Backstage Pass: Thematic Integrity

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It took a long time to understand my desire to publish online. I’m discovering that knowing my theme makes choosing much easier.

I am at a point in my life, creatively, where I am moving beyond natural talent and digging into the difficult work of being an artist. Creating music has changed from layering loops and thinking of cool chord progressions, into thoughtful development of emotional story to shape the sounds and the music. Photography has grown from interesting imagery into storytelling. Filmmaking has evolved from sequencing events and setting up jokes into using imagination to access deep questions of humanity’s interaction with change, success, and disappointment.

I’d recently been using the web more as a social tool. Distance has kept me from the people I care about, and blogs, Facebook, and iChat are rich ways to keep in touch. But in being social online (through the melĂ©e of Facebook friend requests and instant messaging), I found myself being hardened by it. The internet is highly efficient at communication and preservation of information, but it is not an effective social medium. As a social system, the internet promotes the commodification of people that inhabit it. Each person – a “user” – is forced into a uniform, technologically-defined box, devoid of a person’s true nuance and individuality. And I also found that mediation in my closest relationships was running counter to deep, safe interaction.

So, my opinion of the web as a social destination cooled… but I couldn’t kick the idea of having a site.

The internet is good at being a voice-extendar. It’s a flat publishing system, good at making boxes to put stuff in. In designing something for myself, my desire for uniqueness ran against the problem that most systems are designed around the now-traditional concept of “blogging.” Blogging has become largely about the regurgitation of information in the form of textual commentary, quotation and criticism. I already knew I wanted to stay outside the net’s social web, but I still had a desire to build my own soap-box for the things I found beautiful and interesting.

My primary mediums are film, photography, music, and words. I wanted to build a site that reflected all aspects of how I create. Typical blogs are all about the text, and accompanied by all kinds of extra clutter designed to improve Google search ratings and advertising page-hits. I also didn’t want to be locked into the chronological nature of blogs – there’s something about dating posts that makes anything old seem stale and less interesting.

All of this searching led me to clarify why I wanted to publish online. It’s not to be ranked on Google, to make money, for acclaim, to be known, or to get more work as a photographer or a filmmaker. My desire is to bring to light beautiful and interesting things from my world (whether found or original) so that whoever happens across this site will have their story enriched by their visit.

Once I understood that theme, accomplishing the final design was relatively easy. In a matter of days I rebuilt the site from scratch into the form you see now. It’s an example of how in my life, in my stories, in my screenwriting and directing, I’m learning that taking time to know the theme of things clarifies the action required and enriches the story.

Just a little bit easier

Some patterns have emerged from visitor stats, so I’ve made a few adjustments to aid in finding content:

  1. The top-left navigation now includes a link to the blog as well as the home page. You can also access the blog directly at trevormeier.com/posts/
  2. The top-right menu now includes a link to an index page, listing the most recent posts and quick links to search and archives.

Rwanda Whiteboard

Rwanda Whiteboard

This is an initial sketch of the Rwanda: Hope Rises storyline. Normally I would do this on a sketchpad, but this whiteboard came in handy (it’s in the conference room of Savvy Productions, home of the docs’ cinematographer.)

Admittedly this is just a sketch, and structurally it represents mostly how we move through the story. Expanding on this is where my sketchpad comes in – creating character sketches, adding sequence and tension, creating a beat chart, etc.

Click the image to get a closer view.

Incidentally, this is the first in what may be a series of “sketchpad posts”. My sketchpad has become my most important workspace – freeform thoughts limited by analog boundaries and permanence. I use it to bounce ideas back to myself and see how they work together. Sometimes they’re interesting or informative, so I’ll experiment with posting them here. For now these will remain off the main blog, but if you keep track of this feed you can see what comes of it.

Website Redesign Progress

If you’re knocking around here at all, you’ll be seeing a slow evolution. Over the past few days I’ve fixed most of the bugs and completed most of the features. I’ve created a new landing page and updated the navigation & comments… hopefully creating a site that is simple, elegant, and usable.

For those who are a little nosy, a few Easter eggs are waiting (if you have a little patience). There will be more changes over the next few weeks. If you notice anything amiss, feel free to contact me.

Rwanda Resumes

The filming of Rwanda: Hope Rises will resume on or about January 13th. Lyn & Jesse and I met recently to review the rough cut and begin story construction towards our last shoot and, eventually, a final edit.

Rwanda Whiteboard

We are nervously anticipating the arrival of our RED One cameras for this shoot. Both Jesse and I initially expected to receive them around Nov. 1st. Now our delivery is sometime in December. Jesse’s nervously doing the rain-dance in the hope that they arrive sometime before Dec. 31st, our departure date.

If all goes well Jesse, Lyn and I will shoot for two weeks at the end of January, picking up b-roll, extra interviews, and shooting a promotional film for our hosts, The Wellspring Foundation. After Lyn & Jesse head home, I plan to stick around for an extra week shooting stills and additional footage.

Then it’s a race to the finish. With some fine planning and precision editing, I hope to have the film locked for a screening in Rwanda in early April.