Technology companies around the world spend millions of dollars on marketing media. Many of these projects rely on real people talking about their own experiences—that staple of corporate video, the talking head.
It’s important to keep asking: what are we selling? I sometimes find it difficult to feel an emotional attachment. Enterprise systems integration or managed hybrid cloud-based solutions don’t always tear at the heartstrings.
But I’ve come to realize that health is the most important product of technology, and that patient stories make the most interesting and compelling talking heads—not corporate executives, engineers, or software designers. Here are four memorable patients . . . CONTINUE READING: Health: Our Most Important Product
Lots of time in Latin America lately.
In the past two years, I’ve been to Brazil on two work trips, vacationed in Baja, visited my son in Chile, and now I’m in Mexico City for nearly a week, shooting a medical video. Everywhere we’re surrounded by wonderful faces, fascinating street scenes, huge swaths of color, unique art, and both traditional and innovative design. A visual smorgasbord, for sure. Also, amazingly, we have a whole weekend off.
Here’s a sample of the color around us. Photos from Coyoacán and Palenco Districts, Frida Kahlo’s House/Museum, and the Museo de Arte Moderna. . . . CONTINUE READING: The Color of Mexico City
In my mind, I’m Danny McCoy, deftly easing my washboard abs into my 69 Camaro ragtop, trolling confidently up and down the Strip, the wind ruffling my hair as I head for a liaison with my all-grown-up childhood pal Mary Connell, or a dalliance with Delinda Deline, the boss’s daughter.
In RL (gamer parlance for Real Life), I’m a middle-aged guy with grey hair, a little too full of sushi and sake, ambling and people-watching from Luxor to New York, New York, trying to take a few interesting photos on the Strip before collapsing into bed after a long day walking the floor at NAB.
Obviously I’ve watched too many episodes of “Las Vegas!” Like the Josh Duhamel . . . CONTINUE READING: Lost Wages: Everything Looks Great at NAB
I shot a one-day HD job this week for a Silicon Valley company … in Paris. Another shoot with two Canon 5D Mark II cameras, mine plus one belonging to the production company.
All in all, I was in the air about 22 hours, and on the ground for about 48. I did have a couple of hours to prowl around through the heart of Paris on our arrival day with my camera and director Dan Smith. . . . CONTINUE READING: Prowling Through Paris
Busy week. Lotsa time in the air:
Last Monday—Fly SFO to Washington-Dulles / Tuesday—One-day shoot near Dulles airport / Wednesday—Fly Dulles to SFO / Thursday—Breathe, pant / Friday—Scheme, pack / Saturday—Depart SFO to Paris / Sunday—Arrive Paris / Monday—One-day shoot in Paris / Tuesday—Fly Paris to SFO / Today—Breathe, pant, blog
Mastering jetlag is the only way I can get through periods like these. It’s an imperfect science at best . . . CONTINUE READING: Sky Jockey: Conquering Jetlag
News from Townsend 11, the writing collective I’ve belonged to for years, here in San Francisco:
First—Volume 1 of our new book series, No Fixed Destination: Eleven Stories of Life, Love, Travel, was originally published in July as a Kindle book. But now we have made it available at most e-book stores.
Next—Volume 2 of the series, No Set Boundaries: Eleven Stories of Life, Misadventure, will be published in a few days on the Kindle Store, and through other e-Book outlets a few weeks later. . . . CONTINUE READING: Townsend 11: Volume 1 Now in More Stores, Volume 2 Due Out Soon
Photos from my Brazil trip, August 2011 . . . CONTINUE READING: Streets of São Paulo
It’s not easy being a mileage whore. Sometimes you have to do things that don’t seem to make sense. United Airlines operates a major hub in San Francisco, and I’ve whored for their miles for years now. On my trip to Brazil last month, because I wanted the mileage, I had chosen a longer United itinerary through Newark going and Washington coming. But when things got complicated on the return, I had to decide if the miles were worth it.
We wrapped our week-long shoot in São Paulo on a Friday night—amid much hugging and thanking with the cast and crew—and had time to relax over dinner that evening. Saturday was the first day all week I didn’t have to set my alarm for 5:30, and I luxuriated in sleeping in. I had plans to meet Mush for breakfast before his 3 pm flight back home to Salvador, Bahia, further north up the Brazilian coast. My own departure for the States was scheduled for Saturday night. . . . CONTINUE READING: Good Night, Irene—Confessions of a Mileage Whore
Less than an hour after my last post (Brazil: Some Days the Bear Eats You), my friend The Dave Mitchell responded on my Facebook page: “Nice, Bill. Easy days are completely forgettable.” Isn’t that the truth?
“But,” added The Dave, a freelance gaffer/key grip, “I’m available if you’ve got any coming up.” If only!
After our tough time at the tower, the next couple of days shooting in Brazil were smooth as silk. Just as The Dave said, I can remember little about those shoots except for what we did and where we did it. I always find it amazing that I can easily spin out 1500-2000 words describing a bad day, but smooth shoots leave me with less material. That’s why OO stories (Overcoming Obstacles) are so popular in movies. It’s hard to find a narrative arc in a yarn about happy professionals cheerfully moving apace from setup to lovely setup. . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: Smooth as Silk
The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley.
My dad loved that Robert Burns quote. He would chuckle over the funny Scottish words, the unpredictability of life, and the way that plans could oft go astray.
When I was in film school at Stanford, our teachers pushed the idea that preproduction planning was the key to making shoots work, and I’ve always stressed intelligent forethought with my own students. You’ve gotta have a plan going into the shoot—a shot list, an orderly progression through your day, a list of what you’re planning to accomplish and when—and the wisdom to accept that plans often change in production. But sometimes your planning gets trumped by outside forces, and your day gets messed up in ways you could never have predicted. . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: Some Days the Bear Eats You
On my first day in Brazil, I visited the rental house with Mush and Heeka.
I brought my Canon 5D, a slew of lenses and two GoPro cameras with me from the States, but we’ve arranged to rent a second 5D camera body, two tripods, a small monitor, a wide angle lens, and some accessories from Universo Imagens here in São Paulo.
Visiting the rental house is a time-honored ritual on international shoots. The most interesting rental house experience I can recall was in India several years ago. In a small warehouse crammed with a variety of battered and somewhat obsolete lighting instruments, a dutiful staff brought out each light we were renting, then plugged in and turned on . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: Visiting the Rental House
On my first trip to Brazil in 1993, I was shooting for a Japanese high-tech company. We arrived in São Paulo and went out to scout at our client’s manufacturing facility nearby.
We met with the general manager of the company, a Brazilian who was impressed by this visit from corporate headquarters.
“What can I do for you?” he asked our clients from Tokyo. “Where would you like to film?”
“We are here to film the manufacture of our cellular phones,” they responded.
A frown crossed the general manager’s face. “Cellular phones?” he asked, then consulted in Portuguese with several of his colleagues.
“We have not made cellular phones here for three or four years now.”
Somehow, the geniuses . . . CONTINUE READING: Back to Brazil
For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with other authors in my writing group, passing through final stages of publication for our first e-Book … Drumroll !! …
Available NOW at Amazon’s Kindle Store:
No Fixed Destination: Eleven Stories of Life, Love, Travel
This collection of 11 personal essays, memoirs, and true stories from Townsend 11, a group of award-winning writers, takes readers on emotional journeys and adventures from California to Croatia to China and back, Ethiopia to Egypt, England to New England, and Hawaii to Hot Springs, Arkansas. . . . CONTINUE READING: My Writing Group Has Published a Book of Stories—No Fixed Destination, by Townsend 11, Vol. 1 of Our New Series
“Pinch me,” says Susan as we cross the Seine from the Left Bank to face the sun-drenched Gothic towers of Notre Dame. “I can’t believe we’re back here.”
We peel off jackets and join the throngs of tourists and worshippers outside the Cathedral. Despite the lyrics of the Cole Porter song – “I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles” – it’s only April, but the temperature this afternoon sizzles near 80.
We’ve visited Paris at earlier stages of our lives – nine years ago with our teenagers, when we witnessed a suicide at the Eiffel Tower and a young woman in some ecstatic trance dropping her dress at Chartres Cathedral; 25 years ago, during our disastrous Open Relationship period before we had children; and separately back in 1968, long before we met, when Susan spent a year in a study abroad program and I coincidentally buzzed through Paris on a speedy trek across Europe with my college roommates. . . . CONTINUE READING: Paris When It Sizzles
Winners of the Fifth Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Story of the Year were announced February 28 on BestTravelWriting.com, by the editors of Travelers’ Tales.
I’m pleased that my story “Wrecks and Pissers: The Bombay-Pune Road” has won a Bronze Certificate in the category “Destination: The best story about a place that captures its essence and reveals its attractions, making the reader want to go there.”
“Wrecks” is a funny story about my travels in India a few years ago. It certainly captures some of India’s essence. I’m not sure it makes you want to go there, but who am I to quibble? You be the judge. . . . CONTINUE READING: ‘Wrecks and Pissers’ Wins Travel Writing Award
On our way back to the hotel after the shoot at the Karaoke club, Richard spontaneously has our driver pull the gigantic van over, right in the middle of Shibuya Square, the famed, neon-crazy crossing in the heart of Tokyo, through which nearly a million people pass every day.
We hop out into the mob scene on the sidewalk, shooting pictures and video and gaping at thecrowds. Randy climbs the built-in ladder on the gigantic van to a flat platform on the roof and shoots the huge video billboards, ads for pop stars, flashing lights, car traffic, and human flow with his Sony EX3.
We remain parked there for at least half an hour, with no permission, no permits, no pesky police presence threatening us, issuing citations, or even politely asking us to move. . . . CONTINUE READING: Around the World in 11 Days: Epilogue
Our flight to Japan on Virgin Atlantic is half-empty and quite comfortable. Virgin’s Premium Economy seats, which our travel agent says were not much more expensive than standard Economy, provide better food, better seats, better video, and more legroom.
Our flight leaves London at 1 pm Sunday. Twelve hours later, after flying nearly 6000 miles east across nine time zones, we arrive at Narita Airport outside Tokyo, where, somehow, it’s 10 am Monday. In San Francisco it’s still 5 pm Sunday, 17 hours earlier than Tokyo. None of us sleep much on the plane. The time change has us oddly discombobulated. Our midday departure and the availability of hundreds of movies (we’re all film buffs) both mitigate against sleep, as does, oddly, our enjoyment of the extra comfort on this flight.
. . . CONTINUE READING: Around the World in 11 Days: Part 3
In Manchester, England, we check into the Radisson Edwardian, well situated in a recently gentrified, reconstructed, and re-imagined section of downtown. On our arrival night, we are just in time for a late dinner at the restaurant in the lobby, which repeats its name in an endless sign across its glass wall. In our jetlagged haze, both Jim and I could swear the joint is named Palo Alto (where he grew up and we both went to school), but a closer inspection shows the name is really Alto. Or Altoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoaltoalto.
We have four nights at the Radisson: our arrival day, a day of scouting, and two days of shooting. In all that time, the temperature stays between 30 and . . . CONTINUE READING: Around the World in 11 Days: Part 2
The low, warm winter sun slants in on the four of us as we shuffle our gear on the curb at San Francisco Airport, en route to England and Japan.
I’ve joined engineer Jim Rolin, producer Lori Wright, and director Randy Field outside the International Terminal. We count cases (13 plus carry-ons), then take a moment to bask in the balmy Northern California weather: just under 60 degrees this afternoon, on the fourth day of the new year.
We know that the United Kingdom has just dug itself out of pre-holiday blizzards and freezing snow-and-ice storms that closed down Heathrow Airport in London, our first port of call, for days. Manchester, England, our eventual destination nearly four hours’ drive north . . . CONTINUE READING: Around the World in 11 Days: Part 1
After battling Customs in Beijing, we arrived one evening last month in Shenyang, in the region of northeast China once known as Manchuria. Jet-lagged and tired, we decide to explore the restaurants in our hotel. We were staying at the Kempinski, a German-based hotel chain, and the ground floor held a Munich-style beer hall called the Paulaner Brauhaus. The idea of German food for our first dinner in China was too incongruous, but that night we found the food at the Chinese restaurant upstairs to be mediocre (glutinous and bony). . . . CONTINUE READING: Sweet Home
Shot on an iPhone 4 in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, and edited in iMovie. . . . CONTINUE READING: Brazil: My First iPhone Video
In Brazil, our story was based in Ribeirão Preto, (pronounced something like “HEE-bay-roan PRAY-toe,” though all Brazilians laughed at our attempts to say it) a city of a half million, three or four hours inland from São Paulo. Our final shoot was at the local campus of the Universidade de São Paulo. In search of an interview background that was neither a glass hotel nor a slum, our local production assistant Erica took us to the university.
The Ribeirão Preto campus of “OOS-pee,” as USP is known, is spread out, tree-covered, and rural. Driving through campus, Randy chose a spot in front of a blue house with some mottled light coming through the trees in the background, then . . . CONTINUE READING: Eerie Times at USP
I’m hunkering down at home right now after a three-week trip through Europe and South America to shoot a global corporate medical film. Our route took four of us – and 13 cases of video and audio gear – drifting through the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Brazil. Plus one day shooting here in the San Francisco Bay Area last Monday.
Tomorrow, Sunday, we go to China to finish shooting the project. It will be the fourth continent on this shoot for DIT Jim Rolin and me. Director David Rathod and producer Anne Sandkuhler joined us for the travel legs in Europe. After shooting at three locations in the US, director Randy Field and producer Lori Wright then joined Jim . . . CONTINUE READING: Continental Drift
One of the perks of business travel is the opportunity to sample local cuisines, often expanding our appreciation of dishes that never make it to the States. Japan offers delectable gustatory treats, beyond the sushi-tempura-teriyaki triumvirate prevalent at home. Paris, of course, is the ultimate source of fine French cooking of all kinds, and a trip to Mexico opens a gringo’s eyes to a broad range of comidas mexicanas. So on a recent filming trip to Shanghai, we looked forward to some good meals.
Four of us were traveling from the States with 13 cases of camera and audio equipment, the final leg of a long video shoot that had taken us through the US, Europe, and now . . . CONTINUE READING: Shanghai Lunch
Sometimes the road home is paved with obstacles.
I got out of Glen’s car in front of my hotel after a massive dose of Southern cooking, stretched, admired the alabaster dome of the U.S. Capitol in the distance, and waved goodbye as he drove off. An instant later, my heart sank as I realized I didn’t have my murse.
I had come to Washington from my home in San Francisco with a small film crew to shoot a quick interview at the Department of Education. Glen was an old friend from California who had moved to D.C. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but the warmth of our friendship had quickly re-surfaced as we spent the . . . CONTINUE READING: Murse Gone Missing