Animals at Work…Like Pest Control

Pakenham termite controlThe film competition is still so far away, but it seems like there’s still a lot to do. I guess the preliminaries do have a fast-approaching deadline, so there’s something to work towards. Really quickly, as I’ve just checked the date and I only have three weeks to submit.

The theme is ‘animals at work’, and I’ve had an off-the-cuff idea that hopefully not many people have considered. I’ve done a LOAD of research on the previous winning entries, and they all have a common thread of something you wouldn’t expect, so…my entry will be on pest control.

Animals at work, right? Everyone else will be filming police dogs, guide dogs, companion dogs, hunting dogs…maybe carrier pigeons, I don’t know. But there’s a place right over in Pakenham, pest control is what they do (probably several places, actually…I need to do some research) and I’m wondering if I can do an expose on what their job involves. I’m just hoping that the judges don’t look at my entry and decide a monster like me doesn’t deserve a place in the competition, so this could end up being a risky gamble. My point is that not all animals- insects in this instance- are favourably used in work. After all, race horses don’t have much of a fun time with their jobs. Animal testing is a thing, and a really sad thing at that.

I guess both of those would be fine so long as you don’t make an entire presentation on why animal testing is great. Though maybe being that braze could work…not that it’s something I’m considering. Nope, I think pest control is something that could subvert the norm and get me noticed. Now I just need to find a place in Pakenham or a bit closer in- maybe Rosebud- that does pest control and termite inspections and all of that, and they have to be willing to let me film them. It’s all positive, so there’s no harm in asking. Might as well be advertising; this is a very prestigious film competition, after all…

-Jesse

Filming Up a Ladder

custom designed platformIt’s pretty far away still, but the Junior Filmmaker Championships are coming up…and I’m pretty keen on getting myself a place. If you haven’t heard of the JFC, then your life is probably less stressful for it, because even the application process is brutal. The final competition only lets in forty out of hundreds of thousands of applicants, and then it gets way more intense form there. SO basically, I’ll have to submit a bit more than my short film on people who look at walls. Maybe I’ll shoot something from scratch, I don’t know yet.

They’re asking me all these questions on the form and I’m trying to figure out what sounds the most impressive. What’s my most dangerous filming location? There was that time with the cliff. And when I disturbed a beehive. But then…okay. Someone wanted a promo video for custom designed platforms. They do all sorts of stuff- aluminium, trestles, all that- but they wanted me to show customers that they were the absolute best. So obviously, that meant some crazy shots from the top of a ladder platform, on a really windy day. To be fair, they hadn’t been exaggerating or telling fibs; the platforms were that good.

But then another platform company saw the video and wanted me to do the same thing, but different. And then another one. So that was the weekend I ended up climbing aluminium platforms for pretty much the whole time, trying to film on some very windy days. At least most of them gave me hard-hats in case I took a tumble. Actually, I’m pretty happy with how most of those turned out; got some really good footage and it just looks impressive. It’s definitely going on my highlight reel for the competition: some quality custom aluminium platform ladder footage, commercial as well. And it’ll prove that I’ll do pretty much anything, so there’s that.

-Jesse

Paid to Film Trees, Hooray

strump grindingAlright, here’s a project I can actually get on board with! Mostly because I’m getting paid. Not all that much, mind you…more of a ‘thanks for your time, go buy a coffee’ type of pay, but I won’t be paying for my coffee on that day and I’ll be getting experience. If only you could buy coffee with experience…

Anyway, there are a group of tree loppers who want their hobby to be portrayed in a positive light. I didn’t even know people did that for a hobby instead of a living, but there you go. Get into photography and videography and you get taken to some strange places, meet some strange people and spend hours editing snaps of people spending their time in weird ways. It’s up to them, I’m not judging.

Anyway, some of them have done some actual, commercial tree stump grinding in Melbourne and around the place, and the guy who heads up the organisation used to do a similar thing up in Brisbane. He had to quit and get a desk job because he fell from a platform once and damaged his wrists, but now he does it for a hobby and wants people to join in. I guess…from what I’ve seen of their website, I can see the appeal. They find a dead tree, or a tree stump that might one day get in the way of building or walking, or maybe driving, and they dig it up. Then they talk about how easy it was, whether they used the right equipment, all the latest equipment for tree stump removal and tree lopping, and then I guess they go home. They have regular lopping meetings on Saturday afternoons, so that’s what I’ll be filming. I get to go for a hike, talk to some nice people and hopefully they’ll actually find something to lop so I can get some real Melbourne tree lopping amateur action on camera. I’m told that they generally do find one or two incidents, and if there aren’t any then my fee will be increased for next time. That’s TWO coffees. My career is on a roll, clearly.

-Jesse

Photography project: Part II

aluminium window replacementsIt’s been several weeks now since I begun to take photography seriously. While film has, is, and always will be my first love, there’s something hauntingly beautiful about the silent passage of life as captured in a snapshot. By no means do I profess to be an expert in photography, at the most I’m an amateur with a high quality camera, but I feel that branching out into other fields is crucial for my own personal development.

I know I’ve talked before on this blog about taking seemingly mundane things – a leaf on the pavement, a ladder against a brick wall – and transforming them into works of art. As in my ambitions for my documentaries, I want to show the raw and powerful nature of the forces around us that we see passively but largely fall below our collective consciousness.

In a part of what I hope will be my industrialist series, I found a house with the most incredible windows. By that, I mean these windows are completely dilapidated, but for my purposes, it is absolutely perfect. The need for aluminium window repairs on these Melbourne windows is so authentic, such a pure reflection of life and so full of unspoken meaning. It’s incredible that a building can capture such a strong sense of abandonment and isolation.

I feel that, if I do it correctly, I can get people to resonate as strongly with these seemingly ordinary objects and sights the way I do. That, through the lens of the camera, I can make others see the wonder and complexity in the world that I see. It’s such power and such a privilege.

I have a problem, though. I have a sneaking suspicion that the house has been sold, meaning that in all likelihood, the new owners will install replacement windows. Melbourne could really benefit from preserving relics from the past, like my abandoned house.

A dramatic composition

melbourne aluminium traysOver the last few months, I’ve been getting more and more into photography. A friend of mine is working professionally, and I went with him to one of his gigs, just to help out. While I was there, though, I started getting really interested in what he was doing – the intricacies of the whole thing – and so I got him to show me a couple of things afterwards. After a lot of experimenting, I’ve found the most incredible new aesthetic. I think I could really make it my signature look and, miraculously, I stumbled across it almost completely by accident.

I was walking to work about two weeks ago when I sauntered past two utes parked, one slightly further forward than the other, parallel with a brick wall. Immediately, I saw something special about the composition of those aluminium trays. Melbourne has lots of different things that are all incredible in their own right that I guess I could have chosen to photograph, but I didn’t. Instead, looking at the way they were set up – thoughtlessly yet strikingly – I grabbed my camera and began to take pictures, hesitatingly at first and then with more confidence, the scene before me.

After that moment, that bubble in time where my creative energy took control, I continued through the day at work but spent every moment waiting until I could get home and have a look at the pictures properly, on my computer. The result was beyond my wildest hopes. With a bit of editing, the pictures looked amazing. With just a glint of the aluminium toolboxes showing from inside the ute, the composition and contrast between the metal and the brick was almost overwhelmingly indicative of the proletariat society we’ve moved away from in recent decades. A remnant from a time we’re in danger of losing. A transition through time, captured forever in my lens.

Modern Art Plus Therapy

oxygen therapyBecause I’m a photographer/videographer, people ask me all the time what I think of modern art. My opinion: not all that much. It’s mostly really pretentious stuff that places all the onus on the viewer, thus sparing you from having any talent. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, can paint a canvas blue and put a white stripe in the middle. Anyone can mess up a bed and call it ‘a beautiful representation of primitive chaos’. Art takes talent. Fact.

Though I guess you can never really know how much talent goes into something…and the passion of the creator is important. I went to an exhibit recently that showcased a lot of modern photography, with one that capitalized on all that modern oxygen stuff people are doing. ‘Oxygen Therapy: Melbourne Medicine’, it was called. I really connected with it in the end, even though at first glance it was kind of odd. So you’ve got a man inside a hyperbaric chamber, dressed normally, reading a book. But the way he was photographed…it really hit home how science has crafted this way of taking in something that we desperately need, in such a casual way. You can’t see the oxygen, but the shot made the tanks and equipment really prominent. It was the same across the whole gallery: people in glass cases, surrounded by the gas they need to live, doing ordinary things. It was the mundane meeting a sort of invisible technological mastery. Really fascinating, even though the uninitiated might just look at some people in glass tanks and think it’s just an amusing set-piece.

Basically, it was a fusion of technology and art in a way you don’t often see, and it gained my respect. It also didn’t seem like it was too much of an advertisement, either. The people were going about their lives, very normal and serene, except they happened to be getting oxygen therapy. Melbourne exhibits are usually pretty interesting, but I found this one genuinely inspiring.

-Jesse

Don’t Ask Me to Film Your Wedding

wedding videoAs soon as you make it vaguely known that you have a camera, people start making requests like you wouldn’t believe.

‘Could you come and film my daughter’s sixth birthday party?’ I don’t know your daughter, that would be pointless and she’s not going to remember it anyway. Also, the whole ‘amateur home video’ feel just really works best for home videos, don’t you think?

‘Can you make a video promoting my dance troupe? We meet in Drouin’. Um, no.

‘Could you film our wedding??’ Oh boy, I get this a lot, so I might as well say it here: I don’t do wedding videography. Melbourne has plenty of people who’ll happily do that for you, but since I’m not registered as a business, I can’t be paid for it. Oh, and I’d need to be paid. It’s a passion, but people just don’t grasp the magnitude of filming a wedding. There’s pre-planning, meetings and the rehearsal. You have to show up early, be constantly vigilant for anything that might be happening. You have to go along to the reception and mostly not eat any food, which videoing people doing that. You have to speeches from people you neither know nor care about, and sometimes they’re terrible.  And then, once that very long day is over, you have to go and edit every single hour of footage, painstakingly crafting it into something that you hope the happy couple will enjoy. And then sometimes, they don’t!

You expect me to do that without getting paid? I’m sorry, this isn’t me being cold; it’s just practical. You wouldn’t ask a friend to do that mountain of work, so don’t go asking me. I really hate saying no as well…but I know people in Melbourne that do wedding video, they’re good at it…and in fact I can point you to multiple companies, so you have an option. And yes, you might have to pay them something for their time. That’s really how business works, sadly.

-Jesse

Medicine Flipped: Dry Needling and More

trigger point needlingI’m currently working on a side project that I’ve had shelved for a while. A few years ago a friend of mine suffering from terrible back pain told me about a new treatment method his doctor had recommended; trigger point dry needling. He said it was the best pain killer he has ever had. It got me thinking about alternative medicine and complementary pain therapies. A lot of people brush it all off as hoo-ha but there must be some sense to it, it’s a growing industry gaining more and more believers by the minute. I tried to speak to doctors that were qualified in delivering dry needling and it seemed many of them had been on the same trigger point dry needling courses. This got me off topic a little and I started planning segments about the culture of medics, and the social circles they move in. Another shelved idea. I tried to get access to patients that had undergone dry needling treatment but this wasn’t easy. Patient information is obviously highly confidential and I wasn’t able to get anything directly from osteopaths and chiropractors. So I went through my friend. First off, he himself had received treatment, and he belongs to various dry needling patient forums where people discuss their recoveries and treatment paths. I managed to get quite a few people to talk to me and it seemed the general response was overwhelmingly positive. I even managed to get some footage of dry needling courses happening in Melbourne. The training is extremely thorough and all the doctors I spoke to said they didn’t hesitate at all about offering dry needling as pain relief. I am hoping to make the entire film seem like a treatment path. I am starting with some stories of patients suffering with ongoing muscular pain, and then building in the doctor’s training and then finally, the closing scenes will be of success stories after treatment.

Fashion and makeup around the world

beauty therapy coursesBeauty is a construction. This is the thesis I intend to purport in my next feature documentary film. I plan on showing this as I explore the aesthetics of various cultures, starting with the west and moving through each continent. There is no such thing as beauty — it’s purely invented and culturally dependent. How else could you explain one thing being considered extremely attractive in one culture and not in another?

The beginning of the documentary takes place in beauty therapy courses in Melbourne, where I interview students about their perceptions of beauty. Here we can expect to hear attitudes which echo our mainstream Western cultural ideals, for instance, the idea that tall and thin is beautiful, a healthy tan and minimal hair. You can see from all the services that beauty therapists and makeup artists offer that they are based on these ideals. By contrast, go across the globe where, in Latin America, women are expected to be more curvaceous and voluptuous. Even their fashion is markedly different. Where in the west our models where sleek streamlined designs down the catwalk, latin models strut in their vibrantly coloured garb. In central asia, especially Uzbekistan, monobrows are considered extremely beautiful and women who cannot grow them actually draw them on. Moving to Japan, women are naturally quite tan according to the Western beauty ideal, however many of them use skin whitening soaps, because paleness is considered beautiful. I’m sure the students at beauty therapy courses in Brisbane would be utterly shocked to hear this! Paleness in the west signifies unhealthiness, staying indoors and being antisocial. Women who have a healthy sunkissed glow are considered more bubbly and outgoing, and thus more attractive.

Inspiration from Childhood

outboard motor repairOne of my main inspirations- if one I don’t talk about too often- was the old show from the 1960s, Black-Ray. It was one of those super-marionette shows, with puppet people and a whole boatload of practical effects, because this was well-before CGI was a viable option. People were just forced to be more creative back then, which I love; and then they had to be even MORE so because all the actors were puppets. No highly-choreographed kung-fu for them; the effects, surroundings, sets, music and such had to do most of the work.

Anyway, Black-Ray was set around the docks of Melbourne, where outboard motor servicing guy Roy Squall would be called away to his secret government job piloting the high-tech underwater vehicle, Black-Ray. There was this group of underwater merpeople causing trouble every week, as merpeople do, and Black-Ray was the only line of defence against them taking over the surface world. Even though they were basically fish.

Yeah, so it was pretty dumb. But I really liked how Roy Squall was just an ordinary boat mechanic doing his job so well that he was picked by a government agency. He wasn’t a Gary Stu, either, often showing his flaws and lack of special skills since he wasn’t brought up as a secret underwater agent like his teammates. He was the everyman, I guess, and a really good example of one. I used to think (as a kid) that if I did my job really well, I’d be picked for a life of adventure. Not so sold on that idea now, but it’s still a guiding principle. And I guess anything that causes you to do your job well is good.

I have an idea for a film project now: a Black-Ray fan-film. Just a bit of indulgence on my part, and I have some contacts in the Melbourne outboard motor repair industry who can really make it happen. All practical effects, of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

-Jesse