All this talk about the space shuttle Endeavour coming to L.A. is pretty exciting. Like a ton of kids, I had dreams of piloting a mission to the moon or beyond, or even just floating around on the space station in an 18,000 MPH orbit.

These days, the constant coverage of the shuttle piggybacked atop a modified 747 Jumbo Jet has got me wracking my brain, trying to figure out if I might be able to look to the skies and see it chug along. But timetables keep changing, and the L.A. arrival of Endeavour has been delayed yet again because fog is expected in……San Francisco. Dang you, San Fran! The shuttle is currently about 100 miles NE, at Edwards Air Force Base. So, sensibly, the shuttle will be ferried nearly 400 miles NW tomorrow to San Francisco, then nearly 400 more miles south to Los Angeles. Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that this was all originally planned for a Thursday. A Thursday! In the middle of the day! Now it’s changed to a Friday. In the middle of the day! I sent a Twitter message to NASA, pointing out that the unemployment rate here is high, but it’s not THAT high. People here work, especially in the middle of the day!

Anyhow, at the very least, I feel extremely honored and blessed to have seen the space shuttle “Discovery” launch back in 2008. I won a Blue Man Group sweepstakes trip to Orlando that I could never recall entering… but after verifying it was legit and knowing that you could see a shuttle liftoff from the other side of Florida, I looked up the space shuttle launch calendar and specifically scheduled the trip around one of those dates.

From 60 miles away, the shuttle was like a fireball rising in the sky. It was so cool, even despite the distance. Eventually, the smoke trail stopped, and the shuttle was a small, white dot flying on a higher and higher arc. Eventually, like watching a jet crossing the sky, the shuttle got smaller and smaller until it just disappeared. You can see most of that in the video I shot below.

The whole experience was rather simple, but it really left a lasting impression. Although there’s so much negativity out there in the world, it can sure be refreshing and intriguing to consider human ingenuity and the good we’re capable of.
 

 
 
UPDATE! 9/21/12
Okay, so I take some of what I said back. As it turns out, I was incredibly blessed (yet again) and had a bunch of cards fall into place. It’s really rare for me to work in Hollywood, but today I ended up doing just that. Additionally, the Endeavour was originally scheduled to land in Los Angeles yesterday/Thursday but, due to weather, that got pushed to today. Jackpot! That meant I was in Hollywood while the space shuttle was strutting around town.

It was the hovering helicopters and people on all kinds of high-rise rooftops that tipped me off that I needed to be scanning the skies. While driving on La Brea, south of Santa Monica Blvd., I spotted the shuttle on its carrier in the haze. “Are you freakin’ kidding me? That’s all I’m gonna get?” I thought to myself. Turning down a side street to try to catch another look, I got cut off by two garbage trucks and decided to continue on to the next work destination.

The rooftop there was filled with people, and all the people pointing made it easy to keep track of the shuttle’s approximate location. So there I just stood in the parking lot. Endeavour, the 747 it was mounted on, and two military chase jets made one pass and then did so again after a couple minutes.

I wish I would have been sharing that moment with someone, anyone, because it was so astonishing and unreal. I could feel the adrenaline jolting through my body, and profanities were spilling out of my mouth. I didn’t know a moment like this could cause me to be mistaken for a pirate.

Endeavour on its Final Mission

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Every wondered why movies and TV show are so expensive to make? Or maybe you are considering pitching/producing a project and need a breakdown of what costs you might incur. For either of those scenarios, the following is a partial list of the many costs incurred on scripted television shows:
 

PRE-PRODUCTION

LOCATION SCOUTS:
TRANSPORTATION (PASSENGER VAN RENTAL, FUEL, DRIVER)
MEALS

SET EXPENSES:
CONSTRUCTION CREW AND SUPPLIES
CONSTRUCTION SUPPLY TRANSPORTATION (BOX TRUCK, FUEL)
FACILITY RENTAL
SET DRESSING (FURNITURE, FIXTURES, PROPS) AND CREW

BUSINESS PERMITS

OFFICE SUPPLIES (DESKS & CHAIRS, PRINTERS, PHONES, PENS, PAPERCLIPS, FRIDGE AND SNACKS, PAPER, FIRST AID KIT, NOTEPADS, ETC., ETC., ETC.)

 

PRODUCTION

WARDROBE:
COSTUMES
COSTUME LABOR
ALTERATIONS
CLEANING / DYEING
LOSS, DAMAGE, REPAIR
BOX RENTALS
RENTALS
PURCHASES

MAKEUP AND HAIRDRESSING:
KEY MAKEUP ARTIST
ADDITIONAL MAKEUP ARTISTS
SPECIAL EFFECTS MAKEUP (PROSTHETICS)
KEY HAIRSTYLIST
ADDITIONAL HAIRSTYLISTS
WIG AND HAIR PURCHASES
WIG AND HAIR RENTAL
BOX RENTALS
RENTALS
PURCHASES

CAMERA DEPARTMENT:
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
CAMERA OPERATOR(S)
CAMERA LOADER
CAMERAS, LENSES, MEDIA (FILM/MEMORY CARDS), CABLE RENTALS, TRIPODS, ETC., ETC., ETC.

PRODUCTION SOUND:
SOUND MIXER
BOOM OPERATOR
CABLEMEN / UTILITY SOUND
PLAYBACK RENTALS – AUDIO/VIDEO
RENTALS
PURCHASES (SUCH AS SOUND STOCK/MEDIA)

TRANSPORTATION:
COORDINATOR
CAPTAIN
CO-CAPTAIN
STANDBY DRIVERS
PARKING
FUEL
TRAILER/PUMPING/VEHICLE WASH
MILEAGE/CAR ALLOWANCE
DRIVERS MEAL MONEY

OTHER PRODUCTION CREW:
PRODUCTION MANAGER AND COORDINATOR
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
DIRECTOR
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
SCRIPT SUPERVISOR
MESSENGERS/COURIERS
SET SECURITY

LOCATION EXPENSES:
SITE RENTAL FEES
LOCATION MANAGER
LOCATION STAFF PERSONNEL
LOCATION SECURITY
LOCATION POLICE
LOCATION FIRE SAFETY OFFICER
LOCATION MEDICAL LABOR
LOCATION MEDICAL SUPPLIES

OTHER EXPENSES:
EQUIPMENT LOSS, RENTAL, REPAIR
BOX RENTALS (APPROVED REIMBURSEMENTS FOR PERSONAL EQUIPMENT USED BY EMPLOYEES, LIKE LAPTOPS)
STANDBY VEHICLE RENTALS
PICTURE VEHICLES AND CAR HAULING (IF APPLICABLE)
CAMERA CAR
CATERING EXPENSES

TALENT:
AIRFARES
HOTEL
PER DIEM

 

POST PRODUCTION
CREW:
VIDEO EDITORS
ASSISTANT EDITORS
MUSIC EDITOR/DIALOG EDITOR/SOUND EFFECTS EDITOR
SOUND MIXERS
POST SOUND RECORDIST
SOUND SUPERVISOR
ADR RECORDIST
FOLEY RECORDIST
SOUND LAYBACK OPERATOR
POST PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR
POST PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

POST PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT:
OFFLINE EDITING (EDITING SYSTEMS, OFFICE SPACE AND EQUIPMENT)
TAPE STOCK
DVD STOCK
HARD DRIVES
INSERT STAGE RENTAL

POST PRODUCTION SERVICES:
ONLINE EDITING
TAPE DUPLICATION
DAILIES DISTRIBUTION
FILM DEVELOPING / VIDEO PROCESSING
SOUND AND PICTURE ARCHIVING
COLOR CORRECTION
VISUAL EFFECTS EDITING
CLOSED CAPTIONING

MISC PURCHASES/RENTALS

 

OTHER CHARGES:
LEGAL FEES
PARKING
VIDEO/AUDIO RENTAL CHARGES
COMPUTER RENTALS
INSURANCE PREMIUMS
OFFICE EQUIPMENT RENTAL
OTHER

ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES

 

PUBLICITY:
CLIPS
TAPE STOCK

There is something mystical about aviation. I love the window seat and find myself staring at the landscape miles below on every trip. There is so much beauty to take in, and sometimes it’s just as awe-inspiring as being grounded but randomly spotting an old World War II-era bomber slowly making its way across the sky.

The last big trip allowed me to experience the sight of so, so much – things like the Olympic stadium and Big Ben clock tower in London, colorful French farms, icebergs, Canadian glaciers, and a giant fault line in California.

 

Aerial View of London - Big Ben and The Eye Ferris Wheel

Aerial View of Big Ben and the London Eye

 

While crossing the Atlantic, I eventually napped when there was nothing to see but “the pond.” When I woke, peered out and saw an iceberg field, I started snapping pictures. The passengers behind me must’ve liked all my scenic discoveries because, whenever I pointed my camera out the window, I would hear their window shade open and start to hear whispers.

 

glacier confluence / flow - aerial view

Glacial Confluence – Canada

 

Just like with music, the love for aviation is also in my DNA. Dad took me to airshows for probably 15 years straight, and he still goes when it doesn’t conflict with work and it’s not too blazingly hot and humid. Also, my brother flies and my uncle previously owned a plane. The same goes for some of my in-laws. Also, I can’t ignore that the Wright Brothers lived about 25 miles from where I grew up in Ohio – “the birthplace of aviation,” as the license plates say.

Back in Middletown, Ohio, I used to spend my college summers at hangar parties. “Don’t mind the airplane in there… the fridge is back there behind it. Feel free to grab a beer!” Some late-night chats were interrupted by the sound of a taxiing jet. A lot of us would go out and watch those take off and fly away until the flashing navigation lights disappeared into the darkness.

I actually worked at the Middletown airport – then known as Hook Field – over spring break in high school. I mowed grass and ran the weed-eater around all the lights down the 6,100′ runway. Some nights I got to hand-wash a corporate jet. It was a serene, yet kind of spooky experience, being alone in a giant, creaky, empty hangar. At the same time, the job was a soothing, therapeutic one, buffing dried raindrops off the plane from nose to tail and cleaning hydraulic fluid and dust off the landing gear.

For all these fond and endearing memories, I have been kicking around the idea of making an aviation documentary. I won’t get into details right now because, well, you know, it’s a proprietary-type thing. But I can see a community-based project like that as being a great asset for the historical record. That sort of goes back to my Long-term Data Storage post, about how it’s best to keep multiple copies of your documents stashed in various places so the information doesn’t eventually disappear forever. There’s no telling how many old photos are out there, tucked away in someone’s attic, that might not mean anything to some descendant who one day discovers them.

In the meantime, I will continue to plug away and see if the project is something that might have some interest other than my own. Fingers crossed!

From my collection of work & travel journals, 2009:

Eastern State Penitentiary is a scary place. It truly is. Giant, inescapable walls surround the complex, making it feel like some sort of doom is impending. When you’re standing alone in the yard, in the middle of the night, you can’t help but dream up all sorts of emergency scenarios that would require you to be on the other side of those walls for survival. Tending to have a guilty conscience, I guess being a guest in a prison just seems to bring out the worst.

Originally built in 1829, the Eastern State complex is located in Philadelphia, about 1/4 mile from where Rocky Balboa ran up a flight of stairs and triumphantly threw his fists in the air (in the 70s film “Rocky,” of course). Being surrounded by housing and shops, Eastern State is a reminder of a far bygone era in Philadelphia’s history. The stark contrast is huge between the prison’s contemporary, clean, and bright administrative offices and the potentially dangerous, rubble-filled corridors in some parts of the building.

The RV we are working and traveling in barely fits through the front entrance. Unfortunately, someone drove the vehicle too fast through the opening and sheared off part of the roll-out awning. The dangling fabric certainly ain’t pretty, and we’re going to have to do a little brainstorming later to figure out our options.

The highlight of the “pen,” if there really is one, is the cell Al Capone spent eight months in. It’s located in a high-traffic area in the middle of the prison and is complete with real furniture, a painting on the wall, and a decorative plant in one corner. The scene makes me think of Peter Gibbons on Office Space:

“Samir, this is America! Come on, sit down! Come on! This isn’t Riyadh! They’re not gonna saw your hands off, all right? The worse they can do is put you for a couple of months into a while collar, minimum security resort! We should be so lucky! Did you know they have conjugal visits there?”

So maybe it wasn’t quite like that at Eastern State, but I’m sure the other prisoners weren’t able to live as comfortably as the notorious mobster did during his stay.

Al Capone’s former cell (1929-1930)

 

Today:
Eastern State has seemingly been popping up a lot lately on TV. Most recently, TBS has been frequently airing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, so it was really cool to be watching it and instantly recognize the guard/clock tower in the scene with characters Mudflap and Skids.

 

Eastern State Penitentiary

 

Eastern State is a really cool place to check out, if you ever have the chance. And I hear they put on one heck of a Halloween haunted house. Speaking of which, some of these places have an ambiance you just can’t get from anywhere else. One location in Kentucky where I did some support work for a ghost hunting show also put on an annual haunted house….this was an old hospital where tens of thousands of people died in the early 1900s. There’s nothing quite like walking alone in a basement in the middle of the night, hearing footsteps behind you, and turning around to find nothing there. Not being a paranormal investigator, I have never gone into a place expecting to have some otherworldy experience. But I can tell you this: at some of the “haunted houses,” you really get what you pay for.

If you enjoyed this ghost hunting-related post, also check out Ghost Hunting in Delaware (Before the Memory Fades) and The Strangest Coincidence of My Life.

Also, feel free to leave a shout-out below!

When it comes to conducting an interview, planning ahead is very important. I recently witnessed one where, at least a few times, the interviewer looked off into space and asked “Hmmm… now what else can I ask you?” The lack of preparedness took up a lot of precious time for all parties involved, so the following will outline types of interviews and how you can effectively structure them.

 

Funnel vs. Inverted Funnel

First of all, when it comes to time constraints, there are two types of interviews – the funnel and the inverted funnel. If you imagine putting oil in your car, the funnel is wide on top with a small opening at the bottom. In interview form, the “funnel” means asking broad, general questions first, then leading in to more specific, tougher questions. The “inverted funnel” is just the opposite – asking the tough questions first, followed by broad questions.

Of course, the small end of the funnel doesn’t exactly have to consist of “tough” questions. Rather, it’s the meat and bones of your interview… it’s the reason you’re conducting an interview to begin with. Whether you ask the important questions at the beginning or the end of the interview is based on how much time you have. If you only have a few minutes, use the inverted funnel approach. If you have all day, structure your interview as a funnel.

 

Closed vs. Open-ended Questions

Once you’ve nailed down your timetable, the next step is to formulate your questions. An interview can branch off in many directions, but it’s best to have basic questions to refer to in case it doesn’t… or to get your interview back on track. In general, you want to avoid asking closed questions, which are those that can elicit a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, are employed as a way to try to get the interviewee talking. To get an open-ended answer, formulate your questions to begin with the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why + how). Unless you’re seeking information to rewrite later (for something like a newspaper article or blog), avoid starting questions with “did.” Rather than asking “Did it feel great to finish the race?” ask “How great did it feel to finish the race?”

 

The Interview

Make the interviewee feel comfortable beforehand, if possible. Offer him or her some tea or water. Build some rapport so the person isn’t over-thinking what questions you might ask. If applicable, before the official interview, chat it up with small talk (but steer clear of your interview questions) by asking “How was your flight?” “Where are you from?” “How is your day?”

When it’s time for the interview, ask the interviewee his or her name and to spell it out. Professionally, there is little worse than trying to cite someone but spelling the name wrong. It’s important to note that, in the journalism field, a misspelled name can have legal repercussions.

If an interviewee doesn’t fully answer your question, it may be for a multitude of reasons, including he/she a) might not understand the question, b) doesn’t want to, c) may ramble and forget the question, and d) can’t due to lack of knowledge on the subject.

If the interview is a tough one and the source is hostile, do your best to avoid arguing. Otherwise, the interviewee might shut down, effectively ending the interview. Try getting a hostile interviewee to open up by a) revisiting/rewording a question that was previously unanswered, b) saving the tough question(s) for the end of the interview, c) offering the interviewee a chance for a rebuttal to something damaging someone said about him or her (relevant to the interview, of course), and d) providing sympathy/understanding that the answer might be difficult.

 

Examples

The following sample questions are from a reality show pilot episode I worked on a few years back. It centered around a modeling agency and the models that work for it, so these Qs should at least give you a good idea of some open-ended interview questions.

1) Please introduce yourself to the camera.
2) Please spell out your name.
3) What is your occupation?
4) Describe your first photo shoot.
5) How does it feel when you see your photos after a shoot?
6) How do you get your week started?
7) What would you say is your favorite thing about modeling?
8) How do people react when they find out you are a model?
9) What goes through your mind during a photo shoot?
10) What are your future goals in the business?
11) What were you doing before you started modeling?
12) What do Mom and Dad think of what you do?
13) Is there any question I should have asked you / is there anything you were expecting me to ask?

 

Good luck on your interview endeavors, and drop me a line below if you have any comments or other questions about the interview process.

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