Lessons from a baby

I’ve always been a person who tries to learn lessons from life around me. It’s probably years of Sunday school classes and trying to find the lesson in the Bible stories.

I just started feeding my daughter, Portland solid foods. It’s been fun seeing her facial reactions to different vegetables and fruit. Her first reaction is usually unsure if she likes the new taste, by the second bite she is smiling big and wants more fast. She often tries to grab the spoon and put more in her mouth by herself. She once was so excited, she grabbed the small cup I was feeding her from and tried to eat it. I laughed and said, “You can’t eat the whole thing at once!” When I said it, I stopped and laughed to myself, so that’s what I’m trying to do! When it comes to all the new dreams and ideas I’m having, I’m trying to do everything at once. For the past month, I’ve been enjoying being a mom full time and being creative on the side whenever I get the chance. I started writing more here and making YouTube videos weekly. As I’m pouring my extra time into these areas I’m waiting like… ok when is this going to pay off? In other words, I’m trying to eat the cup just like my little girl. It doesn’t work that way, it’s one small bite at a time.

From the moment I learned how to do graphic design all the way to graduating as an editor, I’ve intern and got hired to help other people build their vision. I didn’t mind, since at 22 I didn’t really have one myself. It’s easier to help others build theirs. When it comes to my dreams, I’m often changing my mind on how to go about it, or ask the question; is it worth the risk? Rediscovering my creativity and refining new dreams has become a process in which I am learning new things about myself.

I guess if anything, my daughter is teaching me to enjoy the experience of life.

Thank you to those who enjoy my post and liking them, I hope you are also learning with me new things about life and are encouraged.

Top 5 Favorite Storytelling books

I’ve been a student of storytelling ever since I became an editor. I’ve come across a lot of different books through out the year and there are about five of them that have deeply influenced how I tell story through my videos. I’ve written on my blog quotes from the books and why these books have such an impact on my life and the work I create.

Here are my top 5 favorite books about how to tell a story.

1. Story by Robert McKee

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We all have stories inside us and sometimes sharing them takes courage and honesty. There is no telling the power a story can have on the listener.

2. In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch

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“What they finally remember is not the editing, not the camera work, not the performances, not even the story-it’s how they felt.”

3. The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Micheal Ondaatje

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“Every shot is a thought or a series of thoughts, expressed visually. When a thought begins to run out of steam, that the point at which you cut.”

4. Imagine How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

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“There’s no such thing as a creative type. As if creative people can just show up and make stuff up. As if it were that easy. I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb. It’s about taking an idea in your head, and transforming that idea into something real. And that’s always going to be a long and difficult process. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel like work.” – Milton Glaser, graphic designer, creator of “I (heart) NY”

5. Writing Television Sitcoms by Evan S. Smith

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Learning how many times a script is re-written before they go in production help me at work prepare to share drafts with other. Feed back is gold! I’ve always been the artist that would say, “Don’t look, its not done!” When I started to ask my co-workers to view my work and tell me what they think I would get very insightful help. Usually they would pin point what wasn’t working.

 

Finding inspiring 

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was go to the video store with my dad. We would take our time discovering new movies, and talk about the ones we already saw. Today, with modern technology that experience has disappeared.

Don’t get me wrong , I’m grateful we live in the future where any movie, book or article can be found online. With one keyword you can be connected to everything on that one subject. But how do I find the random things?

Today I decided to go to the library. I haven’t been to the library since elementary school, being in this space again reminded me of having to do boring book reports. I was about to leave when I came across the art section and pick up a book on comic strips.  It was fastening to read about the history of comic strips. They were created for a generation in need of stories when they didn’t have a television or a digital library. Comic strips were in newpapers and today we see how it captured what that generation was feeling, thinking and their great desires. As a modern storyteller, I search to create the same connection with my videos. The art of storytelling is the same but the platform has changed. 

I never realized how we enjoy stories today, all started with a humble comic strip. It is easy to get caught up with the production of a story,  most of us don’t have expensive equipment but what we do have is a pen and paper.

The Dream Job Myth

My dream job was to work inside a very trendy creative building next to a window. As for what I did all day, I wasn’t sure. I did imagine working at a desk and at times walking around to make a copy. Blame my dream job on the WB network and the programming they had in the early 2000’s. I must have watched too much Smallville. 

As my working career progressed I started to see what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go in life. By my early twenties I realized I didn’t want to be that busy career woman with a man suit on, with no family to call her own like the 90’s portrayed.  I wanted to live a calling impacting the lives of others. When I traveled overseas I got a glimpse of the power of production it can have on a church, their community and the world. By now, every Christian or Justin Bieber fan has heard of Hillsong. The experience I had when I was a part of the church family, was how I could make a difference in the lives of people by creating videos. I could say what I wanted to say without having to get on a stage and talk! It was the perfert introvert job.

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When I moved into my perfect dream job, I realized I wanted more. The classic human experience, you get that you want and see its not really what you want. I was enjoying myself but I didn’t think I was really making the difference like I wanted to do. I felt like my life wasn’t counting. Plus, I was busy, with no family to call my own. I did manage to avoid the pant suit.

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It wasn’t until I had no job, traveling the world (my third dream) and was left in a cafe did God finally had my hearts attention. It was in psalms that the words might as well said, “Dear Monica.” The theology of “follow your dreams” broke off my life, for the first time I could see what I really wanted, was to follow God’s dream. This whole time I had been going about it all wrong. I wrote in my journal. “God, my dream is to follow you. Where you lead, I will go.”

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I went back to my job, but was given a new position. My boss said, “Make the video department yours.” Whoa. God was giving me a place of influence to be in charge of a very large church media department. There has been hard times when I think in my heart, I’m not the chosen one, someone else can do it better. I am reminded by the confidence of my leaders, and those who love me; I am the right person for the task. Its been three years, and I am growing, I am learning, and everyday I am challenged. In a strange way I enjoy the stress, the pressure, the challenge and even talking with people! The first year I was scared to do anything, the second I was starting to get a back bone, and the magic three, I am finally stepping out and owning what was given to me. There has been times where I wish to go back into my editing hole and closed the door, but then I remember my conversation with God. He wants to take his people somewhere better than we can dream. He was even kind enough to bless me with an amazing boyfriend who reminds me to not give up, take courage, and don’t get discourage if things don’t work out like I thought. Usually it works out better than I imagined.

A Turning Point

The book The Story by Robert McKee describes a turning point as a moment a character is forced to make a decision. I read the book years ago but never forgot the revolutions I received from adjusting my prospective to a writer of my story when it came to my own life. Author Donald Miller had the same experience and even wrote a book about it named Million Miles a Thousand Years. I was reminded about what I experienced after listening to his audio book.

When life takes a turn of its own, with no control of my own, I am reminded of the power of making a decision and what story I want to create for my life. I can’t control the twist and turns but I can control what has power in tossing me around.

I was one of those girls who wouldn’t or couldn’t make up her mind. I soon saw that making no decision was indeed a decision of choosing not to act. This left me stagnant in life, unable to move forward, leaving me not happy with where I was, and who I was becoming. I gave up control to the cares of this world.

What drove me to finally start making a decision was the fear of not living the life God has written out for me. What I failed to see that it was He who placed the typewriter in my view to start typing out my story. I had a say in what happened, the decisions I make, if my will is to please Him, wouldn’t lead me to harm like I was fearing. Trust is what I was confused about. I was placing my trust in myself instead of He who knows every mystery of the earth. His love for me is more powerful than the mistakes I have made and will make, and because of love, I am free to create the story I want to live.
The turning point was indeed surrendering.

The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” C.S Lewis

Random or a Master Plan

DSCN6279Its summer time and I haven’t blog in a few weeks. Life at work has been busy and this week I’ve been on vacation. I usually would take this opportunity to travel overseas but I am suffering from the student loan crises of my generation. Of course I am working hard to overcome but its requiring sacrifice that has left me discouraged. I ran away to central California for a small time out. The interesting thing is I’m learning a lot about life here. I’m on my own, renting a room and have too much free time that I found myself eating dinner at the local park. No one should ever stay in an apartment for too long. Too easy to lose your mind

rs_560x415-130405113849-1024.Office.mh.040513The past few weeks I’ve been in a Netflix coma completing The Office. I have been a fan from the start, and nine years later watching the last season made me realize why I enjoyed it so much. I find it funny because I totally relate to adults trying to figure life out. Doubting their journey, doubting their decisions, fearing the unknown, staying with the familiar. The Office captures American Culture from the 2000’s perfectly. The recession, the dreams and reality of adulthood. I imagine the writers behind these shows struggling with the same things their characters did. Who knew it would end with such a profound thought.
“It all seems so arbitrary, I applied for a job at this company because they were hiring I took a desk in the back because it was empty, but no matter how you get there or where you end up human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.”
Cred, The Office.

Before my trip I was asking myself a question:
Is life random or is there a master design plan? My common sense brain says random but when I look back at my life, its as if it was designed. At those moment of feeling lost, I know I can trust in Him with my journey and when I’m 80 years old looking back, I can share my life story as a beautiful tail, and transform every challenge into the victory that changed my destiny.

As an editor by nature, I am learning its okay to not have everything figured out, some how the story always comes together by stepping back to reflect and paying attention to the small details.

There’s a lot of beautiful in ordinary things. – Pam, The Office 

Knock

I’ve been paying attention to the word determination.

When I was in San Francisco, I learned a pretty interesting life lesson and all because I had to use the restroom! Before I lose your attention, I recorded a podcast telling you the story instead of writing it. 

Hope you learn something from my little story.

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Book: Story by Robert McKee

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The first time I heard of Story by Robert McKee it was 2008 and I was hanging out with my good friend/editing mentor Nick Khoo in Australia. He didn’t give me much details about the book but said, “You have to read this.” When I saw how thick the book was, I knew I wouldn’t bother.

Last year I was in Burbank visiting another editor friend when the book found me again. I walked in to a used book store, and there it was, in a pill of film books.

I often think books find their way to me at the right time. I finally finished the book and it has taught me so much about storytelling, humanity, God, the struggles of life, and how we long for story.

“…I slowly came to realize that stories mean much more than words and pretty pictures.”

Learning the art of storytelling has taught me how to better understand my story.

“Deep within these characters and their conflicts we discover our own humanity. We go to the movies to enter a new, fascinating world, to inhabit vicariously another human being who at first seems so unlike us and yet at heart is like us, to live in a fictional reality that illuminates our daily reality. We do not wish to escape life but to find life, to use our minds in fresh, experimental ways, to flex our emotions, to enjoy, to learn, to add dept to our days.”

I often see my life as I would see a movie, knowing that today’s struggles will build my character.

“True Character is revealed in the choice a human being makes under pressure- the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”

“..choice under pressure will strip away the mask of characterization, we’ll peer into their inner natures and with a flash of insight grasp their true characters.”

It was fascinating to learn how important conflict is to the story. In the long run, it is the story. How the character over came, how the battle was won…

“Life is conflict. That is its nature.”

“…conflict is to storytelling what sound is to music…as long as conflict engages our thoughts and emotions we travel through the hours unaware of the voyage…if conflict is kept on hold for too long, our eyes leaves the screen. And when our eyes leave the screen they take thought and emotions with them”

“The Law of Conflict is more than an aesthetic principle; it is the soul of the story. Story is metaphor for life, and to be alive is to be in seemingly perpetual conflict.”

As a writer, editor, photographer – an artist, its our mission to connect with the audience..

“If you give me your concentration, I’ll give you surprise followed by the pleasure of discovering life, its pains and joys, at levels and in directions you have never imagined…Insight is the audience’s reward for paying attention.”

“We go to the storyteller with a prayer: Please let it be good. Let it give me an experience I’ve never had, insight into a fresh truth. Let me laugh at something I’ve never thought funny. Let me be moved by something that’s never touched me before. Let me see the world in a new way. Amen.”

“If the audience expects to happen happens, or worse, if it happens the way the audience expects it to happen, this will be a very unhappy audience. We must surprise them.”

We all have stories inside us and sometimes sharing them takes courage and honesty. There is no telling the power a story can have on the listener.

Blog: The Director’s Cut

The director’s cut is when the editor creates a specialized version that represent the director’s own approved edit. This sometimes means having more scenes with more information about the characters and can ultimately have a different ending.

The past few weeks I’ve been living the Director’s cut. Which isn’t bad, just not what I pictured. I prefer fast transitions and getting to the point, but it seems the Director is fond of subtle transformations that hold significant lessons. I am noticing these unexpected scenes are indeed adding beauty to my story. There are times when I receive random snippets and have no idea how they will fit with each other. Its up to me to do something with each component and prepare for what the Director gives me next. I can expect to make a few mistakes along the way, but all I can really do is learn from them.  Sometimes as an editor, what may have been a mistake might be the very thing I was looking for. So Im allowing myself to take a few risk.

I can see the theme of faith, hope, and courage. The heart of my character is being challenged. I am learning a lot about overcoming fear and trust. Though I am tempted to question the director’s art, I trust Him. He knows what He’s doing and where He is taking the story. After all, He knows the end.

The amazing thing is He listens to me. I tell Him what I think about the story and the vision I see when I close my eyes. He takes all my ideas in to account. When I least expect it, He hands me something better than what I dreamt of. I say, “Wow, you got this from my idea?” and He answers, “It was our idea, we dreamt it together, this project is as much as yours as it is mine.”

I want the movie of my life to be God’s heart beat.   Although I am eager to know what happens, I am telling myself to enjoy the journey and to keep on being a diligent worker- to be open, to learn, grown, create, dream, pursue, read, laugh, visit, travel, seek and love.

Audio: Editing and Ministry

Audio advice about editing and ministry. This could also apply for working at a company and not just a church.

Here is the 2011 year end video I did at The Rock. I wanted to give more than just number, I wanted to tell the story.

Audio: Old Family Photos

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Intro

Photo 1 – My Grandfather

Photo 2 – The Funeral

Photo 3 – The Older Sister

Photo 4 – Baby Boomer Generation (my mom: the fourth child)

Photo 5 – I Felt Sorry for Him

Story – The Dishes (my mom: the top left)

What Did She Teach You?

What Do You Stay About Family? (my mom: the second child on the bottom)

What Happened When She Died?

What Would You Say To Your Grandchildren? (photo: older brother)

Movie Scene: I am a Kid

I gave my self a week to film, edit and post a completed movie scene.  Tomorrow I’ll write about the making of, what I learned, and what this scene means.

One thing I will share with you: I have chosen my audience and who I want to delight. I enjoy movies that are honest and full of subtext themes.

Share your thoughts, comments and feel free to critique me. I am doing this to learn 🙂

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The Photo System

I am reading this amazing book called, “In the Blink of An Eye” by famous film editor Walter Murch. He gives amazing insight and speaks a language I understand.

As I begin to work on my small movie scene that I shot this weekend, I am following his instructions carefully. I am hanging on every word.

“Film -is not so much a putting together as it is a discovery of a path..”

“The more film there is to work with… the greater the number of pathways that can be considered..”

“The cut..should look almost self-evidently simple and effortless, if it is even noticed at all.”

“Attempt to produce the greatest effect in the viewer’s mind by the least number of things on screen.”

“It takes more work and discernment to decided where not to cut-”

How do you want your audience to feel?”

“What they finally remember is not the editing, not the camera work, not the performances, not even the story-it’s how they felt.”

“Separate out what you wish from what is actually there…see what is actually on the screen.”

“Editor’s job is to propose alternative scenarios..”

He recommends printing out a few frames from each scene. Taping them on the wall and then looking at each frame. To notice the language of emotions.

“..frames that were never meant to go together and yet there they were, right next to each other.”

“..keep your awareness, to really be alive to the possibilities in each shot..”

Even though I already notice a few mistakes I’ve made, I want to take my time and think about the edit. I want to sit back and look at my wall of frames.

Audio: Once Upon a Time


Once upon a time I didn’t take photos. I didn’t even edit videos. What did I do with my creativity? -I miss understood it, I miss understood myself.

An old friend commented on my wedding post on facebook and said, “Too bad you didn’t take photos when I got married..” It got me thinking, “Wow, there was a time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.”

This is the first photo on my flickr account. It’s of me in LA, back on page 287. When I see this photo, I see a girl who was at the beginning of her journey.

I write this post not to talk about me but to remind you that where you are now doesn’t mean you will be there forever. Life evolves and each year you discover something new about life and yourself. Today, you might be at the beginning of your journey. In a few years, that road will lead you somewhere you never thought possible. You have to choose to keep on moving forward.  To listen to yourself when you say, “I love doing this, wish I could this for a living.”

I remember for years my family misunderstood me, therefore I misunderstood myself. So much of my identity came from them that I was allowing their opinion to shape me. “You’re weird Monica,” my older sisters used to say. They were teenagers then and I was an awkward 12 year old girl. I’m sure I was weird but looking back now I was just trying to figure out who I was and their comments were holding me back.

What helped me was when I discovered God made me creative for a reason. The more I hung out with Him, the more I began to understand myself. I found my image and identity in Him.

‘Once Upon A Time’ may be right now for you. That just means you are at the beginning of the story. Keep moving, even if you feel like you’re the only one pushing yourself.

Video: The Story of a Fallen Hero

The past few months I have been working on a special project for a family from my church. They asked me to create a video about the life of their son.

I don’t do very many side video projects because the time it takes but when the father asked me, I could see it in his eyes that this project was very important. We then began to work together on a script and arrange interviews.

As I came to the end of editing the video, I realized that the men and women who sign up for the military enter into a whole different reality. They sacrifice their lives to fight for freedom and for the safety of Americans.  Raymond’s life displayed passion for the service and love for his friends and family.

Now when I hear of soldiers dying overseas, I think of Raymond and what their family have been though. It was an honor to tell Raymond’s story.

The video is 20 minutes. Feel free to share your thoughts.
This video was created for the Murphy Family.

Credits:

Interviews, filming, video editing, audio recording:  Monica Briano
Script: Monica Briano & Paul Murphy
Voice over: Jamaal Brown
War details and family footage provided by : Paul Murphy
Various War and News clips: Youtube sources
Soundtrack: Halo 3 & Clint Mansell

Film: Behind the Beauty

This morning I woke up with the need to be creative in a fresh way. As I wrote some thoughts down, I suddenly imagined a short film in my head using film stills.

I would only have 24 exposure to capture the story.

It was interesting limiting myself. I knew what I wanted and I had to wait for it. Each frame was valuable.

Out of my 24 frames 6 were all I needed to tell the story. Today I had to create something honest and real.

“Create what you are most passionate about.”

Tomorrow I’ll post up the video.

Cinematography with Gale Tattersall

I first discovered Creativelive when photographer Jeremy Cowart posted a link to an interview he did with Chase Jarvis. After I watched that interview I must have spent a few hours watching some of Creativelive’s workshops. I then became a devoted student.

I got an email announcing the news that Gale would be teaching a Cinematography workshop with the HD DSLR. The requirement was to send in a video. I for one hate bring on camera but I knew this was a chance in a life time.

My video was chosen and off  I was to Seattle to learn film making from House’s Director of Photography, Gale Tattersall.

Gale was one of the first people in Hollywood to use the HD DSLR for production filming. Word began to spread that these small cameras could produce high-end quality video.

Ending all excuses.

I enjoyed learning from Gale because he not only embraces new technology but has been working on films for years.

Here are some things I learned while in the workshop. You can buy the videos here if you like.

-“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” Alfred Hitchcock

-Use the right camera for the right situation

-The HD DSLR was first used on House to solve a problem: Great for filming in tight areas.

-Using more than one camera side by side to get the same performance but different framing.

-Use the depth to field & framing to better tell the story.

-Direct the eye. Control the depth to field, what you want the viewer to look at.

-Use lighting to tell the story, don’t over romanticize every shot. Sometimes things need to be ugly and uncomfortable. Good cinematography is invisible. Make it to follow the story.  It’s easy to take it in the wrong direction. Each scene can have a different “genera”.

-Do camera test. See which ISO works best with less grain. (160/320/1250). Camera test will save you time.

-Set white balance according to the lighting temperature.

-Separate your eye from your brain. See what is really there: color reflections, shadows, white balance degrees, lighting, background, etc.

-Know the rules before you break them.

-Talk with the director and writer so you have a clear vision of the project. The director is the captain. Get on his wave length.

-Play with the subconscious.

-Understand lighting, don’t make it noticeable. It’s all about what kinda film you are making. Use the particle lighting in the scene to light the scene: windows, lamps. Justify where the light is coming from. Direct the eye with lighting. Lighting gives attention. Darken the background and illuminate the subject.

-If film making is in your soul, don’t stop, keep on doing it.

-With the HD DLSR cameras you can “dream less and do more.”

photos by: Creativelive & Michael Kleven

Wow that was a lot.. and so much more. Here is a fun video we created in the workshop. When we were previewing the raw footage Gale complement my shot. 🙂 twice. (@:37/@:58)

 

Film Making

A writer, afraid to write

A preacher, afraid to preach

A singer, afraid to sing

and me, a film maker.

The obstacle is fear itself.

The obstacle is indeed myself.

When I was a child, I filmed stories for fun.

Now as an adult, I run from telling the stories I daydream about.

Give me a camera and I’ll take photos of you.

I’ll share them with the world.

Give me a computer and I will edit a video for you.

You will smile at how I made your thoughts come alive.

The stories I have in my heart,

they are beginning to come out.

The first short film I made was to impress a boy.

The second was an attempt.

But the third,

will there be a third?

It’s easy for me to do everything else but what I really want to do.

Film make.

Most will shrug their shoulders and say I’ve seen better.

But it will be worth it when it causes a person to see their reflection.

It will be worth it when a person who has never heard God’s voice in their life,

hear it,

see it,

notice Him.

Last Kid on the Block

Today while I was riding my bike around the neighborhood I noticed there were no more kids around. Virginia Street was empty with not a young person in sight. I saw a few neighbors come out, now with white hair and walking around their yard.

I rode up the street and looked back. I pictured all the kids that used to live on my street. Most of them are now married with kids, some ended up in jail, another got pregnant at an early age and gave her son up for adoption, others just disappeared, and now I was officially the last kid on the block.

The ice cream man from my childhood still comes by my street hoping to still find that big group of kids running up to his truck to buy some candy. Every time I see him I wave. He doesn’t know my name and I don’t know his but he’s like a ghost from my past that comes by every so often. I think about how he spent his life being an ice cream man to support his family.

Life changes so fast we don’t even notice its moving. Virginia Street is home to me and next year there will officially be no more kids left on this street.

Listen while you read…