Just Make Sure You Don't Suck!
I recently completed a 4-day course at the Travel Channel Academy in Silver Spring, Maryland. Whew. Intense.
My goal was to learn to shoot and edit video for my website. My earlier attempts at The Liquid Muse Cocktail Show prove that I needed a little guidance in this department...
I can practically hear the voice of our teacher Michael Rosenblum in my head yelling, "That Sucks!" if he were to look at my first solo attempts, from last year, when I made the Snowcone Cocktail with its horrible audio, jump cuts and bad camera angles, or even my Puerto Rican Mojito, which is slightly better (mostly because its much shorter) but still a long way from where it could be.
But, hey, I've never gone to film school and I was feeling this all out on my own. So, whatever.
During the TC bootcamp, we each made two short videos. Mine are Fresh Noodles and Perfect Pairings. Actually, Fresh Noodles was a re-shoot of what I originally shot that morning. I had spent several hours getting out to Virginia and filming Gina, one of my favorite bartenders, preparing her drink for the upcoming Taste of the Nation cocktail competition. When I took my footage back to the class, Lisa (Michael's partner) said it looked too "directed" and I should seriously consider a re-shoot. My heart sank. Wow - I sucked. I had no idea what to film instead.
I sat there for 10 minutes feeling like a total loser. Then, an image flashed through my head... the noodle guy... I'd shoot the noodle guy at Chinatown Express. Only problem is that it was 5:15 pm, and no restaurant will let you film during their busy dinner service. Crap! I was desperate. I hopped on the subway went to DC's Chinatown anyway.
I think the owner of the restaurant recognized the desperation on my face. "Please," I said, "I know its dinner time, I'll be quick. Only 15 minutes." A couple of hours later, I had about 12 minutes of video shot. Michael had said not to bother coming back with less than 15.
I woke up at 2 am, fretting. I'd spent a ton of money and carved out the time to do this. I didn't want to suck.
Like a blubbering fool, I couldn't stop hot tears from rolling down my cheeks as my husband gave me a pep talk over the phone. He was in Holland on a business trip. I was on the morning train from downtown DC to Silver Spring. "I just want this to be good," I whined. "You just want to be the best," he surmised. I hate it when he brings up my competitive streak when I'm doing something I'm struggling with.
I tinkered around with Final Cut and the Academy staff helped me with audio transitions. My palms poured sweat when we screened our first round of films. Although Michael described the ending of my film "Fresh Noodles" as 'banal,' overall, he liked it. In fact, it was one of his favorites of the day. Enthused, relieved, revived, I headed back on the train with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. Yippee!! I didn't suck!
The next day was even more nerve wracking when I set out to film the second project. Slightly more confident, I shot 40 minutes of footage at Central where chef Cedric Maupillier and sommelier Brian Zipin were creating a soup-and-beer pairing. I filmed far too much, and fell far too in love with too many shots, and crammed a whole bunch of them into my next film "Perfect Pairings." Michael said it was good but had too many fast cuts. He called it "raggedy," a word which haunts me even now. He isn't wrong.. but, "raggedy" is so not what I want my work to be. I am, however, inspired to keep practicing and get good. Get really, really good. (Doh - there's that competitive streak...)
The two best videos in our class were of a guy juggling a bowling ball, tennis racket and soccer ball by Andrew Wong of California; and North Carolinian Mike Unruh's video of himself taking the Travel Channel Academy course. Both were well shot, well edited, and well... the best in class. And, they will appear on the Travel Channel website! (Bravo, gentlemen!!)
Overall, the course was really fun and really stressful but I feel I learned some important stuff. I think there is a vast improvement regarding the basics: how to handle a camera, and the very beginning of my skill with using Final Cut editing software.
If you're thinking of adding video to your repertoire, the Travel Channel Academy is an effective, though brain-crushing, crash course in guerilla film making. It costs a pretty penny, so if you're on a budget - forget about it. However, if you can pony up more than $3000 for the course, rentals, hotel, airfare, meals, etc., you, too, can learn to vlog your way to internet stardom... and eat a healthy helping of humble pie paired with an intoxicating elixir called 'optimistic aspirations' in the process...