27 January, 2011

A new type of project: book trailer

Just posted this "trailer" for Portland-based author Susan Conley's new memoir, The Foremost Good Fortune, and so far it's been getting great reviews (which, of course, makes me happy). I got to read a galley copy before producing it - it's a wonderful, sweep-you-away, highly recommended read. The book officially hits the shelves on February 8th. In The Foremost Good Fortune, Susan tells the story of living in Beijing, China for three years with her husband and two young boys. During their time there, Susan discovers she has breast cancer, and so the story - which set out to be a travelogue-family history - also becomes a meditation on battling the challenges of breast cancer in a foreign land.

I had great raw materials to work with for this piece, including Susan's husband Tony's beautiful photographs of China, and Laura (Winky) Lewis' lovely portraits of Susan as a writer. When Tony was in Beijing about a month ago, he also recorded ambient street sounds for me to weave into the piece - which, in my opinion, really bring it to life. I did the rest - interviewing, video production, editing - and am pretty thrilled with the finished piece. Next up? A three-minute version so it can accompany the book on Amazon. But first, wrapping up the last round of revisions for the five multimedia pieces for Middlebury College I'm co-producing with Bridget Besaw. More on that soon...

25 October, 2010

New-ish stuff

A new take on multimedia storytelling: stories for families and businesses. Produced in collaboration with photographer Melissa Mullen.

28 April, 2010

LiveWork Portland series

Portland's creative entrepreneurs on why they choose to live and work in Portland, Maine for the website LiveWork Portland.

06 January, 2010

100% Heartworks

I finally got around to posting the full 35-minute Heartworks piece today, for your viewing pleasure.

06 November, 2009

From Salt to Biddeford, Maine

Salt ended, I stayed in Portland and was granted a fellowship by Heart of Biddeford along with two Salt photography alums, Anna Schechter and Claire Houston, to do a documentary storytelling project in Biddeford, Maine, an old mill town about twenty minutes south of Portland. Heart of Biddeford had received a grant from the Orton Family Foundation to do a two-year town planning and revitalization project. Orton's approach to town planning is a bit different: rather than a few guys in an office calling the shots, Orton strives to involve all factions of the community in decision making about the town's future. It's town planning from the ground up.

How do two photographers and a radio producer figure into that equation? Our task was develop a documentary project highlighting the diverse communities and demographic groups of Biddeford and their shared values and aspirations for the town's future. This, in turn--the logic was--would foster a greater sense of understanding and togetherness amongst the communities. We entitled our project, Heartworks: Bringing Communities Together through Storytelling in Biddeford, Maine. We presented some of our early work at the North Dam Mill as part of Biddeford's July Art Walk. Here's an article in one of the local papers about our project and the show.

Throughout the three-month fellowship, from June to October, we produced a series of mini-stories, which eventually became the building blocks for a thirty-eight minute final multimedia piece. The final piece unfolds in chapters, starting with Biddeford's working mill past, and concluding with the town's burgeoning arts scene and the redevelopment of Biddeford's mills. We tell the stories of the fifteen old men who meet every night at 6 PM at Burger King for a cup of coffee and conversation; of a boxing club that can't even afford a sign, where underprivileged youth from Biddeford and beyond can find positive role models--and get a workout; of Biddeford Pool, a wealthy coastal community and "hidden treasure" on the edge of Biddeford; of Jane and Breece Sleeper, and their two children India and Breece Jr., and much more... It was a beast to produce and required a lot of sleepless nights, but we're pretty happy with the outcome. Here's a taste (quite literally):

We presented our final piece on October 15th at the Hog Farm Studio--a new music venue on Main Street in Biddeford--before an audience of more than one hundred from all corners of Biddeford. Kyle and Sharon from the Palace Diner were there, the kids from the boxing club, the Sleeper family, Dan--the guy who makes frothy lattes at Buzz coffee shop at the North Dam Mill--and my parents even surprised me with a visit from Rhode Island. Here's a nice writeup on the Orton site about the show. It was a powerful scene to behold, and I have to hope our piece sparks some positive dialog in Biddeford about the town's future. I would do do it again in another town. Maybe I will...

17 June, 2009

Three months later, radio

After fifteen weeks in the field and cloistered under headphones at Salt, I'm stepping back into the blogosphere, and back into the social media world of near-constant connectivity.

During the course of the program, Salt radio students produce two features - or "stories" - in addition to a promo and a vox pop. My first story is about Khadija Hussein, a fourteen-year old Somali refugee in Lewiston, Maine. Khadija grew up in Kenyan refugee camps and moved to the United States with her family when she was eight. An eighth-grader at Lewiston Middle School, Khadija is still acclimating to American culture and life in a predominantly white state. I entitled her story, Khadija's Dream Routine.

My second story is about how the Port Clyde groundfishing fleet is changing the way they fish and do business - a new approach that's both good for the resource, and fishermen's pocketbooks. A Fresh Catch aired in May on New Hampshire Public Radio's Word of Mouth.

Visit Flickr for more photos of shrimping and shrimp processing in Port Clyde.

04 March, 2009

Three weeks in

Two days ago and three weeks into Salt, I had an "ah-hah" moment. As I was fleshing out scenes for my first story in a Steno notebook - idea, characters, setting, action - I thought, "I'm so glad I'm here." Writing out scenes seems like a pretty elementary exercise, but I can't emphasize enough how invaluable it is to brainstorm a sequence and a framework for the narrative before getting much, if any, tape, even if it's purely hypothetical. Mapping out scenes introduces a degree of control into a process I've always felt to be uncontrollable.

I was initially drawn to doing a story on the Lewiston Somali community's food culture. I wondered how the Somali's eating habits had been affected by years in Kenyan refugee camps and transplantation to cold, temperate Maine. I was also curious about their views on American food and culture. I spent an afternoon poking around five or six of the Somali-run shops and restaurants on Lisbon Street, learning about Somali foods (I knew little) and trying to cast my story's characters.

Mogadishu, a small store and eatery on Lisbon Street fit well into the narrative I was envisioning. I returned to Lewiston and spent another Saturday at the store, this time with my flash recorder and mic. Mogadishu carries everything from cardamom and halal goat meat, to laundry detergent and winter jackets, and is a gathering point for Somali families and groups of women. During my visit, I recorded the sounds cooking: the spatter of frying sambusa and slow bubble of goat meat simmering in a garlicky tomato and cilantro sauce. I also met several of the store owner's children, who speak impeccable American English. I imagined the story would follow the arc of a day, beginning in the store with the cooking of samosas, segueing to the Lewiston middle school cafeteria for lunchtime, where both American and Somali children eat an all-American meal provided by the school. The story would come to a close in the store owner's home, over a traditional Somali dinner.

NPR Northeastern Bureau Chief Andrea de Leon paid her annual visit to Salt on Tuesday and this is the story I pitched her. But on Wednesday, I had an interview with someone named Amy from Coastal Enterprise Initiatives, a local community-development organization, that may have changed everything. I almost canceled the interview because I thought the information was no longer relevant to my story. Lesson learned: never cancel an interview. Amy has spent years working with the Somali community and provided such invaluable insight into Somali - especially Somali female - culture, which is of particular interest to me. Lesson two learned: know the issue, but also know the organization; I'd studied up on Somali culture, but not on CEI.

Amy told me the story of one Somali Bantu woman in particular. After ten minutes, I was sold. Utterly ready to drop everything, scratch my carefully crafted scenes and pitch again. I'm meeting Amy in Lewiston tomorrow, and she's going to introduce us. I'm going with an open mind, but am going to listen to my gut.

Three weeks into Salt, one thing is abundantly clear: the story-building process isn't linear, and is far from predictable.