Recipe Round-Up: Multi-Media Theater and Moving

Holy cow, it's been a busy few weeks!

Things I do not recommend: co-creating and producing a multi-media theater piece that involves being on stage operating a camera that transmits live to a massive screen (STRESS) AND buying and moving into your first ever grown up house (HOLY MOTHER OF STRESS).

All are good things: The show, Animus, was a hit and I plan to go into MUCH more depth about that in another post. Our new home is adorable and we love it, minus a few issues with our oven and the plumbing. 

Through all of this, I had to feed myself and Nick and our amazing friends and family who helped us through the moving process. I decided to forgo the usual promise of pizza and beer as a moving reward and instead offered up tacos and LaCroix (with an option to BYOB).

Tacos are delicious, don't make me feel like complete garbage when I eat them (unlike pizza - which I love, but always makes me pay the price) and you can customize them to your liking.

Last Christmas, I begrudgingly accepted an Instant Pot pressure cooker as a gift. What the heck was I going to use it for? Like I need ANOTHER kitchen gadget.
Turns out, it basically saved my life these last few crazy weeks. The instant pot in combination with our collection of slow cookers (we have two, it's fine, calm down) made the moving meal prep pretty much a breeze.

The recipes:
Chicken Tinga:
http://paleomg.com/instant-pot-chicken-tinga-tacos/
(I skipped the onions, a few friends are not fan, and I lost our bay leaves in the move so I skipped those too. I also did a combo of chicken breasts and thighs. Thighs don't shred up as nice but they are yummy. Also I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes for extra flavor)

 Image: Paleo OMG

Image: Paleo OMG

Pork Carnitas
http://paleomg.com/instant-pot-carnitas/
Even though I did crisp these up in the oven, they did end up in a slow cooker and quickly became not crispy again. So, I guess I could have just skipped that step.

Black Beans:
This recipe is a staple for me. I just throw it together and put these bad boys on everything I can - usually rice. Lately I've been mixing the left overs with the chicken tinga and rice, but I think tonight I'm going to throw a fried egg on top and have it with some bread and avocado.
https://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/slow-cooked-black-bean-ragout

I also had a bunch of spaghetti squash cooked up as another non-meat alternative... I think they are still in my refrigerator at my old place. I should probably hunt those down and make them into something yummy before they go bad.

A few more recipes that were giving me life during the move:
This soup basically changed my life-
http://nomnompaleo.com/post/2345888719/curried-cream-of-broccoli-soup

I've been craving broccoli like crazy and this really hit the spot while also being warming, comforting and yummy. I didn't do the pork bit, but I'm sure it's delightful.

I also had a TON of overripe bananas that I just threw in my freezer to deal with later, so I made several batches of these:
https://cookieandkate.com/2015/healthy-banana-muffins-recipe/

I just can't seem to do a lot of sugar anymore, but still crave something sweet. Plus it's a great grab and go calorie infusion when you are on the go. I added dark chocolate and toasted walnuts, partially to clean out my cupboards.... or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Lastly, THIS RECIPE is so good and so easy and SO GOOD.
I used a weird Frank's hot sauce sriracha blend I found at the store since they seemed to be out of anything that resembled regular Frank's Hot Sauce - must be football season - definitely extra spicy, which was totally cool with us.
https://www.wellplated.com/healthy-slow-cooker-buffalo-chicken/

So, that's that. I'm hoping things slow down a little AND our oven get's fixed so I can dive into some more intensive recipes. This has definitely been a fun challenge of making do with limited tools and supplied AND time.

Rocking the festival circuit with Lady Lillian

Just a quick check in as our award winning comedy short film makes the rounds.

I've had a number of people asking for further details about the success of the short film I produced and directed last January for a local filmmaking competition, Z-Fest. So, since festivals seem to be slowing down over the holidays, it seems like a great time to take stock of where Lady Lillian has been and what the film has won so far:

6 Awards -
Best Picture, Z-Fest Film Festival
Best Comedy, Z-Fest Film Festival
Best Production Design, Z-Fest Film Festival
Bill Murray Comedy Shorts Award, Twin Cities Film Fest (yes, THAT Bill Murray - more on that later)
Best Short Comedy, Gallup Film Festival
Excellence in Filmmaking, South Dakota Film Festival

15 Film Festivals and counting:
Z-Fest Film Festival
Duluth Superior Film Festival
South Dakota Film Festival
Gallup Film Festival
Atlanta Underground Film Festival
Shawnee Shorts Midwest Film Festival
Fayetteville Film Fest
Westercon 70
Twin Cities Film Fest
Comedy Shorts Film Festival
Sydney Indie Film Festival
IronStar International Short Film Festival
Rockport Film Festival FilmBath
Interrobang Film Festival

A million thanks to the festivals that have accepted and screened our crazy comedy!! Your support helps us continue to be able to make more work.

POSTER_LADYLILLIAN_laurels.jpg

LET'S ROCK!

Releasing my first music video like a real damn lady.

 This is Emily, she literally rocks and we shot this the day after she saved prom for her daughter and a bunch of her friends.

This is Emily, she literally rocks and we shot this the day after she saved prom for her daughter and a bunch of her friends.

I've got a pretty big problem with how our society views women and an even bigger problem with how mass media portrays them. One day, probably sitting in traffic, an idea for a music video popped in my head. Another very serendipitous day, my dear friend Nathanael Lew said we should collaborate on something. 

Turns out Nathanael has this rocking band that makes some killer music.

So I pitched my idea. After a slow process with a few starts and stops, because... life,
we finished up the biggest and most bad-ass project I have directed to date.

I'll go on, but first treat yourself to some ROCK!

Still makes my heart all fluttery every time I watch it...

If you've been following along, you've seen me write about this particular project before.
If you want to catch up, you can read the blog post HERE.

So, here's the deal: When you see an "average" woman (especially over 40) on TV or in the movies they are usually portraying a mother or grandmother, doing things around the home, occasionally the wife of some dude who's got erectile dysfunction or a crazy bag lady.

That about sums it up, right?

So, is that what all women have to look forward to as they become, as the french say, "women of experience"?
That's all we get?
To live out the rest of our years in household servitude, or if (gasp) we aren't married, literally tossed to the curb?

Not only do I believe that is a total crock of shit, I also am lucky enough to know plenty of female roll models who break this mold; OR if they do seem to fit the mold of stereotypical wife and mother/grandmother are actually that and so much more.
Or, as I prefer, all that and a bag of potato chips.
 

 These women are the rockingest AND they have jobs, are caregivers and performers = RAD

These women are the rockingest AND they have jobs, are caregivers and performers = RAD

So, eff that noise, we can rock out at any age we damn well please - dudes get to - and we don't have to be mega hot babes to be tolerated on stage or screen in a non traditional role.
We've ALL seen THAT about a billion times before.
Also can I PLEEASSE see a character described as an "average woman" actually look and act like an average woman?

Yes, yes I can... because these are my projects and I'm calling the shots.
If this the only way I get to see the kind of media I want to see, so be it.

I know I'm not the only person doing this, thank gawd, but there should be so many more of us and a ton more media that shows all people as the complex characters that they are.

So, I should end with this: You, dear reader, can support this kind of work with the simple action of watching, liking and sharing the music video as well as liking the DangerVision Productions Facebook page.

The numbers and analytics don't lie and we need them to prove our worth when even the most compelling pitches and examples fail us because society can't seem to see past our boobies.

Plus, this music video is really awesome and so is everyone that helped make it happen and that should be more than enough to help us gain some traction against an industry dominated by people who refuse to be in touch with who real people are and what they want.

Now, go forth and be rad.
 

TBT: Diem

Getting down with our experimental filmmaking selves with some added music theory.

Diem.mp4.00_04_12_28.Still004.jpg

Diem was our final project for Advanced Filmmaking at MSUM. Shot on glorious 16mm color negative and the project where I mastered the art of the love letter to the processors and learned the all important phrase "crush the blacks".

Even though I had shot a handful of projects in the past and tend to be a very hands-on director when it comes to photography and lighting, this project was the first that I was credited as Director of Photography. I also produced and co-directed and conceptualized this crazy little masterpiece.

Can I be honest with you?
I was terrified to be a Director of Photography, let alone THE Director of Photography on a project. It's pretty silly in hindsight, other than the fact that shooting anything on film is kind of scary.

At some point during film school, I realize that no one was going to pay a 20-something woman to direct, so I wanted to make sure I was expanding my skill set. I also had worked with one divalicious Director of Photography on a project (which is silly to think that a dude in film school would even consider being a diva, but ... egos are a crazy thing) and I never wanted to risk a project to stop dead in it's tracks because I didn't have the skill or confidence behind the camera to keep it going. Tenacious much?

I decided to start stepping up to the camera and the lighting gear. The joke (or reality) here is that even though no one would probably hire a young woman to direct no one would DEFINITELY hire a young woman to light or shoot. Chalk that one up to ignorance to the ways of the world, and my fervent love of shooting and lighting - there's so much magic made there, I could go on for days.
(Spoiler Alert: The whole shooting thing turned out alright in the end and I get to shoot, direct and edit until I can't take it anymore for a respectable salary, but sweet dear baby jeeebus it was a battle to get here - and continues to be some days.)

So, I decide I'm going to direct the hell out of this photography. I do the prep work, I shoot tests, I learn the lingo, I test lighting, I was also lucky enough to learn from one badass local G&E guy that I now consider a dear friend (and oddly enough everyone else was/is terrified of.)

I do all of this, and we start getting closer to shooting the project and what do I tell myself, "You're not ready." No, I'm not kidding. I've done more prep than anyone that I knew at the time who called themselves a DoP and I still didn't think I could do it.

I was surrounded by dudes who were blessed to think it was their god given right to wield a camera and very much talked and acted like it. I didn't know that that was about as real as my self doubt and had yet to master the important art of tricking my brain by "faking it".

The best filmmaking advice (even though I didn't think so at the time) was ever given was fromthe professor of the class at the time. We were at a film festival event and our shoot was fast approaching. I decided to whine to her about how I wasn't ready. Her response, "fake it".

It hit me like a slap across the face. Fake it?! What?! No, that's not what people do! I can't just fake my way through a whole production!

Turns out, all I had to do was fake the confidence to get the job done. I was already doing the work, I just needed to stop myself from crippling my abilities and the project with self doubt.
So, I pretended to be a person with confidence. I made decisions with confidence. I directed with confidence.

The thing about a film set is there is isn't a lot of time to waffle over decisions, and pretty much everyone is looking to you to have answers. It's stressful and overwhelming, but your cast and crew need to know they are in good hands.

Ever single production since then I have faked it. I've done the hours, days or months of prep work and I have faked confidence so much and so hard that sometimes I even believe it and the films or videos get made.

I want to say it gets easier, but each production comes with it's host of new challenges and hesitations on my part. The faking part has gotten a little easier and easier.
Maybe someday I will reach master fakery and won't even have to fake anymore, but until then you can just call me one big fake!
 

Diem.mp4.00_03_08_01.Still002.jpg

Now enough about me, let's talk about this colorful gem of weirdness.
Diem, ended up being sort of a strange follow up to Carpe (Carpe Diem, get it?!) they really don't have anything to do with each other. They are both strange, both characters are after... something but other than that it's just another step on my filmmaking journey.

Diem is a take on Alice in Wonderland with vignettes that apply music theory. My partner on this project was a music major as well and was fascinated with her music theory class.
I did a ton of research on color and music - Pythagoreus, wavelengths, hues, tones... it's a thing but I won't bore you.
I was also knee deep in attempting to major in theater with an emphasis in directing and taking some really cool classes in movement and dance, so get ready for that as well.

Each vignette is a part of a song: tone, melody, tempo, harmony... something like that - I'd have to go back to my notes.

We really had a blast making this and yet again I don't know how or why my friends put up with me and went along with this craziness.

Here you go:
Diem, 16mm color negative

TBT: The Adventures of Adam

Our first roll of 16mm color negative film... I remember it well.

The Adventures of Adam.mp4.00_00_31_07.Still001.jpg

I'm actually really excited to share this treat from my film school past.
This was our very first roll of 16mm color negative film and the assignment was to simply shoot it out, or at least that's what I remember.

We knew that we wanted to use A LOT of colors because, duh, and because we were curious to see how they all looked on film. We also knew we wanted to use as much film as possible in the final edit.

Film stock and processing are not super cheap and it all adds up fast. If anything has taught me economy in filmmaking and storytelling, it is definitely shooting on film. I feel like I've said that about a million times before, but I'm saying it again!

This is how it all went down: we were broken up into groups. I'd be interested to know if any of the other groups have their films posted - share them friends! I believe we had one class to brainstorm an idea and one class to shoot the thing.

We had complete creative freedom and no direction.

This is a big problem with a group project. Everyone wanted to have their creative input but no one had an idea. We tossed around some traditional narrative ideas but none of them seemed plausible to shoot on 1 roll of film. Round and round we went.

I decided to go to the bathroom, like one does when they subsist wholly on coffee.
As I was washing my hands, I realized this was all silly. One, it doesn't have to be a magnum opus and TWO was the growing, deep need to throw the idea of a traditional narrative right out the damn window. We were in film school after all, it's a time to play and experiment and hopefully figure some cool shit out on they way.

I ended up washing my hands for a long time...the women's bathroom in the Film Studies Department had quickly become my thinking place: the department was mostly dudes so I could go there to be alone and clear my head.

So, I devised a loose concept that involved a series of scenelets (like piglets but for movie scenes) that each person could contribute to (provide props, direction, etc) and we would attempt an in-camera edit to use as much film as possible.

We had done in-camera edits for video projects before, but it has some challenges with shooting on film which needs to get up to speed, or so we learned. So, there ended up being some light editing.

We outlined the plan and everyone went home to gather some props.
I'm not sure how Adam got nominated to be the star, but obviously it was the right choice.

The day of the shoot, we set up some black velour backdrop (I was obsessed with how much it sucked up light on an earlier project) so the colors would really pop and because we wanted to cover up the green screen in our little on campus studio.

Then we went about the shoot.
Re-watching it, I'm seeing my penchant for long takes with extended moments was already strong.

As is still my way, I was worried about not having enough time, not enough film, (insert anything here) would go horribly wrong, but in the end we had footage to spare.
That's how you got the end title sequence that make even less sense than the rest of the movie, but Dave's performance really seals the deal for me.

So, that's the story and here's the film:

IMPORTANT: We made this bad boy in 3 hours. The edit was already mostly done in camera so post was nothing if you don't include the time we waited to get the film processed.
It was way fun and YOU, my friend, could do a film just like this (probably without the film - use your iphone or whatever image capturing devise you have.)
Get your buddies together and get out there and make something. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, through your ingrained concepts of what a film is or isn't out the window and just make something.

Then, when you are done, send it here: http://minneminifest.com/
It's a festival for all your silly films and imaginings - they just have to be under 2 minutes!
You can do it!
So get our there and make something and hopefully you can see it on the big screen soon.

Throwback Thursday: Carpe

Let's go back in time to when I had no idea what I was doing... oh wait, that hasn't changed at all... Ok, let's just go back in time.

 We recorded the film negative and edit it into the final piece ...

We recorded the film negative and edit it into the final piece ...

Ah yes, I feel this is going to lead to an eventual vulnerability hangover, so get ready.

I don't know many artists... or people for that matter who gleefully prance back into their past efforts. Maybe I don't hang out with the wrong people.

In my mind, I did it, it happened, another step on the path, no use in looking back buuuuuut there is a lot of use in looking back.

Plus, it might be fun.  It doesn't feel fun as I write this because, oh man, did I have a lot to learn (and still do), but maybe we can all continue to learn together.

Anyway, whining and lollygagging aside, I decided to start digging up my old work for a few reasons:
1. Most of my old stuff is kind of weird, and thanks to Mr. David Lynch and some new Twin Peaks and a regained sense of confidence, I am so ready to get my weird on and revisit where I've been.
2. A few of my other films will be finishing up their festival run soon and I'm excited to share them on the internet. I thought this would be a fun way to ramp up to getting those out in front of a greater audience.
3. I've got an exciting and challenging project coming up where I'm going to need to bring my experimental filmmaking side back to life, so I have to make amends and reaquaint myself with ... myself.

So, we begin at the beginning, or as far back as I have copies of.
There's a few Super 8mm gems lost somewhere that were wonderfully strange and some horrible failures... exposure was a hard lesson learned. Oh, how my dear friends tolerated my many experiments... I should write them a long thank you card.

That brings us to my final project for the Intermediate Filmmaking Class at MSUM. We shot on 16mm negative - the image above is from the negative that we re-purposed, projected and recorded to add back into the film when we got the film and the digital transfer back from the developers.

I was really, really into a band called Russian Circles so I used one of their songs as inspiration.
I was also really really into high contrast lighting, no dialogue (mostly because it's hard and scary - still think that) and experimenting with the medium in general.

There's some stuff I really cringe at watching it now like my male-gazeyness, not super developed female characters, and a bunch of technical stuff I just really know yet.

Like many films, the idea just popped into my head and haunted me, compelling me to make it and it's success in that class solidified my resolve that there is a place for weird films and weirdos like my in this world. Trust me when I say that I would have made a more "normal" film if I could have...but I just couldn't, and I'm actually pretty happy about that.

So (cringe) here you go, for your entertainment, Carpe:
 

So, there it is. In all it's delicious black and white film glory.
Looking back I'm now seeing the influences I didn't know I had and immensely grateful that the world is full of people and artists willing to continue to take a step into the unknown and try something unusual.

I'm going to try to post a new, old film every week until I'm out of goodies to share.
So get ready! (eeeeeK)

Women ROCK!

I got to work with a dream team of women in front of and behind the camera and learned some important lessons about empowering each other to achieve.

 redefine your expectations

redefine your expectations

Listen up folks, more and more over the last few years I have become a loud and proud spokesperson for the equality issues we face in the film, video and television industry.
Partially for my own benefit, but also because I know that we all benefit from experiencing stories and perspectives from people of ALL TYPES, particularly those that are different from our own.

It has come to my attention that the powers in place are not about to give up their seat at the table, and who can blame them. I can admit that I have desperately clutched onto my small segment of table from time to time.  It's a competitive industry, it's hard not to get territorial and defensive.

I've been incredibly lucky over the last year especially to land a job that allows me a fair amount of comfort and stability. So, now I'm a little less freaked out about whether or not I have a seat anywhere because my livelihood doesn't depend on it.  I also have a little extra time and money to spend on doing passion projects.

For my last short film, Lady Lillian, I made an attempted to work with as many women as I could. In hindsight, I now know I could have done better. Through that experience (and winning Best Picture) I suddenly had a little limelight and was allowed to express my problem with how bro-tastic filmmaking can be.

Now, I've been lucky enough to work with some really great guys in my career, but the thing is they get it. They get that even though I looked, acted, saw the world or thought a little different from them, I was there to do the work.
I've also been unlucky enough to work with a lot of really not great guys and women - yes, sometimes intrinsic bias rears its ugly head the worst at those people who are most like ourselves. I've been guilty of this, but that's something to unpack at another date.

So all of these experiences made me realize it's not my job to create opportunities and great working experiences for those of us who don't fit the mold and work to show the world what this medium can produce through a different gaze.

This all crystallized after the Z-Fest Film Festival win when my amazing editor, Cassie, said "let's do it again sometimes, only with less dudes".
Again, I love dudes. I am in love with a dude. Our dog is a dude, I love him too. Some of my best friends are dudes... so don't get all freaked out and defensive, this isn't about you.
This is about the rest of us and what we can do to create more opportunities for ourselves and each other.

So, my dude friend, Nathanael has a band and wanted to collaborate on a music video.
I had this idea swimming around in my head that I pitched to him about changing our perspectives on how we look at, as the French say, women with experience.
I wanted to create more opportunities for all this badass and amazing talent for these women I'm seeing around town that don't fit the hot, sexy, 20 something mold.

So I got a dream cast who were ready to rock, literally and figuratively.
Then I had to crew up. I did something I know A LOT of producers and directors don't, won't or are terrified to do: I asked a bunch of people I have never worked with before to help me make this. I wanted to provide an onset opportunity for people a little newer to the work and to as many women as possible. This meant a lot of going out on a limb, coming out of left field, and recommendations and referrals.

I had an awesome crew of 12, only 2 of which were men. 1 of which is my partner Nick, who relinquished many of his responsibilities to a badass camera team of ladies. As much as it makes him (and .... me) feel a little old, we know it's our job to start training the next generation of kick ass crew members to take over this town. This is just as much to our benefit as it is to theirs.

So, I got this crew together, many I had not met until the pre-rig/rehearsal the day before the shoot and we absolutely crushed it. I was getting compliments from the cast and some of the extras who were awesome enough to donate their time about how smoothly everything ran and how impressive the crew was. I would just laugh delightedly and say I've never worked with any of them before, they are JUST THAT GOOD and I got to give them the opportunity to rock it.

What's the point?
Don't be scared to give someone an opportunity that doesn't fit the stereotypical mold of what you think they should be.
It's on us to create opportunities for ourselves and each other.
I will be your champion

Also, if you want in on this sweet music video action, guess what!
I've got a pick up shoot coming up this weekend and I need some extras.
I would love to meet some new faces, especially yours.
Here's a link to a little Facebook event so I can keep track of who is coming and all of those silly details:
http://bit.ly/2rnmNfD

Thanks for reading friends!

I'M BACK!

Sorry for the extended lapse in posting. I've been, well, busy DOING stuff and not DOING stuff. Here's more.

Hello Friends!

It's been a while, too long actually. I've had a lot going on and also a lot not going on.
I plan on elaborating on all of this in further posts, so stay tuned if any of it stirs some intrigue deep within you.

Since Thanksgiving I have made a short film for a local filmmaking competition called Z-Fest.
I gathered a really bomb crew and it was a total treat to make this hilarious short film with them.
Here's the trailer is you want a sample:

We actually got nominated for a handful of awards, which is really just the icing on the cake.
If you want to go see it on the big screen, you should buy your tickets for the Z-Fest Best of Fest screenings and award ceremony on Friday March 24 at 7pm. 
I'm really excited to share more about this project and the process in future posts as well as share information on where you can screen it at a film festival near you (fingers crossed.)

I started pre-production on a music video for Sophia's Tragedy.
I'm really excited about this collaboration and it will be my first ever official music video.
The band leader and I both really love the concept that I dreamed up and we've got the perfect cast. We've been running into a few snags, including my own writer's block.

WRITER'S BLOCK?! What?! aaaand now you know the real reason I haven't been posting.
It seems so overdramatic. I don't even consider myself a writer, but I come up with stories and sometimes I have to write them down. If I'm blocked, this becomes a really big problem.

Never fear, I've been working through it - as this post can be a testament.
I bought the book The Artist's Way a while back out of curiosity because a friend had done the process a while back. I barely touched the book until a few weeks ago, I thought it might be a little too "woo woo" for me. Out of desperation, I decided to give it a go.

It's great. It's really really great. It's only been a few active weeks and I'm already having a lot of big realizations about myself and my process. So, that's cool.

I also decided to start a Cookbook Club out of a need for greater sense of community and, of course, a love of making and eating food.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, it's like a book club except we pick a cookbook every month and everyone prepares a recipe (or two) from the book. Then we all get together and have a big ol' yummy meal and talk about our experiences. We are always looking for new members, so if you want in on that action stay tuned. I will be posting more on this soon.

I've been slowly but surely re-reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones
This adorable little book was assigned for a creative writing class in college and it's complementing The Artist's Way very nicely. It's a great book if you are ever interested in writing more. 

Nick and I have also been adventuring with the adventure dog, Arlo, as much as we can - and can tolerate the weather. Spring is around the corner, so prepare yourselves for a lot more nature photos.

On top of all of that junk, I've had some pretty rad opportunities at work. Some self made, some that have fallen on my lap. So it's been fun to stretch out of my comfort zone and do some neat stuff at the stuffy ol' corporate job.

I'm probably forgetting some stuff. Got a lot of hopes for the future, including hoping to carve out some time to write more here.

Thanks for reading! 

Giving thanks for Thanksgiving

So you'll quickly become aware that Nick and I both love to cook. For me cooking and baking has become such a joy and it's even more wonderful when I get to share that with others. Soooo....

Check out my new "nice" dishes and table whatnots! (Thanks Goodwill)

Nick and I decided to host Thanksgiving. This is the first holiday either of us have ever hosted.
We've had the occasional dinner parties with friends, but having family over for a holiday meal?
That's throwing down a whole new gauntlet. Since we are both crazy about food, a food centered holiday seemed like a good fit.

The original plan was to finally get our families together under one roof. We offered to get hotel rooms for my parents and my brother and his family. Unfortunately, it didn't work out...this year.

Honestly, I think that turned out for the best. Even though we ended up cooking enough for 12 people, fitting them all into our small apartment and keeping them entertained would have been .... terrifying. 

So, this was a nice starter Thanksgiving with Nick's parents, his sister and her boyfriend.
Nick and I both had our stressed out moments, but they didn't seems to extend past a frustrated hour or two. This is a particular achievement for me because when I get stressed, I can get really unpleasant. I think the fact that cooking calms me probably helped quite a bit.

Anyway, it was a success! I had a blast and learned a lot about little hosting things (THANK YOU INTERNET.) We did food prep starting on the Sunday before so we weren't overburdened with cooking projects when the guests arrived. I also woke up at 6:30am that morning which was actually unnecessary but I was anxious and excited.

I could go on about the whole experience and how elated I am that it actually went well, but I wanted to write about the food. OH THE FOOD!

So let's begin:

The bird. The centerpiece to the whole meal. Can we be real here?
I haven't had a lot of really fantastic Thanksgiving turkeys in my life. 
After making a recent transition to a vegetarian to pescatarian to flexitarian (still can't digest red meat, but I'm all about birds and fish) it's become much more important to me that meat actually tastes good instead of just eating it to eat it. I mean, why bother? If it doesn't taste good I can just load up on some quinoa or tofu and call it a day.

So, I wanted the bird to be delicious and after some serious research I decided that this was the way to go:

Don't panic.

That right there is a spatchcocked turkey and it cooks HOT (450 degrees) for only 90 minutes.
Yeah, no early morning wake ups, no basting, just express some of your existential rage by cutting out it's backbone and flattening it out.
Serious Eats was the best source I could find on the whole process.
We also tried a dry brine, which is simply rubbing the thawed bird down with salt, herbs and a little bit of baking powder (for a nice crisp skin) covering it loosely with plastic wrap and letting it sit in the fridge for at least 1 day (we did 3.) 
You can learn all about that here.

Can I tell you something?
When we went to carve that beast, juice was squirting out of it. It was moist and tender and full of flavor and I am so glad I made way too much because leftovers are to die for.

I highly recommend this. The turkey gets carved no matter what so don't stress if it looks weird because it tastes AMAZING.

Ok, ok I've already went on for too long. Here's a run down of what else we served:
Nick's dirty mashed potatoes - the ultimate comfort food in our home.
 He basically roasts a bunch of new potatoes, skin on, with garlic cloves and pearl onions and then throws them in the mixer with the paddle attachment with some butter and OMG.


Nick also made stuffing by mixing a bunch of recipes together and then following his heart.
  You'll learn that this is a trend for him. It usually turns out to be delish.

Nick also roasted up some carrots and parsnips (from his dad's garden) which was a welcomed simple side dish.

I am a spaz and spent most of the week before the big day doing food prep. 
Oh and I labeled it all. AND that whiteboard that's out of focus in the background, that had the whole menu, a checklist, oven times and a timeline for the morning of Thanksgiving day.
I can't turn off the producer/AD/director ... or whatever.

I'm so ready!

Not to be outdone by Nick, I prepared about a billion more calories in the following form:
Butternut squash and caramelized onion galette.

Wild rice, cranberry and pecan salad (for fiber)
Brussel sprout, apple and pomegranate salad. Honestly, I think I just picked it because it was so pretty, but I think it's usually good form to have some roughage on the table (this might be my former vegetarian self coming through)

Beautiful, delicious and guilt free. I'm fine with having a ton of this left over.

Over the past few years I have really begun to LOVE making my own breads.
The only bummer is how time consuming it can be, and I still have a lot to learn so sometimes that time (and the bread) can go to waste. 
I really wanted to make my own dinner rolls for Thanksgiving and since I wasn't going to go through all the effort to just make some plain old boring rolls, I found these:
Mini scallion pancake challah buns.

Weee!

I also made my own gravy for the first time ever which was a lot easier than I thought.
Nick's mom and sister provided some amazing pies for dessert and we all ate enough to hold us over for an entire week... but that didn't stop us from eating pie for lunch the next day.

Apple pie = best lunch ever.

I'm probably forgetting a few things, but MAN we had a great time.

Personally, I'd like to keep hosting this holiday. Hopefully next year we'll have a little more room so we can have more family and friends over.

That was easily my biggest regret. I wish everyone could have enjoyed the afternoon with us, ate too much and enjoyed each others' company.

Next year?

I sure hope so.
 

Arlo, our butler, got to enjoy some extra goodness in the kitchen.

Asking... is so... hard.

I help run a small fiscally sponsored non-profit filmmaking community group (say that 3 times fast) and we only raise money one day a year. Today is that day.

 My fellow POV board members, Ben and Andrew, showing off our awesome poster designed by Joe Rapp.

My fellow POV board members, Ben and Andrew, showing off our awesome poster designed by Joe Rapp.

So, I've always been bad at asking for stuff. 
Telling people to do stuff in certain situations comes naturally, but asking for help and especially for money... I just wasn't raised that way.
So, here I find myself helping run a non profit who depends on donations to hold events.

Through the 6 years of making Persistence of Vision: A Filmmaking Collective a thing, I have learned a lot of lessons about leadership, community and the importance of just asking.
They say, "it never hurts to ask" but, man, it feels like rejections could possibly be the absolute worst.
It's not, by the way.
Over the years I've had to roll up my sleeves and just ask. 
Honestly, I'm still not great at it, but it is so very good for me to have to do.
Life continues to teach me that I cannot do it all on my own. My pride just needs to step aside and I realize more and more that there is goodness in being able to ask. Just like I like to help others, they like to help me.

Last year we went bigger than we ever had before. We decided to start our own film festival.
Now, it was purposefully small, we call it the Minne MIni Film Festial

BUT It was way more successful than we thought it would be: pleasant surprise, for sure.
We made this little video to explain how it all went down (and what we plan to do this year.)
 

Wasn't that fun!

To make it happen the first time, we just went for it. I was terrified. 
That's not just rejection, that's rejection on a mass scale.
That's everyone saying "You and your idea is dumb and you shouldn't be allowed to do it"

AND THAT'S exactly what DIDN'T happen.
I learned a lot about gratitude that day when we reached our goal and then had it matched by an anonymous donor. I also learned more about accountability.
 I believe we exceeded expectations and we hope to exceed them further this go around.

Anyway, maybe by this time you are wondering when I'm just going to ask already.
(I've been working up the courage this whole time)
Okay, okay.

Will you, dear reader, consider hopping on over to your GiveMN page

Check out our message, our sweet perks and donate if you can.
We seriously will not be able to have a Minne Mini Film Festival next year without donors like you. ANYTHING helps, and you are helping me and teaching me that it's ok to just ask.

Thank you fair reader.

A helpful diagram for an unhelpful situation - oh and a story -

I'm going to spare you all from trying to wax poetic. Hell, I'm not even sure I could if I wanted to. This are pretty fucked up right now. I made this helpful diagram so you could better grasp my feelings about it all:

Yeah, it's pretty dumb, but I've been seeing a lot of dumb shit these days.

About a million years ago in a small town in Minnesota there was a girl who for all intensive purposes did not fit in. She did not think the same as everyone else, she could not manage to act the same as everyone else and she was always saying the most ridiculous things.
(Which, admittedly, is small stuff compared to the problems that others in the town faced and how they were treated.)
Generally, people didn't really want her around. So she read books. A LOT of books.
In those books were places that filled her dreams and people from all over the world.
When she grew up she started to actually see some of these parts of the world in all their glory and despair and she knew that THAT was the world she wanted to be a part of. The honesty, the grit, the joy and suffering. 
She left that small town and doesn't go back because that town is full of people that have learned to pretend that they are better when really they are just stupid and afraid.

Ok, I'm pretty fucking lucky. Let me be perfectly clear on that. Part of what makes me so lucky is that I am surrounded by so many amazing people with so many outsanding lives different from my own. I learn so much every day. I shove my foot in my mouth and they correct me. They have been gracious as I have slowly started shedding a lot of bad habits and unlearn a lot of bad thoughts.

When she left she was told many times that it was not safe outside of the town. That they were the only ones who could protect her. But the further and further she got away the more she learned how dangerous the townspeople are. How they passed cruelty off as fun and destruction was just passing the time. 

This is the America that feels so left behind. I understand that part of it was not by choice but by circumstance, but I also know the truth that many stayed back. They stayed back or went back out of fear. And that fear grew into something monsterous. Something terrifying. It grew into hate.

Just as the girl thought she had found paradise the truth emerged:
The townspeople are everywhere and they have been quietly preparing for a battle.
The enemy? They aren't even sure. They just know that the enemy is not like them.
But the fools. How do we educate them before it's too late.
We were never any different.
We just traveled down different paths.
We built ourselves different worlds.

Honestly, friends, I'm just trying to make sense out of all of this. While I do, you better believe that I am going to be working my ass off to make a safer world for all of my friends and neighbors of all colors, all religions, all sexual indentities and preferences and you if you want to come along. I don't know how yet exactly, but I have some ideas and some dear friends who are already doing some good work.

Our actions are the building blocks to the worlds we create for each other. Fucking think about that shit, okay?

Oh and remember when I said I wasn't going to try to wax poetic? Well, fuck off.

Sorry, I love you fair reader, it's just been a bitch of a week and it's been so hard watching the acts of hate and seeing my friends suffer. (see the diagram)

K. THNX. BAI.

I won an award. More importantly, I gave a speech.

Last month, before I had a blog to write about it, I was honored by my alma mater, Minnesota State University Moorhead, with an Outstanding Young Alumni Award

See, look at it. Shiiiiny.

I was nominated for the award by the faculty of what was the Film Studies Department, back in my day, and what is now the School of Media Arts and Design. I am lucky to still be close with these wonderful people and they have been amazing mentors to me throughout my education and my career. So it was humbling to say the least.

I believe one of the reasons I was nominated was because I helped start a non-profit filmmaking community group called Persistence of Vision. You'll read plenty about that rad little organization in future posts. Basically, the organization was created as a means to create community and for starters to give us MSUM alumni a place to check in with each other and encourage each other to create and grow. Persistence of Vision has grown in ways I could not have guessed when we started it in Ben's apartment community room.

You may have already guessed that community is kind of a big deal to me, and you are right. I take that priority with me into my work as well. Video and film shoots rarely happen with just one person and we need each other to make these crazy things happen. I have learned so much about being a community member, a leader and even a person through my time making films and videos and being exposed to so many wonderful souls.

Cripes, I was going to try to keep this short...
I have many feelings about what I do and who I do it with. I guess we'll be unpacking those more and more.

Anyway, I was told I was going to have to give a speech. Sort of an acceptance, sort of a reflection on my time at MSUM and what it means to me; and because I've learned the importance of a mic and a willing audience, I wanted to lay down a message as well.

I had written a speech prior to the day, some of that material remained. When my former professors took me around the campus with Nick, my partner in life/crime, (he hadn't been there before) I noticed that not much had changed.
Now, because I keep in touch, I know the department has grown in student size. 
So, why in the hell don't they have more space and resources?
I was livid. 
Seeing other unnecessary expenditures throughout the campus, it was obvious there was money. So, I went back to my hotel room and rewrote my speech.

And here it is, for your reading pleasure:
(It's important to note that I haaaate public speaking and have horrible stage fright, but I managed to suck it up because THIS IS IMPORTANT.)

This is such an amazing honor, I don’t think I will ever be able to properly express how much this recognition means to me.
Honestly, I already feel like I have received so much from amazing faculty at MSUM that this is a little hard for me to compute.
*Before I dive in I need to say that since I’ve graduated from MSUM the film studies department has changed to become a part of the School of Media Arts and Design or SoMAD. You will have to forgive me as I continue to call it the Film Studies Department.

Anyway, when I transferred to MSUM I was pretty lost in a lot of ways.
I had very little direction as far as a career or even a passion to pursue. Of course, I knew that I liked certain things or had a knack for this or that, but none of that solidified into a path I could confidently follow.

To be completely honest, I came to the film studies department pretty much on a whim.
Easily one of the best whims, I have ever pursued.

What I found when even before I started classes was an outstanding, dedicated and passionate staff.
The chair of the department at the time, Rusty Casselton, was almost overwhelming for me at first; considering that until then I had experienced faculty that had little to no interest in their students or the education they were providing.
I quickly came to understand that this was the culture of the teaching staff for the film studies department.
They care.
A lot.
Like take you panicked phone calls in the middle of the night about a project
Or let you shoot a film project in their home AND provide delicious chili for the entire crew.
(in both meat and vegetarian versions)

These things. These crazy simple things… they taught me so much beyond even the professional or artist I wanted to me. They taught me about the person and leader I still work every day to be.

On top of this amazing support, the faculty worked to create a community and empower their students to find their creative voices.
For someone that had not really fit in, this community not only embraced me but allowed me to thrive as a person and an artist.



That sense of community and amazing leadership have been aspects that still influence me every day. Be it through my filmmaking community group, Persistence of Vision or the environment I try to create at work and during video shoots.

At MSUM we learned the importance of working with and leaning on each other for our work, and when Rusty Casselton passed away we learned the importance of community as we grieved such an immense loss.

Over the years the faculty and my fellow MSUM alumni have become my most valued mentors and dearest friends. Just like while I was in school, I know that they will be there for me.

With all of these experiences, I worked with a few fellow alumni to create what is now a fiscally sponsored nonprofit filmmaking community group over 5 years ago. That group, Persistence of Vision has expanded beyond just the MSUM alumni to active members with all sorts of different backgrounds.
The success of POV reinforces my strong belief in the necessity of community and empowering people to create and make art that was taught to me here, at MSUM.
These are things I think we need now more than ever. We need to give people the ability and confidence to find and use their voices to speak out against injustice, tell their unique stories and express themselves creatively instead of destructively.
And we should all be working toward this together.
So I leave you with this:
If you want to truly make the world a better place, a kinder place; support the arts. Support programs like the film studies program at MSUM who are actively making seismic changes in the lives of so many young people.

My experiences in the film department have been so influential and important to me and so many others.
Find a way to give them the support to further the impact of the great work this faculty continues to do.
— Amber Johnson, Human Doing

Autumn splendor and camera hijinks

The weather has been unseasonably glorioius. So I figured I would have some fun while doing yard work.

I decided to grab my Sony a6000 and a junk lens I bought off EBay for a project a while back (EF mount with an adaptor) and decided to play around with pulling the lens off the body to create a tilt shift effect with added light leaks onto the sensor. 
(This is probably not great for your sensor BTW, so be mindful of that)
I'm not a big camera technology person and more of a just make it look good person. Luckily, I seem to be surrounded by really knowledgeable people, so I do have someone to call upon if needed - like on a video/film shoot.

Anyway, I though it would be fun to share some of the pictures I took with you:

On doing

OH GOD WHAT AM I DOING?!

 With enough coffee, anything is possible.

With enough coffee, anything is possible.

There are about a billion inspirational mottos for this lately, but it doesn't make it any easier to do the doing.

Hi, my name is Amber Johnson and I am a chronic over-thinker.
I'm a generally anxious person and I don't really want to do anything without weighing all the risks and possible outcomes.

This means, my inclination is to not do anything. It's just more safe.
The problem with this is that I started to realize how unlived my life was.

I've dabbled in trying to implement the Nike commercial cliche, "Just do it" and all that jazz but my life happens and my over-thinking ways take over again.

Over the last few years, life seems to be smacking me upside the head again and again while screaming, "STOP MESSING AROUND AROUND AND DO SOMETHING!"
Frustrated about your career? DO SOMETHING.
Want more recognition? DO SOMETHING.
Want to make better films/videos? DO SOMETHING.
Want a platform to be more creative and express yourself? DO SOMETHING.

I really have not physical or socio-economical aspects holding me back. I'm lucky.

So, I've started doing. Trust me I still think, but I do more. 
I've realized that I have a wealth of experience both in my career and in life and it's time to step up and own it. 

What does that mean? 
Instead of fretting about the fact that I've, say, never done something like *that* before, I just start doing the work and using the processes I know and have been using for years on creative and professional work. Considering that my collaborators and clients keep coming back, I must be doing something right.
RIGHT?! ...hopefully.

I'm sick of not doing things just because I'm not exactly sure how to do it. 
Like painting: I have no idea what I'm doing with watercolors, but that doesn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying the act of making silly little paintings.
Or this website in general. I've never blogged before, I've never shared my work in this way or my process or my thoughts.
Just the act of doing can be so enjoyable.

So, here's to doing.
Here's to going for it and accepting that failure is a part of life, and frankly isn't really that bad.

Join me, won't you?

The first of many firsts.

Setting goals, trying not to think too much, making it happen

Welcome, darlings, to my first blog post in the history of the world EVER.

Let's be real, taking the time to be creative is hard.
Taking the time to share your work is even more difficult.

Not to mention the risk of rejection... OH GOD PLEASE DON'T HATE ME!

Hopefully, we'll all get over this soon enough, fair reader.

What can you expect from a human doing's blog?
Well, let me tell you:
Other than a lot of misspelling and grammatical errors, you can expect to read about what's new in my work, in my filmmaking, new endeavors (art, dance, insert something random here), I will probably share recipes and just lay down some rad life wisdom.

That last one may be debatable.
One thing that won't be debatable is that this is going to be an adventure for me... and maybe for you.

HERE WE GOOOOO!
(hope you like dog pics)