"they say the owl was a baker's daughter. lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

This Is Room Tone

I’m not looking my best. It’s been weeks of travel this summer, culminating in one massive trip with a video crew to film my very first documentary. I’ve been living out of a suitcase since June 28, indulgently eating whenever I get a moment, sleeping at odd hours in whatever time zone I find myself, and rebounding from a terrible haircut. All told, you might see me and say, “Hey friend, you don’t look so good.”

But let me tell you. I might look my worst, but I am at my best. This last seven days have helped me to reclaim everything I have professionally lost since that fateful Tuesday morning in May 2011. The meeting in that office when I saw myself losing my religion, felt my passion for my work seeping from my body, puddling on the floor, while my spirit looked on, crushed. But listen up. I'm back.

Last week, I had the opportunity to see things, learn things, hear things, and experience things that I never considered possible. I met people – smart people, passionate people, creative people, kind people, and people who challenged me, inspired me, and dealt me hope in spades.

But most importantly, I worked with a team of master craftsmen. I was able to observe them, witness them, and was invited into the sanctum of their expertise. I learned about lighting, reflection, sound, frames, color, distance, room tones, warmth, depth, lenses, staging, motion, reflection, and vision. Watching, listening, I felt an immediate kinship with these unapologetic colleagues, to whom the details matter, and for whom getting it right is a non-negotiable.

We spent hours and hours talking about the end product, united in an endless pursuit of excellence. We wrote interview questions, shredded them, started over, reworded them, pinched them, polished them, and perfected them. We lit rooms, wired people, tested for sound, combed hair, mopped sweat, and adjusted collars on people we barely knew. A professional intimacy bred from a shared goal. We filmed interviews, nudging conversations towards answers, reworded responses, solicited for more, better, different ways to get to the perfect sound byte. And when we got it, and tape was rolling, you might have heard the director say, “Jeannette, I can’t see you but I can hear you smiling.”

And later, when I momentarily forgot where I was, and what I was doing there, chattering on about my next bright idea, you might have heard the director say, “Someone tell Jeannette to shut up. We're rolling.”

We chased the perfect shot by climbing ladders, lying under windowsills, perching on top of palettes, and crouching in corners. We waited out delayed flights, ate airplane food, woke to catch trains at 04:00, jammed ourselves into taxis with jump seats, and walked endless miles through warehouses and grasslands. We slept, sitting upright, in vans and trolley cars. Split the bill, pay the taxi, grab the gear, set the wake-up call, fall into bed, meet you in the lobby in the morning. Don’t be late. Look sharp.

It is uncommon to work on a team that shares the same, unspoken, commitment to precision; a team on which it doesn’t need to be said -- our best is the only option. My best. Your best. Nothing less. We couldn’t let each other down, because the shame would have been too great. We work this way because we can, not because we must, and in choosing that, we free ourselves to pursue nothing but our own expectation of brilliance. It's a privilege.

In my professional life, I have so sorely missed this combustion of energy when unrestricted creative minds collide with unencumbered technical expertise. It was a perfect storm. The passionate simplicity of design for total effect.

Last week, I was reminded that work can be fun. Last week I was reminded of the enviable exhaustion that results from a fully engaged mind, and a happy spirit, working in service of something greater than itself. This is why we work.

So, to John and Terry, I thank you. Thanks for including me to the fullest extent possible. Thanks for being patient with my curiosity. Thanks for letting me interrupt your every sentence. Thanks for trusting me with your work. Thanks for not getting angry with me when I walked into the frame by accident. Thanks for listening to me talk about my husband all week. Thanks for not making me sit in the jump seat while I was wearing a dress.

Thanks for making me laugh. Six filets eight buns. Undoubtedly, there should be more weeks like this.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Because You Can't Make It Up (3) August 7, 2012

All things overhead. Because you can't make it up.

1. "I don't think we're going to have a problem unless you bring the duck into the bedroom with you. In which case, pretty safe to say, that we're going to have issues."

2. "Well, my grandmother finally graduated from college and moved out, so that stress is over."

3. "That yogurt looks so good, I wish I could have some but I can't eat sugar."
"Really? That's kind of hard to believe because you're standing in front of me right now sucking on a pixie stick."

4. "How much would you pay me if I came to class tomorrow wearing rubber boots?"

5. "Guess I won't be dancing on your glass ceiling in my stilettos anytime soon."

6. "Jeannette! JEA-NNETTE! Get back in the car! It's rolling away from the drive thru window."

7. "You can now tell people you've been beaten with hot bamboo sticks."

8. "Oh right, like the two of us are gonna want to go a topless bar with you."
"What!? Not a topless bar! A tapas bar, you moron."

9. "Wow! You work a death job? I never heard anyone say that before."
"No. I said I work a desk job - a desk job, not a death job. Come to think of it, there's not much of a difference actually ..."

10. "If I leave now, you will never see me again - never."
"Is that a promise?"