Well, I haven't done this in over a year, since the last time I wrote a list of what I was interested in, I ended up starting a project that became a nonprofit. Since then I've done some commercial work I'm super proud of, I started a company, I put an offer on a house in Detroit (fingers crossed - that just happened), and I've seen Donald Trump elected, and a division in the country where showboating incivility has become a norm. Lots to be curious about, and this doesn't really scratch the surface, but it's a restart on an old habit...
1. Grand Master Editor.
Have you been watching HBO's The Defiant Ones? WATCH IT!!! Even if you don't care about music history... or culture... the editing in this 4-part documentary is amazing. Never has an L cut met a J cut with such mastery. I've been fan-girling on the editor, Doug Pray, ever since about the 20 minute mark of Episode 1 when we paused the show so I could find out WHO DID THAT, and so help me God I will find a way to work with him. Genius! Anyway, here are some tips to his brilliance that he shared a few years back, which I found in my "research" (and by that, I mean "moderate stalking"):
- The more organized and meticulously planned your documentary production is, the more time you’ll have to play, be free and discover genuine spontaneity and cinema verité beauty.
- Research is essential, but pre-interviews with your subject can kill good interviews.
- Short, simple questions in interviews are much better than long, rambling ones(which tend to be more about you, than your subject). The best question of all time is “why?”
- Don’t ask your interviewees to “repeat the question in their answer.” Besides stressing them out and making them do your job for you, it leads to boring answers. When they give you one word, un-editable answers, just act stupid and ask them what they’re talking about, as if you forgot. Repetition is fine.
- When editing dialog in documentaries, edit sound first, then picture. Sound is the secret weapon of most documentary scenes–if you build a sonically believable sequence (whether dialog, music, or insects chirping), it will work.
- If you are debating whether to leave a scene in or out of your film, 99% of the time it should go out. Editing documentaries is less about collecting and putting together… it’s about omitting and throwing away.
- Be grateful if you are able to get meaningful distribution for your film, and remember than distributing documentaries is a thankless, difficult chore in a nearly impossible market with a terrible, horrible history of financial success. You don’t have to love your distributor or agree with all of their suggestions; you do have to respect them, and be willing to let go.
I'm thinking about this a lot as I spend more and more time in Detroit, where we're looking for a house (and an eventual HQ for Citizen, our new company). How can a city revitalize an area while including the existing community, and if you are the existing community, how do you benefit from gentrification? This is a hot topic in areas like Detroit that are experiencing pockets of revitalization (and mayoral elections). Communities like Brownsville in Brooklyn are protecting themselves by anticipating, planning for, and embracing the investment from locals and outsiders who relocate to the community so that when it happens, it happens by their design. One interesting view prescribes that communities drop restrictive zoning laws that have been proven to force displacement as they limit density and building types, even as it prescribes new laws that incentivize density in new developments. I’d like to find a case for the free market out there.
3. Detroit Techno.
I know nothing about it, other than the fact that one of my brothers pilgrimages to Detroit every year to pay homage to the techno gods at Movement. But some people think techno tourism could encourage economic revitalization across Detroit, much as the embracing of country music has done so for Nashville and New Orleans. The problem is, according to this article, most native Detroiters are no longer listeners of techno, so the local roots have been replaced by imports. I’ll be visiting Exhibit 3000 at Submerge next week to learn more about the local history, and why the movement faded locally as it grew internationally.
If you're interested in some origin points to Detroit's techno sound, check out this MOCAD Conversation with the Belleville 3, where they talk about how Detroit’s experimental radio opened their eyes to different kinds of music starting in junior high, and how Detroit Techno was created from there.
NYC's Garment Center is all but lost, but a market resurgence in the interest of quality has lead to the relocation of London tailors to NYC. Perhaps we'll see a resurgence in quality makers after all!
5. State of the Union.
Much as I'd like to think of anything other than this, something to consider after watching news of Charlottesville this past weekend - The New Yorker has a piece on the possibility of a "new kind" of Civil War in the USA, and how to identify the messengers of a weakened Republic. But before everyone grabs their guns and bayonets, read this counter piece from Business Insider that makes a strong case for what’s happening out there (all the while extinguishing some of the inflamed rhetoric in the New Yorker piece), which is more likely a conflict of common national identity and a violent response to that. In other words, same ol’ same. Both pieces have the same message: PAY ATTENTION and don't let history keep repeating. This NYT piece has a good summary of events from Charlottesville and DC, along with a 20 minute special segment from VICE that is horrifying.
I do think the indicators of weakness in the Union (from The New Yorker) are important to keep in mind, as well:
- entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution;
- increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows;
- weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary;
- a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership;
- and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.
I'm looking for more thoughts on how business is replacing government as a moral arbiter and policy maker. Lemme know if you've read anything good, friends.