Pro Plus – and what they did, thank God, they redesigned the battery compartment to make it much easier to pull batteries in and out. I had to change a battery in my VideoMic Pro once right in the middle of a shoot and it was just, oh boy, it was terrible.
James DeRuvo: Anyway, they have also changed the power from nine volt batteries to rechargeable AA size that you can actually charge inside of the VideoMic Pro itself; and you also get the option of plugging in a micro USB cable and providing phantom power through a power brick or a P-tap or something like that for really long shoots throughout the day, so that is really cool.
James DeRuvo: They also redesigned the windscreen. It’s a microfiber windscreen now instead of the foam, but you can still buy a foam alternative if you still prefer.
James DeRuvo: But this is the microphone they’re really excited about – it’s called the VideoMic Soundfield and the Soundfield has four sound capsules in a tetrahedral array and what you can do with it is record 360 degree 3D audio, plus mono, stereo or Dolby 5.1, so it’s like getting four microphones in one. It’s going to make 3D audio available for consumers. This is a really exciting new model that’s based on the VideoMic platform, so it has the right code wire suspension and a foam top and I think it’s going to be really cool for live events, recording of ambient sound out in the wild and 3D audio for virtual reality. It’s going to be a very cool product.
Larry Jordan: Cool. What else have we got?
James DeRuvo: … Pro adding log recording to their iPhone app, so you’ll be able to record log in 4K. They’ve redesigned the app interface again to add all these difference features. The log codec is very similar to Sony’s S-log, so when you color correct you’re probably going to end up having to crush the blacks a little bit, but I’ve seen some of the examples of the color correction done after recording using the S-log data in … Pro and the dynamic range is very impressive considering you’re recording on an iPhone.
Larry Jordan: Excellent. What else have we got that’s new?
James DeRuvo: Kodak is bringing back extra chrome film.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
James DeRuvo: Responding to the resurgence of film based photography and filmmakers who want to continue to film on film, Kodak is not only bringing back extra chrome film – here’s the big thing – they’re also investigating whether or not it would be feasible to bring Kodachrome back as well.
Larry Jordan: Mmm. Paul Simon returns again, yes. When is this coming out?
James DeRuvo: We’ll all get to sing that Paul Simon song all over again.
Larry Jordan: When is this going to be available?
James DeRuvo: Extra chrome is going to be available in the fourth quarter of 2017. We don’t know when or if Kodachrome is going to be available – they’re looking into it – but that K14 process of adding the color pigments after the fact takes several days and it’s not an easy thing to do, so they’re going to try to figure out whether or not it’s actually financially feasible to resurrect it.
Larry Jordan: Interesting. Just one other note, because I am a member of the DGA, I want to acknowledge the fact that Joe Roth is retiring this spring after 22 years as head of the Guild and ten years as the Guild’s General Counsel. He’s staying on board but this is a sea change for the Guild and I wish J all the best.
Larry Jordan: James, where can people go for more of the news in our industry?
James DeRuvo: All these and other stories can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: And James DeRuvo is the Senior Writer for DoddleNEWS and returns every week with a DoddleNEWS update. James, thanks for joining us today. I always like getting caught up to what’s happening in the industry with your report. Thank you.
James DeRuvo: Ok, thanks Larry. Take care.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: I want to introduce you to a new website, thalo.com. Thalo.com is an artist community and networking site for creative people to connect, be inspired and showcase their creativity. Thalo.com features content from around the world with a global perspective on all things creative. Thalo is the place for creative folks to learn, collaborate, market and sell their works. Thalo is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Visit thalo.com and discover how their community can help you connect, learn and succeed. That’s thalo.com.
Larry Jordan: Nancy Schreiber worked her way up from production assistant to lighting to Director of Photography. She’s compiled an eclectic list of 130 credits in narrative film, television, music videos, commercials and documentaries. She’s a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the fourth woman ever elected to the American Society of Cinematography. She’s won numerous awards and, in February 2017, she’ll be awarded the ASC President’s Award. This is so cool. Hello, Nancy, welcome.
Nancy Schreiber: Thank you, Larry, great to be here.
Larry Jordan: What first got you interested in photography?
Nancy Schreiber: Well, I had watched my dad back in Detroit shoot a lot of home movies in 16 millimeter and there was always a still camera around. He passed away when I was quite young, but somehow it stuck with me and I picked up first a still camera – we really didn’t have video in those days. … Polaroid but I did have a 35 millimeter still camera in high school and it continued through my college, even though it was a hobby. I moved into cinematography some time in the next decade after that, but I always still shoot stills and love the medium and I love black and white and occasionally still get film printed.
Larry Jordan: Be still my heart. That technology still exists, huh?
Nancy Schreiber: And Polaroid’s back too.
Larry Jordan: I was looking at you on IMDb and reading you on the website, that when I’m talking with you I’m talking with living history. The stuff that you’ve worked on over the years has been really amazing. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on that you’re proudest of?
Nancy Schreiber: Early in my career, and this really dates me, I went to China with Shirley MacLaine and this was in the ‘70s, Mao was alive and actually it happened during Watergate, and we were one of the first US groups to ever be allowed there and it was a group of 12 women. We made a documentary, nominated for an Academy Award, but I remember it was so closed off to foreigners. We had to find out about Watergate through some reporters from Reuters that happened to be in China at the time, but there was nobody from the US.
Nancy Schreiber: That was really exciting, to be there. I’ve been back to China two other times. I went in ’99 and I could not believe how it had changed in 15 years, so I feel fortunate that I traveled there. I also went to Vietnam on a project and loved it. One of my most exciting jobs, I hardly can call it a job, was shooting the Amnesty International rock and roll world tour with Sting and Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen. I just was thrilled to travel the world, six weeks of my life, and I didn’t have to really shoot during the concerts, I was more or less getting the local color everywhere we traveled, so it was quite a tour and I’m still excited to think about it.
Larry Jordan: Once you decided to become a professional, where did you go to learn the craft of lighting and creating images?
Nancy Schreiber: Larry, I earned while I learned. I have a psychology degree from the University of Michigan and I was also doing a lot of stills at the time and I have a History of Art minor, but I just didn’t want to be a psychologist any more. I am a very active person and somehow I fell into the motion picture business by answering an ad in the Village Voice, the local free paper at the time. It just fit me perfectly because it did combine a background that I had in photography and I went to a high school that was very prominent in the arts called Cranbrook in Michigan and actually the psychology has come in handy because we certainly have a lot of personalities to deal with job to job, so it all worked out. I just couldn’t get enough.
Nancy Schreiber: I loved New York and stayed there quite a long time and, as you mentioned, I worked my way up from the electric department to gaffer – a lot of people don’t know what a gaffer is, but it’s the chief lighting technician – into being a cinematographer, a Director of Photography.
Larry Jordan: Which do you enjoy more, the process of lighting a scene or framing and designing it for the camera?
Nancy Schreiber: Oh, they’re both equal. However, I could spend hours finessing the lighting.
Larry Jordan: Like every lighting person I’ve ever met. The lighting is never done, they just have to start shooting.
Nancy Schreiber: Exactly. In fact, another job that I did once, I filmed behind the scenes of this PBS documentary series on abstract expressionists and Steven Spielberg was filming Dustin Hoffman doing the wraparounds for the series at Willem de Kooning Studio in the Hamptons and I just remember the two of them looking at de Kooning’s unfinished painting that he was working on and saying to each other, “When is he finished? When he’s finished, he’s finished. In our business, we’re never finished,” and then somebody else said, “Oh, well, you can’t use green in the south, it won’t work, the cities,” and anyway, it was just a very interesting look at process about filmmaking that we could go on and on and when does a painter decide to stop and when is a piece finished?
Larry Jordan: One of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned was the fact that if we didn’t have deadlines, nothing would ever get done.
Nancy Schreiber: It’s so true.
Larry Jordan: As you were continuing to grow in your craft, who were some of your mentors? Who did you learn from?
Nancy Schreiber: Well, first of all, I didn’t go to film school, as I said, and I’m a bit sorry about that because I’m sure I would have had mentors and also collaborators that came up with me. But I was lucky to find a way to earn my living and live in New York and not go hungry. I worked in dramatic films and commercials with a gaffer – this was when I was what’s called a best boy, even though I’m a woman we were called best boys, which is the position just under a gaffer – and I worked a gaffer named Bobby Vee who owned a company called Film Trucks and he hired me when women just weren’t being hired in the electric department.
Nancy Schreiber: I also did a lot of documentaries at the time and a gentleman named Mark Obenhaus, who is a director cameraman, would hire me a lot as well and we would do these long projects where you would go to a different city and pretty much almost live with a family and Mark had a 16 millimeter camera and when it was time for him to push me out the door, he loaned me his camera, Bobby loaned me lights and I started shooting some Colombia University shorts for the students. They didn’t have a cinematography program, which NYU did, so that’s how I started; and I know both of them still today and if I had mentors, it would be definitely Mark and Bobby.
Larry Jordan: You were only the fourth woman to be voted to become a member of the ASC, the American Society of Cinematographers. What was it like to break into an all male club?
Nancy Schreiber: It was absolutely a dream come true. When I was living in New York full time, I would get the American Cinematographer magazine and read the articles about these unbelievable artists and then I got to meet them when I started spending time in Los Angeles. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, my work progressed and I was approached by three sponsors and had to go in front of a large membership committee and show my work and discuss why I wanted to be a cinematographer and a part of the ASC. Somehow I got in. It was really the most joyful moment of my career to that point, certainly, and I just couldn’t believe I was rubbing elbows with these idols of mine. I still have to pinch myself.
Larry Jordan: What’s the biggest challenge you find in finding work and staying busy, especially when you’re working at your level in the industry?
Nancy Schreiber: Larry, that’s a great question. You know, we’re all freelance and we’ll go from job to job and the minute it’s over, every cinematographer I know is worried that he or she will never work again, so we are constantly networking and bugging our agents and it’s a freelance world. What’s happened is there is this explosion since the digital age. People can just buy cameras and think they can become cinematographers. Some of them have done very well.
Nancy Schreiber: I came up through the system, I still think it’s a great way to work your way up, you know the politics, which is almost 50 percent of our work. Besides the cinematography, there’s so much going on with running a crew and making sure production’s happy and staying on budget and time. How does it work now? I still fortunately work. I think there are other issues now. As you know, Hollywood is a very young industry so now I’m facing young people coming up and working and many of the cinematographers my age, my generation are finding it difficult to get the work they want.
Nancy Schreiber: It’s odd because one would think you would want experience and I still enjoy even the small movies. Some people think, “I’m way beyond that and I’ve had this career, why would I ever want to do a small independent film?” and that is so far from the truth. I still love the visions of first time directors in particular – they don’t necessarily know the rules so they don’t know that they’re breaking them and they can be extremely creative, so I’ve enjoyed that. As long as I can make a living and go from television, which pays very decently, to my small movies that you’re practically working for nothing, I keep a good balance. In between that, I still like to shoot documentaries. There’s just no better way to see the world and I do believe that documentaries and meeting real people fuels my fiction work.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges you have, and I completely identify with the feeling of, “Good Lord, I’m never going to work again,” is how do you promote yourself? How do you market yourself to find the next gig?
Nancy Schreiber: I network, I go to industry events, I belong to many organizations. I do have an agent, I have a website. I’m on some social media. I had to back off a little bit because it’s so time consuming and I am trying to have a full life not just with work. I like to go to art museums and I like to go to concerts and I like to garden. With being on social media, it’s quite addictive. I’m on Facebook and Instagram, less on Twitter, but all of these areas are very important. I used to go to a lot of film festivals and, when I can, I still go. But it’s just never ending – you’re meeting people all the time and most of the work we get is who we know or being recommended by a friend, so it’s good to be out there networking.
Larry Jordan: What would your advice be to other women, especially younger women, who are trying to establish a career as a Director of Photography?
Nancy Schreiber: Get as much experience as they can shooting anything as long as it doesn’t exploit them or is against their religious or moral beliefs. Find a way to get a hold of a camera, find a way to pay the rent and get food on your table, but shoot anything and offer your services for free – this is crazy but is has to be often – because you will meet people on that set and they will recommend you to the next job, which won’t be free.
Nancy Schreiber: Also, I do believe in people coming up through the system. It’s great to be able to have access to cameras, but try to work in the crew, camera or electric or grip, and learn your craft and watch those that have been doing it longer, you learn so much. I’d like to say in a kidding way, but I hope it’s true, that I will continue shooting and I hope drop dead on the set when I’m 100.
Larry Jordan: So you’re going to leave a mess for the crew to clean up.
Nancy Schreiber: I am.
Larry Jordan: For people who have decided they need to hire you to shoot their next gig, where can they go on the web to learn more?
Nancy Schreiber: www.nancyschreiber.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s nancyschreiber.com and Nancy Schreiber herself is a Director of Photography and a member of the ASC. Nancy, this has been a delightful interview, thank you for your time.
Nancy Schreiber: Thank you so much, Larry, for having me on.
Larry Jordan: Michele Yamasaki Terpstra is the VP of Marketing at Toolfarm. This is a company that specializes in plug-ins and effects for video editors. She’s written or co-written two books on plug-ins, as well as becoming the go-to person on software and plug-ins for our editing systems. Hello, Michele, welcome back.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Hi, Larry, thank you.
Larry Jordan: It is always a delight chatting with you and I’m looking forward to our conversation, but I want you to take off your plug-in hat and put on your career hat, because today’s show is about changing jobs and growing a career. What I’m curious about is what got you started in this industry?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Well, when I was a kid I wanted to go into radio, which of course is sort of a dying media now, and when I was in college to go through the program I had to take a video course to get my audio production degree. Once I took a video course, I was sold. I switched my major, I wanted to do video from then on, and I ended up getting an internship at PostWorks and I worked there for ten years. I learned After Effects. That was really what got me started, I just loved After Effects so much.
Larry Jordan: Would you consider your career to be guided or were you just grabbing opportunities as they showed up?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: It was definitely all about opportunities. It was great because stuff really just fell in my lap. I ran a site called AE Freemart, which we still have and Toolfarm ended up buying it from me. I ended up getting picked up with the move and I started at Toolfarm and it was really a good time because at my old company, it was a video company in the Midwest and a lot of our clients were in the office furniture industry or Amway, that kind of thing, and once things started to slow down in the late ‘90s they ended up having to lay off a lot of people.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: To keep my job, I ended up learning how to program websites because that was the big thing that our clients were asking for – “Oh, do you do websites?” – so I taught myself HTML and that was what got me started in running AE Freemart and then got me in with Toolfarm and I started off at Toolfarm doing web stuff and now I’m back to video, which I love and I’m so happy to be doing video work again. That’s a career change, I went from video to web back to video.
Larry Jordan: One of the central tenets of your career growth, because I remember it not just from this conversation but the last time we had you on, has been continual education. Why is that necessary?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Well, in the video industry, if you take six months off things have changed so much. You just have to keep up with what’s going on. Things just change very rapidly. There are new tools available, new versions available and it’s just important to stay on top of things.
Larry Jordan: So how do you balance all the different hats that you’re wearing and how do you keep an eye open for new opportunities as you’re trying to guide your career?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: It’s tough to keep your finger on everything because there’s only so much … In the last year or two, I really dove into learning 3D programs and I started with Cinema 4D and then I had an opportunity to learn MODO with The Foundry and so I learned some of that and now I’m back on Cinema 4D; but next I’m learning Maya and most people wouldn’t need to learn all of those different 3D programs for their job.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: However, with my job, I’m learning them so I can support our customers. There are a lot of things that are similar in these 3D programs. They may call things different names, but a lot of them work very similarly so it’s easy to jump into each one. I think that’s the same with editing tools, whether you’re a Final Cut Pro user or an Avid editor or Premiere. You learn one and you can easily jump into another.
Larry Jordan: What advice would you have to someone who is finding their career treading water?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: I would say to do a little research, see what’s coming upstream and teach yourself everything you can. There are a lot of great resources out there on the internet so you don’t necessarily have to go back to college to learn something. You can teach yourself with books or training videos or just online videos on YouTube even. There are a lot of great resources out there that weren’t out there even five years ago.
Larry Jordan: So basically keep your eye on new opportunities and give yourself a chance to stay current by continually learning and never give up.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Good advice.
Larry Jordan: Michele, where can people go on the web to learn more about what you’re doing and the products that you guys offer?
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: toolfarm.com.
Larry Jordan: Michele Yamazaki Terpstra is the VP of Marketing at Toolfarm. Michele, thanks for joining us today.
Michele Yamazaki Terpstra: Thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of Counsel at Troy Gould in Los Angeles. He’s also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for The Hollywood Reporter and, best of all, he’s a regular here on The Buzz. Hello, Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Well, thank you Larry, and yes, indeed, I am a regular. It’s been a number of years now since we’ve been chatting.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to have to give you an extra star on the Hall of Fame wall here in The Buzz studios.
Jonathan Handel: I’m looking forward to it.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, normally we talk with you about actors in Hollywood, but now we’re talking about synthespians. What is that?
Jonathan Handel: Synthespians are either actors that never were or actors that once were and no longer are. In other words, synthespians are synthetic thespians, synthetic actors, actors created or, in the more complicated set of issues legally, recreated, for example after their death, digitally.
Larry Jordan: You mean now actors are acting in movies that they haven’t actually acted in?
Jonathan Handel: Well, that’s exactly right and that’s the issue. One example is Paul Walker in the last ‘Fast and Furious’ that he was in. I think some footage was shot and then Walker died in an automobile accident. They partially doubled him using his brother, who I guess is a similar build, but in terms of face and so forth, they digitally recreated Paul Walker’s face, sometimes on his brother’s body, for example.
Larry Jordan: Is this an actual actor or is this more of a CGI character? And who’s getting the credit here?
Jonathan Handel: Well, let’s unpack that. Is this an actor? Yes, this is an actor but, yes, this is CGI. This is the CGI creation or recreation of an actor. If someone is scanned, face or face and body, for a movie, that data cloud outlives them if they no longer are available or are no longer alive. Who gets the credit? I’d have to check IMDb. They’re the arbiter of all things, right? I suppose it was an easier case in ‘Fast and Furious,’ where I think there was some footage of Walker himself as well, but it does become a question – do you put a little asterisk *Footnote: Avatar when you’re using a synthespian? No-one really knows.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting because this is the ultimate CGI experience, where they’re able to reproduce a human and have it look human, which has always been sort of the goal but never achieved. What does SAG-AFTRA have to say about this?
Jonathan Handel: By the way on your preface, yes, it’s still something that’s not as achievable as having a human actor. You can’t simply animate a synthespian as realistically as a human yet, but in certain cases it’s what is done and the SAG-AFTRA agreements say nothing on this and the Union, I believe, is concerned but whether that’s going to be something they’re going to raise, let alone achieve traction on in the upcoming negotiations in the next month or two, remains to be seen.
Jonathan Handel: The Union agreement right now deals very strictly with reuse of footage – you can’t reuse footage of an actor in a different project without the actor’s permission, subject to some exceptions like flashbacks in TV series and things like that – but those provisions, of course, long predate digital, let alone CGI.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, it strikes me that there are probably two levels here. There’s the highly recognizable A list talent and then there’s the journeyman actor. Are these being treated differently?
Jonathan Handel: Well, they are. Entertainment and sports are the only fields where you’ve got individual deals and Union agreements, so they act in concert. A level talent has the leverage to put restrictions in their agreements and their individual deals saying that you can’t reuse footage and exactly what’s being done these days in the talent area I’m not completely sure, but I suspect that there are those terms. Of course, at the other extreme there are the non-recognizable sort of journeyman actor and there is less likelihood that anyone’s going to double them at all.
Jonathan Handel: But in between, you have character actors and secondary characters and so forth and they are dependent on the Union agreement which is silent on this issue.
Larry Jordan: Well, it would be like character actors like the classic Walter Brennan or a sidekick character which have a recognizable face and style but never carry the film.
Jonathan Handel: That’s exactly right and those folks are the ones who don’t have the leverage in many cases to get a restriction in their individual deal, but the Union agreement on the other hand is what they rely on and there isn’t, at least isn’t yet, any protection on this issue.
Larry Jordan: It strikes me as a complete mess.
Jonathan Handel: It really is and I think we’re going to see over the next three years or so an accelerated development in this technology and it is going to become a problem.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go on the web to keep up with this and follow your thinking?
Jonathan Handel: They can go to thrlabor.com or jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: And Jonathan Handel himself is an entertainment labor editor for The Hollywood Reporter. He’s also of Counsel at Troy Gould. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks, but are you sure it was me and not a synthespian?
Larry Jordan: Now, that is a puzzle.
Jonathan Handel: There we go.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to – doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals.
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Larry Jordan: Kimberly Smith is a community activist and inventor of Movie Games. Now, this is a game that allows anyone, regardless of their movie making skills, to create a movie without using a computer. Hello, Kimberly, welcome.
Kimberly Smith: Hi, Larry. Nice to talk with you.
Larry Jordan: It’s our pleasure to have you on the phone. What first got you interested in video?
Kimberly Smith: Well, I started my life as an actor in 1981 and as I started to work on film sets I just became very curious about the movie making process and I was lucky or unlucky to have a director early on in my career who, when I’d ask questions, would say, “Well, you don’t really need to know, just do what we tell you to do,” and it kind of pissed me off, actually, so I started to learn how to make movies and the way I did that is I just started volunteering with the grips at first and then I volunteered with the lighting crew and one thing led to another and I just started working in the industry in 1986 and I didn’t learn really at school, I learned on set.
Larry Jordan: I’ve found that that’s typical of a lot of people. It’s a lot easier to learn on the job than it is to learn in school.
Kimberly Smith: It certainly has been that way in my case and I’d gone and gotten my Bachelor of Fine Arts in performance at York University in Toronto and so I was pretty fresh out of that and it didn’t make sense to go back to school and spend more money when I could learn just as effectively on sets, so that’s what I did.
Larry Jordan: So then how do we make the transition from you as an actor and person working crew to Movie Games?
Kimberly Smith: What happened is toward the middle of the ‘90s, I was working on a production in Nova Scotia called ‘Dolores Claiborne’ starring Christopher Plummer and Kathy Bates and a few people that are familiar to others and during that time I was assigned as a cast driver to Christopher Plummer and we got to know each other and he said to me at the end of that shoot, “If I come back to Nova Scotia and you’re still working as a driver, I won’t talk to you. You get out there and start doing your own stuff,” and it was just the kick in the pants I needed and so I started my own video business in 1997 called Creative Action Digital Video.
Larry Jordan: Now, I could be mistaken, but Nova Scotia is not the most populous part of North America. In fact, one could argue that it is more rural than urban. Has being based so remotely been making it difficult to advance your career?
Kimberly Smith: Actually, no. Nova Scotia is a vibrant, beautiful place. We’re right on the Atlantic Ocean on the east side of the province and then on the west we have the Bay of Fundy with the highest tides in the world. It’s quite a dramatically beautiful place and there are agricultural areas and rugged rocky cliffs, kind of Big Sur looking things, and then there’s white sandy beaches. The biggest city would be Halifax, it’s about 250,000 people I think, and there’s a vibrant film business there, lots of film business and software development going on there.
Larry Jordan: All right, well, let’s just follow this. We’ve got you from being an actor to being in production, from being in production to driving Christopher Plummer, from Christopher Plummer to starting your own company, but we still haven’t resolved the key question, which is what is Movie Games?
Kimberly Smith: Movie Games came about because early on in that process people in my community – I live in a little place called Canning, it’s about 2,000 people – and in order to do my work I had to figure out a way to work out of my house and serve my community here. I was working with non-profits and that sort of thing, working a lot with people with intellectual disabilities, with adult learners, and that’s the social activism part. As I got more deeply involved in that, my video practice almost became like social work and people would be curious and they’d say, “Kim, can you show us how to do it ourselves?” and one thing led to another and, because of my performance background, I naturally gravitated toward doing improv because that was one of the techniques that we learned in acting school, was … theater games.
Kimberly Smith: So that’s kind of how it was born and I started pulling out cameras and sharing them with people of all different ages, little kids, old people, some able to talk, some not and we just started playing with the cameras and doing a hands on thing and that led to me writing it down in 1999 and publishing it online and that’s what Movie Games is now. It’s basically a free online resource.
Larry Jordan: Ok, so now that we’ve got Movie Games created, tell me how it works?
Kimberly Smith: The way it works is you form a video improv team. Five is a good number but you can have up to seven people and they can be all different ages. It’s really a fun thing to do when you’re home with the family reunion, you’ve got grandpa and grandma and mom and dad and the kids and even the teenager will not roll their eyes too much, and you can get everybody together and play the games and they’re very spontaneous.
Kimberly Smith: There are several different kinds of games that you can play. The most simple one that I began with is a game called ‘In The Moment,’ where you’re pretending to be news reporters and everybody on the team has to appear in the video and everybody has to operate the camera. Nowadays, we’re using Smartphones to do that.
Kimberly Smith: The way it works is I might play a reporter in one part of the property and go, “Hi, I’m Kim. I’m over here by the swing set,” and then cut and then I would take the camera from you if you shot me and then I would follow you to another location in the process and shoot you and you’d do your little report, and by the end of doing this little edit in camera process which takes literally ten minutes, we’ve got what appears to be a live news broadcast coming from the family reunion.
Kimberly Smith: Then everybody goes back into the house and plugs it into the TV and, yes, exactly that, we all just sit around and we laugh and we make fun of each other and then we go out and play again. That’s kind of how it began, it was just goofing around, and then it started to get picked up. Around that time, around ’99, 2000, it got picked up by the Viewfinders Film Festival for Youth in Halifax and they offered it as one of the activities during the festival for kids.
Kimberly Smith: After that, it got picked up by a professor of education at Acadia University, a fellow named Mike Corbett, and he wanted to see if he could use that as a way to teach film and video, and he was teaching it to his second year education students. So now there are a bunch of teachers out working across Canada in different schools and this is one of the processes they use in their film and video classes in high school.
Larry Jordan: That is so cool.
Kimberly Smith: Yes, it’s been a very organic kind of process. It’s been quite a delight to watch it grow.
Larry Jordan: Who is the target audience? Is it families? Is it schools? Is it a particular age of person?
Kimberly Smith: It’s kind of taken on a life of its own. The people that seem to have embraced it most rapidly have been social workers. These are people who want to do community building, and when you go to rural areas, how do you get people involved and sticking around and taking pride in their community? So these groups have been taking it into their communities and using it as a way to re-engage people with each other and also rediscover where they live, because the location is also a character in the story and that’s the real beauty of it. Every time anybody does this, they go, “Oh, I didn’t know that was over there,” or they might look at each other and go, “I didn’t know you had that on your face,” you know? People really start to become more self aware in a positive way, not in a self conscious way but more, “Oh, hey, this is kind of cool. I’m glad I know that now.”
Kimberly Smith: It’s been really special, watching it do what it does and through that process I discovered that people actually liked forming multiple teams and then competing with each other, which was quite a laugh. We did this in a middle school in the town of Kentville – it’s a bit bigger than where I live – and we had grade 7 and 8 kids, so you can imagine, we’re talking 13 year olds, and we had ten teams and we would give them a game, there are different games.
Kimberly Smith: One of the games is called ‘First Shot Last Shot’ and the whole idea is everybody’s learning what kinds of shots there are – wide shots, tight shots, close-ups, that kind of thing – and they write those down on little pieces of paper and put them in a hat and when they play this game ‘First Shot Last Shot,’ each team has to pull a first shot out of the hat at random and a last shot out of the hat and then they are instructed to go and make their sequence of 30 shots from the first shot to the last shot, everybody sharing the camera and passing it from person to person and being in the movie. It really involves cooperation, but they do it and they do it in 20 minutes.
Larry Jordan: Wow.
Kimberly Smith: What happens is all these ten teams are going out in their school, on the property, all over the place, telling their little visual story that goes from the first shot to the last shot and then they’ll come back into the classroom, plug their cameras into the monitor and they’re all just keen to see what they made. It’s almost what it feels like when you set up a whole bunch of dominoes and you can’t wait to knock them over and see what they do. That’s kind of what it’s like, they get really excited to see what their movies look like, and their enthusiasm grows for the process. It’s been quite delightful to watch it unfold.
Larry Jordan: That is very cool. Kim, for people who want more information, where can they go on the web?
Kimberly Smith: I suggest that they go to moviegames.ca.
Larry Jordan: That’s moviegames.ca and Kim Smith is the inventor of Movie Games. Kim, thanks for joining us today.
Kimberly Smith: Thanks for having me on. I hope some people get some video improv teams going and let’s see what happens.
Larry Jordan: Indeed, yes, sounds very cool. Take care. Bye bye.
Kimberly Smith: Bye.
Larry Jordan: You know, it’s fascinating hearing all the different ways that people find of finding jobs and moving around in their career and starting in one spot and ending up somewhere totally different. Looking at jobs is what today’s show has all been about from a variety of different points of view, starting with Nancy Schreiber, a cinematographer, and Kim Smith, the founder of Movie Games, Michele Yamasaki with Toolfarm, Jonathan Handel from The Hollywood Reporter and James DeRuvo with DoddleNEWS. The process of growing and defining your career is one that continues all of your life.
Larry Jordan: There is a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here, you’ll find thousands of interviews all online and all available to you today; and remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2017 by Thalo LLC.