Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Picture of 2008

In a never-ending quest to find thought-provoking content for my blog I searched for "The Best of 2008" and came up with...nada. I would have put Jib-Jab's 2-minute video of 2008 Year in Review here, but, it's well, a little gross. So, let me leave you with one of the most extraordinary images ever taken. Here is an erupting volcano which generated an explosive electrical storm 800 miles south of Santiago, Chile. Here are some other photos of the same volcano which are strangely beautiful.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Memorable New Year's Eve

What are you doing New Year's Eve?  How about catching a limo from your home to Michael Mina's restaurant for a five-course dinner with complimentary wines and a magnum of Schramsberg '99 Reserve.  Then, be driven to the hangar where your private Airship awaits for a two-hour flight over the Bay Area. Enjoy the fireworks from the ultimate skybox.  Just you and 11 friends for $25,000.

Chuck and I wish everyone a very healthy, lucky and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Part III: Reactions

Have you ever wondered what a movie would be like without reactions? It would feel more sterile, less real. In this roundtable discussion with the moviemakers and actors who made 'Benjamin Button', the talented actress Taraji Henson (who played Queenie) describes a scene in which she explains to a young Benjamin that he was born under special cicumstances and people will react in different ways to him.

It made me reflect for a minute. We are all the product of our experiences AND we are the product of how people have reacted to us throughout our lives. The popular kids in high school experienced positive reactions. The kids in high school who were on the fringe may have experienced much less positive reactions, which reinforced their status and their view of themselves. Reactions matter a great deal. And they are ubiquitous. You experience them in every conversation you have every day, even if it is just an "uh huh" of a friend acknowledging that they are listening.

Cate Blanchett says "The hardest thing in the world to do as an actor is to react." She goes on to say that Benjamin's reactions to the events that sweep him along give a lot of insight into his character.

We try to capture as many reactions of guests at a wedding as possible. This requires a third cameraman whose main task is to catch the fleeting reactions. Not only does it seem more realistic, not only does it feel more like a movie with a story, but it allows you to see many of the guests behaving in a natural way, rather than being stood up before a wall and shot as though they were in front of a firing squad.

So, the next time you watch a feature film or a personal wedding movie, observe how often you see reactions and how much they enhance your movie-going experience.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button III: Polishing

In a recent interview Kirk Baxter, the editor of 'Benjamin Button', mentioned it took almost a year to polish the film. "We revisited every scene to see how we could make it better. In some cases we might adjust a take for timing or add a bird flying in the sky from a different take, just to add that little something special."

We do the same.

"The script worked in a linear fashion so we didn’t have to rearrange scenes in post to make the story work. In fact, we removed one scene that foreshadowed an event the audience hadn’t seen yet. It was better to let the story reveal itself in a logical fashion. David is very protective of the story, so our trimming involved losing unnecessary lines.”

Once again, we do the same. We pare scenes down to their essence so there is an understandable flow of great images, great conversations, and great feelings. We strive to have no "filler" that dilutes the quality of a fine movie. This, of course, takes a lot of time. So, we are grateful that our brides and grooms feel it is worth the wait.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Part II: Special Effects

The story of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was written by F Scott Fitzgerald a long time ago. Many directors considered making the movie, but it wasn't until recently that the technology was available to produce the story convincingly. Extensive special effects were used, but they were virtually invisible because they were used in the service of the story and not just to announce that the FX guys had a big budget and the smarts to do it!

Did you wonder how they accomplished the remarkable aging effect of taking Brad Pitt from a shrunken old man to a robust 20-something hunk? Well, from a technical standpoint, the Benjamin Button character is a composite of a body actor and a computer-generated (CGI) face. First the body actor delivered temporary dialogue in the scene with other actors. Then, Brad Pitt recorded temporary dialogue that was used for pacing in the rough cut. Once the scenes were edited and were close to the final version, they shot scenes of Brad’s face performing. His performance was then mapped onto a CGI head which was then mapped onto the body actor’s torso.

The only mis-step in the film was in a scene in which Cate Blanchett was telling a fable which was given a movie-within-a-movie look. It was overdone and distracting to the point of interfering with the story. At times, we feel wedding videography filmed in super 8 mm suffers from the same malady. At its best, super 8 mm can convey a sweet, nostalgic timelessness. But too often super 8 mm just looks like shaky, out-of-focus, poorly exposed home movies.

Whether it's in a dramatic feature film or a personal wedding movie, special effects should be used to further the story and not just for their own sake.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I: Short Review

Let's just start by saying this is a fantasy that feels real. You buy into the premise right away that Benjamin Button is born an old man and youthens, dying as an infant. But that is just the window dressing.

What matters more is that this is a love story. The story suggests that the soul of a person is more important than their appearance. That forgiveness is the path to being able to put your past behind you and fully enjoy today. That only when life is in balance can you truly appreciate it. As Benjamin (Brad Pitt) was growing younger and Daisy (Cate Blanchett) was growing up, it was only when they met in the middle that their relationship could fully flower.

This is a beautifully filmed movie with a story that is beautifully told. Two of the major ingredients in a piece of art that will touch you every time you see it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Light Show

It's so hard to balance good taste with over-the-top synchronized lights. This Christmas light show seems to have achieved it.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Chuck and I are sitting on the sofa, watching the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, sipping hot apple cider and counting our blessings.  

We are grateful to have met and been befriended by an unbroken chain of wonderful brides and grooms and their families.

We are humble in the shadow of the prodigious talents of our wedding industry colleagues who inspire us.

And we are indebted to our family and friends who love and support us all year long.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Yule Log III

For a humorous take on how to ever-so-pompously direct a movie, take a look at this 2-minute video:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Santacon 2008, San Francisco Style

The Cacophony Society began SantaCon in San Francisco way back in 1994.  It has spread to the the farthest reaches of the world since then.  During the month of December, you can see hundreds of Santas running amuck in Beijing, Belfast, Honolulu, London, Melbourne, Montreal, Munich,  New York, Paris, and 50 other cities.  

There were 70,000 Santas at the Moscow Santacon this year.  There's no holding back the Red Tide! 

As my good friend Viola Sutanto (the super-talented graphic designer of invitations) at Chewing the Cud said, "You can never have too many Santas!"

Here is a taste of what a portion of the San Francisco SantaCon 2008 looked like.

Santa Is On His Way 
(running time: 3:03)
To see this l'il movie in better resolution, click on Quicktime orWindows Media.  Enjoy!

My good friend Duncan Reyes of f. duncan reyes events by design sent me this photo of SantaCon 2006 taken by Bradford Shepherd.  As the bride and groom emerged from St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, they were indeed surprised to see Santas everywhere!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Be the Judge

Chuck and I have been tapped to join the Silver Telly Council.  As winners of multiple Telly Awards for excellence in filming and editing creativity, we were among a small pool of people being considered to be judges of this prestigious 30-year old award.  We were selected and we are honored!  So, within the next year, we will judge video entries submitted by ad agencies, corporations, TV stations,  production companies to see if their work meets the exacting criteria of the Telly Awards.  Last year they received over 14,000 entries. Past winners include the Oprah Winfrey Show, Universal Studios, and the Discovery Channel.

When it rains it pours.  We were also asked to judge the new EMPixx awards, newly established by David Carter, a multiple Emmy and Clio winner who has a long history of innovation in the creative world.  I was curious as to why he picked us to be a judge.  So I asked.  He said that over the last 3 years he had viewed over 6000 websites.  From the ones he saw that he liked, he made serious inquiries about the people and their businesses from their colleagues.  He said our colleagues had many fine things to say about us.  There's nothing like attaining the respect of your colleagues - since they know exactly what it takes to do an outstanding job.  Again, we are thrilled and honored.

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wedding University Coming Soon!

Learning is a lifelong here's your chance to learn much more about how to choose wisely when engaging wedding professionals.  

We are honored to have been selected to represent the category of videography and cinematography at the First Annual Wedding University of the Bay Area.  And, we were the first professional Jubilee Lau, the organizer blogged about in The Wedding University blog.

This is by no means a wedding fair.  It is an all-day seminar filling with practical, useful, HONEST information on how to stretch your wedding dollars regardless of budget.  You have direct access to great wedding professionals from 19 different companies.  We've worked with most and can recommend them to you on a professional and personal level. Plus, you will get to sample great Four Seasons Hotel food, drink and cakes; see examples of excellent wedding design, learn how to dance, and see a runway show of men's and women's fashions.

Here are the details:

Sunday, February 8, 11 AM - 5 PM
Four Seasons Hotel, Silicon Valley
2050 University Avenue, East Palo Alto
$25 for 1 person | $40 for 2 people
Free Self-Parking
Please RSVP to Cassie Conching, 650.470.2894 or 
     Jubilee Lau, 408.235.8889
Space is limited, so please call early to avoid disappointment.

The assembled experts are:

Event PlanningJubilee Lau | Jubilee Lau Events and
Catering, Cakes and Venues: Julie Kiendra | Four Seasons Hotel

Tabletop and Furniture Rentals: Heidi Bianchi | Hartmann Studios
Linens and Chair Covers: Lily Yeung |Wildflower Linens

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Publicity for Silicon Valley Wedding Professionals

A local lifestyle magazine is featuring a wedding issue in Summer, 2009.  Not just any wedding, but a vow renewal ceremony. They are looking for San Francisco Bay Area (specifically Silicon Valley), event planners, florists, set designers, wedding apparel specialists, venues, and anything else related to weddings for a photo spread and article.  If you would like to contribute to this actual ceremony (not a staged shoot), contact the Features Editor, Erin Robison, at

Monday, December 15, 2008

Favorite Wedding Blogs

Winter has arrived in San Francisco!  It was raining yesterday so I decided to make the most of such a dreary day.  I gathered up the lists of blogs I had been wanting to peek at.  So I looked at over 300 wedding- and design-related blogs!  At the end of the day I found many which I enjoyed and which have a well-deserved reputation for their fresh content, pleasant voice, and good ideas. I've listed my so-far favorites in the side bar and will keep adding to it. Have fun!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who's In the Doghouse Now?

Christmas is approaching.  It's a season fraught with pitfalls - particularly for the man in your life.  He 's searching, searching for just the right gift for you.  Every now and again he takes a misstep.  For anyone who recognizes this scenario only too clearly, you have just got to see this terrific little video!  It's called Beware of the Doghouse and it is hilarious!  You can put people "in the doghouse" and announce to the world how they done you wrong.  Although it's an ad for buying jewelry, it will touch a chord with any woman who's ever been given the wrong gift by the man in her life.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

San Francisco Brides Magazine Coming Soon...

Just four more days until the debut issue of San Francisco Brides hits the newsstands on December 15.  It is rumored that this highly anticipated sleek magazine published  by Modern Luxury (same folks that publish San Francisco Magazine) contains some over-the-top weddings by the Bay Area's best wedding designers as well as ideas for brides of all budgets.  Mary Jo Bowling, Editor is on top of all things stylish and luxurious.

I can't wait!  I'm planning to scarf up my copy and relax in the hot tub while  savoring every page.

It's high time San Francisco had a great brides magazine.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Name the Bride Contest

You've heard me talk about my good friend Stacie at The Flirty Guide before.  She's always so full of great ideas. Now she's done it again. She's running a contest through December 15 and all you have to do is name this bride.  Click here to enter the contest.  

The winner walks away with an amazingly life-like sculpture of a flower arrangement by DK Designs.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Smell the Roses

Life isn't all work.  The other night I went to the Preston Wynne Open House where my friend Stacie Tamaki, founder of The Flirty Guide, and I received some much needed mini-treatments - neck and shoulder massage, hand massage, and so forth.  I was waiting in line to get a Flower Essence Energy reading by Rev. Maggie Smith. Have you ever felt a compulsion - you just have to have it? That's how I felt about this. So, I waited. My (im)patience was rewarded. I was the last client she took before the end of the event.

So what goes on at a session?  It's quite relaxing.  Maggie calms and soothes with her silky voice. Then, you are presented a deck of 88 cards, each with the picture of a flower.  You select the six you like best.  Each card represents an aspect of your life which either is going well or needs repair.  Maggie interpreted each one I chose.  She was 100% correct.  I have already started to restore balance and wholeness to a life that was tilted too much toward work.  And, Maggie will be sending a small spray of heavenly scented flower essences created just for me based upon the reading that will help me achieve my goal of balance.  Thank you Maggie!  

If you are interested in some gentle introspection, contact Maggie.  You can either visit her in Santa Cruz, contact her via phone or contact her via the internet.  Oh, and she also performs life ceremonies such as weddings, baptisms and funerals.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Life Is a Jubilee

It is often difficult to brag about accomplishments of which you are justifiably proud.  But then, along comes a colleague who, over the years, has become a true friend.  And, she so eloquently speaks out on your behalf.  We are lucky enough to have such a friend, Jubilee Lau of Jubilee Lau Events.  

Jubilee is, hands down, the most beloved event planner in the Bay Area.  She is the complete package.  She...

o  Listens carefully, really understands the couple's style and priorities and interprets their vision.
o  Advises couples honestly.
o  Pampers her couples but never attempts to control them. 
o  Is highly creative in her designs.
o  Is thorough in planning and implementing the wedding day.
o  Reads the mood of the crowd, is flexible and readjusts the schedule on the fly rather than having a slavish and foolish consistency to the schedule.
o  Is thoughtful and caring in her relationships with not just the bride and groom. but with their families and guests.
o  Treats professionals with respect and courtesy and can convince a "fully engaged" professional to be available for her clients.  Why?  Because she creates an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and support and gives each professional what they need to do their best.

Here is what she said about us in her December 3, 2008 blog entry.  

Discovering talent is a part of my job, but discovering Savadelis Films was one of the best treasures of my career. There is a reason why the owner's name is JEWEL! She is definitely a jewel to me, and to many, many brides and grooms out there.

If you visit my website, you will see many different trailers from Savadelis Films. I have had the pleasure of working with them on many special weddings and events through the years. Each time they send me a completed wedding movie of our mutual client, I can be sure that I will be both laughing and crying as I watch it. They are really THAT good!

If you want a wedding video that looks like everyone else's, they are not the right ones for you. With each couple that they work with, they go to great lengths to discover everything about them and their families, their wedding visions, and their wedding details. From that, they will capture your unique story, like no others.....and you will get to pass this beautiful memory on for generations to come! It's the ultimate way to preserve all the special moments of your wedding day!

We recently finished another 
spectacular wedding together at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, and here is the amazing trailer that they put together. It completely captured the tempo of that day, and is a true reflection of the couple's fun personality. Enjoy!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Behind the Name

Chuck asked for equal time in introducing his hard drives (we alternate naming them).  
Picard - Chuck is a big Star Trek fan.  Need I say more, Jean Luc?

Bronto - at the time, this was a real "brontosaurus", our biggest hard drive with 475 GB.  Now, it's just a compsognathus (smallest known dinosaur).

Gargantuan - this 975 GB drive is our biggest and will comfortably hold the raw footage for a 3-day wedding.

Pele,  the Goddess of Fire - this was our first "firewire" drive.

Tyro - a Greek princess who had two sons by Poseidon and was the ancestor of many great mythic heroes such as Jason the Argonaut, and heroes in the Trojan War.

Koko - the gorilla who understands over 1000 signs in American Sign Language and over 2000 English words.  She befriended several cats, notably All Ball, her first pet.

Samwise - the stalwart best friend of Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings; the only ring-bearer strong enough to resist the temptation of the ring's power.

What's In a Name?

We're all superstitious in some way.  Chuck and I name our hard drives after mythical characters who have exhibited reliability, trustworthiness and heroic qualities.  In this way, we figure, we are giving our hard drives something to live up to.  Here are some of the names we've come up with.  Since they are often obscure, I've included who the characters were.

Togo - The true hero of the original Ididerod, which became known as the Great Race of Mercy. Of the twenty mushers who rushed the  diphtheria serum the 674 miles from Nenana to Nome in 1925, the man who drove the furthest in perilous conditions was Alaska's great sled dog racer Leonhard Seppala. And the dog that led Seppala's team for 265 miles, including a long stretch over the fracturing ice of Norton Sound was a small, feisty Siberian Husky named Togo.

Casole - the "actor" who played the title role in the Black Stallion (1979).  Arabian horses are known for their exceptional beauty, elegance, grace, intelligence, balance, speed and stamina.  They are hearty in order to survive harsh desert conditions.  Arabians are the stuff of legend.  Alexander the Great rode one.

Demelza - female lead in the 1970's BBC series, Poldark. Demelza, a 13-year old servant girl, develops into a charming, amusing, generous, resourceful, resilient, courageous, loyal, beautiful woman, winning the love and affection of Ross Poldark.

Veronica Franco - a poet and the most celebrated courtesan of 16th century Venice.  She was a published author and founded a charity for courtesans and their children.  She was one of the few who successfully defended herself during the inquisition for witchcraft, with dignity and wit.  The movie Dangerous Beauty (1998) tells her tale.

Mrs Miniver - Greer Garson played the title role in Mrs Miniver (1942).  Mrs Miniver met the deprivations and tragedies of WWII with equanimity, courage and humor while being gracious to all whom she meets, putting the needs of family and friends ahead of her own.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let's Make a Movie

We had a wonderful time filming and creating a movie trailer for Emily and Danny who were married at the Ritz at Half Moon Bay last month.  We never do it alone.  Here are some of the fine cast of characters:

Venue:  Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay, Tony White
Coordinator:  Jubilee Lau Events, Jubilee Lau
Beauty:  Faces by Taylor, Taylor Pham
Cake: Elegant Cheesecakes, Susan Morgan
Invitations:  Peculiar Pair, Mary Beth Fiorentino, Amy Hayson 

Here is the piece:

I thought you, dear reader, would like to know what goes on behind the scenes to create even a 3-minute piece like this.

Behind the Scenes 

1.  When we saw Emily & Danny's logo, we thought it was very nice.  So we asked for and received the Illustrator files of the logo from Peculiar Pair Press and animated Emily and Danny's logo.

2.  Emily's Mom and Dad were at the second story window looking out.  The window was too blue, due to the reflection of the sky and ocean.  Chuck masked the window and color corrected it so their skin tones looked normal. He then gave a different color correction to the area outside the window so it matched the other images of the exterior of the building.  Then, he did the same thing for each FRAME (there are 30 frames per second).  We color correct pretty much every clip in the entire wedding movie.  This adds 2-3 weeks of effort.  We also modulate and "sweeten" the sound throughout a wedding movie.

3.  Emily and Danny asked us to do a time lapse of empty to full seats.  Since this was the weekend of the women's golf tournament, we could not leave a camera outdoors unattended.  So, at our own expense we hired someone to "camera sit" just to get that 3-second shot.

4.  After the bridesmaids walked down the aisle and Emily was waiting alone in the foyer, we finally saw a bit of her nervousness.  It was charming. 

5.  By coming to every rehearsal (no extra charge), we know what is going to happen and when.  So, we were in the best positions to catch Emily hugging her in-laws and Danny hugging his in-laws.

6.  Chuck caught Emily's favorite uncle sketching at the rehearsal.  He finished the drawing during the ceremony.  We were able to scale the sketch to create the maximum impact when we dissolved from the sketch to real life.  This impact can only be achieved in a moving picture medium.  A photo in an album would not convey the same dynamic feeling nor the emotions it creates.  This unexpected event inspired the opening and closing scenes of this piece.  Chuck bought a special piece of software to create a look that was similar to the Uncle's artistic style.

7.  During the table toasts, we wanted a specific look.  It was very dark in the ballroom, so we needed small (20 watt) lights.  Instead of having them mounted on the camera which would light people from the front, giving an unflattering flat look, our assistant was lighting each scene from the side, for a softer and more sophisticated look - still using only a 20-watt light.  We aim to be unobtrusive.  In fact Emily's parents thought Chuck was the only cinematographer there.  They never saw me or our assistant!  And the only reason they saw him was because he was in the foyer with them just before they walked down the aisle.

8.  We went back to the Ritz and filmed the ocean scenes on a non-wedding day.

9.  The scene where the camera pulls back from a couple standing at the window watching the sunset?  It was shot much earlier in the day when the sky was blue.  Chuck color graded it to look like it occurred at sunset to match the other images immediately prior.

10.  Because Emily and Danny are real foodies, we made special arrangements in advance with the staff at the Ritz to be able to film the food preparation without interfering in the flow of their work.

11.  We knew the photo booth would be a centerpiece of the reception.  So, the week before the wedding we spent several hours experimenting to determine the best combination of strobe flashes per second, direction of  supplemental lighting, and a few other factors which matched the photo booth flashes best.  So, on the wedding night, we were able to flash our strobes for less than 3 minutes total time.  Everyone thought the strobes were the band's mood lights.

12.  We asked for and received the DVD of all 663 photo booth images.  We combed through every one of them to find the ones that matched our footage and found some additional ones that had a lot of energy.

13.  We strongly suggest couples engage us until the end of the evening because you never know when great moments will happen.  The bride's cousin started break dancing.  This occurred after the end of our contracted time. We had packed up and were ready to go.  Nevertheless, we grabbed a camera and shot this scene.

14.  In order to know what images we need, we storyboard a short piece like this.  That takes hours. We allow for whatever will happen at a ceremony, but we need to think through transitional elements in advance to make it happen. For example, we knew we would need to film a steadicam shot entering the front of the Ritz and a steadicam shot following a couple out to the gazebo area.  So, we scheduled a specific time to capture these images.

15.  We have close-up and wide shots, camera angles that are on the ground and way overhead.  There are small, well considered camera moves and there are times we hold the camera steady.  It is a matter of knowing when to use each of these techniques, and knowing when to be still.

16.  And, we need to know who are the key people and capture them without fail.

17.  We looked at over 500 pieces of music to find the one that had the right beat and mood to match Emily and Danny's personalities AND match the images we brought back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Four Agreements

Sometimes I have a hard time communicating with my Mother.  What's new! We went to see a show this weekend. And as she got into the car, I noted she had an umbrella.  In a neutral tone (or so I thought) I asked, "Mom, is it supposed to rain today?"  I figured maybe she had listened to the weather report and knew something I did not.  Silently I was wondering why she was carrying an umbrella on a sunny day with a cloudless sky.

Her response was unexpected.  She got mad and asked why I had insulted her.  I was taken aback!  How can you take offense if I'm just discussing the weather?!

So, I went back to "my corner of the ring" and considered what I had done wrong.  But I had no framework to evaluate this odd interchange.  Later that day I faintly heard the words from a ceremony Chuck was editing.  The officiant read Don Miguel Ruiz' Four Agreements.  They are:

1.  Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. 

Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering. 

Don't Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. 

Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Ah ha!  It's easy to see that Mom was the offender here.  She violated Agreements #2 and 3 - Don't take it personally and Don't make assumptions.  Obviously, I huffed, she assumed I meant to insult her.  Always thinking the worst of people.  But wait a minute.  Was I totally blameless?  

Maybe my fault lay in not living up to the first agreement. Maybe I was mindlessly making chit-chat and didn't bring full attention and focus to my Mother.  Maybe I didn't say "Mom, is it supposed to rain today?" with truth and love. Being a sensitive woman, maybe she felt the 1% of sarcasm I thought I had hid so well. Well, I guess we were both at fault.  

All you can do is your best (see Agreement #4).  So next time, I'll do better. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TV Shows About Elections

When it comes to selecting the best TV shows about elections and the presidency, there is only one choice:  The West Wing.  The series of 156 episodes was one of the best dramas ever broadcast.  It aired between September, 1999 and May, 2006.  

Aaron Sorkin, who wrote The American President (1995), later developed this series from unused plot elements. The writing was incisive and touched on a long list of topical issues.  Critics said it was unrealistically optimistic, and the rooms depicted on TV were larger than the actual rooms. Chuck and I learned a lot about blocking shots, camera angles, and "walk and talk" steadicam movement which adds a dynamic quality to a conversation.  They had a budget of $6 million per episode which allowed them to craft a beautiful small movie each week.

I just caught the last episode which aired May 16, 2006.  It was an eerie foreshadowing of what was to come in 2008. In the episode, President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) is handing over the reins of the presidency to a young minority Democratic candidate (Jimmy Smits) who had a grueling primary campaign against a more experienced candidate and chose an experienced Washington insider as his running mate.  The Republican opponent was an aging maverick senator from a western state who chose a running mate from a small Republican state.  Holy cow!  Fiction and real life collide.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Movies About Elections

The elections are over, for the time being.  Maybe it turned out the way you hoped; maybe not.  If you need to go to a make believe place where things always turn out right, take a look at some of these movies about elections.

Bulworth (1998) - Warren Beatty, Halle Berry
A Democratic California senator running for re-election orders a hit on himself which gives him the freedom to speak out in a brutally honest way in the form of hip hop music.

The Candidate (1972) - Robert Redford
A young, idealistic candidate for the U.S. Seante from California wages a campaign on integrity and hope.  A study in the inner conflicts of a decent man torn between ambition and conscience. It doesn't hurt that he has charisma, charm and good looks.

Dave (1993) - Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver
Dave, an ordinary guy, is recruited to impersonate a comatose President.  He brings common sense, idealism and decency back to the oval office.

Man of the Year (2006) - Robin Williams, Christopher Walken
A political comedian decides to run for president.  A computerized voting machine malfunction gets him elected.

Manchurian Candidate (1962) - Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury
Shows just how far some people are willing to go to win an election.

Primary Colors (1998) - John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton
A barely fictionalized account of the 1992 candidacy of Bill Clinton, showing the "deal making" it takes to win the office.

And here are a few more movies about what happens to the men who win and assume the highest office.

All The President's Men (1976) - Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman
Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal.

American President (1995) - Michael Douglas, Annette Bening
A widowed president and a lobbyist fall in love and try to have a relationship despite the constant  attention of the press.

Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979) - Alan Alda, Meryl Streep
Senator Joe Tynan faces a choice between integrity and power; between his family and his mistress, between decency and ambition.

W (2008) - Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Richard Dreyfuss
Oliver Stone's take on what makes George W Bush run.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Newspaper Death Watch

I took my Mom to dinner for her birthday last night.  We were both anxiously awaiting the results of the presidential election.  Occasionally we peered around the corner of the dining room to the TV at the bar to see the electoral college count.  We mused about the first time we each voted (in very different decades), and how the way in which we get our information has changed so much.
This morning, I found a website, "Newspaper Death Watch", which chronicles the loss of daily circulation in the top 23 US newspapers.  In the past 6 months, these major newspapers have lost 2% to 13% of their readership, with an average decrease of 6%.  Newspapers in Houston, Newark, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Boston were hit hard.  The venerable Christian Science Monitor announced after a century that it would cease publishing a weekday paper.  TV Guide was sold for a dollar, less than the price of a single copy.  

To paraphrase David Carr of the NY Times in his October 28 column, the tide turned long ago.  Most of us are getting our news online.  It's cheaper, more immediate, more convenient, and saves the forests.  Traffic to newspaper websites is up almost 16% in the third quarter.  So what?  Who cares?  The answer lies not in how the news is delivered but how it is paid for.

More than 90% of a newspaper's revenues come from print ads.  Print ads cost thousands of dollars; online ads may only cost $20 per 1000 customers.  The difference in revenue translates into fewer journalists with tighter deadlines.  Fewer worthy stories will be covered; coverage will lack depth and insight.  Recently one of the speakers at the American Magazine Conference worried that if the trusted news sources vanished the web would become a "cesspool" of useless information.  The quote came from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.

The fourth estate seems to be in jeopardy.  It has always been our faithful watchdog exposing corruption, following the beat and sharing well-considered insight.  It remains to be seen how they will reinvent themselves.  But until then, who's going to watch over us?  I am hopeful.  I think people will step up to the plate from unexpected quarters.  Like Roger Ebert, the movie critic, for example, who wrote eloquently about the outcome of the election:

This Land Was Made For You and Me
by Roger Ebert
November 4, 2008

As the mighty tide swept the land on Tuesday night, I was transfixed. As the pundits pondered red states and blue states, projections and exit polls, I was swept with emotion. Not because America was "electing its first Black president." That comes a little late in the day. It was because America was electing the right President.

Our long national nightmare is ending. America will not soon again start a war based on lies and propaganda. We will not torture. We will restore the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, and habeas corpus. We will enter at last in the struggle against environmental disaster. Our ideas will once again be more powerful than our weapons. During the last eight years, the beacon on the hill flickered out. Now the torch will shine again.

We will bring our troops home, in the right way. Am I against the war? Of course. Do I support our troops? Of course. They were sent to endanger their lives by zealots with occult objectives. More than 4,000 of them have died. Even more lives have been lost by our coalition forces than by our own.

Do I blame George Bush? At the end of the day, I don't know that I really do. I agree with Oliver Stone that Bush never knew he had been misled until it was too late. I blame those who used him as their puppet. The unsmiling men standing in the shadows. On Tuesday the righteous people of America stood up and hammered them down.

Lots of people stayed up late Tuesday night. They listened McCain's gracious, eloquent concession speech. He was a good man at heart, caught up in a perfect storm of history. He had the wrong policies and the wrong campaign. At the end, let me tell you about a hunch I have. In the privacy of the voting booth, I think there is a possibility that Condolezza Rice voted for Obama. Her vote might have had little to do with ideology. She could not stomach the thought of Vice President Palin.

I stayed up late. As I watched, I remembered. In 1968 I was in the streets as a reporter, when the Battle of Grant Park ended eight years of Democratic presidents and opened an era when the Republicans would control the White House for 28 of the next 40 years. "The whole world is watching!" the demonstrators cried, as the image of Chicago was tarnished around the world. On Tuesday night, the world again had its eyes on Grant Park. I saw tens and tens of thousands of citizens with their hearts full, smiling through their tears. As at all of Obama's rallies, our races stood proudly side by side, as it should be. We are finally, finally, beginning to close that terrible chapter of American history

President Obama is not an obsessed or fearful man. He has no grandiose ideological schemes to lure us into disaster. He won because of a factor the pundits never mentioned. He was the grown-up. He has a rational mind, a steady hand, and a first-rate intelligence. But, oh, it will be hard for him. He inherits a wrong war, a disillusioned nation, and a crumbling economy. He may have to be a Depression president.

What gives me hope is that a great idealistic movement rose up to support him. Some say a million and a half volunteers. Millions more donated to his campaign. He won votes that crossed the lines of gender, age, race, ethnicity, geography and political party. He was the right man at a dangerous time. If ever a president was elected by we the people, he is that president.

America was a different place when I grew up under Truman, Eisenhower and, yes, even Nixon. On Tuesday that America remembered itself, and stood up to be counted.

This land is your land,
This land is our land,
From California, to the New York island.
From the redwood forests, to the Gulf Stream waters--
This land was made for you and me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How Many Film Industry People Does It Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?

Have you ever wondered how many people it takes to make a movie?  I ran across a blog called Film Industry Bloggers.  Every day of the week, except Sunday, five to six film industry specialists blog about topics of interest to them.  They have 32 bloggers in all.

How does this relate to what we do?  Chuck and I fill many of the roles listed, except for the actor of course.  Any task that goes on BEHIND the camera, not in front of it, we'll do.  We can relate to the musings of the Film Bloggers who are employed as: director (on our commercial shoots), producer, production designer, storyboard artist, music supervisor, digital expert, colorist, animation coordinator, editor, key grip, production manager and voice over artist.  Love this blog!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Best Thriller Movies

I recently saw Nick of Time with Johnny Depp.  It reminded me of why I think some movies deserve to be called great.  By telling an intriguing story, they make you feel emotion.  Here are some movies that, no matter how many times I see them, I feel the same intense emotions at the same places in the film.  

Body Heat (1981) - passion; we saw this movie at a drive-in on a cold night and by the middle of the picture, we were sweating from the steamy scenes.

Seven Days in May (1962) - fear and loathing; chilling because at the time the film was released the world was one tick away from a nuclear holocaust.

Like Water for Chocolate (1992) - passion, longing, joy, humor, compassion, sadness for what might have been, for what should have been.  This is not a thriller, but it is a wonderful movie.

L.A. Confidential (1997) - passion, obsession, envy, innocence and the perfect blend of all these elements into a smart, stylish thriller.

Das Boot (1981) - claustrophobia, suspense, loneliness, compassion for an enemy who is more like us than he is different from us.

Manchurian Candidate (1962) - nightmarish horror, hopelessness, ice cold cruelty; makes you want to run home and thank your Mother for being so nice to you.

My Dinner With Andre (1981) - intensely interesting 2-hour conversation between two men who never leave their table at a New York restaurant.  This is not a thriller, but an odd, compelling little movie.

Nick of Time (1995) - fear, anxiety, mistrust, resourcefulness, and tenacity that comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Night of the Hunter (1955) - terror enhanced by every nuance of a film noir style and lyrical images.

Ransom (1996) - hope, anguish, loathing, and finally relief in a plot with several twists you don't see coming; one of the best movie trailers of all time:.

Rear Window (1954) - Hitchcock was the master of finding terror in the most unexpected places.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Blog - Tag!

My friend Stacie Blog-Tagged me.  So, I looked it up.  It's like the children's game of tag where someone says "Tag, You're It!" and you have to do something.  That something, in this case, is mentioning 4 Things I Did Today, 4 Things on My To-Do List, 4 Guilty Pleasures, 4 Little-Known Facts About Me.

What I Did Today
1.  Exercised with Gilad.
2.  Went to the Ritz at Half Moon Bay and shot some scenes for a wedding we filmed last weekend.
3.  Emailed a friend a list of great movies designed to turn on the tears.
4.  Ate a sashimi dinner with Chuck.

To-Do List
1.  Call my friends more often.
2.  Renovate our house.
3.  Buy a new pair of jeans.
4.  Tour Europe.

Guilty Pleasures
1.  Project Runway
2.  Oysters
3.  Opera
4.  Chick Flicks

Factoids About Me
1.  I was interviewed for and appeared in Newsweek.
2.  I climbed on El Capitan in Yosemite.
3.  I saw the Concorde land on its maiden voyage from Paris to Washington DC.
4.  I met Robert Redford.

Now I get to tag four other people:
Duncan Reyes

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Burn After Reading - A Movie Review

This is how we felt at the end of Burn After Reading.  But we laughed even harder - nearly fell off the chair.

We've been fans of the Coen Brothers who have a penchant for writing bizarre, off-kilter comedies about ordinary numnuts, noodniks and knuckleheads who turn to crime.  The would-be criminals do not succeed.  But Joel and Ethan do.  

Rather than talk about the plot - you can read about that in Rotten Tomatoes or Roger Ebert's column - we're more intrigued with style.  The Coens start with the style of a screwball comedy with sharp-witted dialogue, irony, and well-developed characters.  Even the bit-players are caricatures with exaggerated personality traits.  I don't think we are meant to identify with these characters, or to derive insight into human nature from them.  I think we are just meant to enjoy their quirkiness.

Burn After Reading seems to complete the trilogy of George Clooney as goofball.  He's suckered his buddy Brad Pitt into being a dim-wit too.  Who knew Brad Pitt was such a versatile actor? It's a long way from A River Runs Through It or Legends of the Fall to the slow-witted personal trainer at the Hardbodies gym.

About Coen Brothers films...A friend asked us how we liked their 1996 movie Fargo.  We said we loved it.  You betcha.  What he meant to ask was "Will I like it?"  The answer would have been no.  His tastes ran more towards mainstream movies not quirky little comedies.  So, be forewarned - this is a typical Coen Brothers extravaganza.  Only you know whether that means you will walk away holding your sides from laughter or with a deer-in-the-headlights dazed look.

Other Coen Brothers movies:
Blood Simple (1984)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Fargo (1996)
Big Lebowski (1998)
O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
No Country For Old Men (2007)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Raise Your Glasses...

In Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant's character is a sweet and lovable bumbling bloke who awkwardly delivers a toast at a wedding.  This has inspired many a best man to think he too can bumble through the toast and that everyone will laugh on cue.  Well...not really. Hugh Grant was a well-rehearsed actor, speaking from a well-honed script, to a room full of actors who were paid to laugh on cue.

We've filmed and edited a fair number of toasts in our time.  Since we see each toast many times while editing it we have a unique viewpoint.  We thought we'd pass along some observations about some toasts that stand above the rest.

The best toasts come from the heart. This takes real courage.  These toasts are full of truth and sometimes give voice to thoughts and feelings that have never been spoken.  We remember a father telling his son for the first time in his life that he was proud of his accomplishments. We've seen one brother tell his brother the groom that he was grateful for all the times the groom fought off the grade school bullies, that he had always looked up to the groom and only wished he could be half the man his brother was.  And we've seen grooms eloquently express their respect, gratitude and love for their brides.  There's nothing quite as endearing as a man declaring his love for his wife in front of a room full of family and friends.

The best toasts are well prepared and well rehearsed.  No one, not even a professional public speaker, can reliably deliver a great speech extemporaneously.  When the toaster is familiar with what he is going to say, he can say it with ease, in a relaxed way, often with humor.   The consequence of poor preparation is rambling--how boring!  

The best toasts are brief.  It is much harder to be succinct, but the reward is often a more powerful message.

The best toasts focus on the bride and groom, not the toaster.

The best toasts wish the couple well.

The best toasts have humor in good taste.

The best toasts come from people who are sober.  Being tipsy can make you think everything you say is funny even though no one else does.

Grooms ask "Do I have to give a toast?"  It's not required, but it is gracious.  
"What do I need to say?"  Three things, in your own words:
1.  Thank you all for coming.  We appreciate the effort it took for you to be with us.  You have contributed to our joy on this day.
2.  My wife and I would like to thank our family and friends for everything they have done for us.  But most of all, we'd like to thank our parents for giving us such perfect role models for how to nurture a long and happy marriage, and love each other every day.
3.  A personal message to your bride:  Thank you for making me the happiest man in the world today.  There is no one else on earth with whom I would rather spend the rest of my life. Would you all please raise your glasses to toast my beautiful bride.

Monday, September 15, 2008


What is beauty?  Wikipedia says it is a characteristic of a person, place, object or idea that provides an experience of pleasure.  Often beauty is open to interpretation -- "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  Many have written about it, trying to capture its elusive nature.

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."

"In every man's heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty."
---Christopher Morley

"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other."

Everyone enjoys seeing beauty, however we define it.  Of course the flowers, cake, venue and scenery at a wedding are all very beautiful.  But the greatest beauty we see at weddings is the image of the bride reflected in the eyes of the groom.  And sometimes we even catch a glimpse of beauty as the father of the bride looks adoringly at the mother of the bride as though it was their own wedding.

For the less romantic,  the sensations of love and beauty can be explained in terms of chemistry.  During the first stages of falling in love, phenylethylamine can be triggered by a meeting of the eyes or a touch of the hands resulting in sweaty palms and shaky knees. Chocolate is known to have very high levels of this chemical.  Maybe this is the stuff of which love potions are made.  

After infatuation subsides, endorphins take over.  This is what makes a relationship warm, dependable, calm, stable.  This is what makes you yearn for someone when they are away.  This is one reason why people stay married.

It's not surprising that we seek endorphins wherever they may be -- they just feel so good. That's why "All the world loves a lover."  Because their endorphins are spilling out and we are the beneficiaries.

So, what has inspired me to wax poetic about beauty?  Loyal readers may have noticed our blog is a little more beautiful.  My good and talented friend Stacie Tamaki, the wonderful web designer of Girl Goes Geek redesigned the blog and brought a little more beauty to the world. Thank you so much Stacie!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Who among us couldn't do with a little more calm and relaxation in their lives?  

While researching how to eat healthier, I came across several articles about the benefits of green tea.  I was intrigued enough to start searching for the green tea with the best nutrients.  But on the way, I found that selecting, preparing and enjoying green tea had another benefit - restful mind and relaxation.

There is an optimal way to prepare each tea.  The cup should be warmed, the water should be a certain temperature, the leaves should be steeped for only a few minutes.  I thought this would be a lot of trouble, but I find it is relaxing to take a break in the day, turn my attention to nourishing myself with anti-oxidants and relaxing my mind by enjoying the aroma, the texture and the taste.  

Green teas are a lot like fine wines.  Certain growing regions have a well-deserved reputation for producing the finest teas, there are subtle variations depending upon soil and weather conditions, and the expensive 'reserves' are substantially better than an every day 'red table wine'.

My good friend Stacie knows I'm interested in green tea, so she surprised me with the gift of a canister of Ryokucha from Samovar Tea Lounge.  When she brought it over, we brewed up a pot and shared some time together. What a beautiful green color!  As with wines, there are adjectives that describe green tea.  Some that came to mind for this green tea were grassy, smooth, sweet.  And, all the sweeter because I had a friend to share it with.

If you are cold, tea will warm you.
If you are too heated, it will cool you.
If you are depressed, it will cheer you.
If your are excited, it will calm you.
---William Gladstone

Monday, September 01, 2008


I feel the need for speed.  

That's how our nephew Nick must feel.  He is among the top 100 cyclists in the country in his age group and was invited to participate in the U.S. National Cycling Championships in Los Angeles last month.  We were thrilled to be there to see him, his team, and all the racers compete.

Here's a 90-sec piece describing how it felt to be a spectator.  First there was the anticipation at the start, then there were 30 grueling laps.  The riders flew by in a matter of seconds, and then there were long stretches of time when you were waiting for them to come around again. And then there was the excitement at the finish as the peleton tried to catch the leaders.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Everyone says the wedding day flies by so quickly.  That is so true for the bride and groom and their guests.  It's true for us, too.  The day is filled to the brim with activities and people which we are capturing from early in the morning 'til late at night so that we can accurately portray the feeling of the day, and show the people who were important to the couple 

If we had the luxury of time, we could seamlessly film and edit in scenes that would add a very movie-like quality to our wedding movies.  So, in many cases, we do just that.  Either we plan to film on a non-wedding day before we even start filming the wedding day, or we come up with ways to enhance the theme(s) of the wedding while in the editing suite after the wedding.  

Here's an example.  On the third day of a fabulous 3-day wedding weekend, guests were invited to gather at the Ferry Building to catch a chartered ferry to Tiburon where they could relax, sun themselves, have brunch, and listen to a Latin band.  One of the themes on Sunday was orange balloons.  Why orange?  It is the color of the Netherlands, from whence the groom hailed.  The orange balloons served to mark the spot where everyone should gather.  Then throughout the day, we saw children playing with them here and there.

Since this was a destination wedding, we had wanted to show a few San Francisco landmarks somewhere in the wedding movie, so we used orange balloons to connect the scenes (shot on a non-wedding day), then connect back to the live action.  Enjoy this 48-second piece!