Just Poetry and Prose, I Suppose

Poetry from Bolivia

I found another delightful bit of writing last night. This is a poem I wrote in 2007. I remember writing it and reading it to friends late one night in Oruro. It was cold that night. I must have used a flashlight to be able to see the page. It’s also possible the moon was so bright, I could use it for light. 

My hair fros out when the snare goes out
and the kick drum kicks like a flare shot out
Sandals flipping’ and floppin’, bodies always droppin’
A veces me pareces in my movies at night just might help the bodies be
re-animated. 
Come back to life and chase me someday I’ll be painted
while I sit or while I sat. Displayed in
a gallery for Mallory for only twice than less than half of her salary
plus one calorie
burned from her hypodermic intake
insulin pancake.

Mix that shit up put it in a cup then throw in a one-way sender
all into the blender. 
Lose the love of your life thrice, think twice and go on a bender.
Mind closed off, men working here.
Peers peer well into the well and smell
shiny, twinkly, sparkly, glistening darts of refracted light during lite diets
and flying sideways.
Get a grip.
Not manual – E – Manuel from the Bible.
A grip of friends?
It all depends
if those feet can dig deep when they’re bare
and your ribs rise and fall without a care.
Swell.

I want to die running away from someone, anyone, preferable a law-
enforcement agent of some brand. I’ll be running slow motion-like
when their pistols open fire and catch me mid-stride.
My path to glory and supposed destiny will only be a few visible feet in
front of my divide.
I’ll reach out for it with my dying breath,
but will be unable to grasp what is left,
what I wanted to achieve for no more than a few escaping minutes. The love of life will of course
bear witness to this entire tragic affair. Tears will be streaming
down her cheeks – her ragged cheeks that are simply exhausted
from loving a man that loves her only second to the worthy cause
for which he has been fighting for decades. She’s been there since
the beginning though
and she knows
she is integral
to the fight that he selflessly continues despite his small family’s best
interest. The tears flow while she tries wholeheartedly, yet
it is indescribably futile and she knows mere moments remain
before everything,
everything they’ve both dedicated their lives to ends in a cacophony of gunshots
and a symphony of deep-seated tragedy and what nots.
She’ll press her hand to the gaping, spurting wound. 
Her face to his to hear his final struggled breaths. She’ll swoon. Her hand 
finds his and interlocks with ease. He is strong, but not as strong 
as once before.

Once before
on a bright, sun drenched day he won her back on a 
stroll around an algae-encrusted pond in an obscure park tucked away 
in a functional – at least it seemed to them at the time – suburban 
neighborhood. They’d been through the wash and had each taken a 
turn in the dryer – mangling and testing each other’s feelings.
Sending one another reeling
through space and rhymes
for various expanses of time.
But they always came back. Sitting together on cylindrical pylons 
of cement watching parents watching their kids play they would feel deep within that that would be them on some distant day.

So they fought each other tooth and nail. Resorted to tactics un-
becoming of one another until one day in 2015 everything 
settled into place. It seemed that the race was finally over.
The crowd that for so long had played a part in off-track betting 
and wagering and proselytizing and hedging and interfering had up and left.
They were each deaf
from the silence that surrounded them without a sound.
Finally they were alone.
Just one not-so-bright light shone
down illuminating their faces that were already known 
and written – more likely grooved into their bones
and DNA strands. The scents and smells or the other was like a sixth sense –
their very own clone.

Tragically they would not and could not touch.
They tried at first thinking it a cruel joke to be so close.
Finally physically, visibly within reach
with no contracts to breach.
All the saints dead and alive tried through prayer
to clear the air
that stood defiantly by and between
unseen.

Let them know peace a voice said.
And it was mine.
I narrowed my eyes
and focused my concentration.
I beamed thought rays from my forehead to hers.
I lost every single one of my nerves.
I blathered and sputtered.
I couldn’t accept the end lying there in the unconscious 
eyes, ears, and arms of my long lost best friend.

But just then
I heard the sound of a cricket chirp
which assured me that the Earth
was still passing by while the universe 
expanded. I’m nothing I thought and exhaled seeing my love above 
me smile back and recede into sounds of rustling branches and shaking leaves.

Since then
I’ve just been
leaving the sink on to let the water run. 
Brush my teeth and get ready for bed.
Try to silence the thought marathon currently running through my head.
Other people fuck and make love sounds in the rooms down the way.
Can’t stop ‘em though.
Feelings on the sidelines are never allowed to play.

Walking a line
drying clothes all at the same time.
Wandering outside, taking it in.
Mars has tracks on it from landing craft,
but I can’t keep track of expanding paths
and synapse math.
There’s something surrounded by bone up there
that wants to go home down there, 
but where?
I can’t stay here anymore?
I can’t stay here anymore.
Can’t you just stop?
But where does it end?
I have to keep going.
My homing signal has been assumed missing
and while you keep guessing
I’m out here in the clear totally tamped down and flattened.
Sometimes I’m re-animated you see by free wit, will and stimulation.
But it doesn’t come without proper accreditation.
Change the laws please and just.
Let.
Me.
Be.
B.
Brandon.
I’ve written my name a lot.
So.
Have.
You.

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Not Just Another Wedding Film

Bleibaum/Mallott Wedding from Brandon Smith.

Bowers/Thomas Wedding from Brandon Smith

Most independent filmmakers cringe at the idea of making a wedding film. And for good reason. Generally, all creative control on the filmmaker’s behalf goes out the window in favor of how the bride and groom want the end product to look. Not the case with my friends Amanda and Aaron, Todd and Kathy. Here’s the skinny: each couple saw the work I did for my other long-time friends Lance and Jenny and wanted something similar. It’s certainly not uncommon to receive RFP’s from friends based on recommendations from other friends when you’re in the freelance game. It’s a tough line to walk when mixing money and friends though. Fortunately, both couples had money set aside in their wedding budget to pay me, but one of the most important parts was this line in an email I received from Amanda: “I just want something on video to watch years down the road of one of the best days of our lives. Can you help us out?” I was intrigued. What filmmaker doesn’t want to make something timeless? Add in the fact that both couple were willing to let me follow my own vision with how I wanted to capture the day and I was sold. Giving me their trust was a huge compliment. I felt free to shoot, unfettered by any restraints. When I started to edit, their trust gave me the confidence that what I was doing was right because I was expressing myself using their wedding as a platform. I felt engaged as an artist. One of my biggest problems with wedding videos is that they’re generally pretty unwatchable for anyone but the couple and the couple’s immediate family. So I challenged myself to make something that would be palatable to an audience outside of each couple’s inner circle. Also, I wanted to use it as a calling card for the world that I’m willing to shoot your wedding if you’ll give me complete creative control. You have to trust me. If you want to be able to make suggestions and have any sort of control, hire a videographer. If you want something that’s going to be timeless and interesting to your grandkids and beyond, hire a filmmaker. So did I succeed? Let me know in the comments.

Long Form Content Is Finally Hip

A while back, my friend Kym Perfetto approached me about doing a demo reel for her. I’ve done demo reels for myself before, but never for someone else. Kym has an array of talent and the potential to become a household name before the next tachyon violates causality. I was excited about the possibility of furthering someone’s career that I believe in. It would also be an opportunity to promote the fusion of digital strategy with documentary-style editing, a style that I wish to see more of in the world. It looks as though it’s a trend that is catching on, too. Both Forbes and Tech Crunch have recently featured stories about the rise of long-form content on the web.

It’s no secret that the question of how to captivate an ever-diminishing public attention span keeps digital media strategists awake at night. The same can be said for an actor trying to break through. The public has never been more saturated with content and I’ve heard directly from friends in the PR industry that casting directors know exactly what they’re looking for before they even start sorting through video reels. If they don’t see “it,” they’ve often moved on before the video has even finished loading.

If that’s the case, what difference does it make if the reel is two minutes long or eight minutes long? Not. One. Bit. So, I chose to approach Kym’s reel in a radically different way. I chose to go long form and create a more comprehensive, artistic profile.

During a Q and A session after a screening of Gates of Heaven, Errol Morris mused “If you already know the answer to a question, then why ask it?” If talent scouts and agents are looking for something in particular, then why do people even go to the trouble of creating reels? It seems like a futile effort at addressing a question the powers that be already have an answer for.

For comparison’s sake, check out these examples of reels that are available on the web:

Savvy websites have taken this cue by creating a place where they write and produce work for you to show. Nevermind the weird binary lighting that strikes the subjects with harsh blues and reds and the other low-rent production values. The second part of Jonathan Ohye’s reel(second, above) where he speaks with a heavy, unidentifiable Asian accent is reprehensible and works to perpetuate stereotypical casting that we should be moving away from.

This style of reel doesn’t fit Kym’s current career arc. Kym has been on shows that these actors are trying to break into like The Wire and Homicide. She also has an ever-expanding list of credits on IMdB including a role in a major production called Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. She’s trained many notable A-List celebrities with her own brand of fitness at Soul Cycle and her band, No Way Josie had over 40,000 downloads of their debut EP in its first week.

So positioning her is tricky. She’s got mainstream experience in supporting roles, but she’s looking for something where she’s featured more prominently. If I was going to present her as the next big thing, I had to be bold. One of the boldest things about going long form is eschewing the present day standard of bowing to the almighty page view. While I think this metric is a great way to measure resonance, I don’t believe that quality is determined by page views alone. I’m not the only one looking for different ways to measure quality. Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann championed forging new paths during a panel discussion at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin last week.

“I think it was my days at Google that inspired my audacity of thought. I was inspired by their boldness.”

I share Ben’s idea that quality is something that you achieve by tinkering endlessly before you feel comfortable that you put the best product forward. Quality is something that gives you a sense of pride about your own work. Quality is telling great stories in a way that connects with an audience.

“The idea of communicating who you are doesn’t get old and shouldn’t be randomly accessed. Every company cuts it’s own path but there’s always a lot of pressure to look like the last successful company. It’s hard to have the boldness to be different,” Ben added.

So with that in mind, I offer you Kym’s reel. My guess is that it’s drastically different than the other reels floating around Los Angeles right now. Who cares? I think it tells Kym’s story. And if you’ll indulge my boldness, I believe that you won’t mind spending a little bit of time watching it.

Think I’m off my rocker? Let me know in the comments below.