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What I Did On My Covid Vacation

Water Drop Art by Jeff Gatesman
Water Drop Art by Jeff Gatesman ©Gatesman.com

It’s been more than a few weeks since we’ve all been thrown into an unprecedented new way of life and for those of us in the production/entertainment industry, our re-entry back into a working world is still being debated and planned, and likely a few weeks, if not months away yet. And since the shutdown we’ve had to get used to new and different things; a lot of you have had to immediately learn how to home school your kids, and we’ve all had to navigate the quagmire of what is considered essential and what is not, of shopping in near empty markets, and of socializing via Skype, Zoom and FaceTime.

Have you resorted to cutting your own hair yet? How about baking your first loaf of bread? After my first sour dough loaf I realized that I very rarely eat bread anymore, I was just caught up in a swell of what-to-do-with-myself uncertainties. And I’m sure that some of you, like me, have labored over finding the best chiaroscuro lighting for those virtual Zoom drink-a-thons with your pals. I mean, it’s what we do, we might as well represent!

So what now?

I’ve seen the blog posts were people have been exploring their yards and parts of their own homes to discover a new love of macro photography, or to gain skills in lighting for food photography, I myself have been playing around with effects photography which is a lot of fun but I’m a motion picture guy so it is not what I had been making a living at, and is probably not likely to become a primary source of income once the stages and studios begin rumbling back into production, but it keeps me exercising muscles I do use in my regular work. What you do is up to you but if you get inspired to share the work you create to the world, Adobe Behance is a great online portfolio that comes with your Adobe subscription, and if you are taking still photos On1 is having weekly photo contests on their blog where you could win Amazon gift cards, software bundles, and creative assets.

Milk Drop photography
Milk Drop Art by Jeff Gatesman

Production tends to be a very time consuming vocation, and as many of us know, when we are not actually working on a production, our time is spent looking for our next gig, which means that other things tend to get neglected. I am reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode about a man who loved nothing more than to read, however the realities of life in a busy world leave him no time for his passion until, through a twist of fate he finds himself the soul survivor of a nuclear holocaust. At first he despairs at being all alone in the world, but then he finds the ruins of a library with volumes of the greatest books ever written, still intact. He rejoices at his great fortune of finding the tomes and having all the time to read now, but as he reaches down to pickup a book, his glasses slide off his face and smash on the concrete leaving him with such terrible hyperopia that he cannot focus the words on the page. He finally had the time to read but cruel fate wouldn’t let him.

We currently have no excuse now so it may be the perfect time to tend to some of those neglected tasks. One thing I’ve been putting off for years has been to cultivate a stream of passive income through stock footage, so during this time I have also been digging through my archive hard drives for both throwback photos and unedited video that has been languishing, waiting for me to have time to tend to them. Part of this procedure is to spend some time investing in my keywording skills as this is almost as important as having relevant, professional looking footage. Linked In Learning (formerly Lynda dot com) has an excellent tutorial on keywording and if you are not signed up for Linked In Learning, I would suggest you look into it. If you are a member of a Guild or IATSE local the subscription is free.

Another thing I am doing that not only helps develop my skill set, but also gets me up off my office chair and away from the computer screen, is that I set up tracking shots I can use to practice with my gimbal. It’s always a good idea to practice camera operating when you can whether you are using a fluid, geared or remote head, or some kind of stabilizing rig like a gimbal or steadicam. What I’ve done is set up complex camera moves to perform throughout my house and yard that help develop my killer camera moves as well as my ability to visualize and create dynamic shots. You can find Youtube tutorials on everything concerning camera movement, best practices on walking with a gimbal, as well as balancing and setting it up for best performance, whether you are a Ronin, Steadicam or Movi owner.

I want to also pass on a spreadsheet that has been compiled by the IATSE’s Education Department which lists hundreds of free training resources for people in almost any skill from lighting, sound and video to networking, show control, safety and even knots.

ASton Martin V12 Vantage model
Model of an Aston Martin V12 Vantage I shot in my living room.

So you’ve done your craft project, tended to some unfinished business and polished up some of those rusty skills, I guess it’s time to kick the feet up and watch something on Netflix. As Production people naturally we watch shows: we watch movies and documentaries and we binge on our favorite series. That’s cool. Studies show that watching something you enjoy releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and that’s great. It can soothe our day-to-day worries and bring us out of our own thoughts when we are down, and who among us doesn’t need that from time to time? If you are like me and appreciate truly well crafted films, there are a couple of great alternatives to the main streamers that you should know about, so if you enjoy classics and films that may not have made it out of the arthouse circuit, check out both Mubi and The Criterion Channel.

And what about the future?

As I mentioned earlier, under normal circumstance when we have free time we are generally working on getting our next gig, but now time has been forced upon us and we can, and still should keep in touch with our network. Shaking that tree right now won’t bear us any fruit in the near future, but sometimes it’s just nice to hear from a colleague. Who knows, maybe they have a great sourdough recipe for you.

One final thought I’d like to share: now might be a great time for the creative community to be it’s most creative in ways we haven’t been before: maybe now is the time to envision what our industry looks like in 6 months, a year, or 2 years down the road. Maybe we can be the influence our industry needs right now… What are you doing with your time? What is your vision for the future of Production? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Be well.

71 South Wacker

Rocket 88 Studios produced, shot, and did the post-production on this project for Otherwise, Incorporated. We created the motion graphics and directed the original music score by Daniel Teo.

  • Director of Photography: Jeff Gatesman
  • Producer: Judith Gatesman
  • Creative Director for Otherwise: David Frej
  • Original Music by Daniel Teo
  • Color by Digital by Design

Xadago Campaign Receives Award Of Excellence

Rocket 88 Studios was the production company behind the “Go Fishing” campaign for Beacon Health Communications that was honored with an Award of Excellence from The RX Club in December.

 

The RX Club honors work in print, electronic media, and video in the service of healthcare.

This is a very big honor considering the large number of agencies that submit for awards from around the world, and we are proud to have been a part of this campaign.

Smoke Free

After more than 10 years living life as a reformed smoker in a society that promotes non-smoking, our own Jeff Gatesman explores what it is like to be a smoker in a world where being so takes a true commitment. Smoke Free is a double entendre: you can smoke freely in places that allow it, or you can be smoke free. This project is an exploration into the lives of people who smoke because they want to, people who don’t smoke but like it, and those who wish they didn’t smoke. It’s yet another in our series of mini documentaries.



A series of portraits were also made of the people who took part in Smoke Free. You can click on the images to see a larger version.

Beth W

Sunset-RideIt’s a Honda CB550 Four, with an air cooled, transverse four cylinder, single overhead cam engine producing 50 horse power at 8000 RPM. Top speed, with a petite rider, around 103 mph. The rider, Beth W, is an environmentally friendly construction manager and yoga enthusiast. She rides a vintage Honda.

Speed Dating For Documentaries

This is one in a series of Micro Doc’s I have been making as a personal project. A Micro Doc is my idea of speed dating for documentaries. You get a really fast look at someone fascinating. It’s media snacking for the short attention generation (a group I believe defines us all to a certain extent). My only desire is that my tiny contribution to this medium be hopeful, positive and uplifting… or at least entertaining.

2015 Bronze Telly Award Win for Rocket 88 Studios

telly_site_bugs_bronzeWe at Rocket 88 Studios are proud to announce that our PSA, Because, for the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD) has been honored with a Bronze Telly Award!

Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and web commercials, videos and films. The Telly Awards annually showcases the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments in the world. The Telly Awards is a widely known and highly respected national and international competition and receives over 12,000 entries annually from all 50 states and many foreign countries.

Because is a PSA compelling deaf women to get an HIV test. By listing some of the reasons for getting an HIV test, we try to impart that reasons can be varied, and the test is simple. The PSA was written and directed by award-winning Director Hilari Scarl and shot by Jeff Gatesman

Director/Co-Producer – Hilari Scarl – Worldplay, Inc.
Cinematographer/Graphics/Editor and Co-Producer – Jeff Gatesman gatesman.com
Music – Kubilay Uner
Sound Design – Joe Milner/Puget Sound
ASL Consultants: Robert DeMayo, Lisa Hermatz
Executive Producer: Patty Hughes
Producer: Heidi Booth
Special Thanks: Maisha Franklin, Jennifer Chi
Produced by Worldplay, Inc.and Rocket 88 Studios
Cast (in order of appearance):
Natasha Ofili, Maria Correa, Karla Gutierrez, Christine Visser, Lisa Hermatz, Ashley Fiolek

Aging Through The Lens

Through The Camera – Aging in Focus is a documentary sponsored by Nikon and directed by Pia Clemente and Tamra Raven, this is the trailer for that film. The project looks at aging through the eyes, or in this case, lenses of old people who were given digital cameras and asked to document their lives. What came out of that request is pretty extraordinary and enlightening.

See What I’m Saying

See What I'm SayingSee What I’m Saying is the amazing feature length documentary directed by Hilari Scarl about 4 deaf entertainers. I am proud to have been the Director of Photography for this multi award-winning film.

Deaf people can do anything but hear. But an all deaf rock band? An international deaf comic famous around the world but unknown to hearing people? A modern day Buster Keaton who teaches at Juilliard but is currently homeless? A hard of hearing singer who is considered “not deaf enough?”

Hailed by The New York Times as “Complex, candid and all-but essential viewing for hearing audiences,  Hilari Scarl’s intrepid debut feature, ‘See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary,’  educates without lecturing and engages without effort.”

SEE WHAT I’M SAYING follows the journeys of four extraordinary deaf entertainers over the course of a single year as their stories intertwine and culminate in some of the most important events of their lives: You can find out more about Hilari and the film here.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 9.21.20 AM

 

No Stone To Throw

Sierra - No Stone To ThrowMany years ago Rocket 88 Studios was primarily a post production house, and one of our young directors came to us with a problem: he had just gotten a contract from a small independent label in Nashville to produce a music video for a trio of singers named Sierra, but he had no experience in producing himself and had no crew. We took on the challenge and became the producing partner and post production facility for “No Stone To Throw”.

Rocket 88 Studios assembled the crew of very talented crafts people, arranged a transportation team to caravan our equipment, makeup trailer and picture vehicle up to Wrightwood, CA, and planned a 2-day shoot in the mountains outside of Los Angeles. Everybody had a lot of fun on the shoot and we came home with a half dozen cans of exposed 16mm film that was lensed by Jeff Gatesman, and our production company was officially born.

Here is the finished product.