Thursday, November 3, 2011
Minimalistic Inspiration in Complex Troubled Times
(I have omitted the bio of who I am, as anybody reading this knows, who I am.)
The world of production in the life of Garrick Lane had been somewhat frantic from July to the beginning of October. Hanging on by a thread in all categories of his life he says, his work maybe at the very end of the thread. Where he felt he was rushing through and "half assing" his shows, he was being told he was doing his best work to date. Yet the money was scarce, so was the time he had. By mid August, he was looking for ways to break his fingers so that he wouldn't have to edit. The projects were backing up but his burn out was going ahead as planned.
"I could not so much, as remember what I liked about this work. I felt that because of where I was geographically, on top of the evil economic blizzard we were all freezing through, there was no reason to continue trying to do this for a living. My personal life had taken a turn and I just suddenly realized that the rockstar lifestyle I had lived since my wife and I split may not accomodate the situation that may end up being, so maybe it was time to hang it up and become a Regular Joe," Garrick explained.
He had a point. Corporate America had all but abolished the smaller production companies by craiglisting any film student with a camera to go out and shoot templated, "stock" internet videos promoting a company's business and because of the big name, big business cloaks they hid behind with their social media status' and lingo would lure these small companies into big money contracts yet pay the videographer/editor minimal next to the company employers who simply sat behind a desk and made phone calls.
"They took the art out of the artist. They buried the creativity in what we do, by placing a mandatory format on an unorthodox medium," Garrick went on to say. "There was no beating the system. There IS no beating the system. The Yellow Pages do not take videos that are not produced by their own contractors, meaning, a company can not come to me and say, we want a better video than the ones these guys are producing so we want to hire you because I have to tell them that I can't if the yellow page search engines is where they want it to end up."
The end was near he felt. The run was over and why not, he wasn't big enough to be placed on the advertising agency lists and the calls for the big jobs out of state were not incoming anymore because budgets began to dwindle as the recession worsened, leaving the line item of "travel expense," out of the equation.
Garrick found himself at trucking docks applying for ten dollar an hour jobs and getting them but realizing that it would never be enough. He found himself begging friends for a normal job, in which they all turned him away, because like they all knew, there was no profession they would be able to tolerate their friend doing besides the one he had been working on for twenty years.
"Times were confusing. Life was at a stand still for the first time that I could remember."
Then a break. A call from a gentleman at a Nashville production company that was responsible for producing some of the rising country music talent's videos. A meeting would be planned for late October with no avail of what would be offered if anything. It was in fact at the time, (and still is,) the best thing he had on his plate and if nothing else, hope.
Then an epiphany elsewhere, or maybe a risk that would ruin him, his credit and his life forever. The last risk he took had paid off even if comparing it to those troubled days in late summer of 2011 was short lived.
"It was quit or expand. It was that simple," Garrick said with nearly a concerned if not worried look on his face.
With a blessing from his mentor and only opinion that had ever mattered, his father, Garrick complicated his life by taking the loan. A big loan that would make or break it all. If he did not succeed, all of his assets would be liquidated leaving him only with what he started in 1996 with: His blue pencil and steno pad.
The loan was not an easy decision. He had to choose whether to limit his arsenal and sink money into advertising or put the advertising on hold and bulk up his equipment list hoping the equipment list would lead to bloated budgeted jobs which would then lead to more profit to advertise.
"I was ordering my girlfriend flowers on a plane to LA and somehow, I decided in the midst of deciding which bouquet to buy which way I was going to go. Yeah, kind of weird. Flowers, Camera Gear, Camera Gear, Flowers, don't know the connection."
He opted for the asset route deciding to take on the advertising with the first couple of bigger productions he was going to use his reputation to get. Three days later, the equipment was ordered before he had left his business in Los Angeles.
"Upon returning, I went straight to my girlfriends house. I remember being so scared but trying really hard to keep her from knowing considering her future if I had anything to do with it, was going to be a part of the decision I had just made," Garrick jokingly stated."I remember walking into my house the next morning and just turning to my edit bay in the corner of the big room and staring at it for a minute. I knew from this moment on, I would have to do something to get rid of the funk."
Garrick had built on an extra room at his house as his office refusing to bloat his business account with added overhead that was never needed. What he did not do is plan the room very well. Garrick had no vampire blood in his body. He commented that if he could live in a glass house with no shades on the windows and get away with it, he would. The new room was dark, carpeted, with merely one window. The track lighting assisted in illumination but the corner where his desk was might as well had been a dark rubber room.
"I thought.... This is the problem. It just came to me. It was my surroundings that were affecting my concentration, inspiration and drive."
The house had to be dealt with immediately. His list of To-Dos from his better half had already consumed an additional expo board on the refrigerator but Garrick bypassed those as it wasn't long after his return from LA and his "intervention," that him and his girlfriend had decided to step back a bit due to reasons Garrick refuses to discuss.
The thought was simple even if it made no sense. Garrick's children were now no longer full time at his house as they were three months prior. He had gone from Full Time Dad to Disney Land Weekend Dad nearly overnight so his kids were only there on the weekends which were normally consumed by birthday parties, cook outs and anything but sitting inside. Garrick had realized switching the addition room with the living room would actually be (although not aesthetically pleasing,) exactly what the doctor ordered. The living room had wood floors and one wall was nothing but window with the opposite side of the room being a sliding glass door leading to an open back porch.
With all his expansion money used he would have to slowly build his office into something of a control room. With the newest fastest editing tower on the market in route to his house, his plan was to basically renovate his house to accomodate for the change. The rooms were gutted. Furniture was destructed to be removed. Within three days his garage had become an image you would see on a re-run of Sanford and Son.
He put his field edit bay on the kitchen table facing the sliding glass door and sat down in a wooden dining chair and began trying to reconnect with his inner demons.
"I would edit at that table until my ass hurt, then go to the gym and come back and sit on the couch and bid for jobs. Then I would repeat the process eliminating the gym the second and third time through."
Slowly but surely he found a rhythm. Work began to get finished again but monies still thirty day net away from his grasp so renovation resources were not at the top of the list.
"So my bedroom was gutted, the old office gutted, and my living room gutted. There was literally a sofa, an old desk that would not fit a Nintendo console on it and a light on the floor in this room."
Televisions had all but been removed from the house months before with the exception of one in the kids room strictly for movies. Garrick as complex of a man he was, had never delved in luxuries such as LCD televisions, X Boxes, or fancy appliances. That lack of complexity was about to reach another level.
With the shows being approved one after another the work load was getting too much for one editing bay, so despite the new desks, second and third playback monitors not being at the top of the order list as Garrick climbed out of the financial trench, the new edit bay would have to be utilized. He had been doing all of his editing on his 15 inch MacBook Pro on the kitchen table because it was easy to pack up and move for family time and food when the kids were there. He was doing all his business from his juice stained sofa, feet away on his 13 inch MacBook Pro with his email and Skype account. These were easy machines to move out of harms way. Bringing in a tower, one that cost as much as a car, was risky until the proper furniture was allocated, but it wasn't long before Garrick realized he had no choice. He set up the Ferrari of a editing system on that small desk with its feet dangling over each edge. With not enough room to even add a second monitor Garrick threw the system to the wolves. Without the new electrical situation handled he had to also literally run a drop chord from the hallway to power this piece of machinery. He was smart to place the computer in the center of the wall so it could also pose as a TV for the kids' movie time.
This computer would now be the main editing bay with the lap top being the delivery, mastering, and uploading device for the time being.
Within all this, the work began piling up as much as it was going out which led to yet a third editing bay being utilized only this time, Garrick cleared his artist desk and rolled it to the corner of the room and placed his older system in there so he could go from one to the other if a client called for recuts. Now, money was rolling in but there was no time to go furniture shopping or even fathom the idea of taking a couple days off to paint, furnish and wire his new "office," or his room or refurbish his new room. He was spending what little time he had with his girlfriend on their new policy of "less is more," working out and being Dad but during work hours, it was from kitchen chair to wooden stool to sofa in a bare room where you had to watch your step of the sea of drop chords and surge protectors that riddled the floor.
"I had almost gotten used to this minimalistic approach to my work. It was like being back in college with my edit bay in the floor of my bedroom. One monitor. One tower and a DV deck. It had almost left no distractions."
Garrick then went another step in losing his distractions by dropping his facebook and other social networking tools he had once used to occupy self-promotion only leaving his twitter account because in his words, "there was no not tweeting in his future." The website reconstruction, press packs, design had been put on the back burner as it had became strictly shooting and editing. The turnaround went from 6 weeks to 3 with minimal recuts being requested.
Bigger Contracts began to call again. Old clients called for more of Garrick's magic that kept him in a holding pattern on his plans to renovate or make the office functional. The days passed. The wooden chair got harder and harder but nothing changed the steady and consistent workflow.
Then a setback, that ended up being one of the best things that had happened. At the peak of this marathon run, Garrick had literally cut three shows in three days, delivered 4 spots to various television stations, written his script for his next short film venture, put in place a new design for his company's website and single handedly booked a gig on everyday of the month of November... Well, minus 4 days. Last minute a show in Florida had been postponed leaving Garrick 4 unclaimed days that had not for once been used for even backup days for another show. It was a perfect time to do what he really needed to do, which was finally put the office back together and make it what some people would call efficient again. Garrick ignored that idea pulling a film he shot 3 years ago out of the moth balls and had not in all that time been able to allot for concentrated time to cut it. Maybe a lot due to the editing fatigue he had been experiencing for the past two years. Only Garrick knows, but not this week, for he sits in his empty room on a break watching a movie on his laptop that is resting on the arm of his sofa while he eats chicken and vegetables on a plate resting on a stool. One editing bay exporting a recut of of an ESPN pilot, the other, half way through a rough cut of his film, Another Night In America.
"I know this minimalistic lifestyle can't last forever but for now it's working and I almost don't want to change it. I have wings for the first time since last April. Things are meshing."
Breaks consist of eating or getting back to the guitar which during the burn out was never so much as touched.
"It's like I've escaped the normal routine for this hotel room some where, cut off from the real world, even though I haven't gone anywhere. I come in here, cut my phone on silent, sit on this viciously uncomfortable chair and blow through my obligations. The intergrity in my work has never been better. The work is real. It is almost organic and I look forward to doing it again. I don't want to change a thing right now. In two days, I will have for the first time, erased every show on my project expo board and that's a huge step in my company's growth."
And he has done it all himself. From Producing the show on his sofa to escaping to the real world to capture it on celluloid only quickly returning to his living room to cut and finish the magic, he is doing what some people have 6 employees and an oversized office full to do. In Garrick's office there are no cubicles, 70 inch plasma televisions, fancy business cards, or multiple facebook pages full of pretentious "likes." There are 3 computers in an empty room with a sofa, some light shining in and on the weekends The Lion King playing from the Millenium Falcon, (he has come to call the new Ferrari of an editing bay.)
"I'm going to enjoy this for as long as I can. If and when the better part of me decides she wants to complicate her life by moving in here.... This little setup will surely be first to go," Garrick laughs nearly falling off his stool.
Words and Pictures by FP
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