A Random Week in May Enjoyed by Me, Your Unemployed Reporter

Monday

I was over at Bihl Haus Arts shooting some video for a little on-line project to highlight a couple of their senior citizen art projects. For those who’ve not visited Bihl Haus, it’s an historical building on the west-side. It’s on Fredericksburg Road, a bit beyond the HEB on Hildebrand Road. It’s inside the Primrose senior apartment complex. I’d already shot some interviews with some of the old folks. It was suggested I refer to them as Goldens. But that kinda gives me the creeps. Sounds a bit patronizing. Today I was shooting some video of about seven women working on a sectional, movable mural. It’s in, as I recall, five large panels. The young woman facilitating this is the artist, muralist, and teacher Adriana M. Garcia. I liked how she referred to the seniors as “elders.” It’s a term of respect and honor. And having spoken to many of these elderly artists, almost all women (perhaps this disinclination of men joining the classes is an example of generational bias), I can attest that they do deserve respect and honor. Elders it is.

Adriana is an incredibly important component when one is trying to create a coherent map of the San Antonio art scene. If you were to put aside her excellent and well-received personal art, she would still be a crucial figure with her status as lead artist and facilitator on some of the most powerful and moving murals gracing this city’s vibrant west-side neighborhoods.

It was a great privilege to interview her–Adriana has had an enormous impact on this town’s aesthetic landscape.

She got a bit awkward in front of the camera. Even confident and articulate people can be pushed off balance by the damn unflinching camera lens. Personally, I hate when it’s turned on me. But because I subject so many people to its presence, I make sure that I try my best to be useful when I’m asked to speak in it’s lifeless gaze. I’ve learned that for some people the camera is seen as a cruel beast; for others, it’s a welcomed and frisky playmate.

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Next I headed back to C4 and had some coffee and worked on some rough storyboards for my second shoot of the day.

I’m working on a short online commercial for C4 Workspace. Filmmaker José Bañuelos came up with a concept and some storyboards. I hope we’re not both working at cross-purposes on this, but as we both have conflicting schedules, I’m plunging ahead. At least today. With some of his ideas in my head I met with fellow C4 Workspace member Regina Villalobos at the home of Todd and Debbie (the creators of C4). I wanted to work with Regina because, first off, she’s very pretty, and I knew she’d be appealing on camera. But she also has this playful and optimistic spirit: I knew this would come across on camera, and I knew she’d be fun to work with.

I was, of course, correct. I met Regina at Todd and Debbie’s house and we did a quick series of shots. The concept here is that so many freelancers and self-employed types tend to work from home, or maybe they camp out in coffee shops. We want to show how both of these environments can be, at times, distracting, or in other ways counterproductive to ones productivity. The “at home” example–using Regina–shows some of the basic pit-falls of interruptions and handy means for procrastination. Phone calls, surfing the web, household chores, impromptu snacking, etc. Another scene, with another actor, will be shot Friday, I’m hoping. We’ll be in a coffee shop. The poor worker will be distracted by noisy espresso machines, loud conversations at adjacent tables, and overly friendly patrons rubber-necking at your projects and just generally trying to chat you up. The third and final scene will be in C4 Workspace, the promised land of an informal and affordable workspace where everyone’s friendly and open to collaboration, but it’s still understood that this is an environment where people work …with easy access to coffee, snacking, wifi, a printer, copy machine, conference room, and so on.

Here’s a rough assemblage of clips.

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Tuesday.

I continued my outreach to local high school video and cinema programs today with a visit to St. Mary’s Hall. This is part of my job as Project Director for the Josiah Youth Media Festival. For the last three years of the festival, our contact out at SMH was Carol Parker who taught the advanced digital media classes. In those three years they produced three group projects–tight, smart, and clever claymation pieces. But the students from SMH had also created artful experimental works, solid narrative shorts, and some promising documentaries. This is the first year that Will Underwood is running the department. He’s very enthusiastic. Hell, I want him for my teacher! I was accompanied on my visit with Steve Garcia of URBAN-15. We came to speak to two of Will’s classes. In the short interlude between the two classes Will explained what he’d been working on with his classes. All I can say is I am very impressed by a young media teacher exposing his students to such brilliant and disparate work as that of Rob Schrab and Maya Deren.

There was a moment when one of Will’s students looked up from her computer where she was editing a video project. “I did it,” she said, with a shy smile. “I cut on the beat.” Will nodded. “And how did it feel?” “Awesome,” she said grinning and without the slightest hesitation.

(For those who don’t do any video editing, it might not be clear that all movies and TV shows with a strong soundtrack or music bed have been edited in such a way that every cut is made on a beat in the music. This is very obvious in music videos. And when the cuts are inelegantly placed at points between the musical beats the viewers experiences a weird (but not in a good way) sense of disconnect, and they tend to find themselves pulled out of the intended cocoon of willing-suspension-of-disbelief that a smart director, cinematographer, and team of editors have slaved to create and maintain. This is a wonderful “Ah-Ha!” moment for anyone who learns to edit. You can attend any number of lectures and workshops. Read how-to books. Watch video tutorials. But it’s not until you actually do it, on you own terms, that it finally clicks. It’s like when you make your first successful bank-shot in billiards. Or when you have to ignore your fear and go ahead and counter-intuitively lean into a turn when riding a motorcycle. “Awesome?” Fuck yeah!)

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Tonight I invited Deborah out to this month’s installment of Lupe’s Art Blend, a monthly event at the Guadalupe Theater.

There were three acts–this seems standard for the Art Blend, which has only been around for three or four months. Josie Mixon, poetry; Monessa Esquivel, performance art; Sam Villela, music.

Joise is a friend of Deborah’s. She’s been doing poetry for maybe three years, but she’s becoming quite well known. The work with which she’s most know for is bring attention to physical and sexual abuse. Tonight she presented some wonderful poetry on a wider range of topics.

Monessa is, or so I’d like to think, a friend of mine. She knows my name and meets me with a smile whenever our paths cross. I’m a huge fan of Monessa’s writing, acting, and all those quirky forays into wonderful terrain she makes which, for lack of better terminology, one must call performance art. She’s an extraordinary artist, and always manages to be glamorous (on her own terms), even when the role calls for quite the opposite. Tonight she performed a sort of theater of movement piece. She was accompanied by another woman who was anonymously shrouded throughout. (At the end of the night I talked with Monessa and learned that the other woman was none other than Adriana Garcia. That’s right. The artist who I interviewed yesterday. I love these sorts of San Antonio artist moments. Adriana not only performed with Monessa, but several of her iconic works of art were utilized in the performance, as a video projected on the back wall.) I wish I had brought my camera, because before the performance it was announced that photography was not only allowed for Monessa’s piece, it was encouraged.

The evening closed out with Sam Villela (of Sexto Sol) fronting a new band called Local Chapter. Mainly covers of great soul, funk, rock, and R & B classics. At least one original piece. Sam Villela is a truly amazing singer and keyboardist.

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Wednesday

I kinda overslept, so I had to rush to get my laundry into the washing machine and out onto the washing line; burn a DVD; make a few phone calls. And then I hurried up to the PrimaDonna Productions offices for a meeting with Nikki Young. We’re lucky that Nikki and the PDP crew will be helping to run the workshop component for the Josiah Youth Media Festival again this year. I think our brainstorming session was fruitful. We have a basic game plan to expand upon. No worries. Nikki and PDP always make it happen!

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Next I headed down to Blue Star and picked Deborah up. We were scheduled to meet with Rick Henderson. He’s a musician and composer who has studied under some of the most respected Indian Classical Music masters. His chief instrument is the sarode, though he plays many Indian and western instruments.

I met Rick at C4 Workspace. He’s friends with Todd and Debbie. When he learned that the guy sitting at the desk in the corner (me) was on the Luminaria steering committee, he came back to inquire if I had any notion as to why his music proposal for Luminaria was turned down. I said that each discipline handed the vetting differently, and he’s have to speak with the music committee. (But after becoming familiar with his amazing musicianship, I’m utterly baffled as to how he could have been denied to perform.) Using Luminaria as a segue, I told him I had helped out on Deborah’s Luminaria film, and we really would like to have some original Indian music to swap out with the pre-recorded music currently attached to the short experimental film. I had a copy of the film and played it for him. He was intrigued. I took his card. Deborah contacted him. And so today we drove up to his north-side home to discuss possibilities.

He’s a wonderful and gracious man. He treated us to coffee and we chatted. After awhile he played one of his CDs, a fusion of classical Indian music with western influences–a beautiful and dense world music sound. Next he took us into his little studio, where we removed our shoes and sat on a rug. This is the first time I’d seen a sarod. It’s a complex and artistically crafted instrument, with 17 to 19 strings, a metal fretless fingerboard, goat skin playing face, and a spherical metal resonator down toward the end of the neck. It’s a beautiful instrument with a rich and organic sound.

We played Deborah’s film quite a few times (it was burned to loop) and Rick played various ragas, adding interpretations and embellishments, traditional and otherwise. He also fired up a electronic keyboard and set some percussive elements to accompany his sarod. It was a wonderful and unexpected mid-afternoon concert.

We thanked him. Left the DVD of Deborah’s film behind for him to experiment with. And we all agreed to meet later, and continue on this collaborative path.

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Once we returned to civilization, Deborah and I stopped by for a snack at Tito’s. Now Rick certainly showed us that some wonderful creativity calls the sterile north-side home, but I always feel more comfortable back in the downtown area. And what should bolster my bias that the best art happens the closer to downtown one gets, but for me to look up and out the window and see the glamorous Annele Spector get into her car and drive down S. Alamo. Deborah and I had seen Annele just last night, with all the cool people, at the Guadalupe Theater for Lupe’s Art Blend.

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I feel I should have some photos to add in this post. But I just wasn’t taking too many photographs so far this week.

This has been a great week, carrying out activities I find to be so unique to the art and cultural scene here in San Antonio. And the week is only just beginning. Tomorrow I have a morning meeting with Proyecto Locos. In the afternoon I’m visiting a local school that uses a TriCaster, to see that wonderful piece of locally constructed production hardware being put through it’s paces. Friday I’m planning to finish off the shooting for the C4 Workspace commercial. And later I have a meeting with filmmaker Jorge Lopez. Saturday it’s the Ballet de Monterrey (if I can ever get around to picking up those free tickets–just where the fuck do you park to get to the box office at the god damn Alamodome???). And, um, Sunday…? I really think I’m supposed to be doing something Sunday. Can’t remember…. I really should be writing this stuff down. Oh, yeah, the final night of the four-part Dance for the Camera film series that Seme and I have been facilitating. We will be screening works by Seme Jatib and Erik Bosse. Don’t miss this.

And, then there’s next week. It’s also action-packed. Do not miss two important Erik Bosse events. And I’m serious here. Tuesday is the very first of the 2010 monthly San Antonio Film Forums, put on by the San Antonio Film Commission. The topic for May will be Film Festivals. I’ll be sitting on a panel as …. wait for it …. an expert! I’ll be accompanied by some other excellent people. Come and watch me stammer. And ask me some embarrassing questions…if you dare. And Wednesday, do not miss the W-I-P Creme (best of the 2009 / 2010 W-I-P season). Seme Jatib will be performing her amazing dance, “Words into the Wind,” with a video backdrop produced by … wait for it … Erik Bosse. If you missed this wonderful collaboration (of which I couldn’t be more proud of) which was staged at Jump-Start in January (or was it February?), and again during Luminaria in March, please please come out and check it out. There will be several other strong pieces of dance, theater, and performance art.

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