Archive for October, 2008

When creative vision meets creative commitment

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

It all started with craigslist… really.

Not just how Palmer met Greg, but how Palmer and I met as well in its own way.  I suppose both Palmer and I owe a great deal of gratitude to Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.  One day when I meet him, after thanking him I’ll tell him our story too as I respect his vision.

Creative vision is an incredible gift that resides in each and every one of us and if you’re really blessed with things working out well, you might even get to be called a “visionary” by those in and out of your field. Perhaps what visionaries should really be called are “risk takers” due to the thankless creative commitment it takes to even follow up on ones creative vision.

It’s my birthday today and as I type this from my home in West Hollywood during post production on STRIPPED, I find a comfort reflection of admiration in the creative vision and commitment of two men who uniquely capture life through lenses; David Palmer and Greg Friedler.

Ironically, I’ve never mentioned this to Palmer or Greg or anyone for that matter, yet to me, both Greg’s journey and Palmer’s journey of “Naked Las Vegas” are reflections of one another and perhaps when we’re out of the zone, hindsight will open up a clearer vision on that observation.

Ultimately both Palmer and Greg chose to commit to their creative vision at any cost and against every obstacle and to be ok in doing it alone respectively.  That’s not an easy thing to do… to walk away from everything and just go for it.  To risk your time, energy, bank account, career, quality time with family and go into the unknown.  You become an explorer.  I remember to this day the first piece of advice I gave to Palmer before leaving to Vegas for the first shoot… “You have to go to Vegas. Don’t let anything stop you. Never wait for anyone.  Not me.  Not anyone.  Ultimately its all up to you.”

I was watching a recent cut of the film a few days ago with less than fresh eyes and as I went through the ups, downs, sideways and backwards of the incredible journey Greg took in making “Naked Las Vegas”, I began to think about the incredible journey which Palmer took as well making STRIPPED.  I’m sure as he left for Vegas on that fateful first day, a lone driver in a red BMW packed with gear reaching into the unknown, he had no true idea of how his life would change forever in the coming months.

Although two men with creative vision committed to going it alone, in the end, both they and their creative visions took the journey together.

MA

10/28/08

Stripping down “Stripped”

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

David Palmer and I met half a year ago on set.  He told me about a project he’d been shooting, Naked Las Vegas, and asked me if I’d edit it.  I was already familiar with Greg Friedler’s work.  I remember clearly when I first saw his book Naked New York.  I was in a bookstore with my older half brother.  He took it off the shelf and flipped through it with me.  We both just thought “this is so cool.”  Since then, I’d occasionally see the book or one of the followups in stores and I’d point them out to friends.  The refreshing feeling of seeing human bodies without the baggage that we normally carry and dispense in society is still something that makes me think “this is so cool.”

I sat and watched all of the footage that David had shot over a few weeks.  The strength of the metaphor was apparent in every second of footage I watched - Las Vegas.  A place that is dependent upon facade to facilitate its own existence.  Las Vegas is a familiar destination to most people, but the city as a living breathing place…  a place where people actually live and work is not familiar to most.

This documentary doesn’t just show the living breathing Vegas.  It strips it down in every sense of the word.  As many of Friedler’s subjects defy expectations when they remove their clothing, the stories we chose to follow in editing this documentary all defy expectations.  There is more humanity and life at every turn than I had ever imagined we might find.

Many people associate Las Vegas with notions of ephemera and shallowness.  I think this documentary shows that human life in any context is never ephemeral or shallow.  I can’t wait for the journey we’ve been on putting this together to be one that we can share with the rest of the world.

Making NAKED LAS VEGAS into STRIPPED

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I am writing this first blog entry on a flight from LA to NYC.  I realize this is the first moment I have actually had to reflect on when, where and how this all started. I have produced/directed many projects over the years, but they usually came together quickly… a few weeks or a few months. This has been a few years in the making.

Back in the fall of 2005, Greg Friedler and I first made contact, through Craigslist of all places. I was transitioning out of ten years of directing music videos and hungry to sink my teeth into a new, long-form noncommercial project.

One thing led to another, and finally, nearly a year and a half later, Greg and I met up in Las Vegas at a Holiday Inn eight miles off the strip in April, 2007. That day I started the doc. So many thoughts raced through my mind: What am I doing here? What is this journey I am on, and where will the path take us? Greg had a number of goals for that trip: to find a place to stay for the month-long shoot, to find a place to take the photos, and to find people to shoot. After the four day trip, none of those objectives had been met. Greg had intended to return to Vegas in three weeks to start the book, but three weeks quickly turned into four months.

In August, 2007, I packed up my car and made the sweltering drive from LA to Las Vegas in 109 degree heat. We lived in the Stratosphere hotel for nearly a month, and you will see some cool timelapse shots from my hotel room. The Encore (the second Wynn tower) was under construction then and only had glass on the lower half and the now-towering City Center was just a fantastic hole in the earth.  How quickly Vegas changes.

So Greg and I journeyed together on the making of his book, NAKED LAS VEGAS.

In August of 2008 - exactly a year after Greg’s shooting - I finally got my hands on a pre-release copy of Naked Las Vegas.  Almost immediately I realized that I had to head back to Las Vegas and track down as many of the 75 people as I could and follow up with them and show them their photographs.

Fast forward to mid-October ‘08.  Alex, the editor, and I finally signed off last night on what we are calling “Rough Cut #1.” Yes, it’s a film. Sure, the music is temp, as are the color, graphics, and mix, but it is a film nonetheless… and now the film has to grow, develop, and be polished.

The good news today is that we have made the submission deadline for the Slamdance Film Festival (the
other festival in Park City during Sundance and a huge launching platform in its own right). We would be very excited to be accepted to either festival.

I have to give a shout out of thanks to my editor, Alex, for all the long nights and weekends of work; to my producer, Michael Abbott, for getting the mayor of Las Vegas for the doc; my LV producer, Talitha Manning,
for making me a local in LV and for getting us key access for the film.

I’m now in New York for the official launch of Naked Las Vegas. Greg will sign books, and I will display a seven minute short from the film.

Thanks for your time and for your interest in STRIPPED.    David.