Friday, 19 October 2012

Sinking, swimming, flying, climbing .... (AKA "Green Screen Adventures in Chicago")

Bummed out I havent updated this for a while. I'll try and explain:

Apart from the beauty of the city itself, my two weeks in Chicago were, honestly, something I'd rather forget. When I started learning photography it felt like flying. When I started this trip it felt like swimming. In Chicago I was climbing a rock face.

After a few days in Chicago I hired a space to film an interview and picked up all the gear - doing my first green screen. All went swimmingly well until I was about to turn the camera on and it started raining. Wouldn't be that bad but the rain was hitting the outside of a huge air conditioner and it sounded like a drum > no interview.

My interviewee was fine about it but left without bothering to offer to help pack up or give me a lift, so I packed up and called a cab. It was raining so it took ages to come, meanwhile the hire place was waiting (doing overtime) for me to bring the stuff back. I eventually told him to go home.

Cab came, the hostel (thankfully) stored the gear; next morning I took it back by taxi and the owner said he'd charge me an extra $35 for keeping his guy doing overtime and not having returned the gear. The studio had already cost $90 and the gear $120 + taxi $60.

After dropping the gear off the cab took me to my next interviewee to film, but he was changing his mind so I had to spend two hours trying not to emotionally blackmail into doing it, but trying to to give up on him either. I left with no interview but a maybe for when I returned in Dec.

Spent a few days trying to find an alternative venue for my last interview - got something that was slightly dubious: hot and stuffy and people walking past and dogs barking .. but it all went fine, except for a slight echo - hopefully I can take that out in post production. The interviewee was awesome - I talked about her in my blog before. But altogether those two weeks had cost me $1000 USD, for just one interview.

I did, however, work out how to take photographs of the Assyrian reliefs in the Oriental Institute without having to go through official hoops, so that will save me some dosh and stress. Anyone heard of a "string tripod"? No, me neither. A hokey DIY method of taking photos without an actual tripod. But if it works, all good.

And the green screening was fun, if exhausting setting up all the lights and screen. But I think I did well. Well, that's the story I told myself.

So back to Toronto to lick my wounds. I feel ok now; it's really nice being back. I missed the hostel and Toronto. The hostel owners have opened their new French cafe and I have been patronising it with great kindness and generosity on my part.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Chicago getaway

Taking the photos at the Oriental Institute was amazing - it was a recon for when I come back and use my tripod (museum closed, security guard, lot of palaver). But even without the tripod the results were great.

I got lost coming home at night on the trains so had to walk for miles and earlier tripped on a footpath and fell on my face, so next day was too tired to do anything. It also might have been the end of a head cold, not enough iron, my dairy allergy, I dunno. Annoying, and the next day was similar.

I do find Chicago a bugger to get around, unless you take lots of taxis. I have all my gear and the trains often only have stairs, and in the centre of town the system is quite complex. Not like Toronto which is simple and centralised.

Last night I stayed at a Holiday Inn hotel c/o an air miles voucher, which had an amazing view out over an older part of the central city (see photo).

Am now at the last hostel for the Chicago trip, returning on Thurs. It hasn't been amazingly productive, an interviewee has postponed twice, another we were both two tired (after 2hrs on the trains getting there). And tiredness and the weather has cut out extra filming. But hopefully I'll get the interviews done. Its a bit tight - it will be 4 shoots in 5 days, one the day after I get back to Toronto.

As I was walking to a supermarket just before I freaked out when I walked past this skeleton in a doorway (below). I wish we did that kind of stuff in NZ. Flag the trick or treating.

They also have these amazing pumpkins that are perfect for carving up to make those lanterns. Fat, round and truly orange.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Layover - Buffalo, New York

The train trip was eventful, kind of. I didn't realize there was a 10 1/2 hr layover in Buffalo when I booked the ticket, but I thought oh well an opportunity to check out Buffalo. When I lived in Canada it had the reputation of being a bit of a hole. So I could prove it or not.

After the train arrived in Buffalo I set off for a walk and saw the cute decorations for fall and Halloween (pumpkins are usable for both) and took a couple of photos. After one place with an American flag out the front a guy comes barreling out: "Excuse me!! My security camera just caught you ...! " blah blah. After I explained and showed him my photos he cooled off, but it reminded me - oh this is America.

(Bingo seemed to be a big thing in those parts, it even has its own newspaper, the 'Bingo Bugle' "celebrating the Bingo lifestyle").

When I got back to the train station I found I had lost my ticket for the trip from Buffalo to Chicago. No biggie - I asked if I could get it printed out again. No, I have to pay for another seat. I called a 1-800 number to ask if there was any way they'd let me on, I had a confirmation email with a booking reference and everything! No, with a 'paper ticket' as opposed to an e-ticket there was no replacement. Hard to believe - can they really do that?

So just pay for another ticket ($85) but the problem was I had put money into my travel card and it took 2-3 days to come through. As far as I knew my card only had nothing in it - I had one more day to go and a $10 note. Sweating it a bit, and not loving the idea of another 24 hrs in Buffalo, I waited until the train was nearly due and I tried to purchase the ticket. Yah, thank the lord.

(BTW there were some Amish at the Buffalo station. I have never seen any in real life so that was great. Their clothes are amazing, the young girls look like they are out of a Vermeer painting with their translucent white caps. When I was walking behind them getting on the train, it was dark, and it felt like I was in a holocaust movie, with their long gathered dresses, shawls and covered heads. Oddly enough there was also a female dwarf at the station and one of the Amish girls kept staring at her. So it was like one oddity checking out another).

Got on the train - last person, a habit of mine, to find the only seat left was the worst: underneath a really bright light and in front of doors which opened frequently with a cold blast. It was a night train (midnight to 9am) and no blankets. The girl next to me and I sweated it out, or huddled really, until the female conductor offered us her seats. The kindness of strangers.

The rest of the trip was great, slept. The girl next to me was a cute dyke (could be making an assumption but I'm pretty sure I saw a girl on her iPhone screen), the honest down-to-earth type.

Spent 2 hrs getting lost on the Chicago subway (trying to save on a cab fare) and couldn't get off with my luggage at some (too many people).

Finally got to my hostel so tired I ignored everybody in my room and went to sleep.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Going back to Chicago tomorrow for a week to finish off a some interviews I didn't get time for when I was there. Will be nice to see some of the people I met there again. Hoped to photograph the Assyrian reliefs at the Oriental Institute but I have to book further ahead. It's been difficult organising that one - the woman definitely isn't that partial to my cause - I quote: "Filming is highly disruptive to the running of the Museum". But when it come to that kind of thing I tend to be like a dog with a bone. She also spoke about a $600 fee, but as its for "commercial use" I am going to try to argue that one.

The photos will be fantastic though - the reliefs are amazing, so it will be worth it.

Finally heard about the interview on Washington DC with the US State Dept, she said no, after three months of trying. I do wonder if it is a tactic - ignore and don't reply until finally you can say too much time has passed. I am disappointed, it would have been good. I'll just have to use a static image and text for her statements.

Going by train to Chicago - never been on a long train trip in Nth America before, so it will be an adventure.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

I had a dream ...

Of one day getting it together to have real go at Super 8 mm film, or at least incorporate some footage into my doco. So I signed up for this short course and went to the first of two afternoons. Could never get this in NZ cos you can't buy the film anymore. But here they have a whole film festival of it, god darn it.

Was very cool to do this tho the teacher (he's made over 300 Super 8mm films) was more interested in experimental effects - like swinging the camera round on the end of a wire - rather than something more narrative, which is what I was hoping for, but still.

It's funny it's so lo-tech to everything we have now, clunky and awkward, you have to slow down a bit.

(But I have just found an iPhone/iPad App called iSupr8 - makes Super 8-like movies complete with flicker, grain and scratches).

So here we have the Nizo 561...