Shooting video in New York City is always an adventure. It’s made especially so when you get to tail and work with a veteran New Yorker like commercial and editorial photographer Doug Menuez. I first met Doug when I interviewed him for my weekly podcast, F-Stop Beyond. It was an immediate favorite. His eloquence and “shoot from the hip” style, combined with that hearty laugh were so inspiring. He and I talked more and became kindred spirits. I now have the honor of producing a promo video for him and yesterday was the shoot. In actuality, we did two shoots: Doug’s promo, as well as part of a documentary he is filming.
THE WISDOM OF NEW YORK
This city is made up of so many different cultures, it’s like living all around the world. Doug was hired by the mayor to do an editorial shoot on the many faces and cultures of NY. That then gave Doug the idea doing a documentary about how New York is often called a “melting pot,” but in many ways it really isn’t. There are indeed many races and cultures here, but it’s more like a hodge-podge. All of these people are running around the city, engaging in business, nearly running each other over in cars, screaming, but no one truly understands each other. There are so many stories and backgrounds of every face in NY that has a context that would make you look at them in a different light, if you just knew. Did you know that cab driver from Gana prays for the strength to get up every morning at 5:30 to help support his family back home in Africa. As terrible as 911 was, do you as a New Yorker really know what it’s like for that Israeli from Tel Aviv who grew up EVERY day worrying about being blown up by a suicide bomber? Do you know what it’s like for that Hispanic pizza delivery guy who came to America hoping to live the “American Dream”? Or, even Doug’s assistant, a bright-eyed half-Brazilian, half-Italian who spent her first Christmas as an adult in NY hanging out at a grave yard because she had no place to go and it was the only part of her neighborhood in Brooklyn with trees. So many stories. Yet so many people we take for granted.
I was going to shoot behind the scenes of Doug directing the documentary as part of his promo. However, his DP wasn’t able to make it today, so I told Doug,”Well, I’m going to be shooting your promo with a Canon 5D Mark II, why don’t we use that for your documentary and I’ll be your cinematographer for the day.” He agreed. What an amazing opportunity.
Each interviewee tells his or her story then shares one or two idioms from their home country. It gives such a profound understanding of where they come from. It’s quite fascinating. Some of may favorites were (these are loose translations):
- Ghana: When you throw a ball against the wall, it bounces back to you. Meaning, whatever you put out in life, comes back to you. If you do good, good things will happen. If you do bad….
- Israel: when you go out of your way to point out what’s bad about someone else, it’s usually a problem you have too.
- Germany: those who don’t honor a penny, aren’t worth a dollar.
- Brazil: why don’t you go out to the corner and see if I’m there. In other words… buzz off! (That one was classic!)
The film is still in post production. The footage we got yesterday will be added to what’s already been edited. When this thing finally comes out, you’ve got to see it. I got a chance to watch the current rough cut and it’s a fantastic documentary. I’m so honored to have had a chance to play a small part in it. I’m sure Doug will blog about it when it’s all complete.
As you go out about your business today, take a moment to look at the people around you. Really look at them. Their faces. Their posture. Their state of being. Ask yourself, “what kind of life have they lived? What has brought them here? Are they happy? Sad?” Don’t pass them up without looking at them as people. As brothers and sisters. Mothers and fathers. And I pray that others will do the same for you.
Here’s a screen shot from Canon 5D Video
(iPhone photos above © Tasra Dawson.)