The Cuban sun burned especially bright on the day Katie and Seth got married, but the wind kept everyone comfortable while unlimited drinks made sure sobriety was never an issue. There’s something to be said about the exclusivity of destination weddings, cause they leave little room for strangers or acquaintances. Only the closest people will commit to plane tickets and accommodations. The celebrations are all the more intimate for it, and I’m always glad when I have a chance to be part of the that.
You never need to make a special effort to find the wildlife in Varadero; even on the resorts, birds will bravely snatch food at your feet, while stray cats toy with lizards and mice alike before eating them. And being surrounded by other people on their own holidays, whether they’re tanning on the beach or letting pretty girls cheat at limbo, brings a warmth to the atmosphere that even the sun can’t provide.
Allie and Eric had a picturesque wedding at South Pond, a quant little farm in Bethany Hills. Their day was filled with delightful details, like carriage rides to the ceremony, dove releases, and paper lanterns. It all made for a wedding film that never loses it’s momentum. Even though I’ve been working with a composer to score my most recent films, I still take special requests from couples who want me to use songs that have personal meaning to them, and in this case it was Such Great Heights by The Postal Service.
I cut my teeth on filmography and discovered my personal style when spending time on Eric and Mark’s farm in Bancroft. Back then, I had a cheap camcorder but needed a subject, they had the snowboarding skills but needed a documentarian. That’s how I gained crucial experience with editing, composing, and grading, though it would be years before I got a real camera and finally understood aperture, shutter speed, and ISO as well. Filming Eric getting married was like coming around full-circle, where I could apply all the things I’ve learned through the years since those weekends spent in the country with his family and friends.
Shot at a Jewish sleep-away camp at the side of the Ottawa River on a perfect day.
This film is one of the highlights of my 2012 wedding season. I had to end it on a scene during the first look, when Dave’s face reveals how anxious he is to see Heather in her dress; those are the moments that speak for all the years in a relationship. They’ve known each other since grade 7, along with most of the wedding party. You can easily tell how close everyone is from the way they touch and dance and embrace.
I worked very closely with Adrian from Five Stripe Studios in scoring this film. The wooden buildings and outdoor setting made me think of summer camp, so I wanted the first section to sound like an old tape you’d find in your dad’s glove compartment as he’s driving you there, the ribbon warped from heat. Adrian did an amazing job of creating that mood, the careful melodica being a very nice touch. There were also important details I asked for, like the slide guitar going from note to note exactly when the focus zooms from a leaf to the sun, which he ingeniously built into a repeating theme.
Having complete control over the music is great for perfectionists like me, but the best thing about working with such a talented composer is being able to give each couple a set of songs that have been created just for them, something that makes each film particularly unique.
I’ve been having a lot of fun making these little animated gifs, each one a moment from a wedding I shot last season. Not all my footage makes it into the final cut of a film; occasionally, something has to be sacrificed for reasons of pacing or timing or…appropriateness, and it seemed like such a pity that these clips would end up on the cutting room floor.
The tricky part is not making a gif too long, otherwise it becomes a scene, and loses the repetition that makes us believe the moment goes on forever.
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I’ve been trying to stay vocal about my needs, lest I fall back into old life traps and defence mechanisms. It means I’m still applying lessons learned from last year, still trying to be open even if it means being vulnerable.
As far as I can tell, this has been working in my favour. Otherwise, Seth wouldn’t be coming over on Saturday to teach me how to play the acoustic version of Sean Rowe’s Jonathan, one of those songs I’ve always wanted to learn before I die.
As a side-effect, it’s been a struggle to balance my relationship needs with overstimulation. The other night we smoked an apéritif in the car before spending three hours gorging ourselves on all-you-can-eat sushi, learning that the small but significant privileges of our class come in plates of bite-sized fatty protein made to order. Then we watched the entire first season of Tim and Eric, Awesome Show! Great Job, and played Magic until 4:30 in the morning.
It left me burnt out and I must have lost two days, yet it still feels like I don’t have enough nights like that, sharing real moments with people who don’t perpetually have somewhere else to be or someone else to see. I need more of those times in my everyday life, not just in the days marked on my calendar.
A few weeks ago, an anonymous person very thoughtfully sent me a track called NYC by Brolin. This person must know me quite well, cause the song is to my taste exactly. Not only that, but I’d been meaning to make a short film about my trip to New York (as well as the extended stay due to Hurricane Sandy), and Brolin’s minimalistic sound space and ghostly vocals gave me an atmosphere of warmth and wonder that matched my footage perfectly.
Personally, I don’t think I could ever create anything and name it NYC. It’s a city with too much depth and complexity to try encapsulating in a verse or song or moving image, then tie it up with three simple letters. I can’t wait to go back again some day to capture as much as I can.
I’m ready for the winter. To be reborn with the first snowfall that covers the grass, awash in muffled serenity.
Time is measured in weeks, not by the cycle of day and night, and this makes everything pass at a blistering pace. The good weeks involve bacon breakfasts and people bringing me food and new projects and Magic nights. The bad ones involve battles with my old arch nemesis, acne, and his side-kick, scarring-on-my-fucking-nose.
I’ve been dealing with this overwhelming sense that anything can change. So much has left me feeling like there’s no certainty anymore. Maybe that’s why I’ve stopped dreaming. I have no idea what to expect from the future, and I don’t know if that scares me or gives me hope.
To stop myself from thinking about it too much, I distract with all the right things and few of the wrong ones. It’s a fragile form of stability. Some days, the strings, they don’t do enough.
Singhouse Studios is a voice and performance school for people of all ages, and one night every year the students perform in a big show. This year, the show — titled Sparkle — was celebrity-themed, complete with a melange of hits from the last five decades, a red carpet runway for all the stars, and even Ottawa’s local pop heartthrob, Alex Lacasse.
Music by Five Stripe Studios. Adrian and I worked closely to make sure the music had the right kind of playful energy to focus on the school’s main demographic.
I was asked to create a promotional video for the studio, so I followed the performers to tell the story of their day, from the backstage to the main stage. I felt it was as important to see all the preparation as much as the performances themselves, which is why I included footage of warm-up routines, practice rituals, and dress rehearsals. I love to see the focus so many of the young performers have, and much of that comes out before they even step into the spotlight.
Two hours later, I woke up without any sense of direction.
Now I’m trying to figure out how to stay awake so I can be tired enough to fall asleep again. The fatigue isn’t enough to keep me down. I had a big breakfast, something I haven’t done in as long as I can remember, owing to the fact that they used to be the ritual of a person with weekends and a need for rituals.
At some point along the way, I realized it’s easier to take care of my friends and help them fix their problems. I can’t figure out why I’ve avoided dealing with my own, but I decided that as long as my distractions are fulfilling and healthy in themselves, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there’s nothing else one can do.
In turn, they’re helping me through this odd passage of time, where I find myself unsure of what to do or feel. I’ve had to open myself up to give them a chance to help me. It always leaves me vulnerable at first, but when they listen and understand and support me, all my insecurities go away. It’s a tangible love that goes far beyond words and intentions.
I’m very pleased to say that I’m now working with Five Stripe Studios, a talented boutique music composition studio, to score my films. Music is one of the most important parts of any film, and the right music can make great footage look even better.
Choosing the right music also happens to be one of the most difficult parts of the storytelling process. For one wedding, I spent a week looking for the perfect song. When I discovered it had an inappropriate line (nothing vulgar, just very unfitting for a wedding), I spent another week trying to find a replacement, but eventually went with my original choice, using audio software to take the line out.
Kyden’s First was a small project we worked on to make sure we were able to communicate effectively at different stages of the scoring process.
It made sense to find a more capable person to handle this responsibility, and I just happened to come in contact with the right person at the right time. Adrian is the creative director of Five Stripe Studios, and not only does he write the music, he sings, plays, and records it as well. I met him in Australia when we were much younger, and he contacted me after coming across my work many years later.
This not only gives me total control over the music, allowing me to choose the right instruments, tone, pace, and mood, but I have more options with the footage as well, as I sometimes found myself leaving out a great scene out to match another scene with a certain part of a song. Adrian is also a very dynamic composer, and can give me widely varying styles and genres; exactly what I need when working with all the different things I film.
This weekend I have two back-to-back weddings. Knowing it’s going to be 14+ hours each day means my brain will be on autopilot, taking it one event at a time as a way of pacing myself throughout the day. These are the last two of the season; I’ll soon get to focus on editing, which is always my favourite part of making films cause it’s the most significant part of the storytelling aspect.
Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling more like an observer than a creator. There haven’t been much in my own life I need to document.
I’ve been asking people to play Larissa so I can get a record of what she sounds like with different fingers and techniques.
Seth is on my electric strings here. No one would be lying if they said they had a crush on this man.
I’ve had a revolving door of friends and guests over lately, and combined with the fact that Bryon tends to jump on the kitchen counters when he smells food up above, means I’ve been keeping the house consistently clean, instead of going through my cycle of spotless to dirty to spotless again. I haven’t done any big gatherings, preferring the smaller hangouts instead. I keep wanting to invite Lisa and Tiana over together for sessions, or Trolley and Steph and Aaron for Magic, but the time I get alone with each is too precious to give up.
That’s why time feels like it’s passing so quickly, and also why I don’t write much anymore. I have the right people to talk to, so I don’t need to write things out to sort out my thoughts. And sometimes it’s just easier to pick up a guitar when a surge of inspiration strikes. Otherwise, I’m burning my lips on glassware, looking for the right moments to keep myself going.
I learned that the measure of a man is his ability to stir-fry bok choi hearts.
That High Fidelity is the new (500) Days of Summer.
That it’s nice to be needed.
That I still wonder if I’m forgotten.
That it’s not so much that I don’t have anything to write about, but nothing ever seems important enough to put down on paper nowadays.
That I say oh my god a lot.
That food poisoning is like a laxative for both ends.
That I’m allowed to miss her.
That it’s okay to think others are cute too.
That I’m doing the whole Swingers thing with Lisa, where she’s trying to convince me I’m a big fucking bear.
That I can’t read signals.
That it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re invited, as long as you’re happy where you are.
This day is the same every year. The streets are dead and filled with slush, the stores all closed. No matter where I am, it seems people are looking for a channel on TV to watch a corporate-sponsored countdown, and I always feel alone even though I’m surrounded by friends.
If it’s the same every year, it’s strange that my memories of New Year’s Eve are so mixed. Jocks harassing me on the bus. Bundling up in big coats to share petit coronas outside. Panic attacks. Blonds and redheads. Rich foods and too much drink. And somehow the people I love and the people I hate end up at the same parties.
Sometimes it reminds me too much of my childhood. My family hosted the same countdown party every year that became the only real time we spent with other people, and the only time we ever caught up with our “friends”. Numbers would be shouted in unison, champagne would be toasted, nothing would change. An empty ritual for empty people. Maybe that’s why I never feel like I belong anywhere on this day. It’s like I’m waiting to feel what everyone else around me is feeling when the ball drops.
Anne and Haran had a Vietnamese-Pakistani wedding, which was a delightful blend of two cultures with their own traditions and costumes. Included in this day were three tea ceremonies, four dress changes for the bride, and one giant roasted pig.
When Haran first told me the funny story of how he asked Anne’s parents for permission to marry her, he was sure to include the detail that Anne’s father was ex-military. This fact made him very hard to read, and Haran didn’t know how he was taking the news until Anne’s mom started firmly rubbing his shoulders, and this iron-grip massage ultimately lead to him giving the approval. After hearing this, I thought it may be a challenge to capture emotion from Anne’s father, but now I know a daughter’s wedding can bring out the emotions in any man, and he wore many tender looks that day.
I was very excited to be working with Liz again when approached me to shoot a promo video for her photography business. Since she does engagements, weddings, and pet portraits, we decided to film all three types of sessions.
Liz lists some of her favourite things as her hubby, her pups, her shoes, and her Apple products, so I included little bits of each to give it a personal touch. I also kept the grading crisp and clean with colours that pop out of the screen to match Liz’s style of vibrant photography, of which I’m a huge fan. My main goal, however, was show how fun it is to be one of her subjects because she has a perpetual smile and bubbly personality that puts anyone at ease.