Viewing entries in
Behind the Scenes

Capturing Video Stories Over Time

Capturing Video Stories Over Time

This year we wrapped up a three-year video project with The Colorado Health Foundation, and we've been reflecting on the experiences we had in different communities. 

We were tasked with capturing a three-year grant process in three different communities - Westwood, Lamar and Arvada - getting to know each one and watching them grow into more abundant, stronger, physically active and healthy neighborhoods. We captured the growth in each place from the very first meeting to the last, following the key community leaders as they gathered around their neighbors and made decisions about what would make their community healthier, including implementing new parks, sidewalks, bike trails, neighborhood gatherings and youth sports programs.

The result was one video per community per year highlighting the different themes of the year and stories of communities leaders who had grown throughout the process. We are so lucky to have been the chosen video producers for the project, and we grew with each community along the way, as we were in active conversations with each place and captured their greatest milestones in a long, rewarding process. 

It takes a different approach to work on such a fluid video project, over a long period of time. It took a lot of relationship maintenance, changes of plans, reassessment of communications goals, and creativity in translating what had happened in each community over the three years. We enjoy having a window into the intense work and dedication of grassroots activism and the strength communities have when they learn to work together. We were continuously inspired as we developed new and interesting ways to capture their progress, and we built relationships with people that we enjoyed getting the chance to interview over the years. 

These are the kinds of projects we like to go after - ones where we can dive deeply into a community project or process with people that are doing very important work on the ground. If we can develop beautiful videos around such movements and distribute them widely, we believe we can expand people's overall circle of concern and encourage people to act in their own lives, while also creating empathy and understand for those communities and folks they may not interact with every day. 

Check out the videos for each community below!

Healthy Places Lamar

Healthy Places Westwood

Healthy Places Arvada

 

Sam the Ham

Sam the Ham

We have a new canine team member! One awesome thing about working in Green Spaces is they allow dogs, because dogs make the community that much better! Chloe Wittry our Producer adopted little Sam from a rescue that brought him up from Tijuana. He is a dachshund mix, and as you can see from the photos, he provides us with quite a lot of entertainment. He has a big personality, likes his puppy naps, and keeps the office light-hearted. Enjoy the photos!

Building a Chance Multimedia Team

Building a Chance Multimedia Team

We're a small team of people at Chance Multimedia, and it's so important to maintain team members that will uphold the company's ethics and values and understand the often sensitive nature of what we produce. When our dear friend and editor Dan Sohner decided to take his career to the mountains, (where his heart belongs!), we were on the hunt for a new editor and cinematographer that would jive with our team as well as Dan did. 

We are so happy to have found Alex Sandberg, an East Coast native and wanderlust who started his career in L.A. before being called to the beauty and expansiveness of Colorado. Alex is approaching his one-year anniversary with us, and he's made our team so much better since we snatched him off the freelance market. Here's a little bit about Alex:

1. Why did you decide to move to Colorado?

I grew up on the east coast, and before moving here I had spent the previous three years in Los Angeles, so I was ready to get away from the endless urban sprawl. I love the outdoors and I’m an avid hiker, so I wanted to move somewhere in the western U.S. with forests, mountains, four seasons, and great weather, and nowhere fits that bill better than Colorado! I only knew a couple of people here but I decided to just take the leap, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice.

2. What was your first shoot experience like with Chance Multimedia? 

My first shoot with Chance was certainly a memorable one. The day after my interview, I got a call from James asking if I was available the following day for a shoot, which would also serve as a “test run” to see if I was a good fit. Then he asked me if I had ever been up in a helicopter, to which I replied something like, “Uhh… no.” I said I was free and up for the challenge, but couldn’t make any major promises about the quality of my footage. The shoot was a blast, and I managed to walk away with one or two usable shots (with lots of stabilization in post), which I guess was enough to pass the test! 

3. What camera gear are you looking at right now? Drone? New DSLR? 

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my camera body for a year or two now, but just haven’t been quite ready to pull the trigger. I have Canon lenses, so I (like so many others) for years eagerly awaited the release of the Canon 5D mkIV, and I (like so many others) was disappointed when it finally came out. The photo specs are superb, but 60fps at 1080p is underwhelming for slowmo capability, and the 1.74x sensor crop in 4k mode is a deal breaker. I’ll take a bit of pixel binning any day over a crop that extreme. Sony on the other hand has been very impressive over the last several years. The A7S II and A7R II are both fantastic cameras and very tempting, especially with the performance of metabones adapters for using Canon lenses, and the cheaper price tag than the 5D mkIV. The A7S II is certainly the better camera for video with its fantastic low-light capabilities and 120fps slowmo, but the sensor size for photography is a bit underwhelming at 12.2MP, as compared to the A7R II’s 42.4MP sensor. My ideal camera is an all-in-one video and photo camera, which has me leaning towards the A7R II at this point. Sony also just released the A9, which appears to blow both A7’s out of the water. But with a price tag of $4,499.00, I may need a slight raise to make that jump... James? Jessica?

4. What do you do on the weekends? Tell us about your adventures. 

I try to spend as much of my free time as possible outdoors, preferably hiking. I’m also an avid nature photographer (childhood dream job was to be a National Geographic photographer), so I love finding new remote places to explore with the hopes of spotting any little (or big) critters who might be roaming the woods. I had an awesome adventure just this past Monday in the Mount Evans Wilderness, which is only about an hour from Denver. I hiked the Tanglewood Trail, which follows a beautiful bubbling creek through a lush forest before emerging above the treeline to a saddle beneath Rosalie Peak, a 13’er in the shadow of Mount Evans. I got to break in a new pair of snowshoes for the last couple miles to the top, and the trail was completely lost under fresh snow so there was some bushwhacking involved! The view from the top was incredible and I didn’t see a single other person on the trail all day. I also came across some large and quite ominous animal tracks in the snow, which I later ID’d as belonging to a mountain lion. Or it could’ve been an enormous dog... but I’m going with mountain lion. Makes for a much better story.

5. What are your dreams for the future in the documentary/video production business? 

I’m passionate about environmental issues and I hope to use the power of documentary filmmaking and visual storytelling to help spread awareness about the impact that climate change is having on all the living creatures of our planet. Facing existential threats are countless species and entire ecosystems, not to mention the homes and way of life of people around the world. I believe climate change is the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced, and I hope to use filmmaking and photography to be part of the fight. 

Lessons from the Community

Lessons from the Community

A huge part of our job as videographers and journalists is to listen and absorb.

We do a lot of community work for foundations and nonprofits who activate rural city participation through grant opportunities. The documentation of those community-led processes sends us all over Colorado, to Olathe, Fort Morgan, Manzanola… places we hadn’t even registered on the map. Those places have taught us incredible lessons about life in rural cities, reflecting all the rural communities that make up the majority of this country.

In these tense political times it’s easy to become polarized. The hard thing is cross those lines and listen to the other side. Rural Colorado has a unique voice, a unique perspective, it’s a dichotomy of new and old, immigrants and generations-old families.

When you sit and listen, you have the opportunity to embrace. We’ve heard stories of Somali refugees making the journey to Fort Morgan to work and build better lives, we’ve heard stories of families traveling from Mexico to find peace and security in the small farm town of Olathe, we’ve heard stories of three-generations of families living in San Luis Valley embracing the changes they’ve experienced in their own, small culture. The most important thing is, these people are all now listening to each other through grassroots efforts.

Listening creates empathy, empathy creates movement, movement creates great change, and we’re honored to be able to witness these transformations and capture them in visually beautiful ways.

 

Farmer to Cup

Farmer to Cup

Hi all, Things have been a little quiet lately on the blog because of a new project we’re working on, but we’re back online! We’ve been developing a new documentary with with a unique window into tea production practices in Kenya, the world export leader of black tea.

We spent the last couple of weeks in production in Kenya, meeting new people and discovering new stories on small tea farms. We are learning about the tea trade and synthesizing that information for a new media and storytelling platform. It’s exciting stuff! Not only are we capturing a unique story that has yet to be told in this light, but the way it’s going to be shared with viewers will be completely new.

We can’t wait to share these new stories with you! Until then, here are some pictures from the recent trip.

photo 1
photo 1
photo 2
photo 2
_MG_0184-1
_MG_0184-1
IMG_2412-1
IMG_2412-1
IMG_2429-1
IMG_2429-1
IMG_2439-1
IMG_2439-1
IMG_2443-1
IMG_2443-1

There are Many Ways to Capture a Scene...

We would like to introduce you to some key players on our team.  They lend us the ability to "extend our reach" and create shots that are even more engaging and interesting. Like hammers and nails - the use of specialized video equipment will have a different outcome and impact on a scene depending on whose hands they're in. It’s up to us to use them to tell a story beautifully and with impact. Introducing... the Movi, the jib and the slider.Movi

The Movi excels at following people and things - a child’s feet running with a soccer ball, a bike’s wheels trailing along a dirt path, or a presenter anxiously walking onto a stage to face the crowd. We use the Movi to capture close-up, intimate movements steadily, providing a visceral experience for the viewer.

MOVI from Chance Multimedia on Vimeo.

Slider

The slider likes to pan the scene. We use it to provide the viewer with a natural path on which to follow the story.

Slider from Chance Multimedia on Vimeo.

Jib

The jib comes in to grab the entire scene.  We use it to create a certain feeling of wonderment in the viewer, an awe that comes with the weightless aerial view of a situation that the jib instantly yields.

Jib from Chance Multimedia on Vimeo.

These are just a few of the tools we utilize in video production to capture scenes in the most unique and visual way. In the hands of talented cinematographers, under the eye of a keen director and woven together through the editing process, they allow us to capture a very intimate and dynamic experience for the viewer. You can see the results of these tools in our work.

Don't forget, we rent our gear out! Check out the Equipment Rentals page for more information.

A Visit from Colorado Academy

A Visit from Colorado Academy

Greetings! Yesterday we had a group of bright, young aspiring journalists, storytellers and filmmakers into our offices to give them a tour of the facilities and teach them the ways of a small documentary production company. They had been traveling to news stations and large networks, so Chance Multimedia was quite a different animal for them to see. We hope we were as inspiring to them as they were to us. It's an interesting thing to build a company from the ground up, then finally get to a place where others who are aspiring to be professionals are actually consulting you for advice. In what sometimes feels like a chaotic juggle of projects, timelines and budgets, it's nice to be able to simply and confidently answer the questions of curious, young people. We like being mentors, and we love seeing uninhibited passion. That passion is what drives great work.

So thank you, Colorado Academy students. You are welcome back anytime!

james_movi_2
james_movi_2
james_movi
james_movi
jessica_teaching
jessica_teaching
jib_james
jib_james
kids_with_camera
kids_with_camera
teaching_2
teaching_2
office
office

Catching Up in Denver

HP_2.jpg

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)

Screen-Shot-2014-03-26-at-9.58.48-AM3.png

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

We Made a Movie. Now What?

Screen-Shot-2014-02-27-at-1.48.43-PM.png

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?

MG_8087.jpg

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

L1000221.jpeg

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

Introducing Our New Intern: Patrick Gillespie

leveled_3.png

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.

Patrick 2

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

infographic-featured-image.jpg
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."

L10002211.jpeg

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.

...

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

L1000223.jpeg

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.

Production

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

taylor_10001.jpeg

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

photo.jpeg

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.

zp8497586rq

Re-Introducing Chance Multimedia: Our Story

intro_slide3.jpg
Watching the sunrise in Cascas, Peru. Photo by Dr. Bruce McArthur.

We arrived in Denver on January 3, 2009 with a moving truck, two laptops, some multimedia equipment and an Every Human Has Rights Media Award. The award, our first together as a company, had come with a free trip to Paris along with 28 other winners from around the world. We spent the trip talking, debating and dreaming about media, journalism, communication, and what Chance Multimedia would become (once we really got started).

During the previous year, we worked out of backpacks together in the Philippines, Cambodia, Guatemala and Thailand, building our ability to produce work together in tiny rooms. James with his cameras and me with my computer. Crafting interviews, shot lists, and sequences, writing, and working it all out as we went. Visiting people living in mausoleums, in monasteries, and on the street. Gathering stories. Oftentimes, breaking my own heart in the process.

Before deciding to leave Ohio and begin Chance Multimedia, we worked on a national foster care project with young people who had been raised in the foster care system. Between our international stories and our national advocacy work, we began to shape our vision and balance how our strengths might work,  together.

So when we arrived in Denver in 2009, we were on our way to establishing a multimedia storytelling company that we knew would be different. Our partnership would focus on telling real stories, authentically captured and woven with beautiful visuals, from a transparent point of view. Stories that would invigorate audiences — as well as the staff of the organizations we would work for — because they were told from a grassroots level, outside of the conference room.

We wanted to produce stories that would touch hearts, because they were true.

We just needed that first project.

After hundreds of cold calls, several networking events, and a lot of projects that fell through, it came. And then another, and another. Slowly, with gratitude to the clients who took a chance with a small, new kind of video team, we began to grow. At some point in 2010, we stopped making calls and networking. We were too busy, and the word-of-mouth recommendations kept it that way. It was happening.

Nearly half way through 2012, I'm very pleased to say that we haven't slowed down a bit. In fact, we're still gaining momentum and expanding faster than we even expected, not only in our work, but in our staff, our brand, and our space. (But more on that in an upcoming post..)

Soon, we hope to travel back to Manila to finish a 30-minute documentary that we started in the Philippines on that epic trip in 2008, about a community of people living in the North Cemetery. It's the same project that won the Every Human Has Rights Media Award. We're eager now to bring our enhanced skills, knowledge and attention to the varied perspectives of the people living there who have generously shared their lives, thoughts and dreams with us over the years, and weave them together into a long-form documentary.

As we look forward to all of the new happenings in our work this year, I want to emphasize the values that we bring to our work every single day:

We believe that authentic, true stories are the best way to cut through the communication clutter, and it's what we do best.

We believe that strong, clean visuals honor the stories we produce by making even difficult and sad stories beautiful.

We believe our stories honor the storyteller's truth and experience. We listen, and we respect the courage it takes to share one person's truth with another (and the dynamics of telling that story in front of a lens).

Finally, we regard each of our clients as a partnership that grows and becomes more valuable over time.

We are so grateful to the many client partners who have enabled us to come to this place in our own story.

We'll be publishing a series of blogs during the next few months, introducing new team members, going behind the scenes on some of the stories we've produced, and looking back at some of the most valuable mistakes we've made over the years.

Thanks for reading,

Jessica Chance.