Documentaries at the Denver Film Society

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Greetings, Just in case you didn’t know, Denver Film Society is going crazy with documentaries during May, and we wanted to pass the word along! There is something for everyone.

If you like getting glimpses into artists’ private lives:

Cinema Q: Packed In A Trunk - The Lost Art Of Edith Lake Wilkinson

Edith Lake Wilkinson, an artist of the early 19th century, was committed to an asylum in 1924. This doc reveals some of the mysteries and work of Wilkinson’s life as her great niece goes on a journey to return some of her lost pieces to Provincetown. The documentary was funded by Kickstarter where 235 backers pledged $37,150 to bring the film into reality. Denver is one of the first cities to screen the doc, so don’t miss it!

Tickets

If you’re a late-90’s music lover, check out:

Heaven Adores You

Through the unique lens of Director Nickolas Rossi, the story of late musician Elliott Smith is told through an artful compilation of thirty-plus interviews. In the past his story has been told through the lens of addiction, drugs and darkness, but Rossi puts Smith’s music in front and center, with support from Smith’s friends and family members. This documentary also came to life through Kickstarter, raising $15,292 with 218 backers.

Tickets

If you’re interested in unique and curious portraits, see:

Meet the Hitlers

This documentary follows the lives of several of Hitler’s last descents, discovering along the way what’s in a name. The film captures individuals speaking about what it’s like to carry Hitler as a last name, and how it’s affected their lives and identities in a myriad of strange ways. The film challenges viewers to question their beliefs and biases about what a person’s last name really represents, if anything at all. Director Matt Ogens will be in attendance to answer questions after the viewing. For a peek into the director’s work, read Jamie Clifton’s interview with the director on Vice.com.  

Tickets

If you’re interested war and the mind’s of soldiers that have served….

In Country

A documentary teetering on the line of entertaining and disturbing, this film, also born of from a successful Kickstarter, peers into the lives of war veterans who spend their time reenacting their experiences abroad. The film follows the men, some of whom are still on an adrenaline rush from time recently spent in Iraq, as they reenact Vietnam war scenes in the thick forage of Oregon. It reveals personal footage of the men’s time spent in war mixed with old war movie footage to create a truly unsettling yet honest and vulnerable look into the lives of men struggling to reintegrate themselves back into the daily grind of American life after war. For some it’s a form of therapy, for others it’s purely a nostalgic act, and for the audience it’s a revealing, thoughtful and even historical account honoring those who’ve served. Catch it on it’s one and only viewing night at the Denver Film Center on May 25th.

Tickets

Read A.V. Club’s review of the film here.

A Letter to the Interviewee

A Letter to the Interviewee

Dear Interviewee, We’re going to show up to the scene with a multitude of cameras, lights and tripods. We’re going to set up a “stage” for you with lights all over and we’ll be standing behind and around the lenses asking you questions, but we don’t want these things to intimidate you, although we recognize that’s probably impossible.

We’re here to listen to you and tell your story. We value you.

The gear, the lights, the tripods - they’re just tools we are using to make your story beautiful to watch. It feels awkward right now, so keep in mind that we’re here for a larger goal. Your story is serving a purpose.

Now is your opportunity to say what you want an audience to hear, to tell your story honestly and without reserve. This is our opportunity to listen. We’ll take what you say and form new questions from it, keeping the flow of the conversation going very naturally. We like things to unfold organically. We’ll try to connect with you on an emotional level, if that’s where you want to go, because that is what will capture an audience the most.

Unless you’re delivering a thesis, there is no need to prepare. Who could know more about your experience than you? We’ve done enough research to know what questions to ask. We come to you having formulated some questions, but not all of them. We come to this conversation from a place of true curiosity. You have the story to tell, we have the job of weaving it together in the best way possible. You can leave the work and worry to us - all you have to do is show up and sit with us.

Being interviewed on camera is an extreme act of vulnerability and trust. That’s a lot to offer someone you just met. Trust that we appreciate this and in turn, we will treat your story with great care.

The secret is this: We have the gear, the knowledge, the expertise when it comes to making a video work. But your story is the reason we’ve all gathered here. So make “mistakes.” Ask to start over. Ask questions. Let’s collaborate for a goal beyond this awkward moment -- we’re ultimately here to educate, inspire and inform our community. When we remember that, we’ll do great work together… especially if you’ve never been on camera before.

Sincerely,

Chance Multimedia

 

Feature Photo:

Jessica Chance interviewing Hassan Latif for Take Care Health Matters. http://takecarehealthmatters.org/portfolio-item/hassan-latif

We spoke with Kevin Monteiro in 2014 for Take Care Health Matters. Kevin sat down with us 72 days after his release from a 30 year prison sentence. The experiences he shared, and more stories at takecarehealthmatters.org, are inspiring other justice-involved people to access health care.

http://takecarehealthmatters.org/portfolio-item/kevin-monteiro

Insights from Chance Multimedia's Director of Photography

Insights from Chance Multimedia's Director of Photography

Hi, Chloe here. Today I’m going to interview James Chance, our Director of Photography and co-owner of Chance Multimedia. He has been the creative eye behind all of Chance Multimedia’s shoots for 6 years, and had many years of shooting experience before the company’s inception. I’m curious to know how he does what he does, what exactly goes on in his brain while he’s on a shoot, and I’m sure you could glean some insight from it too.

Chloe: So James, first can you tell us how you came to be so enamored with shooting video?

James: My background is photojournalism, however, I always had an interest in video because it was another tool. Way back, in my early foundation courses I specialized in video rather than photography. It had always been at the back of my mind. As I got more serious about visual journalism, although my track was still photography, there was always an interest and it grew. Mainly because it offers so much as a medium for storytelling. You can only do so much with stills. Being able to hear someone’s voice… It’s just a an added layer of the story.

Chloe: What does it take for you to prepare for a shoot? What steps do you take beforehand?

James: I’m uber-organized. If I could give one piece of advice to people starting out, it would be ‘stay organized.’ Especially with video, there’s so much stuff, so much gear, being organized is essential. I put a lot of thought and prep in before getting on location to ensure I have everything I need and that it’s accessible.

I like to know ahead of time what’s expected. That’s the benefit of working with a team, it helps to have someone in a production role. Starting out, there’s a lot of people having to do the one-man-band thing and it’s challenging. For one person, staying organized when you’re dealing with complexity is tough. You need someone to keep you on track so you can lose yourself creatively in any moment. Coffee is also important.

Chloe: You have a very unique style to be sure. It is what sets Chance Multimedia apart from others. How do you achieve the unique movements that we see in shots, where we are following a character’s feet as they walk, or getting a sweeping overview of a landscape?

James: Specifically with equipment - you have to conceive the idea first and then apply it with equipment. Physically I can’t carry everything -- that’s how we’ve grown as a company in striving for better production value. The main pieces of equipment we use are jibs and sliders. We also recently got the Movi. These are all just tools to facilitate ideas and high production.

First and foremost we’re talking about motion. Motion defines video. So given that, I want to make the best motion I can, use motion to my advantage because it determines production value. In any visual medium, providing the viewer with intriguing or new perspectives is important. When I do workshops, I teach photographers and videographers that you always think about where you’re shooting from. If you don’t move that much and every picture is the same, it becomes very dull. You have to create interesting angles and perspectives so the viewer is challenged in a way. Great images offer a unique perspective. The tools and equipment are really just to provide fluid motion, because you can only do so much with a handheld camera. We still do a lot of handheld stuff, but it’s all about production value.

Chloe: I’ve also always wondered, how do you achieve the beautiful vignette that we see around certain shots? And what affect do you think this has on the overall aesthetic of the video?

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From “Rotary Projects in the Dominican Republic

James: This type of look is used a lot more in our documentary. Without getting too technical, a lot of times when shooting with lens apertures wide open, that vignette is created. Also, using neutral density filters is critical when shooting on DSLR cameras. However at their highest settings, they tend to vignette. This effect draws the viewer in toward the middle of the screen. It’s not something I deliberately seek, it just happens as a side product of the way I’m shooting through the lenses. We do it less with commercial stuff because it’s more difficult to shoot that way.

Chloe: What is the first thing you do when you get to a shoot location? How do you set up your shots and know what to capture?

James: Usually when we arrive we know there’s going to be an interview. So we scope the best location for the interview - looking for natural light and a clean area that’s not too cluttered. An important thing is to get a lot of distance behind the subject, because we’re using quite a shallow depth of field on the lenses to make the subject pop out. We do interviews first as a rule so that we can illustrate any points that were made. If the person talks about getting their eyes tested using a specific tool we need to get a shot of them doing that after the interview.

Generally with B-roll we work as a pair. One person will have the A-camera which is handheld with audio to make sure we’re getting the basics and the sound. Then the B-camera is usually a DSLR like a 5D, which is rigged on a slider or jib to complement the basic stuff with more high-production-value shots. The balance in necessary.

Now that’s for live action situations. Next we’ll pull away from that and look for specific pickups, shots that can fill spaces which aren’t dependent on a subject doing a specific thing. They’re more about a space, more detailed shots, more conceptual in nature. With that stuff we’ll use the equipment to achieve high production value. All the while I’m thinking about the editor as well. In order to make their job easier you have to use a combination of wide shots and close shots so that they have enough to make a very dynamic-looking video.

Chloe: How do you balance being behind the camera and also engaging with the subjects of your video? The people in front of the lens?

James: My history as a stills photographer taught me the huge importance of engaging with the person you’re shooting. As storytellers we all have different styles that are personal to us. As a photographer, I would spend a lot of time talking to people and hanging with them and getting to know them before shooting. We often don’t have that luxury now on video shoots because it’s go-go-go. But people being comfortable in front of the camera is everything. If people feel awkward or shy it absolutely is read by the viewer. Sometimes I’ll stop shooting and chat with people and goof around a bit, then we’ll start up again. You know, we’re not doing hard news generally, and although our responsibility to the clients is very important, I try not to make it all too serious. People are intimidated when the video guys come in, especially with a multi-person crew. So we just try to put people at ease by recognizing the fact that it’s a bit uncomfortable.

As far as engaging with the subject while I’m focusing on the shots...you kind of just get used to multitasking as you shoot. It becomes second nature, like how you can have a conversation and make a sandwich at the same time. You’ve made a lot of sandwiches, so you can do it. That’s where organization comes into it too, because when you know what points you have to hit coming in, you can move very freely within them, you don’t have to think too much. It becomes easier to find the right exposure and angles. Between shooting moments you can re-engage with the subject. If there’s action going on between two people, I’m not going to say anything, I just let it play out.

Chloe: Because we do impact reporting and uncover serious issues, there must be times where being behind the camera is difficult. What is the most difficult shoot you’ve been on? And what advice do you have for filmmakers in those situations?

James: The worst situation I’ve seen people surviving in is a community that lives around the landfill sites in Manila. There is a site we shot at specifically in Vitas, Tondo. The people there are surviving off two things - one is sorting through the landfill where all the trash is getting dropped off to find recyclables to sell. The other is producing charcoal .They are pulling scrap wood from wherever and cooking it down to produce charcoal. So this whole area is full of black smoke, and it’s just unbreathable. For shooting, I could duck in for 20 seconds at a time, breathing through a handkerchief, and then run out. Not only are people working in there all day, but there are communities living right next to it. There are kids with no clothes and bare feet just running around the trash. Not only was that tough on a physical level, but emotionally it’s just hard seeing people live that way. It’s always the kids that hit you emotionally. What future do they have?

My advice to other filmmakers that may put themselves in the same situations -- Be compassionate, be sensitive, work sensitively. Always put the subjects first. I’m not going to upset anyone to get a better shot. If they don’t want me there I’m just going to smile and wave and say ‘see you later.’ You have the responsibility of representing a whole field and that I take incredibly seriously. You also have a responsibility to represent your subjects honestly. If you’re in a situation where they are consenting to being recorded, with that comes a huge responsibility to tell their story correctly, truthfully. What are you doing if you’re providing misinformation? What’s the point? It doesn’t serve.

Chloe: What do you believe video and documentaries do for the people on the other end of the camera? The people and lives you’re featuring?

James: You hope that the window into other people’s lives promotes change in society as a whole. I try really hard not to be the bleeding heart. When I was 18 I thought I could save the world, but as you grow older you just realize all you can do is use your skills to help as much as possible. There are organizations that are far better set up to deal with the massive challenges.

Honestly, you do it selfishly and you do it for other people, it’s fifty-fifty. I can make a difference and I am satisfied by the work. I have a skillset, and I would rather offer my skill-set toward social change because it’s important.

Chloe: To end on a light note, what are the most inspiring types of shoots for you to go on? What do you enjoy capturing the most?

James: I like shoots where I can take my time. Time is the most valuable asset. It promotes creativity. It’s not so much subject matter that excites me the most, there’s a scale obviously, but it’s more about having the time to approach any subject as creatively as possible rather than having one morning in one situation to hit all the marks. We’re good at that now, but it’s not as satisfying because there’s not time to be as creative. It takes time to ingest a situation, wait for things to happen organically. There could be something twice as interesting an hour later but you just have to go with what you’ve got because you’re on the clock.

To answer the obvious side, I always enjoy working with people, telling their stories. It’s the personal stories that I like. It’s an honor to represent people, it’s a responsibility that I love. Some people open up about incredibly personal things and it’s not easy to do.

Introducing New Team Members

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  Spring greetings!

We have some great new content lined up to share with you throughout these upcoming months.

First things first, meet Chloe and Dan.

Chloe came to us as an intern, hungry for more knowledge and experience in the video production world. She admired our mission, having a passion both for working with nonprofits and using video and photography as mediums to tell the untold story. With a background in journalism from Colorado State University, she was eager to develop her skills in that field and gain some real-world experience. Her natural knack for listening and narrative development quickly earned her a spot on the team as a Creative Production Assistant, where she is able to get her hands dirty in a variety of areas. She enjoys being a jack of all trades. She is currently working on building up Chance’s website, attending shoots to assist the team, blog planning, updating Stories Without Borders.com, organizing video projects and narrative development as an assistant editor.

What inspires her the most?

“When I watch a finished draft of a story we’ve told, a story that I’ve been involved with from start to finish, I feel incredibly inspired. Creating a story takes so much work, so much attention to detail, so much listening and attentiveness to the people being featured...it’s amazing when it all comes together.”

Dan came to us as a skilled craft editor.

He came to Colorado by bicycle in 2013 and just recently landed at Chance Multimedia. Living in Ohio, he had attended Ohio University for Photojournalism and Film and held a position as a staff photographer at the Columbus Dispatch. While freelancing in Colorado for outdoor lifestyle clients, Daniel was looking for something bigger which would help him give back to a larger community. As an Editor and Cinematographer, he is able to help tell stories which, in turn, help inspire people to think outside of their immediate lives. Daniel has experience working with nonprofits such as Local Matters in Columbus, Ohio and Paradox Sports in Boulder, Colorado and is using those experiences to help communicate the stories we here at Chance Multimedia are passionate about.

What inspires him the most?

“I am inspired by passionate people or groups who are not afraid to stand up and make their voices heard. We often work with exceptionally driven subjects and try to tell their stories with as much conviction as they tell them. Being able to feel that energy and weave it into the work we are doing here is a very inspirational feeling.”

Catching Up in Denver

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Greetings! Since we took a blogging hiatus for a while we need to play a little catch up, like old friends catching up over a cup of coffee. We’ve been up to quite a lot.

It’s been interesting to see what stories have come our way in the last year. We have felt the changes happening all over Colorado in our own business. Because of our mission to tell the untold story, to enlighten individuals with narratives of great people doing great things, we are excited by the storytelling opportunities we are seeing all over Colorado. Things are shifting.

Some shifts are positive -- there is a movement to live healthier, build self-sufficient communities and become more active in one’s own city. Other changes are posing a great challenge to people that have been here for years -- new developments are driving people out of their homes as many cannot afford the skyrocketing prices of living.

Chance Multimedia strives to capture both sides of the picture. We like to follow people and organizations that are making positive changes, and we think it’s important to be a voice for those that are feeling trampled on by the rapid growth in this city.

One story came our way in the last year that inspired us and caused us to contemplate our own community. The story of the Healthy Places Initiative, developed by The Colorado Health Foundation, and what’s happening within three communities in Colorado. These communities, full of families and lively cultural diversity, had room to improve: In some places they lacked streetlights at night, parks for their children to play in, bike paths to ride on...

We have been running around with our cameras following the actions of the Healthy Places Initiative members as they set out to build those things that were lacking, celebrate with their community members, and cultivate stronger relationships between neighbors. They’re creating pride in their community and embracing health in a whole new way.

Watching this growth and change makes us reflect on what we’re doing in our own lives and communities, Do we feel the sense of excitement and hopefulness in our own neighborhood that our lenses are capturing in these three ever-evolving places?

We think so. Jessica is involved in the Sustainable Food Policy Council, Chloe volunteers at the Denver Film Center down the street, James and Jessica participate in vegetable gardening with the neighbors on their block, and we run races in City Park to support causes we’re passionate about. These things excite us, and we would like to look for other ways to be engaged in the lively Denver community this year.

There’s always more that can be done. It just takes some vision and a few strong individuals to start moving forward and others will inevitably follow.

We are pleased that the work we’ve been doing with Healthy Places not only inspires us, but will inspire other communities around Denver to make the same impacts in their own neighborhoods.

We’re just glad we can be here to capture and share it all.

It’s an exciting time for Denver, and we have more interesting stories in the works that embrace these great movements.

All this talk of growth and change reminded us… we have some new team members to introduce to you next week!

 

A Behind the Scenes look at Living with the Dead from CPR News (Colorado Public Radio)

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Arts Reporter Ange-Aimee Woods reporting for CPR News. Graveyards do not generally make comfortable homes for people who still have a pulse.

But “Living with the Dead,” a new documentary by Colorado filmmaker Jessica Chance which opens at the Sie FilmCenter on Saturday, March 29,  tells the story of the thousands of living people who call a cemetery in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, home.

Manila is the world’s most densely populated city with more than 43,000 residents per square kilometer. Poverty and overpopulation partly explain why more than 2,000 people have chosen to live in a cemetery that also houses hundreds of thousands of the city’s Catholic dead.

“I agreed to be interviewed so that people would know that you can live anywhere with dignity,” Jenny Juan, a mother of four who lives in a mausoleum with her husband, says.

Some of the residents featured in the documentary, like Angelina Cabuso, a grandmother who came to live in the cemetery after her home was devastated during World War II by Japanese and U.S. troops fighting for control of the city, have lived in the city’s North Cemetery for generations.

“We were born to this situation, we endure it,” Steve Cabuso, her son, who was born in the cemetery, says.

Cabuso earns his living by looking after tombs near the North wall of the cemetery. He keeps the graves clean and receives a little money from the families of the dead in return for his work.

Cabuso’s daughter Jennylyn, who is graduating from college this year, vows to leave the cemetery her family has lived and worked in for generations.

CPR caught up with Denver filmmaker Jessica Chance, the director and co-executive producer of “Living with the Dead,” to find out more about the making of the documentary.

Read Ange-Aimee's "Five Questions," here: http://www.cpr.org/news/story/5-questions-colorado-filmmaker-jessica-chance-living-dead

On Creating a Life of Value, and Forging Your Own Road (Guest Post)

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By Jessica Kutz Direction. Career Path. Life Planning. Talk about pressure. I come from a generation of people who with the advent of the Internet, the instant connectedness to anyone and anything, Skype, social media, and Google maps, the world and its infinite possibilities are instantly available with a high-speed internet connection.  How does one go about inserting themselves amongst all the noise and begin to look for a way to have a voice?

Maybe the answer isn’t looking, maybe it’s creating. I recently met with Jessica from Chance Multimedia. I was (and still am) at a point in my life were I am testing out all the different ways I can create a life and a life’s work that I find valuable. So I started reaching out to people who are doing things that I could envision myself doing in a couple of years, people who have forged their own road instead of following one. I had heard about Chance Multimedia through an internship I had at WorldDenver and felt instantly connected to the company.

I thought about majoring in journalism in university but I never really felt like I wanted to be producing mass media type news. I had little interest in five-second reports on gruesome murders, tsunami aftermath, or political candor.  Now with the prevalence of social media, a tweet of 140 characters, every thing served on a spoon, media is reaching more people and becoming less informative.  Now that’s a scary thought.

Thankfully there is a solution found in the Chance Multimedia/Stories without Borders approach. Empower the storyteller. There is a way to embrace the digital age, to evolve with the technology and let it bring us back to our oral traditions. Ancient history tells us that humans have always been storytellers but somewhere along the way it feels as though we have left that part of our culture behind.

I spent some time in the Australian outback and had the opportunity to work with and live with the Jaowyn –an aboriginal group in the Northern Territory. I remember one particular day I was talking to one of the Elder’s Johnnie and he was telling me dreamtime stories of the area. He talked about the Gorge created by Nabil the creation snake that carved its way through the hard barren Australian desert and created life and brought water. Aboriginals are well known for their dreamtime stories and even more so for their connection to the land. These stories are handed down orally from generation to generation and revolve around land formation and the creation of animals. A crucial part of these stories is that they create a deep respect and awe for the country. This tradition fosters a great sense of stewardship and a responsibility to protect and maintain the land.

It makes me wonder, if more news were focused on people’s stories rather than sensational events would we feel a greater sense of responsibility to protect humanity. Would we find more of ourselves in our neighbors than we thought possible? I think the answer is yes. I think if more media were focused on narrative rather than documentation, society as a whole would feel a greater responsibility to protect and enhance the lives of those around us.  Topics like the Syrian refugee crisis would no longer be discussed in numbers or by what international agency is plastered on their identical white tents, instead we would hear about the individuals, their unique struggles, their identities as humans- not numbers.

In short, that is why I reached out to Chance Multimedia because they are reaching for a medium that endorses humanity and validates the success and struggles of people.

As a recent grad I, like many of my peers are feeling a need to connect to people like Jessica and James so maybe this hyper sense of instant connectedness can be used to our advantage after all.

On a side note don’t forget to check out their the Living with the Dead documentary March 29th at Sie Film Center!

Editor's note: Jessica has been volunteering with us to create a film poster and flyer as well as distributing it and engaging the community. She found us and has been an unexpected and great asset. We recommend her personally to anyone looking for help from a self-starting, talented, inspired and value-driven individual. I can see her looking for the same kind of help, soon! - Jessica Chance

 

We Made a Movie. Now What?

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by Patrick Gillespie, Editor and Production Assistant and Jessica Chance, Director and Producer

We’re on to the next step forward following the completion of Living with the Dead. The process has been nonstop, there was only nominal relief when I exported the final version before we carried on to the next step. Screenings, downloads, distributions... Our first, and simplest, step is to show the film to all those that wish to see it locally. So many friends and family have been a part of this project in different ways and have been asking for years now when they get to see it. This project would have been impossible without the help of so many in Ohio, Denver, Manila, and many places in between and we can’t wait to share it with everyone who has played a part along the way.

Indeed, one of the driving ideas behind the film is to pose hard questions and present difficult realities in order to generate discussion. On a bigger and broader scope, the film is about Manila itself and our end goal is to distribute it there. The subjects of the film and those who are directly affected by the issues we present, deserve to see it more than anyone. Living with the Dead raises a lot of questions and many of the issues we explore are unresolved in Manila and many places around the world (lack of adequete housing, education, access to reproductive health, issues around separation of Church and State, and more.) We hope the film will be a tool to fuel discussion for many NGOs working to better lives in Manila and elsewhere. If you are a Manila based nonprofit involved in the aforementioned issues and are interested in sharing the film, please contact us! We want to help.

As we work on answers to foreign distribution, in Denver, at least, we finally we have an answer to the persisting question of, “When can we see it?”

The answer: Saturday March 29th at 7pm, we will be screening Living with the Dead at the Sie Film Center, more details and tickets can be found here.

We’re incredibly excited. It’s a unique experience to finally share the work in which our hearts, minds and  time have been so immersed for so long. I imagine it will be good to let people know that, yes, we did actually make a film. The screening will be a great time, we’ll have a small reception afterwards (and Sie is one of our favorite theaters in Colorado).

After the screening though, we have more questions to answer. What now? Distribution in a modern market is a strange, evolving world. DVDs are largely by the wayside. We’re in the process of submitting to a host of festivals (we recently found out that we are an official selection of the Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival), but won’t find out about others for some time. Getting the film up on Netflix or iTunes is a lengthy and risky process, but perhaps a rewarding one... We want to make sure the film reaches any and all that wish to see it, and think we’ve come up with an idea of how to do just that... More on that soon - we promise.

Until then, we hope to see you on the 29th!

- The Chance Multimedia Team

Storytelling: What's the Point?

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By Patrick Gillespie, Editor and Production Assistant It seems as if the world is becoming saturated with certain buzzwords: Sustainability. Community. Impact. Development. I know all these phrases and more come up in conversations at Chance Multimedia quite frequently. For me, it’s been easy to get lost in the deluge of these words. When they come up around clients and our work, I haven’t always taken the time to step back and really take a look at what we’re talking about, instead just proceeding on- another day on set or at the office.

Sometimes though, I have to remind myself what we’re doing here. The reason why I work at Chance. The work we seek out to do is about helping people. It’s easy to frame any kind of work in these terms, I’ve done so many times in the past. But the projects we seek to undertake are, at their core, an attempt to directly benefit others and increase their quality of life. And that’s what it’s about for me, that’s why I’m here. I know it’s the same for Jess and James too. It’s a fundamental tenet of Chance, and what drew me to apply here in the first place.

Take the documentary we’ve been working on, Living with the Dead is about so many things. I had to think about it for so long in terms of storytelling that I became slightly removed from the reason behind the story. These are real people in front of our lenses. There’s a reason we’re telling this story. Not because it’s visually appealing, not because it’s a captivating story, a unique setting. It is all of these things, but the reason this story is being told is to have an impact. If we were able to ease the struggle of any character in the film or influence the mindset of those who see it, then the film will have been successful.

I think it’s good to remind ourselves of this every now and then. Six hours into trying to figure out an animation hardly anyone may notice, these thoughts are usually far from my head. But that little animation, a subtle cut- those are the first tentative steps in this process that is not about me, not about Chance Multimedia. It’s about leaving the burden of those who carry one a little easier to bear. Hopefully our newest endeavor, Stories Without Borders, will enable us to do this even more. By working as a registered nonprofit, we will be able to better serve those who normally would be unable to tell their stories. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this is an increased ability to empower. Rather than always speaking for others, we aim to help train a new generation of storytellers to provide an honest look into their lives. This extension of our ideals is more exciting to me than any undertaking we’ve embraced since the documentary and I’m incredibly excited to see where it goes.

- Patrick

Living with the Dead - Notes from a Documentary Editor

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by Patrick Gillespie, Chance Multimedia Editor and Production Assistant

This project was a host of different firsts for me. My first professional documentary edit, my first feature, the first time I cut a documentary that I did not produce and direct. Coming into the project after all production was complete was by far the most difficult part for me. Sitting down in front of a blank timeline with days of footage and nearly a hundred pages of interview transcriptions from characters I had never met was daunting to say the least. I figured the easiest way to go about it was just like any other film I’ve cut, bit by bit. Start small, take an idea or a theme from an interview and cut together one scene. Pretty soon a couple seconds are down, then a small sequence. It does start to come together, bit by bit. Pretty soon you’re creating a story.

Or rather, the story begins to create itself. I began to see the characters beyond their transcriptions, as people with emotions and histories. These began to fall into place into a greater context- one character’s stories from WWII evolved into an exploration into the little-known history of Manila in WWII. The struggle of a family living within the cemetery walls was revealed to be a small piece in the same puzzle that also included the perils of overpopulation and a Reproductive Health Bill in limbo in the Philippine Congress. It’s been a process of evolution, discovery, and constant reconstruction- much like Manila itself. Sequences were added, deleted, re-worked and added again. There were the inevitable dull moments, yet surprising instances of excitement- finding parts of a crucial interview that I was unaware existed. The sheer labor involved in editing a film was thankfully not much of a surprise. Pulling a single sentence from a transcribed interview in Tagalog into the timeline and subtitling it often took five minutes or more.

 The author in a moment of repose during the epic Living with the Dead edit.

The author in a moment of repose during the epic Living with the Dead edit.

The author in a moment of repose.

As the film started to come together, I felt a sense of nervous pride as I played through it for the 1000th time. It truly is about the compassion, the resilience of the characters living in a situation that most couldn’t even conceive of. Their lives are the true story, one which we were fortunate enough to document. The direction I had over the story was a gift, one that I am grateful for. We’ve created a film here, each of us playing our respective parts, different in their own ways. I’ve felt fortunate to be a part of this process and a part of this team, challenged to take on a role and dedicating myself to see it through.

- Patrick

Pat did an amazing job with this edit. We're so grateful to have him as a part of our team! - Jessica Chance

Seeking a Creative Assistant, and a Fond Farewell

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Seeking a Creative Assistant, and a Fond Farewell Soon we’ll say goodbye to our friend, our very first hire, and the assistant that saved my sanity through the past year, Suandria Hall. She’s landed a full-time job in her chosen field, which is awesome: She'll be working in clinical research as an analyst, helping to make sure rural hospital and clinic patients can receive the latest in medical care. We can’t argue with that.

In fact, we’re very happy for her but can’t help but be sad to see her go.

She has always been personal, and allowed me to be, too. I had no idea what it meant to be someone’s “boss,” (be it part-time) and Sunnie nudged me in the right direction with grace and kindness.

We’re going to miss her.

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This also means, we’re looking for her replacement. Here’s Sunnie’s list of must-have qualities to work for our small but mighty team:

Multimedia Creative Assistant/Proposal Coordinator

10 -15 hrs a week

Position Requirements

  • Strong organizational skills
  • Knowledge of research tools to inform proposal development
  • Skilled at written and verbal communication skills
  • Budget formulation, tracking and reporting
  • Ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously and meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment

Administrative Responsibilities

  • Frequent client contact via email, phone and some face-to-face meetings.
  • Create and maintain electronic files (for clients and contractors)
  • Maintain FreshBooks activity for weekly project time tracking, client estimates and invoicing.
  • Document creation, editing and management (proposal and estimate templates, letterhead etc.)--
  • Maintain contact lists

Proposal/Project Coordination Responsibilities

  • Developing, writing, editing, and proofreading content for proposals, presentations, project descriptions, estimates, and related materials.
  • Participate creatively and strategically in writing proposals and project estimates.
  • Frequent proposal and estimate delivery, client invoicing, and in-house status reporting

Required Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree or 1 – 2 years or equivalent professional experience preferred
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office, Word, Publisher, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • Financial management skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Flexible and able to work well independently and in teams
  • Outstanding organizational and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment
  • Demonstrated ability to adapt and learn quickly in a challenging work environment
  • Demonstrated positive attitude and professionalism

Special note: Applicants with grant-writing experience and 501c3 development preferred.

On a personal note:

Sunnie, I can’t thank you enough for showing up and sticking with us the past year. Your help has been enormous and truly life-changing for me personally, and for Chance Multimedia. Your replacement has big shoes to fill. Best of luck to you… please keep in touch!

- Jessica

Introducing Our New Intern: Patrick Gillespie

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I’ve been interested in film for a huge portion of my life, but didn’t actualize this interest until relatively recently. When applying for schools, I never considered film school as an option, telling myself that it was beyond me, way out of line. Yet upon my return from study abroad in Spain, halfway through my junior year of college, I found myself with a year and half of school left, a thesis to write, and enough time to complete another major of my choosing. Thus I thrust myself into the film school at the University of Denver, with a focus on documentary storytelling being an obvious choice. I graduated this spring from the University of Denver with degrees and honors in psychology and film, with an emphasis on documentary filmmaking. Psychology has allowed me to better understand those around me, and film has given me a medium to tell the stories that I grow to understand. For isn’t storytellers what we are, at the end of the day? We may have transcended, leaving the smoke filled campfire circles, but those of us that are born to tell stories will tell them, only hardened by any adversity. Adversity is merely another chapter.

Last summer, after taking my first film class ever, Intro to Production, I applied for and received a grant through DU to film a documentary for my senior thesis. With this money, I borrowed my mom’s tiny digital camera and moved to a small village in Nicaragua, alone. I met with a professor there for six days, then spent the next two months living and breathing the stories of Gigante. I learned more in these two months about filmmaking, travel, and myself than I had in years of schooling. In the field notebook I kept, there’s a scrawl towards the bottom of a page, “I find in every second here what I spend weeks searching for a mere taste of at home.”

Six months after my return, I finally finished editing what became my senior thesis “Encantado Por El Mar", a short documentary focused on maintaining the integrity of a small local culture as foreign development careened forward. With barely any time to breathe, I began another film, this one more local. “Leveled” was my capstone documentary at DU, a short film that explored reactions to our own mortality and followed the head groundskeeper at Fairmount Cemetery. This film took on a much more poetic tone than my previous film, aided exponentially by the incredible visuals guided by our DP. “Leveled” went on to win the Best of Fest award at DU’s InShort Film Festival and is now an official selection for DocuWest Film Festival in Golden, Colorado.

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Patrick 2

I found Chance Multimedia, through a flyer posted in a classroom at DU, advertising the ever-elusive ‘paid internship’. Although this caught my eye through the plethora of papers, a look at their website really hooked me in. Within 24 hours of sending Jessica and James an email, I sat in front of them for an interview. It became clear to both parties (I hope) that I’d be good fit with the company. These were people whose ideals aligned with my own, to whom helping people was a first priority and film an integrative medium. I left the interview politely declining the opportunity to ruminate my decision over the weekend, and accepted on the spot. It’s incredibly fulfilling finding work that allows me to use the skills I’ve learned to achieve goals that coincide with the values I hold close.

To me, documentaries are the summation of passion, the most involving and incredible experience one can hope to encounter. To find a way to tell a story as I’m immersed neck-deep and looking at the distant shore of my comfort zone. The world needs people that are willing to tirelessly work, to strap on that bulletproof vest to tell a story. Because the stories are out there, waiting to be told, waiting for a storyteller.

– Patrick

Creating a Video Strategy

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 Creating a Video Strategy

Creating a Video Strategy

If you would like to download a printable copy of this infographic, please click on this link. Alternatively, simply click on the image above to view the graphic full-size in a new window within your browser.

"I will wait for you."

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Note: The following blog was originally posted on emphas.is for our project backers, and is being re-posted here. Posted on 11/24/12 at 10:13am

Week two in Manila is wrapped! Two more to go. I feel like we've been here for a month, at least!

More about all of our activities and progress "In Other News," below.

First, I want to share some of the experiences we had today in the North Cemetery.

It's Saturday. I'm tired. We haven't taken a day "off" since arriving. There is so much to do. I woke up declaring, "I'm taking the day off!" But by noon decided to join James in the North Cemetery anyway. That's why we are here, right?

We've started a photo project with three individuals in the cemetery, giving them each a disposable Kodak camera, encouraging them to document their lives, from their perspective: what is important to them, what makes them sad/angry/grateful, etc. We've also given each one a notebook to record what the photos are, and what they mean to them. We'll give them each a book of their work before we leave.

In addition, and depending on how the photos turn out, I'm hoping to turn this into a fundraising project for the photographers and their families once we return to the U.S. and launch the documentary. We have two cameras and journals ready to develop tomorrow, and engaged with a third local photographer today. I'm encouraging each to be as creative as they wish, and I can't wait to see the photos!

I also brought my old, amateur video camera and invited LL, his "Lola" Crisna (she is unrelated but his caretaker - his mother abandoned him) and Angelina (84-year-old mother of Steve Cabuso, one of our closest friends and subjects of the documentary) an opportunity to play with it, and show their surroundings. LL generously gave me a tour of his house (room), pointing out what was important to him, where he sleeps, etc.

James produces beautiful visuals. For me, the most fulfilling part of this project is engaging people through interviews, as well as photos and video that they take, to share their perspectives with us. Today was a good day.

While James gathered high-quality b-roll and photography around the cemetery, I hung out on the north wall with the women and LL. Crisna told me that she has been sick with vomiting and fever for four days. I asked her if I could get her medicine and she showed me the packaging of what she would take, if she could afford it. (Each generic pill is almost one USD, which is completely out of her budget.) I asked permission to buy her medicine and she thanked me. I took off for the pharmacy about two blocks outside of the cemetery. I found the medicine, and as I was paying, heard my name being called. "Jessica!"

I turned around saw Steve's wife, Jinkie, and her son Jett. I asked why they were there, and they said, "for you!"

Apparently Steve sent them after me when he found out I had gone wandering by myself outside the cemetery. Jinkie held my hand, and Jett's, as we crossed the very busy, chaotic street, and brought me back, "home," to the cemetery. Steve chastised me for leaving on my own, and told me he had sent Jinkie to find me.

The feeling of being cared for, and looked after so closely, was surprising and very, very comforting. These are true friends.

I spent the rest of the afternoon speaking with Angelina: about her long life, her devastating experiences during the Battle of Manila, her brother, who was beheaded by Japanese forces during that time, her 11 children (five of whom she has outlived), and why she moved to the cemetery. It was a deeply moving conversation for me. She also told me that her first child, born when she was 19 years old, was fathered by an American soldier who never knew she became pregnant. She said she "wants to talk to him!" I have his name and I'm going to try to look him up.

I'm really looking forward to interviewing her for this project. What she has lived through is mind-blowing...and she shares it all with a smile, repeating often, "I am strong!" And she is. You're going to like her.

We also visited with Jerry and Jenny. Their daughter, Kristin, agreed to be our third “inside” documentary photographer. Jerry brought out his new pet toucan, Ralph-Palph. Google, the parrot, was released from his cage and Kristin even brought out her pet, “Bird-Bird,” who kindly sat on my shoulder. I was, clearly, elated.

 Jessica with Bird-Bird

Jessica with Bird-Bird

In Other News:

In the past week, we've interviewed Father Melvin Castro, Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family Life of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, following a "media forum" against the Reproductive Health Bill, which is a very high-profile issue in this heavily Catholic country, and an issue he is leading the fight against.

We also interviewed Nathalie Versceles, faculty member of the Department of Women and Development Studies at the University of the Philippines, and Board member of Likhaan, who is very much in support of the RH Bill (although she says recent amendments have caused it to "lose it's teeth"). And, last but not least, Carlos Celdran, whose dedication to Manila, her history, and human rights for all Filipinos, is providing passionate and insightful perspective into the larger issues surrounding the context of the North Cemetery community.

We've also requested interviews with Representative Imelda Marcos (former First Lady of the Philippines) and Representative Emmanunel D. Pacquiao (Manny Pacquiao, aka, "Pacman") as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson, respectively, of the Millennium Development Goals Committee for the House of Representatives of the Philippines.

No word, yet. But we're trying!

Next week we'll speak with an expert on sustainability in informal communities, another expert or two (we hope), and begin our final interview series with residents in the North Cemetery.

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As we left today, I gave Angelina a kiss on the cheek I told her we would see her soon. She replied, "I will wait for you."

Thanks again to all of you for your support! We're working our tails off to make a beautiful, honest documentary over here.

- Jessica Chance

Posted on 11/24/12 at 10:13am

Getting Re-acquainted: Day 1 in the North Cemetery

Getting Re-acquainted: Day 1 in the North Cemetery

Note: The following blog was originally posted on emphas.is for our project backers, and is being re-posted here. Posted on 11/16/12 at 4:00pm

Dear backers,

Thank you again so much for supporting this project! With the help of friends inside the cemetery and out, we are quickly making progress wrapping up the documentary.

We left Denver at 8 a.m. Sunday morning and arrived in Malate (Manila) just after midnight on Tuesday. We spent a couple of days adjusting to the new time zone in familiar surroundings, then moved to an empty hostel in Santa Cruz just around the corner from the cemetery, so we can spend most of our energy on our work inside and outside the cemetery (rather than getting there and back).

We're grateful to have found a location so close the cemetery. It's making a world of difference in our productivity and ability to sleep! (No Malate party crowd!). We don't have water most of the time so far, but that is another story and feels small compared to the access and privacy we have here.

With every visit, James and/or I always approach the cemetery slowly (i.e., we don't arrive initially with a priority to shoot, but rather catch up with friends and check in on how everyone is doing since the last time we visited). Also, the security at the gate is always changing...will they let us in? Demand a "tip" (bribe)? It's always uncertain. The first time we arrived in 2008 we actually had to get written permission from City Hall to even enter the public cemetery; it took a week!

Today was a breeze. Ray Alvarez, a kind and very honest guard who often escorted us around the cemetery in 2008, was on the front gate, and welcomed us back. (Hooray!) First anticipated hurdle: overcome!

Before we even got through the gate, we heard shouts of "James! James!" Lots of smiles and hellos. He has developed such a positive place for himself in the community. Warm welcomes were coming out of mausoleums and from children and their parents on the streets every few seconds.

We visited with our friends Jenny and Jerry Juan first, who are relatively well-off and incredibly influential within the cemetery community. We learned a few unsettling things there. One, that since my last visit—and as James visited last October—someone he considered a friend had started spreading "rumors" about James and Jenny, centered around an afternoon when he went to document her voting in the local Barangy elections (nevermind that there were other people in tow for the trip). We don't know exactly what the rumors were, but they caused Jenny great distress, and for her to distance herself from James the last time he was here, which he had mentioned to me. That was surprising and upsetting to hear, especially that anything involving her and her family's ongoing openness to us caused her problems. Apparently, the issue has been settled between the Juan's and their former friends, but not without some blows. Ouch all around. We ran into the gossiper today, and James treated him cooly. We hope that is the last we hear of that.

Jenny also shared some devastating news about her family and several great losses that they have endured since we last visited. We were very sad to hear, but grateful that she felt able to share her stories with us still, and hopeful that lending an ear, condolences and friendship eased her burden at least for a moment. Life can be so hard.

 Jenny's sister, Olyvi, and her new boyfriend, Andrew visiting with the Juans today.

Jenny's sister, Olyvi, and her new boyfriend, Andrew visiting with the Juans today.

When we were leaving, a friend of Jerry's offered to escort James around some other low-income communities in the metro area to provide contrast to the cemetery community for the documentary, which we aim to follow up on...more on that soon.

Next, we visited Steve, his wife, children and 84-year-old mother, Angelina. They treated us to lunch and Cokes on the north wall. It was a joy to spend time with them. They are always incredibly gracious and kind. Steve said he saw the documentary trailer on YouTube, and said that it was "very good." Glad to hear, since he is featured in it! He is very cynical of corruption in government and lies from the media, so his seal of approval on how we represented him means the world to me. He also thanked me for sending him a YouTube video of his favorite song, "Let it Be," on Facebook a few months ago. I love Facebook for allowing us to stay connected to him and Jenny.

 Reunion with the Cabuso family and friends on the North wall today.

Reunion with the Cabuso family and friends on the North wall today.

We also visited with LL, a young boy who played videographer for us on our last visit, and I hope will be doing some photography for the documentary as we ease into the project throughout the next week. He is more sickly than most, and his guardian immediately asked us for help getting medication for him again, which we of course agreed to do. He showed us his Gangnam Style dance, which was hilarious. (If you aren't yet familiar with the Gangnam Style phenomenon, I highly recommend clicking the link).

 LL, Gangnam-style

LL, Gangnam-style

Rody, who was featured in our first multimedia piece in 2008, which won the Every Human Has Rights Award, is still working in the United Spanish American War Veterans Memorial part of the cemetery, where he cleans and "pulls the grass" by hand. He suffered a stroke a couple of years ago, but was in good spirits. It was good to see him again.

We'll continue in the cemetery with follow-up interviews from 2011, and more video work to feature the economy and larger communtiy there. I'm also hoping to start a photo project with three particular kids if they are interested, which would be a complement to the overall documentary. More on that as the project progresses.

Finally, we 're lining up interviews with people outside the cemetery who can speak to larger human rights, governmental and cultural issues which surround and impact the cemetery community and others here, in addition to population growth and the history of Manila and the Philippines. This will be important to give the voices and experiences in the cemetery much-needed context for a wider audience.

To date, we're meeting with a famous activist here this weekend, and hope he'll agree to lend his voice and perspective to the project (many thanks to Veejay Villafranca for that connection...fingers crossed!). We're also extremely grateful to Ben Rasmussen and Abby Kirkbride who connected us with friends here who are introducing us to experts in women's studies, culture and history. We hope to be able to schedule those interviews this week or next.

All in all, all is well. Thank you again for your support. Feel free to ask questions, make suggestions, or leave your comments below. We appreciate your support so much!

With gratitude,

Jessica & James

Posted on 11/16/12 at 4:00pm

From Manila

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Photo: 84-year old Angelina Cabuso. Cemetery resident since 1945. By Jessica Chance

We've had an incredible, engulfing three weeks of production in Manila. So far, three cemetery resident interviews down, one to go tomorrow. Four fantastic interviews from outside the cemetery on issues ranging from gender to economics, Manila's history and the controversial reproductive health bill here, and one more to go.

We've been keeping more extensive production notes with our backers on the "Making of Zone," for our project, Living with the Dead: Manila's North Cemetery, on www.emphas.is. We plan to share those posts and photos about the ups and downs we've had with production while in Manila this month, once we return to Denver and begin post-production.

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Production

As always, I find myself completely drawn into this city, and the people we work with on a daily basis to put this story together, including the trike drivers who wait for us and know our routes; the subjects, who also assist in translation, and provide much appreciated friendship at the end of each day we spend together.

We are grateful to our backers, and to everyone in the Philippines, the U.S., and all over the world, who have provided us with financial, emotional and social support to make this project a reality.  We can't wait to share the documentary with you!

Introducing Taylor Shain and a Documentary Update

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We'd like to take the time to introduce Taylor Shain, our new Production and Editing Intern. Taylor comes to us from North Carolina and we're excited to have him as part of the team. What follows is Taylor's story on how he wound up in Denver, working with us, and an update on our Emphas.is funding project: From Taylor:

I entered Elon University as an intended Physics Major in Fall 2008. I eventually switched to pursue an Exercise Sports Science degree. Soon after that, I started calling myself a Strategic Communications major (I was never really sure what that last one meant). Then, one day, I stumbled across a course catalog. I started flipping through the pages and I found Elon’s Cinema degree. Every class offered piqued my interest—I finally found a love (related to school). Flash-forward two years later: I stumbled upon a job posting for Chance Multimedia.

I love anything creative. I don’t really consider myself a filmmaker; rather, I’m a creative person who happens to make movies. I enjoy everything artistic: arts and crafts, cooking, writing and, of course, filmmaking. I am thrilled to be part of Chance Multimedia because I have an opportunity to develop my creative skills and gain more production experience.

I believe that cinema and multimedia have an enormous impact on the world. That is the second reason I am excited to work here. It seems like James and Jessica make all their business decisions with moral and ethical beliefs in mind. I greatly admire that dedication. This job may also give me the opportunity to work on “Living with the Dead,” which seems like a really great project, story and opportunity.

I hope to eventually create a feature film.  For now, I’ll work on videos that I love to create and see where life takes me.

Emphas.is Funding Update

We are also so very grateful to each of you who supported our campaign to finalize the documentary featuring the community in Manila's North Cemetery!  We're so pleased to have made our goal. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Emphas.is is collecting the final donations now, and we anticipate being able to finalize our travel and production plans to share with you in the coming weeks.

Looking forward, we're excited to be able to bring perspectives from the cemetery community to life for a larger audience through the forthcoming documentary, and grateful to be working with Taylor and the rest of the team on this, and many other stories, in the months to come.

-Jessica

A Compelling, Creative Truth

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Photo: Former Chance Multimedia Intern and Video Slayer Muffy Robinson, shooting on the Silkology set. By Muffy Robinson

“Well, what is it exactly that you want to do?”

I’ve always dreaded answering this question, mostly because it seems impossible to answer, but mainly because I don’t even know where to begin. I’m sure I’m not the only one in my position who feels this way.

I’m a recent college grad—having just received my master’s degree—looking for a career in a bleak economy, in a field of journalism that many say is dying- I say transitioning - all the while trying to maintain some sort of semblance of who I am and what I want out of life.

And to tap off that hunt for the elusive career, I’m also relocating to a new city. Scary right?

Truth be told, I’m a bit of a control freak, so for me yes, it is a little daunting, but it shouldn’t be, and here is why.

I’ve been working for Chance Multimedia as an intern editing video (with the affectionate title of Video Slayer). The most important lesson I’ve learned from this internship and Chance’s business model is that multimedia story telling is (what I hope will be) a new format of journalism.

So, what exactly is multimedia story telling then?

I’ve struggled with that phrase since I first heard it from one of my professors, and I may even still be struggling with it now. On a basic level, it seemed to be the combination of video, still photography and audio into a video reel; upon further glance, it appeared to be low budget advertising that non-profits had access to. Little did I know that I had it all wrong. That’s when Chance Multimedia was added to my resume and the definition of multimedia finally became clear.

Multimedia story telling is creating stories that are told through any and every means of achieving a compelling, creative truth.

In this new model, the line between advertising and old school journalism is blurred into a new model of creative story telling. Stories that can be and are visually beautiful, stories where people have their own voice rather than having their story regurgitated by a news anchor, stories that make you want to purchase, support, or be a part of something, stories that aren’t formulaic and determine their own way of being told. Perhaps even stories where few words are ever exchanged.

How did I come to this definition?

Well, I’m not the kind of person who wants to change the world. In fact, I’m not convinced I even care if I make a difference in it. I’m the kind of person that just wants to share in and be a part of life. I’m guessing there are lots of us out there, but few have had the same opportunity that I have, to work with James and Jessica Chance.

I didn’t initially see my viewpoint aligning with James’ and Jessica’s when I first arrived at Chance. I was—and still am—interested in fashion, sports and urban culture, and their passions lie more within the realm of human rights. But it is the medium they use to inform people of their interests that directly correlates with my own interests: visual story telling.

While I’m sure James and Jessica don’t consider much of their work journalistic or would call themselves reporters, what they do is similar in my eyes. Ultimately they are giving the viewer information that someone (usually their client) deems important information to be known. In a news room, the only difference is the news director or producer is the one selecting what information is important enough to make the air. The largest difference in Chance’s stories from a journalist’s is the way they put together the information. All of the information is still completely the truth but it’s being told through the voice of the subject, not a third party alternative, such as a reporter or a news anchor. There are no voiceovers to make a story connect and only the information that was gathered can make the final edit. For me it’s a lot like that childhood game of telephone: the more people that try to interpret the message, the more muddled it becomes. The Chances have cut out the middleman in their stories and I have a feeling the general population would trust mass media slightly more if journalism were to do the same.

I do realize there is an obvious problem in transitioning journalism into multimedia; time. Multimedia takes a little more finesse and requires a lot more tweaks than a news story might. Here at Chance, I have been afforded the luxury of longer deadlines and fewer stories. Will it ever work in a news information capacity? I don’t know, but I sure hope so. I might actually start watching then.

I have taken away a lot from the Chances, but for me, the most beneficial was the basic purpose of a story and how to tell it. I learned that, when done well, a story will weave together pieces of information to create a message and the intent of that message is to make the viewer believe. Whether that belief is thinking Bryan Dayton makes one mean cocktail with Silk milk or the belief that the stories of people living in a cemetery in Manila are worth hearing, the point is to see and believe. Nothing more, nothing less. If the viewer feels a call to action or is inclined to initiate change, then the story has accomplished a positive reaction and I would consider it a success.

Today, we all want to be entertained, not see an outline of what someone else deems are important events we should know about. So, what better way to meet that demand than through multimedia story telling? This is how I hope journalism is changing. Changing to be more compelling and innovative. I’m confident the rest of the journalism world will come around and see my viewpoint; it just may take some time.

So let me take another stab at that dreaded question. What exactly is it that I want to do?

I want to tell stories. Stories about fashion, designers, sports, city events, maybe even stories for advertising firms. And it just so happens that the way I’m going to do that is through a camera lens and a Final Cut keyboard (or Premiere Pro, thanks to James and Jessica).

So one last question. Am I afraid of finding a job, in a new career field and in a new city?

Definitely not. I’m all too happy searching for a career in this current grey area better known as multimedia and am confident I am more than equipped with the skill sets to be competitive in this transforming industry.

Oh, and if you know of anyone hiring for the position of Video Slayer, please pass along my information.

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Living with the Dead Documentary Fundraiser and FAQs

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First, I cannot thank the backers of our emphas.is fundraising effort enough for your pledges of support. We are over the halfway point to reach our goal of $5,050, which will cover the hard costs of travel and accommodation to complete this 30-minute documentary. If we exceed our goal, we will apply extra funds against the cost of post-production and distribution of the finished piece. As we near the end of this campaign, I want to address some good questions and also some issues that have come up during this fundraising process:

Q: Chance Multimedia is a for-profit company, right? Why do you need funding for this project?

Yes, Chance Multimedia is a for-profit entity that earns money producing video and photo content for both nonprofit and commercial clients.

Alternately, the Living with the Dead story, which we (James and Jessica Chance) have been funding and working on independently since 2008, is completely unrelated to our for-profit business model. (James did receive support from POYi in 2011 to finish the photography for this story, but the video documentary portion of the project has been 100% self-funded until now.)

If our goal is funded in total, we will continue to invest hundreds of hours of unpaid time to see this project to completion.  The pledges we seek will only cover hard travel costs for two people (flight, basic accommodation and basic meals for one month) while we are on the ground in Manila.

We will receive no funds unless our goal is reached in its entirety.

Q: Wouldn’t that money be better used to help the people in the cemetery?

That is a complicated question. We see our role as storytellers and documentarians. With several years of history and relationships in the cemetery community, we feel we’re in a good position to illustrate the challenges residents face as well as the solutions they have created for themselves in the face of pressing global issues.

We do hope the story we are able to tell with the community members will perhaps inspire those in a philanthropic position to take responsible action, which we feel they would be more equipped to do than we are as independent documentarians.

Issue: I tried to donate, but the site didn’t work/ it didn’t go through/ I ran into problems and gave up.

Thank you so much for trying. We’ve heard this from multiple people. Gratefully, when we’ve heard reports of specific issues we’ve been able to work with the folks at emphas.is to resolve them. Please, if you try to pledge and have trouble, let us know, and we’ll work on fixing the problem. We thank everyone who has persevered for your patience.

Q: What are Incentives?

There are incentives (things we give back to you to thank you for your pledge) at every level of support. Incentives include photo outtakes and thank you postcards featuring images from the project, a DVD or digital download of the film, prints, your name in the credits, and more. We're even offering a two-day, customized multimedia workshop for an organization wishing to support the production of this story.

Plus, the most basic pledge ($10) and every increasing level will grant you access to “The Making of Zone,” where we’ll document the challenges and surprises that are sure to come as we create this documentary.

Please pledge, and be a part of this project! Many thanks to those of you that have already! If you have more questions for us, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Jessica Chance

 

A Greater Emphas.is

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After years of documenting a community of people living in the North Cemetery in Manila—many of whom we now consider friends—James and I are ready to finalize production of a 30-minute documentary that will expand on the initial multimedia story, released in 2008, for which we were presented an Every Human Has Rights Media Award. This longer-form documentary will explore issues affecting Metro Manila, such as dense population and intense poverty, from the perspective of residents of the North Cemetery. We are thrilled to announce that emphas.is, a curated crowd funding site for visual journalism, has chosen to feature and promote this project for funding. For the first time in the four years we've been working on this film and photography project, we'd like to ask you to be a part of it by either helping us fund it or by simply spreading the word.

Our funding goal, which will cover only hard costs of travel and production, is $5,050.  We will not receive any funding or pledges unless we reach our goal. In addition, funding at the most basic level ($10) admits each backer into the “making-of-zone,” where we will share the ups and downs, challenges and insights we gain as we complete filming in the cemetery throughout post-production.  Higher levels of backing earn this, plus rewards such as original postcards and prints from the project, all the way up to a personal multimedia workshop from James and myself.

Living with the Dead: The Backdrop

Manila, Philippines is the most densely populated city in the world. Danica May Comacho was born here on October 31st, 2011. The UN symbolically named her the “seven-billionth” human to join our current world population.

Filipinos from rural provinces often migrate to the city in search of a better life. In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning, stating that: “continued population growth in Metro Manila will have ‘damaging consequences for human health,’ particularly for the poor as it increases poverty, diseases and natural disasters.”  The WHO estimates that over 20% of Metro Manila's population is either under or near the poverty line, with 35% living in urban slums.

In the center of this complex and intense capital lies the sprawling North Cemetery, where many past presidents, actors and actresses are buried. In contrast to intense traffic and noise just outside the cemetery walls, the North Cemetery is quiet and peaceful. Here, a community of around 2,000 people live, work, raise children and sleep, participating in the unique economy that accompanies the up to 80 Catholic burials which take place here each day.

Residents here tell us they prefer the cemetery to the streets, and indeed, some residents prosper greatly in the cemetery economy, earning enough money to send their children to private school.

Anticipated Outcome and Goals

Our documentary will look at current issues facing our planet from the perspective of three families living inside the cemetery, such as population growth, poverty, human rights, access to family planning, affordable housing and education.

Our goal is to educate and engage a broad audience with these larger issues, through the eyes, lives and hopes of the children and families who call the North Cemetery home.

We deeply appreciate your consideration to help us fund this project! Many, many thanks to those of you that already have.

Support the project, here: Living with the Dead (via emphas.is)

Jessica Chance