Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Media for Change Career Thus Far

My biggest challenge in starting this media for change career is sustaining myself. I mentioned before that I was working in commercial television, mostly Viacom, and I was turning out stuff like this:

(That guy who wins a bunch of money and gets flown to NYC is a silhouette of me)

Here's another of some footage that I shot at Coney Island:

They were fun to make in a high pressure kind of way and I got paid for working on them, but they are primarily advertisements dressed up in eye candy. I wanted to create videos with more substance so I worked on an a PBS American Masters on Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. I also edited this for the United Nations High Commission for Refuges:

I believe they're speaking in Kirundi.

These are exactly the types of projects that I want to work on. The problem is that they usually have non-existent budgets and long lines of interns and volunteers eager to work for free so this has my pro bono side work. I want to make a career out of this kind of stuff, but I'm having trouble figuring out just how to do it full time with without a trust fund.

Last year, I came close to getting paid to do documentaries. I got a year long grant from AmeriCorps to be a disaster responder for the American Red Cross in Greater New York. It was an incredible experience. New York City gets on eight fires on average a day and the Red Cross goes to each of them to provide emergency shelter and financial aid. My primary role was to report to disasters, but along the way I got the Red Cross to buy a cheap 3CCD camera. I made a DVD based on interviews from an international symposium on terrorism. I also shot some footage while working on a flood relief job and created this documentary:

The Red Cross Nor'Easter movie was kind of a break through for me. I was working with a humanitarian organization, feeling like I was making a difference, and when I had a chance I would crack a few shots with my camera to illustrate the nature of the disaster and the importance of the work that we were doing.

I've decided to up the ante. I've applied to the Peace Corps. I was nominated for a Public Health program in Francophone, Sub-Saharan Africa. I was supposed to deploy in Septembe. It's practically December and I'm still in the US. The Peace Corps is a government organization under the ominous umbrella of the US Department of State. My application has been slowly moving through the bureaucracy for almost a year and a half now. At this point I think it's lost just about all momentum. It's gotten so bad that I wrote to my hometown, Congresswoman Heather Wilson NM-R. She's pretty conservative (Karl Rove pat Wilson commended for her gung-ho support for the Iraq War when he was recently interviewed by Charlie Rose), but I'm told that she's like the Godfather when it comes to constituent services.

I've been thinking about doing it since I got out of college. I decided at that point that it was the scariest thing I could possibly think of doing and so I decided to pursue it. Living and working in a developing country for two years and three months would give me insight into culture, life, and international issues in a way that being a tourist could not. However, keeping up with my video projects could potentially be difficult in a village without electricity. The Peace Corps are sending me out there to work on hygiene and HIV/AIDS awareness, not cameras and videotapes. In a situation like this where the location is remote and resources are limited, making movies will have to be an independent endeavor and it's going to take a lot of resourcefulness and ingenuity on my part.

That got me thinking. If I'm going to be on my own when it comes to filmmaking, why not be completely independent. For that I'm going to need a Plan B.