Well, here it is. Issue number two of Off Camera. I must say, this has been a fully absorbing experience, and much more work than I ever imagined. I thought on the eve of our second issue, and in the spirit of what Off Camera is about, I thought I would write about the process of bringing this project to life.
First off, trying to explain exactly what Off Camera is can be fairly daunting. It’s sort of a podcast, but it is filmed, making it kind of like a documentary, but at its heart, it is a long form conversational magazine interview, making it more like a magazine. And of course, if you are reading this, most likely you are holding the printed version of Off Camera, which in itself is sort of hard to explain. Why, in 2013, would someone want to create a printed, physical magazine when scores of very established magazines are leaving the print world behind for an all-digital format? The only answer I can come up with is that once we created the framework for the Off Camera website, I realized how cool it would be to see it in print. I have always loved print, and every time another magazine bites the physical dust, so to speak, I feel a little more removed from the profession that I have come of age in. Don’t get me wrong. I have fully embraced digital journalism, and do 90% of my reading on a tablet, and that includes not only magazines and newspapers, but also novels. The one form of print I have not stopped buying is photography books. And as time goes on I find myself more drawn to small batch runs of photography books and magazines being put out by independent artists. I love the idea of a limited edition book, magazine, record, or newspaper that can be collected, saved, and passed on. I still buy vinyl records for that very reason. In our house, we are either listening to Spotify through our Sonos speakers, or putting a record on a turntable. I think there is a shared mindset between an independent record label, an underground skate zine, and a small press, such as Alec Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom. And that was my thinking behind Off Camera. It can be a treasure trove of mixed media on line, but it can also live on someone’s shelf, waiting to be discovered on a rainy day.
Booking the show, especially in these beginning months, is tough. There is that whole “explaining what Off Camera is” business that I described above, and then there is just the logistics of finding space in the schedules of these amazingly talented and busy people. We shoot at my studio, which we have turned into a weird combination of a sound stage, photography studio, edit facility, and recording studio. Unfortunately, we are not totally soundproofed, which means we end up paying off our very industrial neighbors with cash, food, and beer to get them to shut down for an hour or so while we record. We record the episode, and then step over to the photo studio to make some photographs of our subject. Once that is over, the eating, drinking and general merriment ensues.
Once an episode is recorded, the real work begins. Our sound editor creates an audio rough mix, and we send that to our transcriber, who must listen to and type the entire conversation. Meanwhile the audio is synched with our picture, and the footage goes through a first rough color correction phase. Once the transcript is complete, the first edit is done and ends up looking a little like a CIA document, with the ums and the false starts and the extemporaneous dialog blacked out. This is the document that the film editor and I then use to assemble a rough cut. Once we have a rough edit assembled, we start adding in any additional footage such as photographs or audio snippets or existing footage to flesh out our film. While all of this is going on, we are also working on a graphic layout of the story; complete with the photographs we shot on the day of the interview. The layouts for the web and the printed edition are different from each other, so we have to format for both. Once we have locked the film edit, our sound mixer comes in and creates the audio mix for the episode. At this point, having written an introduction to the article, (something we call the preamble), we go into the recording booth and record the podcast introduction. Now all that is left to do is upload it all to the web, deliver all the files to the printer, and publicize the episode. Needless to say, we are still getting the hang of it.
This issue features John Krasinski, someone I have had the privilege of getting to know over the years on both a professional and personal level. If there were a prototype for an Off Camera guest, John would be it. He is an actor, director, writer, producer, and photographer who is constantly setting new goals and challenges for himself. His curiosity, ambition, and talent all seem to feed off each other, and I have no doubt he will have a long and wonderful career in the arts.
We talked at length about his career trajectory thus far, and as I listened to his stories about how he ascended, in a relatively short time, to a major player in the film business, I was reminded of the phrase, “you make your own luck.” Because while John is incredibly humble and even self-deprecating regarding his talent, he has always found a way to be in the right place at the right time, and to make the most of every one of those moments. He bought the film rights to a David Foster Wallace book when he was only 23 years old, and was directing his first feature when a lot of people are still trying to figure out what to do with their lives. And when he met Matt Damon he immediately formed a creative bond and began writing the script that would become Promised Land. Sure, luck plays a part, but it is what you do when it lands on your doorstep that separates the men from the boys.