It’s Hard to Embrace Diversity with Your Head Planted in Your Ass

It’s Monday night. I’m back in San Antonio after a week-long gig in Dallas. I was running point on a book appraisal which the auction house I sometimes work for was hired to do. The library in question belonged to a book collector I’ve known for maybe two decades. He passed away some time back and his family is trying to make sense of his large holding, which is somewhere between a collection and an accumulation.

If I can equate my rare book persona with my filmmaking persona, I would have to say that book appraisals are somewhat akin to video-taping weddings. I can do them both really well if I’m allowed to use my own personal process, but almost always there are various family members making specific (and often divergent) demands. Also, I’m such a poor businessman what I always under-price myself.

This appraisal, however, worked out quite nice. The family are pleasant, rational, and understanding. Also, I’m not the one naming a price. The auction house has done that. My week’s work will be billed to the family by the auction house. And the auction house will pay me the rate they normally pay for my services. This is in no way  small fee — they pay quite well — but the truth is I’d rather not know what the family is being charger. The fact is, appraisers most often charge stupefying fees. Back when the family book store was up and running, it often fell to me to do the appraisals. My father hated to do them. He let me set my fee. I realize now I can damn cheap. But, money matters aside, I get a kick out of keeping my finger in the antiquarian book business. Sometimes I forget how much I know about the field…and even though I have a hard time calling myself an expert on, well, anything, there are a few fields in which I can move about with confidence and knowledge, and collectable books is one of those fields.

I did a walk-through of the library the Friday before last. And then I had to head back to San Antonio. I’d promised to help Rod Guajardo on a film. It wasn’t that big of a deal. There wasn’t anything I could do for work in Dallas over the weekend, Sure, I could have spent some time with my sister. But I knew I’d be able to do that once I returned to do the appraisal. And, really, I was interested in seeing how Rod worked.

Rod Guajardo is, I assume in his young thirties. He’s a beginning filmmaker. He has embraced the DSLR as his instrument. And with a collection of relatively inexpensive equipment he has created some very impressive short pieces. And lately he has been working to up his game. He did a very nice music video. He put together a short commercial. He produced a great PSA for VIA (the San Antonio transit folks) for a recent contest. I thought his piece should have won. (Sorry, Nikki. I’m happy the PrimaDonna piece won–’cause, you know, you guys are awesome–but Rod’s piece was more technically polished and informative.)

So, yeah, I had my agenda in working with Rod. I wanted to see how he did such great work. I only wish other folks in the San Antonio film community had the same sneaky agenda as myself. You know, wanting to learn how to make better shit?

Rod is shooting with a Canon Rebel. And it’s a pretty cheap DSLR. But he makes it sit up and do his bidding. He’s researched well all the equipment he’s bought, and he’s learned to use them to the best of their specifications. Rod also has a great eye for composition. Also, he’s a smart guy, who knows how, not only to take a story apart, but how to get the best from his actors. Well, I guess I should wait until I see the first edit of this short film.

The film is titled “Unimaginable,” and it’s written by Cedric Smith. Patsy Whitfield is the producer. And they had enough faith in Rod to bring him in as the director. This is his first narrative project.

We had a short day of shooting Saturday. And an insanely long day Sunday. I was the only person on the crew with any real production experience. And even though we really needed a serious AD (a role I sort of took upon myself, with other roles), we had total commitment from our cast and crew. Yes, we moved slow. But it soon became clear that high quality was what we were pushing for.

I do know that the photography will be superb. But I’m really uncomfortable with the audio. We had a rotating crew of newbies, each teaching the next crew. Because the first two kids were instructed by an audio professional, I held my tongue. But the truth is, I’ve never seen so poorly held boom poles in my life. And we never addressed noise spill from refrigerators, other compressors, HVAC, and on and on and on.

I hope the guy who’s doing the audio edit (and, yes, he knows his stuff) can make this work.

But it was great fun. This was perhaps the most diverse (culturally, ethnically, etc.) film I’ve worked on since “Vaya Con Dios, Asshole,” Cast and crew, well, we were from all over the map. And, you know, we got along just fine.

Whenever you hear about this country being divided, ignore it. We’re doing just fine. Our corporate controlled media, that’s what’s all fucked up. I mean, really, Get it together people. Politically I’m an extreme leftist. “Spiritually” I’m an agnostic (you saw the quotes, right?), and maybe even a full-bore atheist (but I’m not yet fully committed). The truth is, I have quite a few Republican and Christian friends. We get along just fine. When people start talking about the “culture wars” tell them to go fuck themselves. There is no such thing going on in this country outside of the media.

Still worried? Increase your circle of friends. Pull in folks with divergent values. Talk to those people. I guarantee, your worries will begin to dissipate. Because, you know, they’re probably fine folks.

Oh, and you’re welcome.


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