If You Want a Happy Ending…..

My favorite quote is by Orson Welles; “If you want a happy ending, it depends on where you stop the story”. No doubt he was giving this advice to other filmmakers and storytellers, but I remind myself daily that it has tremendous influence on how I want to I live my life and that has helped form my personal story or my legacy. It can be easy to understand the philosophy behind that quote, but much Happy more difficult to apply. But, it has enabled me (to paraphrase my good friend Sky’s film title) to live a life well lived.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these days because I’ve been holed up for a month like the rest of us. That can be a good thing and a bad thing, but in my case it has been beneficial. It’s made me hit a big “pause button” and I think that was the universe giving me a message that was probably there all the time, but I wasn’t listening. As John Lennon wrote, “life is what’s happening while you’re busy making other plans”.

At the time that most of my “neighbors” in NYC and NJ and beyond went into quarantine, I had already been in self-isolation for two months editing my latest feature documentary Like A Woman – a film about women who are working in male-dominated professions – because it was a topic I knew quite well. Like A Woman Poster smallFor the majority of my career, I have been the only woman at the table. So, I wanted to use my storytelling skills to create awareness and make the change that I wanted to happen. As spring was right around the corner in NJ and I was ready to release my film – the world changed, not just for me for everyone and it is forever changed. It sucks, but it wasn’t the first time in my life that I had to switch gears and it has never been easy for me in my profession, because I a woman I had to try harder.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not the easiest person to know but I’d like to think I’m worth it. I’m a glass half full (at least) kind of person. I have to believe in possibilities to be able to survive. I have to have hope and something to look forward to. With that said, after procrastinating for two weeks and really doing absolutely nothing, I made a list this morning of things I CAN do. Here are a few things I wrote down:

Like A Woman – I hope to hire a musical composer to create a score for the film. It will make it more powerful and have more impact. More importantly, I have decided not to proceed with entering the film into film festivals. It’s just bad timing and maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. Thanks to Travis Keyes and Katrin Eisman for their encouragement and that was desperately needed. I always thrive on encouragement but I can honestly say, I really need it now. They reminded me that “content” was golden these days and it’s being consumed like never before. So, I will let go of the film festivals because I sense that’s not the approach I need to take. Instead, I will pursue offering screenings (for a fee) for conferences centered on women and young girls. No doubt these conferences will be virtual for a while and I am able to stream the film and even set up a virtual Q&A via platforms like Zoom. And the film will actually have the ability to reach more people. I suppose one could say that I put my ego aside, that is customarily stroked with the film festivals and have put my emphasis on getting the film “out there” to inspire women and girls who need a lot of inspiration these days. And the stories of the amazing women who are in my film will surely inspire, which is the ultimately goal of this film.

And the film will have the ability to reach more people. As far as marketing this new film to the conference planners, I am extremely fortunate to have some prestigious  credentials with my last film Opening Our Eyes.If, you’d like to see the full film, you can see it here.

 

 

There is one film festival that I will still pursue to get in

to and that is the Santa Barbara Film Festival that hopefully will take place in January 2021. I will always have a close connection to Santa Barbara because that’s where it all started for me, at least as far as my career. After a yearlong backpacking odyssey around the world, I drove to Santa Barbara from New Jersey and attended Brooks Institute. As one of six women in a school of 600 at the time, it was my first experience in a male-dominated environment. It’s where I met my husband, Tom Kelly. And it’s where some of my best memories were made and I’ve have been blessed with decades of unbelievable memories and experiences since then. My years in Santa Barbara were my foundation.

Conteur ProductionsI started this side business a long time ago. It was my first venture into the retail world. We shoot family story movies. We capture one’s family stories through interviews with their loved ones, while they are still here to tell those stories. We then scan their priceless family photos

Groleau children at school, Upper Peninsula, Michigan School children – 1930’s

and digital their old family movies and/or videos, along with newspaper clippings and other documented mementos and make a “Ken Burns” type film to preserve those memories for future generations. It all began when my mother passed awayIMG_1906 and I realized that I would never hear those family stories that she told around the dinner table and her infectious giggle as she told them. It also led to me discovering a part of the family I never knew about – but that’s a story for another time.

This pandemic has also made me realize that when things get back to a new semblance of normal, there will be a real desire for this service. But, it will also be different. I will probably do more remote interviews via Skype or Zoom, rather than get on a plane and have face-to-face interviews with people wearing masks. I know that I can get a more professional product with a well lit and professionally shot interview with good audio. But, I also know that we have all gotten used to a new aesthetic with Zoom conferences and news reporters broadcasting from their home studios.

I know this blog is long but I want to thank everyone who has always believed in me, the ones who give me a call when I seem to need it most and my real friends and FB friends who have helped to fill this current void in my life and to Tony Bennett for his beautiful song Smile which has helped me through some dark days. I want to leave you with some wise words from my 93 year old Aunt and I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.

  • Q: You lost a child when she was 27 years old to cancer. What advice do you have for parents who have lost a child? (I will include all the people who have lost their loved ones during this Pandemic)

Let the tears flow, let it all out. Feel all the pain. I cried for four years straight. I cried for her son who wouldn’t have his mother. Before that, I never felt old in my life. But I felt old when Patty died. I was 52 when that happened.

  • Q: You raised seven children and they all get along, how did you accomplish that?

            We traveled from base to base and they got along because they needed each other. I also kept family traditions. We ate every breakfast and every dinner together. We accepted each other for who we were that day. And whatever you earned, that was yours. I let them fight. That’s where you’re supposed to fight – with your family. That’s where you learn to adjust to the real world. I never killed their curiosity. Kids want to come to you – not the other way around. No one is short on love.

  • Q: Last words?

        What women can’t do physically, we can figure out mentally. Most difficulties aren’t catastrophes.

Here’s a snippet of my family and where I come from and I’m so very lucky.

Hang in there everybody and stay on the side of the glass half full.

Why Everyone Should Travel

 As I prepare to head out of the country next week I’ve been thinking about why I travel. I’ve been a bit of a rolling stone most of my life, moving 10 times before I graduated high school and pursuing a career as a professional photographer which has taken me to over 100 countries.

Gail at the Great Pyramids 1971
Gail in Egypt 1971

I think if I ever had to give up traveling I would wither and my spirit would die.

Here are my top ten reasons that I think every American (and other citizens of the world) should travel:

  • It gives you a much better perspective on our world rather than just experiencing it virally. Let’s face it, when you are an armchair traveler, you are getting someone else’s perspective.
  •  It makes one grateful for what they have. Many, if not most Americans are very privileged but don’t really have an understanding of that because they isolate themselves in their own environment.
  • You get to be a true diplomat for your country. When I’m traveling I try to give people from other countries and cultures a more realistic idea what an American is beyond our government’s policies and how we are depicted in the movies.
  • It creates lasting memories of importance or at least memories that last longer than buying a consumer product.
  • It teaches you a lot about yourself. When you travel things don’t always go according to plan. You get to see how you handle stress in situations beyond your control.
  • You learn how to communicate. Many times you don’t understand the language and you learn to read body language and pick up people’s vibes.
  • You meet people you would never get to meet at home. It makes you less fearful when you get to meet people from other lands.
  • As a photographer my camera has given me access to incredible experiences that I have shared with the world.
  • You can affect change.
    Gail showing video to children of remote Amazon village, Peru
    Gail with children in small village along Amazon River, Peru

    When you travel you realize that regardless which country you come from we are all part of the human race. We all share this planet and we are all stewards of keeping it healthy.

  • It brings wonder to your life. I have had many awe- inspiring moments and not all of them were at typical tourist sites. Some of my greatest memories are the simple conversations that I’ve had with people all around the world.

Check out some of the images that I’ve captured from my journeys. www.kellymooney.com

Are You a Woman in a Man’s World?

“Hey, it’s an ice cream man who’s a lady!  I was the lady…

It was the first year that Good Humor hired women as ice cream truck drivers. It was the summer after my freshman year at college, when I applied for a job as a driver. I fibbed and said that I could drive a standard transmission so I would get the job.  I got the job and as I bucked out of the Good Humor lot on my first day, I learned how.

I have always been the “token” female in my professional circles throughout my life.  To be honest, I never set out to be a front-runner for my gender or to prove a point. I simply followed my interests and and didn’t let the naysayers stop me from what I wanted to do. I just went for it.

In my profession of still photography there are definitely more women in the business now, than when I started.  At times it has been challenging and no doubt many opportunities were lost simply because of my gender.  But I was tenacious and I was passionate about photography and the access my cameras would give me to the lifestyle I wanted. I wanted to explore the world and experience places and events and share them with others. I’ve spent a lifetime doing just that.

I’m amazed at what technology has enabled me to do in my life and in my profession. I have been able to utilize the tools of today and the plentiful electronic distribution portals to bring awareness to various issues or cultures through my still images and motion. Currently, I’m working alongside my partner, Tom Kelly on a project entitled Like a Woman. It’s a series of short films and environmental still portraits of women who are working in male dominated professions – a subject I can certainly relate to.  We’ve just finished our

Taylor Laverty, Pilot of Good Year Blimp, Carson, CA
Taylor Laverty, Pilot of Good Year Blimp Spirit of America

 latest film about Taylor Laverty, a female pilot for the Goodyear blimp, the Spirit of America. She is one of only three female blimp pilots in the world. Taylor amazes me with her skills and professionalism and I am grateful to see the strides going forward in gender equality. 

Change happens slowly,  until it eventually becomes the norm.  By creating these short films I hope to nudge change along a little quicker and  inspire other women to reach for opportunities that are out there and used to be off bounds – not that long ago. I am always looking for interesting stories about women who are paving the way in fields where few women have gone before.  Please contact me.

Video Editing – Some Tips Not to Forget

I have a love/hate relationship with video editing, depending on which point I’m at. HotShoeExtensionExtenderMy initial ingestion of content and first edit is always tedious, but once I’ve edited the time line sound bites, I feel as though I’m more than half way there. But sometimes I lose sight of some critical thoughts in the process. Here’s a few:

  • Remember your commitment / story. Your story gets told and comes alive in the editing. If you don’t have a clear and concise message or story that you want to tell, then go no further, until you do. I have found when editing the latest short film in the Like A Woman series, that there is more than one message to relay. This video is about Simona de Silvestro, one of the few female professional race car drivers who races for the Andretti Autosport Team in Formula E (electric). It has two themes – one, about a woman in a man’s profession and another about electric racing. It’s tough to get across one theme in a film that is less than 3 minutes long, let alone two themes. I knew that I needed to be concise and to deliver the messages organically without forcing the issues. As much as Simona is one of the few females in this profession, she still wants to be known as the best driver she can be .
  • Let a piece breathe. I always make the mistake of trying to squeeze too much dialog into a short piece. It took me a dozen cuts, each time, taking out soundbites and stretching them over added b-roll to get the balance just right. Breathing gives the audience a rest and allows them to digest the information better.
  • Don’t try to be perfect. In an effort to leave no stone unturned in regards to my b-roll, I initially went through everything and then put all the selects on a timeline (or in a event). It was the first time we shot 4K GoPro footage and I put that in a separate event on a timeline. It was a big mistake. It took me a long time to make the timeline and an even longer time to look for a clip within the timeline. Next time, I will edit my clips from my bin and mark “favorites” as I go along, which is what I usually do, and is much faster.. Not sure why I departed from that approach, but I learned my lesson.
  • Audio is everything. The interview with Simona was challenging. We were literally in a tent set up on the side of an active roadway. Even with a shotgun mics and a lavalier with an undercover we still picked up some background noise of the traffic. I did everything I could think of to blend the sound including S-Curve transitions and adding another noise track to fill in the dead air spots. I’m not totally happy with it, but I’d like to up my skills in audio mixing. My only consolation is that the story is about racing, so the audio is somewhat acceptable.
  • 4K – What a memory suck! I love the results from the GoPro Hero 4 Black but the clips are difficult to view as it can be sluggish. But, because my final output is HD 1920X1080, I was able to crop the 4K and/or blow it up and it looked great.

Check out the other short videos and portraits on the Like A Woman channel. And please like our FB page.

How a Personal Project Can Augment a Career

I’ve shot 10 short films for my latest project entitled,  Like a Woman. The project is about women who work in traditionally male-dominated professions. Sadly, there are a lot of professions to choose.  The latest films consist of profiles of Simona de Silvestro,

Simona de Silvestro, Formula e Race Car Driver, Berlin, Germany
Simona de Silvestro, Formula e Race Car Driver, Berlin
Taylor Laverty, Pilot of Good Year Blimp, Carson, CA
Taylor Laverty, Pilot of Good Year Blimp, Carson, CA

a Swiss, female, Formula e (electric) race car driver for the Andretti team, Taylor Laverty, a pilot for Good Year Blimp (airship) and Tayna Ragir

Tanya Ragir, Sculptor, Los Angeles, CA
Tanya Ragir, Sculptor, Los Angeles, CA

, a talented sculptor. Every one of these women was inspirations to me.  I have been a minority female photographer and filmmaker for almost four decades.

I have come to the realization that success has been about my journey and pushing my own boundaries. Many times I have been well paid, but I define my successes by the value of the journey, not by the monetary gain. My memory  is full of incredible experiences, including the last three – riding the Good Year Blimp, being in on the race track in Berlin with the Andretti team and meeting multi-talented sculptor Tanya and significant other David, both who energized my mind and spirit and awed me by their creativity.

I came away from these three experiences enforcing what I knew already, that a   “personal project” has a life of its own and that they have been an outlet for what is inside me. These projects they’ve given me PR value and memorable experiences, but most of them have been timeless and continue to resonate with me as well as others, years after the fact. I suppose,  I already knew that but it wasn’t until David told me that my Delta Bluesmen film (which I created more than a dozen years ago) excited him and made him want to see more, that the thought hit home. I touched upon a subject that was near and dear to him and he let me know about it and that made my afternoon. It may seem like a small gesture, but his acknowledgment and appreciation will stay with me a lifetime.

I have been very blessed in my life and I should remind myself of that more often. I became a photographer a very long time ago because I felt that the craft would provide me with access to a lifetime of memories and the means to create awareness. Every so often, I get reminded of the why I became a photographer and visual communicator and whenever I have, it has buoyed my spirit when I needed it the most.

Thank you to all my subjects, Good Year, Andretti and TE Connectivity for all your gracious help and support. Stay tuned for the short films.

Five Ways Shooting Motion Will Make You a Better Still Photographer

I’ve been shooting both mediums – video and still photographs – for over a decade. Some may say that I was an early adaptor of motionForty Deuce burlesque club, Las Vegas, Nevada, but that’s now how I look at it. In a way, I’ve been a motion shooter ever since I became a still photographer – not in the literal sense – but in how I approach the craft of photography.

I’m a storyteller; in fact that’s why I made photography a huge part of my life. I want to utilize my craft to tell the stories that I feel compelled to tell. I think in terms of paginations, like pages in a magazine or scenes in a film and I realize now that I have always approached still photography like a cinematographer.

Here are some tips I learned from shooting motion that will make you a better still photographer:

  • Cover it – Get comprehensive coverage – a variety of perspectives, focal lengths (wide, medium, tight and close-ups.) When shooting video, you always need plenty of b-roll to work with when editing a story. My still photography clients enjoy getting the variations that I shoot. It gives them an abundance of choice and I benefit by making more money.
  • Get sequences – Get mini stories of people interacting within the whole story. When I’m shooting, I think about how my shots will come together as part of the whole video. I approach still photography stories the same way – in paginations. How will I connect the still images to make the whole?
  • Get storytelling images – With still photography I need to make sure that my independent shots (or moments in time) will also be able to stand on their own and tell the story. They can’t just be “wowy zowy” images as Bob Gilka (former Director of Photography of the National Geographic) used to say when I showed him eye catching, colorful photos that didn’t say anything.
  • Action/motion – make the images feel. I started exploring motion because there were times when I found it difficult to convey the feeling of motion that I was trying to express in a still image. I find it is easier to convey the feeling of movement in a still image now because my eye is trained to look for the opportunities.
  • Give the images sound – (like a hammer hammering). Natural sound gives a video the element of reality. It’s almost like it gives the video a well-needed extra layer or dimension. When I’m shooting stills, I look for images that will illustrate the sound of the environment.

I usually incorporate both video and still components when working on personal projects. For my current project, Like A Woman, I’m shooting still environmental portraits and short 2-4 min. films. And when I travel, I’ll always take a digital audio recorder and microphone to capture good sound.

I’m headed to Vietnam tomorrow to shoot stills primarily, but I’ll be shooting with the eye of a hybrid.

Business Tips for Photographers Who (Also) Shoot Video

In the blogging world of photography and motion, there is a lot written about gear and how to use it, but precious little written about “the business”.  Chances are, if you are a photographer who has been in business for more than 10 years, then you know that technology has not only changed our tools, it has changed the way we do business.Professional high definition video camera, isolated on white background

For starters, we are doing business in a global economy, and with that comes pluses and minuses. One big plus is that we are able to reach a much wider audience, than ever before. That is, if you have an understanding of how to do that and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.  The minus or downside is, if we don’t adapt our dated business models, in a business that has seen monumental changes, we will not be able to compete.

Commercial photographers are in the visual communications business.  We create imagery that delivers a message or tells a story for a variety of “markets” including; advertising, corporate, architectural and editorial.  Each market has a need for visual content and these days that encompasses both still photography and video.  In the last couple of years, the lines dividing these two mediums have faded away, at least in terms of how content is consumed in our culture.

Here are a couple of tips to help photographers prosper in our “multi-media” world:

  • Decide what your company will offer.  Will you only provide still imagery?  Or will you expand your business and offer both still photography and video? Are you quick to answer: “I don’t want anything to do with video”? The problem with that answer is that most of your clients will probably have a need for video.  Are you going to send them away to your competition?  Or will you keep your clients “in house” and take care of their video needs and hire or outsource your competition? That’s a different way of thinking and has the potential to broaden your revenue stream.
  • Decide what role you will play if your company does offer video?  Will you be the director and work with a camera operator?  Or will you assume the role of a DP (Director of Photography) and direct as well as operate the camera?
  • What will you outsource and what will you keep in house?  Maybe you want to expand your business by offering both still photography and motion, but you’d prefer to just shoot the still photography and outsource the video.  In that case, you could assume the role of producer and oversee or outsource the video production.
  • Reassess your insurance.  Video productions have a lot more variables. They also usually have larger crews.  More than likely, you will need to upgrade your current insurance policy to accommodate and cover that.
  • Change your paperwork.  Make sure that you go through your talent and property releases and modify the language for multi-media.  Change any boilerplate contract language to include video (motion).
  • Licensing.  Regardless, if you decide not to expand into video production, you will have to contend with the fact that your still images won’t always be used in a stand-alone fashion.  Many still images will be commissioned and/or licensed as part of multi-media projects and that has a dramatic effect on licensing. And if you do decide to expand into video production, in your role as a producer, you will be licensing other people’s work.
  • Understand new business models.  Let’s face it, things have changed in the business of photography.  Photography has become ubiquitous and the competition is fierce.  You are not only competing with professional photographers – you’re competing with semi-pros, amateurs AND video production companies.  One thing is certain, it’s never been more important to have an understanding of multiple mediums and to be unique and stand out amongst the noise. There are no templates you should follow.  You have to be authentic and true to yourself.

Check out more tips and information in my ePub, The Craft and Commerce of Video and Motion.

 

Maggie Doyne – a Bright Light in Our Troubled World

The other night, Maggie Doyne of Blink Now,  became the CNN 2015 Hero of the Year. Maggie is a 29 year-old American woman, who has 50 kids and lives in Nepal!

Maggie Doyne, Erin and Gail at the Kopila Valley Childrens Home, Surkhet, Nepal
Erin and I with Maggie Doyne and her children, Kopila Valley Children’s Home, Surkhet, Nepal

Maggie’s story and the path she decided to take early on in life, has touched the hearts of people around the globe and changed the lives of hundreds of Nepalese women and children.

Maggie was a high school classmate of my daughter, Erin. After graduation, Maggie decided to take a gap year and travel before heading off to college. Eventually, she ended up in Nepal and saw a country devastated by 10 years of civil war and thousands of orphaned children left in its wake. She used her babysitting savings to buy property and build a home for herself and orphaned children – she was 19 years old. Maggie has 50 children now, has built a primary school for 250 kids and is currently building a high school.

When Maggie accepted the Hero of the Year award the other night, she said; “ And to all of you in this room and who are watching, please, please remember that we have the power to create the world that we want to live in”. She’s done just that and has inspired countless others, to do the same.   She inspired my daughter and I to seek out other individuals all over the world who were creating positive change and to make a film about them, with the hopes it would inspire others to make a difference.

Imagine if we all thought like Maggie and believed we all have the power to create the world that we want to live in. The fact is we do have that power. It starts with the little things we can do – in our own lives, in our family’s lives and in our communities. Small things have a way of growing into big things. When you educate one child, you change a life that has the potential to change other lives.

Maggie, you continue to inspire me. You are a bright light in a troubled world and a beacon of hope. Congratulations for this well deserved honor.

 

If you’d like to watch Opening Our Eyes, a film about Maggie and other change makers, you can view it here. Use the code THANKS2015.

What’s Next for Still Photography? Things We Could Never Begin to Imagine.

Journeys of a Hybrid

One of the only good things about getting older is that I have gained a lot of perspective. Fortune teller through window, Atlantic City, NJ I never speculate what the future will hold by limiting it to what’s possible now because…..

When I began studying photography at Brooks Institute in the early 1970’s

I never would have imagined:

  • That I would own a personal computer that would change the way I communicated with people and ran my business.
  • There would be the Internet, email and mobile phones.
  • There would be auto-focus cameras and lenses.
  • Cameras would be fully automated – if you so choose to use them that way. When I began my career as a photographer, I needed to be a technician, and that meant understanding aperture and shutter speed and a lot of other things that went into making a still image.
  • I would be shooting still images without film.
  • I wouldn’t be limited to…

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10 Mistakes Photographers Make When Shooting Motion

1.  They forget about the story – it’s not your camera that tells the story – it’s the person using the camera. Pretty visuals, slapped into a motion timeline with music, doesn’t necessarily tell a story.  Video is a story telling medium – don’t forget that.

2.  They think they already know how to shoot – if you think because you are a professional photographer and all you need to do is get a camera with a “video mode” on it, you are mistaken. Shooting in motion is far different than shooting still images. An experienced motion shooter can spot a video shot by a still photographer with little know how, right away.

3.  Thinking audio isn’t important – audio is more important than the visual when producing video.  Hire a sound person to do it right, but don’t discount it.

4.  Thinking the DSLRcamera is all you need for video productions – this is a biggie.  How are you going to go after professional video jobs if this is the only tool in your kit?  Sure you can rent a RED – but make sure you are as proficient with this tool as your competition is before hanging out your “motion” shingle.

5.  Positioning themselves just as DP’s or Directors and thinking you’ll maintain ownership of your work. If you assume the role of a camera operator, DP or even a director – you will be in a work for hire position in most markets.  Position yourself as a producer – shoot if you want to – and direct – but realize that you’ll be just one rung on the “content ladder”.

6.  They don’t learn interview skills – this is what separates the pros from the still shooters who have DSLR cameras and think that’s all they need.  I’d say about  70% of my work includes on camera interviews.  Even though I ask the questions- I’m not on camera, my subject is.   I not only need to know how to ask the right questions and get great audio, but I need to produce a usable interview clip for an editor. That means knowing how to get great soundbites. This is one area I excel in – it’s all about rapport with your subject.

7.  They try to compete in “old business model” markets – Everyone wants to shoot broadcast spots and feature films (or short films) so they think that after shooting motion for only a few months – or even a year – they will be able to compete in the high end business of video production.  First, this market, like the still photography market,  has changed drastically, mostly marginalized by still photographers who are just starting to shoot motion,  shooting jobs for next to nothing because they have no understanding of this “business”.

8.  Learning the “how to’s” in terms of gear – but nothing about the business – this is also a biggie.  There are so many “how to shoot motion” workshops and roadshows out there but no one seems to be teaching the business end of things.  Still photographers think they already know “the business” but quickly realize that they don’t, and they put themselves out of business in this medium – before they’ve barely started.

9.  Teaching “how to” workshops in video with little or no experience – I can’t tell you how many photographers have called me for technical advice about some pretty basic stuff in terms of video,  and four months later they are teaching workshops. Please don’t become part of the problem and send more shooters out into this field without teaching them something about business. And if you are considering taking a workshop – do your homework and take the workshop from someone who is accomplished in this field and has done something.

10. They forget about the story – I know that’s #1 but it needs reinforcing.