April 21, 2022

Trinity in Post-production Soon

I haven’t mentioned much about Trinity yet — a documentary I began last fall. The main event — a visit to the Trinity site in New Mexico — occurred earlier this month.

I have a few voice-overs to record that, I hope, are happening on Sunday.

Then I’ll begin editing.

Two things I’m doing differently with this one. First, I’m using the cinema flat aspect ratio of 1.85:1 — because I want to. And I’ll be making it black & white — because I want to (also, there’s a thematic reason for this choice). And one other thing: This is my first film to do all the things by myself 🙂

We’re talking short-short here. Probably 5 to 6 minutes.

Jay Manifold, of Kansas City, is one of the subjects of the film.

Rock shop near Socorro, New Mexico.
April 20, 2022

Back to the Land … Back to Work

I’m doing cinematography (and documentary consulting) for a film about the back-to-the-land movement in Missouri Ozarks. Director Denise Vaughn and I have been working on capturing this history from the original folks who came to the Ozarks looking to create a new way of rural life in America in the mid-1970s. Work started last summer but was halted by the omicron surge.

This weekend I’ll be filming at an Earth Day event near West Plains, Missouri. More details soon.

April 13, 2022

Cow: It’s Not Gunda

I enjoyed Gunda. I found it audacious — pointing cameras at farm animals and, with some skillful editing, letting the visuals tell the story.

(Or, more accurately, giving the audience plenty to work with in the construction of a story in their own minds. We humans apply a narrative structure to ambiguous events in order to make a coherent and causal sense of events.)

Further, Gunda was full of startling and beautiful images. The choice to play some of the scenes for excruciating lengths of time turned out to be an interesting and effective method for inviting the audience to contemplate the lives of the farm animals.

Cow is not audacious, interesting, effective, beautiful, or startling (well, it was startling and brutal at the end). It is simply the result of a second-hand idea captured in mundane, and annoyingly shaky and relentlessly close-up, images.

March 19, 2022

On Saying “Take it Easy” to a Jamaican

Earlier today I said “take it easy” to a Jamaican. I often say this instead of simply “goodbye” or “see you later.”

She just smiled at me like I have much to learn. I guess I do.

In any case, I’m wrapping up this filming trip soon. Spring break will be over, and I’ll be back in class with my documentary students discussing Finders Keepers next week.

Until then, take it easy.

Artist and his grand daughters in Belmont.

Outside the full moon party in Treasure Beach.

March 15, 2022

The Ides of March

I suppose I could look up the actual date, but the ides of March is close enough. Rhetorica is 20 years old.

It is one of the oldest, continuously-published weblogs on the internet. For most of those 20 years it was about the rhetoric of the press-politics relationship in America. I briefly enjoyed a large following and much stimulating conversation in the comments. Things began to shift as my academic career matured and as I soured on the idea of being able to offer much of value in a social media world.

My career took a turn in 2014 when I decided to give documentary filmmaking a try. Early success (def.: managed to complete a couple of films and make a few festivals) led to creating a documentary certificate program as part of our digital film and TV program at Missouri State University.

I still teach journalism — mobile, ethics, and public affairs reporting. But my despair regarding the state of the professional  mainstream product means I don’t yammer about it publicly as much as I used to. I think the problems are not fixable. So I’ve moved on.

Rhetorica is now my documentary film blog. I hope it lasts another 20 years.

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