The world is beginning to value neurodiversity and adjust to the notion that being “sensitive” to specific stimuli is actually a good thing. Though there are many challenges that autistic people face, there is a lot of hope that the world will begin to listen to our voices, become more open minded and start adapting to us. There is a long way to go for acceptance and we need continued advocacy efforts towards integrated opportunity and more understanding of the way we think, behave, and exist in a world that was not designed for us. I believe this effort can be advanced with the work of autistic artists, musicians, poets, writers, and thinkers. Art is a way to communicate, connect and understand. It’s a global language that links us. It has the power to bring disparate minds together in a way that nothing else can.Read More
The balance between control and chaos is something that every artist does every day. There is a spectrum between lovers of control and lovers of chaos. Ranging from photographers to sculptors respectively. Then there are those that walk the line between both and calculate their findings. My mind immediately thinks of Pollack. How could it not? His work is the embodiment of this idea. Many greats teeter on the edge of something indescribable- some call it chaos, some call it madness, some call it transcendence. Whatever its name, it is the taste of which no serious artist can deny. It’s what feeds us, literally, because god knows it’s not the money, the cred, the outcomes. It’s the practice of connecting with something unnamable and great that feeds the desire to continue on creating. The practice includes attempting to get more, to contain more, to translate more of this unnamable element. For the purposes of this short written expose, I’ll call it chaos. Others may choose to call it light, life, love, lust, or the muse. The other side is control, calculation, precision, the human element.
My personal journey as a creative started with music and sound, as a percussionist in a 5th grade band. Anyone who has participated in band or music lessons of any kind, knows that when you are starting out, chaos reigns. You can’t quite get a grasp on what you are really supposed to be doing. Then you do it over and over and over again until your muscles start to remember on their own. The human element takes over. This can be truly beneficial, especially for the ears of the parents and participants involved. Control and precision is crucial to really doing anything other than making a racket. I went into the extreme realms of this, by competing in drum line competitions until the age of 18. To balance this “control” side of my creative practice out, I started writing short stories and poems. In those early days of writing, chaos once again reigned. I let myself free write and free associate. In college, exhausted by the competitiveness of music, I decided to side with a new found special interest and pursued a writing degree. I too learned rules and regulations, formulas and poetic meters. I read canon English literature and of course, got obsessed with surrealism, and post modernist tinkering and ideals. I wanted more of that chaos and I wanted to learn how to make it my own language. To harness it and grasp it at the tip of my pen. To finally be able to play the game of imagination and discovery with no limits. This too, eventually left me exhausted. How could I discover a new language all on my own? Without limitations, the words become so jumbled they stop making sense and instead of sounding like Lewis Carroll, I started sounding like… well… an amateur. It reminded me of being in 5th grade again, stumbling through sight reading snare drum rudiments. A cacophony of nothing but random beats, without reason, without a thread of rhythm, direction, or dynamics.
I continued to write and to play music, but began to be interested in films, photography and visual art. After getting a deadly infectious parasite in South America (another story for another time) that left me sick and faced with mortality, I started working towards sharing my work on a larger scale. A story I had written very much felt like a film. I became entranced by the magic of cinema as many do, and wanted to know how these visionary filmmakers seemed to capture so much in a seemingly simple time based medium. I went back to school for health resources and yet again, to delve into a creative practice, one that would change everything for me.
In film school I found that there were two kinds of filmmakers: photographers working with light and poets working with time. I aired quite loftily on the side of a poet working with time. Being at one of the only remaining experimental film programs left in the country- founded by Stan Brakhage at the University of Colorado, I had hoped to find a different way of communicating. I very quickly realized that my yearning for chaos directly butted heads with my profound need to control some aspect of what was happening in the frame. The thing I learned about film was that so many- so so many things can go wrong. And it wasn’t just pieces of paper on the line, or my parents ears enduring drum practice, it was time and money- all the money I could muster to pour into it. The stakes were higher for me and I had to create something that people could remotely wrap their minds around. With the craving for chaos, I mostly made experimental pieces, some with sync sound and dialog, but mostly I made films with an old Bolex, a faint inkling of an idea, an excursion into nature, and a box of old inks, paints and my grandmothers typewriter. I knew how to write poems, I knew how to write songs, so why shouldn’t I be able to make films and marry the two? This was my main intention going into it, to make visual poems married with my own musical scores. Then I got lost in the darkroom. With chemicals, with metrics, with undeveloped rolls of film that could be destroyed in a second flat if I didn’t take the right steps.
This intricate play of control and failure began to eat away at me until I felt like my screws were going loose and I might explode. It was a mixture of stress, time management, precision, inevitable failure, and chemical fumes that drove me out of my imagination and into the very real moment before me. To add on to this, I was also deeply invested in the digital and technical side of filmmaking- dealing with computers, editing software, SD cards, hard drives, and problem solving. My left brain had all but taken over, while my right brain craved the energy of those transcendent moments, the rushes I would get from capturing light and shadows at play- the plastic bag fluttering in the wind kind of scenarios. Those moments where I looked out of the viewfinder and into a mirror. That’s all I wanted. More of that. I wanted to lean further and further into chaos until the boundaries of self disappeared. What seemed to be my savior also became my unraveling. Many peers in my class would watch my film and say, “I don’t get it.” Some would connect with the moments I captured, others applauded it whether they really “got it” or not I don’t know. Most just “didn’t get it” and didn’t know what to say. “Why does it matter?” I thought? Of course with any art form there is a sense that when you’ve lost yourself in the art, your audience also gets lost, but you have to lead them through it or else the trick doesn’t work, they never find anything and they never find themselves in it. Many people look at Pollack and think it’s just a bunch of splatter paint, when in reality it is so carefully executed that no one on earth has been able to recreate its precision. But at the same time it’s complete and utter chaos, so stunningly beautiful and complex that you can’t help but breathe in the life of it, the movement. And there will always be those people that think it’s just splatter paint.
I wanted to puff up my ego and say, it’s “art,” it doesn’t have to necessarily tell an exact narrative. At the same time, it was frustrating. It was frustrating to put in the time and money and work and to not have a real critique like everyone else who made linear narrative films with casts and crews and scripts. Anyone who has gone to art school or has any creative degree can tell you how frustrating it is to feel like you aren’t getting through to others in the same way that you feel moved by the process. Many people drop out, switch majors, switch schools. Some people sputter through it, some people crack like an eggshell, but one way or another, everyone makes it up as they go.
Life as a creative is not easy. Everyone wants you to do stuff for free. We live in a world so heavily saturated by content, the title “artist” becomes synonymous with the social media marketing manager job description. You can’t be everything to everyone, but many times that’s what you have to do to scrape by. There are those that stay true to their craft, their intention, their unique vision, those that really truly make it, and I don’t just mean financially, they are also personally fulfilled by the work.
It’s not really about luck I don’t think (maybe a little bit), but it’s about striking a deal between chaos and control, the transcendent element and the human element. It’s about going through the gauntlet enough to know when to try your hand and when to let things fall. The lust for that frothy ocean of possibility must be capped and put on a slow drip. Too much medicine makes you sicker, for God’s sake. The key is there are rules and also, there are no rules.
My most successful film was also my most simple. It was a simple concept with constraints. It was executed with near technical ease and extreme amounts of vulnerability. It had people and voices and eyes to gaze into. It had just the right mix of experiment and chaos that shaped the way the film dances on the screen. In that spiraling unknown and fluctuating between playing my hand and letting things fall away, I had created something that people could connect with, but also had splashes of surprise. This was what I had been working towards. And in a way it was what I had been searching for creatively throughout my life. An etched description of what it was to create something. I was able to construct a 9 minute simulation full of real emotions, real people, real stories and real moments.
To walk that edge is not a faint hearted thing. To stray into each end of the spectrum is inevitable and composes a lesson worth learning. Creating art that resonates with people takes the willingness to adapt to the internal and external environments, to plunge into the depths of certain psychological torment and to come out the other side with an object riddled with humanity and sprinkled with chaos. It takes stepping out of perfectionism and into a split second where all could be lost. Because it’s in those moments that transcendence can occur and translations are possible.
(minimal plot spoilers)
Now streaming on Hulu, Castle Rock is a re-imagining of characters and settings by Stephen King, with a twist of J.J. Abrams' absurdity and suspense. It’s no secret that Stephen King focuses on religion and spirituality in his various novels, like Revival and The Green Mile, but Castle Rock does something entirely different. There are multiple levels of spiritual ‘containment,’ serving to reveal that religion cannot adequately begin to explain or contain the larger metaphysical realm at play. One of the main characters, a seemingly psychopathic John Doe is found in a cage, down in a sealed off area of the prison in the town of Castle Rock. The town itself is not on any map and you can gather that it is a conservative, rural town with a dark history.
What starts out as a classic horror story begins to be infiltrated by metaphysical phenomena and questions about the nature of reality, parallel timelines, and the blurring between good and evil. As the series progresses, you begin to question the common sense “universal truths” about the nature of reality. Time and space don’t seem to function in a linear way. Boundaries between human experience are blurred. Though there are moments of disbelief, and times where you feel a little overwhelmed by how many threads are at play, the ending doesn’t disappoint. Castle Rock successfully leaves you questioning everything you thought you knew about the human experience.
(minimal plot spoilers)
With a lot of recent talk in the news and social media about mental health, it’s about time a series addressed some of the stigmas surrounding mental health diagnosis, trauma, and the isolating nature of post-consumerist capitalist culture. With an over-stimulating futuristic setting and direct throwbacks to retro 80s and 90s technology, Maniac is stylistically profound in it’s art design. With outlandish, but also eerily believable services, such as Ad Buddy, which allows you to pay for necessary items by enduring an in-person advertiser who travels with you and tells you about targeted products and services—this futuristic setting combines new and old pairings that speaks to the stark disconnect and isolationism that a technological society heralds.
Two distinctly different characters with different backgrounds emerge. Their journey begins when they both are lead to a Pharma test that makes claims to cure participants of traumatic experiences and mental illness. Owen, who is chronically depressed and experiencing daylight hallucinations, believes that there is pattern to the universe and that somehow he needs to save the world. Annie, on the other hand is in denial and is addicted to one of the Pharmaceutical company’s pills. What ensues in the following episodes can only be described as surrealistic and bizarre. As a viewer, you might be compelled to think that there is no rhyme or reason to any of it, but as you continue watching, each seemingly insignificant detail returns with meaning and each character’s psyche is examined with unparalleled cinematic genius. By exposing the illusion that mental health professionals and pharmaceutical companies are the ones who are “well” and patients are the ones who are “sick,” Maniac provides a truer look into what happens in these hierarchical systems of power. The ones in charge are not as mentally or emotionally “well” as they first appear, and are drawn to these psychological investigations to uncover their own trauma, blindspots, and defense mechanisms. Ultimately, human error cannot be hidden by illusions of control and the A.I. fall prey to the same limitations of their creators. The questions that emerge are endless and self-reflexive, showing that Maniac is a smart, funny, ingenious commentary that addresses the most relevant topics facing humanity today.
I often underestimate myself as a freelance video editor, because I know so many amazing editors out there, but I have to say, editing video interviews is 'my thing.' It's the part of the job that gets me revved up because it's the most challenging and most rewarding. There are plenty of editors out there that have the technical skills, but what makes an editor great is being able to find the heart of the story and tell it well.
Even if you don't have all of the technical knowledge yet, or know all of the hotkeys in Premiere, that's okay—you can still succeed in locating and crafting that perfect video for your client, business or social channel. Interviews are tough, because often times you have WAY more content than you need, and sometimes, you don't have EXACTLY what you need. The first step is to let go of the script... to a certain extent. If the interview went way south, it might be worth it to re-shoot or at least, try to schedule an audio interview and get the remaining talking points that you need. Often times, though, you will have more than enough to work with, and you will need to look beyond the script to find the heart of the story. It could lie somewhere you aren't expecting.
Listen through the whole interview. Really listen. I like to make cuts at the beginning of each question, and put markers with a quick note about what is being said. This will make it easier to go back through later. Ideally, you want to stage your interviews so that the person being interviewed states the question in their answer. Unless this is something informal, or in a raw documentary style, you should not include the interviewer's questions. Listen to the tone of their voice, watch their body language. When does their emotional body shine through? When do they get excited, pumped, sombre, determined, or awe-struck? These are the moments you want to put markers on. When there is a section that stands out to me, I usually drag it to the video track above, V2, and with the really amazing one-liners, I drag them to V3.
Perfectionism can have it's play time when you are trimming and nit-picking in the final stages, but when you are starting out with the weave, you want to make sure you have all of your major talking points lined up, even if they are longer sections. Just like with any craft, the more editing you do, the quicker and more effectively you will be able to pluck out the 'heart' from the excess tissue.
Once you have all the sections you want dragged up to V2 and V3, copy and paste them into the timeline after the interview or create a new selects sequence. Delete the spaces and now it's time to trim. And trim. And trim some more. If you feel stuck, it's worth it to take a 10-20 minute break and come back to it with fresh eyes and ears. Many times we get attached to certain things, either because it interests us personally or because we've decided we NEED it. A lot of the things you think you need, you probably don't. The best videos get the point across fast and with only the most necessary context. If you can cut out the person saying their name and company and put in a lower third instead, do it. If you can cut out some of the back story, do it. Many times I find that the heart of the interview lies near the end. It's those final thoughts and ah-ha moments that the interviewee says once they've gotten warmed up that will make the cut.
There will be times where the interviewee says something fantastic and it's a quick few cuts to piece it together, and there are other times when you will need to do intricate surgery and splice in a word or opening phrase from a different section of the interview. This is when control shift D (premiere hotkey for audio transitions) is your friend. You want the transition to be about 2 frames. Splicing a single word or short phrase works <50% of the time. If it sounds awkward, don't do it. Try something else. You want to try to match the intonation in the voice and not just the word. You also want to try to have some natural space between the cuts, either by splicing in room tone or with audio transitions. This can get tedious and if it doesn't work after awhile, try to move on— there's probably another solution.
Here's a recent video I edited for Exposure Lab's, Unstoppable Schools Project that I will dissect in the next paragraph, outlining how piece together an amazing story structure.
This video effectively gets to the heart of the story through A) Context. Viewers need to know where they are, what the product, service, or program is about B) A hook line. Something that interests people right away. In this video it is the student testimonials about how the film, Chasing Coral, impacted them. C) Flesh. Viewers crave insider details. What makes this so special? Who is behind the scenes? In this video, the teacher's testimonials give the details about why this program has been so awesome. D) Emotional kickers. You always want a video to ramp up and stir emotion in viewers. Think action in the audio (words and music) and the images (b-roll). What is the product, service or program doing for consumers? What is taking place in the world because of this awesome thing? E) Call to action. You always want to think about what you want viewers to do or feel after they've watched the video. What's the call to action or the bigger impact of this product, service or program? In this video, the ending shows students engaging in their communities and the interviewee provides a hope for the future of the program and beyond.
I wish you the best on your next video adventure. Remember, don't just tell a story, tell a great story that inspires viewers to take action—whether that's going out to vote, clicking 'follow' on social media, trying a new product, or simply watching another video!
For years I've been searching for the most effective way to mix and master songs in Ableton. I kept wondering, "how do I make my tracks louder?" and "why doesn't this sound right?" After reading countless forums and watching tutorials on Youtube, I finally found the solutions I've been looking for. I'm going to spare you the hassle and tell you EXACTLY how to do it.
I'm going to break down the 3 main processes for how to mix and master your songs.
When you are ready to start mixing, you need to export stems. You will solo each track in Ableton. The most effective mix will have a stem for each individual instrument, including separate stems for drum tracks, i.e. Kick stem, snare stem, etc. I usually create a folder with the song name and the word stems. (You might what to store these separately from where your Ableton project file is, that way, if you happen to lose a project file, you still have the stems saved.) Now, here is the #1 tip that took me awhile to figure out: You want to export your stems as 44100k, 32 bit, NO dither, and DO NOT NORMALIZE.
When you've got all your stems exported, you want to create a new Ableton project. You want to label each Audio track, i.e. KICK, SNARE, LEAD, KEYS, etc. and drop in each stem from your folder accordingly. On each track you want an EQ. I use Izotope's Neutron 2, which is great and definitely worth the purchase. With Neutron there are a lot of great presets and you can also save your presets, so that if you get that perfect EQ for your instrument, you have it saved for the next song. If you don't have the $ for Neutron or another Pro EQ plugin, you can use the stock Ableton EQ 8.
Mixing takes awhile to figure out, but you will get better and faster at it with time. The goal is to have each instrument sitting in the mix just right so that you can hear everything, but also have congruent dynamics that bring all the instruments together in the song. You can also try panning different instruments to create more depth in the mix. I also use a reverb on a send channel and put a touch on each instrument to create congruency and make it sound like it's all in the same space. There are a lot of great free tutorials on mixing out there and guidelines for EQ frequencies for different instruments. You want to listen to your song at different volume levels and with headphones and monitors. Can you hear everything in the mix? Is the bass too loud?
You want the peaks of your mix to sit at -6 DB. When you are happy with your mix, you want to export the entire song as 44100k, 32 bit, NO dither, and DO NOT NORMALIZE. I would recommend creating a folder called Mixes and then another folder inside that with the song name and date of the mix. (You might want to create different mixes).
When you are ready for mastering, you want to create another Ableton project and through in the mix into an audio track. For mastering, I set up a chain on the MASTER track. First I put on Ableton's stock Saturator and put the gain up to 1 or 2 depending on how much you want to push the song. The saturator creates a more deep, analog sound and amps the volume. Next on the chain, I use Izotope's Ozone. It is a handy plugin that has a lot of great presets with compressors, vintage limiters, and full spectrum stereo visualization. If you don't have the $ for Ozone, I would suggest finding a Youtube tutorial on creating a mastering chain in Ableton. You definitely want slight compression (don't compress too much!) and a limiter.
You want to compare your volume levels with already mastered songs, open up Spotify and find a song that is a similar style or genre and compare your track side by side.
When you are happy with your track, you want to export the finished song as 44100k, 16 or 24 bit, Dither at POWr1 for soft / acoustic songs, and POWr2 for pop songs, POWr3 for hiphop for EDM tracks, and DO NOT NORMALIZE. If your limiter is set correctly then you should not need to Normalize.
WOW! It took me years to figure this out because I've never had any training or guidance for these simple guidelines. I hope this helps and happy music making!
I crawl out of the office after a long day and see a bird of prey flying high, doing circles in the sky. Instantly, I feel what it would be like to dig my talons into the earth, hunting for food, enduring the freezing cold of the mountain wind. It would be grueling and hard, but the upside would be to experience complete and utter freedom. It dawned on me that we have traded in our wildness for comfort. Was it worth it?
Human animals are wild at our core yearning to explore and use our senses to navigate the world. We yearn to experience something rather than read about it or watch a video. Maybe that's why we are seeing a surge of interactive and breakthrough creative media. The best way to fall in love is by feeling the impact of a person’s presence, or a product or service has on our physical and emotional bodies.
These bodies we tote around aren’t just for show. They aren’t just for our brains to be able to have something to sit on top of. They aren’t here to do the same thing every day, to sit in front of one screen then another screen and then another tinier screen until the walls close in on us. We are here to experience what it feels like to be wild, free, and embodied. But, how, do we reclaim wildness in our day-to-day existence?
We don’t necessarily have to quit our day jobs and take to the woods and hunt our own food. We don’t have to go out and buy a Harley and take to the highway. (I mean, you can if you want to). We need to reconnect with our bodies, our blood and our senses in whatever ways are available to us.
Ever leave the office after a long day, drive home, get inside the front door, finally relax and feel your body again and then start a meaningless argument with your spouse or roommate (or pet)? The nervous system is thawing out and blowing off steam. We’re not meant to spend the entire day sitting still, acting perfect, and ignoring our bodies and our emotions.
Companies are noticing that employees are overworked, stressed and underperforming or over-performing until they crash and burn. They are introducing “mindfulness” practices. What about "bodyfulness" practices? Meanwhile, the work days get longer to fit in company culture activities, taking time out to go to the gym, etc. If it’s adding to the stress, it’s definitely not doing what it’s supposed to be doing.
So, what do we do in the short amount of time that we have? How do we reclaim the parts of us that are wild instead of denying and ignoring and shoving down impulses and emotions? I don’t think it’s a quick fix, but instead a personal and potentially cultural overhaul that can start with very small steps. Bringing in a hint of wildness back into your daily routine could be a potent dose of much needed relief from the tension of constantly trying to perform.
- Stand up for 1 minute every 30 minutes. Set an alarm on your clock if you need to. Science shows that this simple action can add up to three years onto your life!
- Try to go on a walk outside every day, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Notice everything around you, the tiniest blades of grass, leaves, pay attention to all of your senses.
- Try to notice where your feet are, you can even ask yourself, “where are my feet?”
- Take time to write, draw, doodle, color, paint, or play with legos, clay, or something tactile.
- Genuinely connect with people around you whether it’s at work, home, a support group or community meet-up. Look into their eyes. Can you see yourself in them?
- Dance. That’s it. Just put on rocking tunes and dance. It’s amazing how it can help move emotions through, change up your mood and get you to a creative breakthrough.
- Try something new or try doing something you’ve done a bunch of times differently. Use your non-dominant hand to open doors or pick things up. Notice how you feel or how your thoughts change when you are doing this activity in a new way.
Working long hours in corporate world glued to the back of a chair or even working from home on the computer all day can drain us of our life force. A lot of folks aren’t happy in their jobs or living their dreams, and that’s okay for today. It’s hard to see where we want to go if we aren’t in our bodies right now. Acceptance is key to claiming our stories, moving closer to living our dreams and letting the wildness within us breathe (even if it's just a little bit).
I want to hear what you do to reclaim your wildness! Comment below with what activities you do or what you think could be added to the list.