Blog, business, film/video, graphic design, photography, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

Are you busy or not?

I dislike the question “Are you busy?” — because I don’t know how to answer it. I don’t crave “busy-ness” — being busy just for the sake of being busy. However!…I love filling my life with experiences. Over the past decade, between my wife and I, we have added a teaching credential, several certifications, graduating from Cal State L.A., thousands of miles of travel for both business and pleasure, and — as of a few days ago — not one but two teenagers in the house! (Ooops — I forgot — now I’m directing a church choir too.) And that’s on top of the day-to-day running of a household and business.

The point is this: I love learning. Lately I have been reading Simon Sinek’s Start With Why (unsure if I agree with his premise, but still interesting), a bunch of blogs on HTML5 and e-mail deliverability, someone’s senior thesis comparing the Contemporary Christian worship/music industry to European Communism, and a bunch of online articles on both marketing and studio music production. I also try and read at least one work of fiction per month. Tonight I’ll be a chaperone for a children’s choir while they rehearse with Gustavo Dudamel at Disney Hall. All of this activity keeps my mind constantly seeing new things, new solutions, new issues, new opportunities. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

But would I jump at helping you out with a new project tomorrow? Of course! Give me a call.

Busy-ness aside, here are some new projects that just launched this week:

Matt Frazier/TAIMusic website homepage

Matt Frazier website. Matt and I have been friends for over 20 years, and when it was time for him to get a website makeover, he came to me with very specific hopes: short, easy-to-navigate, boldly individual, and something that he could continue to update on his own. We developed a one-page website out of relatively-simple HTML5, and Matt has already done a bunch of updates himself since it launched a few days ago. Matt has been in the music industry for a long time (and he’s a fantastic musician himself!), and has a deep understanding of music theory, money — as it relates to music, and recording/producing. We wish him all the best with the new website, and a new stage in his career.

Jon Leonoudakis website homepage

Jon Leonoudakis website. Jon and I have worked on several films together — both behind the camera, and in the marketing department. I shot footage for his award-winning documentaries “The Day the World Series Stopped” and “Hano! A Century In the Bleachers“, and then designed the packaging and websites for both films when principal photography was wrapped. So, when Jon needed a new website, he contacted me and we worked out a deal that was win-win for everyone. Like Matt, Jon was interested in having something that he could continue to update himself, so Hearken Creative set up a robust WordPress site where everything is modular, and Jon can continue to grow the site as his production company grows. We’re excited to see where Jon goes next with his unique brand of storytelling, and awesome producing style!

Other projects that have been happening recently:

  • I designed much of the collateral artwork for The Planetary Society’s spacecraft-building Kickstarter campaign, and they have almost completed fulfilling all of the “rewards” for the campaign. They also have recently named the new spacecraft — which will hopefully launch later this year — Lightsail2. You can see many of my photographs in the updates to the campaign.
  • Kendra Celise continues to post music videos from the live studio session we filmed at my studio. Over the course of six weeks, these videos have given her several thousand new views, and helped her launch her upcoming EP and her newest single “Admit It Baby” — we love her music, and hope that the launch is wildly successful!

Finally, I have been going back to revisit the footage that I shot during my two trips to northern Japan after the tsunami. We only publicly released one video from that footage — the wildly-popular “Nozomi Project” mini-documentary — and I’d like to see if I can show more of how local churches in Japan have been assisting with the re-building…both physically and emotionally. The people that I have met on my many trips to Asia are held in a special place in my heart, and it makes me happy when people see what great community-building work is going on there. So I hope to have some new Japan videos out soon — maybe even to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the tsunami in a few weeks.

So yes…we’re busy. But not in a bad way. And do you need a project like one of these for yourself of your company? Give me a call — I’m sure we can get something wonderful going. I’m never too busy to sit down and talk with you.

Blog, business, film/video, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

New Asian Access video released

Once again we have partnered with Asian Access to bring stories from the heart of tsunami-ravaged Northeastern Japan. This story about Sue Takamoto and the Nozomi Project was filmed in a few hours one afternoon in Ishinomaki, Japan, and edited with help from friend and colleague (and pro storyteller/artist) Greg King in Southern California. The client is pleased with the speed of delivery and the message that we were able to communicate in only a few minutes:

Blog, business, film/video, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

New short YouTube videos on the Japanese tsunami and rebuilding effort

We’re still working on the main piece — a longer video with lots of interviews in Japanese that need to be translated and subtitled in English for the North American viewers. But today (March 11) is the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in NE Japan, so we rushed to get just a few videos posted to commemorate the horrors and to point towards the hope and vision that many Japanese pastors have for their country in the new reality that is Japan.

First up is a prayer from Mori Sensei, a pastor living 30 minutes away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. His church wants to help rebuild an entire seaside community, hopefully relocating just a half-mile off the beach up into the hills, so that they can still have their livelihood, but be protected from the possibility of another tsunami:

The next video is a set of reflections from Eric Takamoto, an Asian Access missionary from the Kobe area who was one of the first responders up into the destroyed town of Ishinomaki. Eric’s family is going to relocate to Ishinomaki because they feel strongly that the rebuilding work is going to take time and committed effort, and they want to be part of that long-term process. Eric’s passion for the people he ministers to inspires me:

Both of these pieces were filmed in January 2012 as part of my one-week trip to NE Japan for Hearken Creative client Asian Access. I was accompanied on the trip by Asian Access’ VP for Communications Jeff Johnston, good friend and colleague Joshua Clayton, Asian Access’ VP for Strategic Engagement Takeshi Takazawa, as well as translation and hosting and friendship by Asian Access’ Jeffrey Sonnenberg (oh, and new friend Mike McKay from Cypress Church here in California was with us for part of the week).

Video was shot with A2’s Sony HD Handycam and my Canon EOS 7D, with color correction done in Final Cut Pro with additional color work by Red Giant’s Mojo. Audio was recorded through my Zoom H4N using Sennheiser G2 wireless mics and an Audio Technica AT897. All data cards (CF for video, SD for audio) were captured onsite and backed up to multiple G-Raid Mini hard drives for redundant transport back to the U.S.

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Missing Japan already…

I have only been back from my trip a few weeks, but I’m missing Japan already. So I broke out some Matcha Green Tea-flavored Kit Kat candies to take me back.

Candy is all over the place in Japan. Perhaps that is because omiyage are available in shops in every train station. Omiyage is a type of gift that you give someone — a souvenir from far-away lands — that you bring after you have been traveling. Omiyage oftentimes (I believe) has the connotation of being bought at the last minute, or even once you got home. But the sentiment is important, so they are bought often. And candy from different regions of the world is a popular gift. The variety of candy in Japan is much greater than that in the States — lots of different flavors, and some more (or much less) sweet than candy that I am used to. Really fun.

I really enjoyed visiting with pastors, missionaries, and community leaders who are working hard to bring hope and healing to some pretty devastated communities.

Late last week we had our first translating session — it’s going to take a while to translate all of the interviews. I’ll post links as they go live.

Blog, business, film/video, post production for film and video, sound

Just returned from week-long trip filming in Japan

Building a new community center in Sendai

I just returned from a week-long trip filming relief and re-building work on the eastern coast of Japan. We traveled well over a thousand miles to capture stories of churches working amongst those who have been displaced by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. This trip was part of an ongoing video project for longtime client Asian Access. Previous trips with them have taken me to Sri Lanka (after the 2004 tsunami), Mongolia, Cambodia, and other countries throughout Asia.

Interviewing a pastor surrounded by donations for tsunami victims

Here’s a breakdown of our gear:

  • Sony Handycam
  • Canon EOS-7D with 4 batteries and 3 lenses (18-55mm, 55-200mm, and a 50mm fast lens)
  • Zoom H4N for audio recording
  • Sennheiser G2 wireless microphone
  • Audio-Technica AT897 shotgun microphone
  • Manfrotto tripods
  • Kessler-Crane Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly (4-ft. slider)
  • Lots of Compact Flash and SDHC cards
  • MacBookPro laptop
  • G-Raid Mini 750gb hard drive

Plots still being cleared right next to brand-new houses

I could have used more than one G-Raid. As it was, I had one set of captures on the laptop and one set on the G-Raid. I think I should have had both on separate external drives (I started to run out of space on the laptop’s internal drive).

The Kessler-Crane slider was great for getting really smooth motion for b-roll, and even during some of the interviews. I was worried that it was going to be a pain to carry around and get through security at airports, but it wasn’t (and it’s still under the weight restrictions, so bringing it along didn’t cost me any extra).

The water in some places has not sunk back to pre-tsunami levels

The rest of the team was Joshua Clayton, Jeff Johnston (of Asian Access), and Takeshi Takazawa (also of Asian Access). We were a good team — we have all worked together before — so we got a lot of footage and some great interviews.

One issue that came up very quickly was the challenge of language. I felt that we would honor the interview subjects best by conducting the entire interview in Japanese, and then figure out what they discussed later. I don’t understand Japanese, so I had to get a synopsis of the interview from Takeshi before determining what b-roll would be needed to tell the story for each interview. We’ll see how well that went as I cut the pieces together over the next week or so.

Joshua capturing a small shrine to honor those who died in the tsunami

But all in all a very productive trip. I was happy with the portability of my kit (both audio and video) and how well everything worked. Can’t wait to show you all the footage as it gets finished…

(photos by Joshua Clayton & Loren A. Roberts)