Last week I had the joy of attending The Rose International Fund for Children’s annual fundraising dinner. TRIFC is a Seattle based nonprofit who works with disabled children in Nepal. Back in 2009, I’d done a story for The Seattle Channel about TRIFC and the amazing work they’re doing, that was nominated for an Emmy award (video below). In Nepal, people with disabilities are often hidden and shamed, their disability viewed as the product of a past life sin. TRIFC’s work is both to provide these children with necessary surgeries and medical care, as well as education and support in developmental and social skills. In addition to the direct work with this population, they are actively working on breaking down the stigma associated with disability in Nepal through PSA’s and other public outreach campaigns.
TRIFC is directly connected to Rotary International and each year takes groups of Rotarians on trips there. For the fundraising dinner, I had volunteered to film the event in support of TRIFC’s great work. While shmoozing, I decided to do a short spontaneous video with Nirmala Gyawali, the executive director of TRIFC’s ADSoN project, The Ability Development Society of Nepal. Nirmala is blind and the video is about the TRIFC backpack for blind students in Nepal. It comes full of tools designed specifically for blind students, including an abacus, ruler, tablet, and other materials with braille writing. My goal was to make a short, easily accessible video promoting the $75 backpacks as a way for people to financially support TRIFC and blind Nepali students at a financial level accessible to many people.
TRIFC has designed a backpack kit with the tools necessary for blind students in Nepal
Backpacks for blind students video:
Original Emmy nominated story about TRIFC’s work in Nepal:
I’ve recently been enjoying working with New Roots Organics, a Seattle based organic produce delivery company. You may recognize their warehouse between Fremont and Ballard by it’s giant purple metal beet hanging outside. Last week we made a visit to Frog Song Farm in Conway WA, in the Skagit River Valley to do some filming for a new series of videos for New Roots. This is some of the most fertile farmland in the nation, recently having officially surpassed the San Joaquin Valley. Frog Song is adjacent to Dry Slough Orchard, owned by the Frog Song owner’s dad. Together, they farm on a beautiful space on Fir island, ringed by dykes holding back the Skagit River on 2 sides and the ocean on another. Extensive golden wheat fields across the road looking east stretch toward Cascade mt peaks in the distance. We arrived early morning and it was gorgeous, greeted with fresh muffins and coffee, fruit, cheese and fresh crab caught in the nearby spit the day before, spread on a picnic table in the orchard. It was a great day filming vegetables growing and harvested.
Bean bounty beauty
They grow 5 varieties of Asian pears
Tractor blade sliced exposure
Freshly cut grain across the street from the farm and orchard
Sweet breakfast in the orchard with their fruit, honey, jam and crab.
Fresh breakfast in the orchard with their fruit, honey, jam and crab
Owner Dennis Reveals Dry Slough Orchard sign
Super fertile soil
Freshly cut wheat across the street from the farm and orchard
PP recently finished production on the Transformational Leadership Project video series with client Claris Consulting. Claris leader Hugh Blane lead a series of 15 videos that will be available for purchase in conjunction with their business consulting work. We shot the series in a Seattle studio with him using a teleprompter. Below is the overview video introducing the series.
Excited to announce that one of our videos recently won an honorable mention in the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable’s MVP2 awards for our film ‘Zinc in Stormwater: Galvanizing Business Solutions’. The awards are designed to recognize outstanding and innovative pollution prevention (P2) projects/programs judged on the 5 criteria: innovation, measurable results, transferability, commitment, and optimization of available project resources. The overall focus is on projects that demonstrate source reduction activities.
“The video provides context to the issue of zinc pollution by showing how the metal leaches into stormwater from many different sources. Because zinc comes from so many places, no one solution is likely to suffice for any business. Businesses need to carefully assess the sources of the metal and then implement a variety of site-specific solutions.”
The film was produced in connection with The Pollution Prevention Resource Center, and funded by a grant from The Russell Family Foundation. Increasingly, a number of commercial properties were not meeting the necessary benchmarks outlined by the WA Dept of Ecology and this video is meant to assist those entity’s efforts in getting into compliance following BMPs set forth by others regionally. See earlier blog posts for photos and more info.
Over the years I’ve done a variety of work with Puget Sound/Seattle area salmon fishermen, helping them to use video as a tool to share their story. Some of that content is now featured in a CCTV report about fish consumption worldwide. CCTV America is the American arm of China Central Television of Beijing. Based in Washington D.C., producing daily English language programming for a global audience. The content shows salmon being caught in Puget Sound, and unloaded at Fishermen’s Terminal for sale in Seattle area markets and farmers markets. For more info visit LokiFish and Puget Sound Salmon Commission.
I’ve been working on a story about heavy metals in industrial stormwater runoff entering Puget Sound, specifically zinc. The story is being produced for regional environmental NGO The Pollution Prevention Resource Center. Through PPRC, we were able to connect with another national nonprofit out of Wyoming called LightHawk that connects recreational pilots with environmental projects that could benefit from a unique aerial perspective. So Lighthawk connects pilots across the country with photographers and filmmakers, journalists, policy makers, funders and others to get up into the air to survey areas of particular focus or concern. Yesterday, I was privileged to connect with pilot Linda Chism who is an engineer with Alaska Airlines professionally, but a pilot in her free time who also has a personal connection to and interest in the Duwamish River, one area of focus on this project so it was a natural match.
I met Linda at her Auburn Airport hangar where she keeps her Piper Super Cub two seater plane, and after a quick safety walk through and explanation about the aircraft, we were up and over Seattle to start filming. In communication with the Boeing Field air traffic controllers, we, One Delta Bravo, broke straight west and out over Vashon Island and Puget Sound, over the West Seattle ferry dock and up the West Seattle coastline, up and around Alki Beach and heading south, down the Duwamish River industrial corridor. This b-roll will help to educate viewers of the video with a unique perspective connecting industrial stormwater pollution with our local waterway, complementing interviews with local pollution prevention advocates, scientists, and experts featured in the piece. Stay tuned, the piece should be finished in the coming weeks.
Rolled up in the back seat of a Piper Super Cub, ready to film from the Emerald City sky
Cruising over the West Seattle ferry dock with all of West Seattle and the the Seattle skyline in the distance
Taking in the West Seattle coastline
The Duwamish River industrial corridor that leads and dumps to Elliot Bay
Pilot Linda Chism with her Piper Super Cub at Auburn airport
`Vashon Ferry Dock from the air
Lincoln Park salt water public swimming pool
The West Seattle Coastline from the air
Cars loading at the West Seattle ferry dock
After our two passes over the Duwamish River we were able to cruise a bit south over Puget Sound before returning to Auburn airport.
Hangin’ in the hangar predeparture.
A tug boat cruising across Puget Sound
Above West Seattle High School athletic fields with Seattle skyline in background.
West Seattle Lighthouse at Alki Beach Point
West Seattle Lighthouse at Alki Beach Point
A ribbon of interstate highway 5
The line where the waters of Elliott Bay meet the larger Puget Sound
14 years ago I was a young filmmaker with a dream job. I was getting paid to wander the streets of Chicago collecting stories with a video camera. It was part of the CITY 2000 project that my good friend Jon Lowenstein had pulled me in to. Chicago In The Year 2000 was the vision of billionaire philanthropist Gary Comer, the owner of Land’s End clothing company. Inspired by the depression era WPA photos of Dorothea Lange and others, his vision was to capture what life was like in the City of Chicago in the Year 2000. He hired a group of full time photographers of which my friend Jon was one, and a small number of videographers that set out to document the city over the course of 12 months. The collection was a gift to the city and is now an archive housed at the Health Sciences Special Collections at The University of Illinois at Chicago that includes over 100 hours of video I filmed in neighborhoods throughout Chicago.
At the end of the year, there was a video that was produced to screen at a show at the Chicago Cultural Center on January 1st, 2001. That video will be shown again at the Chicago Cultural Center this week as part of a larger screening of Chicago documentaries.
Below are two of the stories I filmed that were included in the piece.
“I’ve got a quarter of a million dollars in my pocket, and I still can’t get a fucking cab”
Spent some time filming last week at the Port of Tacoma and The Washington Stormwater Center. In the port, shipping giant Tote runs twice weekly freight runs between Tacoma and Anchorage Alaska (that takes 66 hours nonstop one way). Tote has had great success in reducing the heavy metals and specifically zinc in their storm water runoff from their property. Working together with 12,000 Rain Gardens of Puget Sound, they’ve installed a series of rain gardens designed to filter and process water runoff. The water which collects on the paved surfaces of their facility and warehouse roofs carrying industrial pollutants and heavy metals, are filtered and absorbed by the garden now prior to it returning to Puget Sound. This video is being produced by Pangeality Productions for Pollution Prevention Research Center, with funding through a grant provided by the Russell Family Foundation, and is geared toward recording and sharing best practices among industries for managing and treating specifically zinc in storm water.
Mt Rainier towering over the Port of Tacoma
Rain gardens like this one take water running off warehouse roofs through gutters, and filter it for heavy metals with soil and plants.
Courtesy of 12,000 Rain Gardens of Puget Sound.
Varied materials used in similar conditions for measuring and analyzing stormwater runoff.
Water that previously flowed out of this pipe untreated now passes through rain gardens that filter it before returning to Puget Sound
Water collected in each zone for comparison
New and rental cars for summer tourists shipping up to Alaska.
Varied materials used in similar conditions for measuring and analyzing stormwater runoff.
Old metal chains leaching heavy metals into runoff
New and rental cars for summer tourists shipping up to Alaska.
Where the vehicles that load onto the boats stage.
Illustration of water passing through to be absorbed by soil, not funneled into Puget Sound.
Flat and sloped roofing samples that are being used in research to determine zinc and other metals leaching from rain
Tote owns and operates two ships weekly between Tacoma and Anchorage AK.
Tires are a big source of zinc pollution that reaches Puget Sound.
Cyrus and I have been working together on this story for PPRC Pollution Prevention Resource Center
Discussing the various research projects they have going on at the WA Stormwater Center.
Roofing samples intentionally leeching zinc into captured water for comparison.
At The Washington Stormwater Center at Washington State Uinversity Extension Center in Puyallup, WA.
Hustlers, cabs that pull trailers on and off of ships
Excited to share the new Pangeality Productions website. With gratitude to my friends who helped to make it happen, including Peter Levin who wrote the demo music and William Washington who helped bring the freshness. And to Michelle Kilmer of KilmerHansen who built the site.
I’ve been working for a while to bring it out and am feeling good about releasing it into the world. Welcome and enjoy, and thanks for your continued support of Pangeality Productions. – Len Davis
One of my favorite recent projects has been working with Scott Meyers of Sweet Grass Farm on Lopez Island here in NW Washington state. SGF is raising Kobe Wagyu beef, that is considered by local chefs and food writers to be some of the best beef in the world. I spent some time on the farm with Scott on 2 separate trips, both times shooting b-roll around the pasture, and speaking on such a wide variety of topics including water conservation, bovine terminology, grasslands management, seasonal care, birth and calving, slaughter, and so much more.
SGF mainly direct markets their beef, so the majority of their product goes to families in the region who they sell directly to with no middle man. They also sell to a few select markets and restaurants but the vast majority is straight to the consumer, where they don’t slaughter any animals who haven’t already been accounted for before hand. For me, this type of marketing video is the most clear expression of what Pangeality Productions is best at- giving you the ability to connect with your customers in an authentic voice, telling your story and sharing your values. Segments that came out of the project which SGF now uses in their marketing include The Best Steak Ever? Why I Call Myself a Farmer and Not a Rancher, What’s In a 30lb Box, and Ear Tagging and Selenium Injection. This is a short video that gives the best overview of the work I produced for Sweet Grass Farm, and here is a testimonial that Scott did for Pangeality Productions, discussing how this approach of creating a series of short videos that each stood as it’s own video worked to reach, educate and entertain their customers. We’ve still got another hand full of videos in the pipeline but these were the first set that Scott chose to roll out.
Spent a day this week filming at the Port of Port Townsend on a storm water project with Seattle based nonprofit PPRC (Pollution Prevention Resource Center). The project is about sharing best management practice regarding removing heavy metals from surface water before it drains into Puget Sound, our regional body of water, and with this site specifically at maritime facilities. Specifically zinc, is present in tires, roofing and siding, gutters, paint, fencing, pressure treated lumber and so many other materials and products found in a typical setting like this. Ironic that the material used to protect against the elements, in this case rust in the marine environment, is the main polluter. So the pollution sources are both the marine vessel maintenance and the on site buildings themselves. It was quite fascinating to learn about the port of Port Townsend being the only remaining DIY port in the state of Washington and the battle to maintain that character and access, which means allowing boat operators to work on their own boats in the facility 24/7. To my surprise that is apparently unheard of in this day and age and the battle to do so is both an importantly held value there, and a top reason for the presence of a high volume of heavy metals in their stormwater that they’re responsible for before it returns to sea. We spent most of the day with the environmental compliance officer whose role it is to police the work being done in the port, and make sure the rules and regulations are being enforced, specifically around things like whether people who are sanding their boats before painting have the proper vacuum attached to their sander to limit the airborne dust, where the toxic chemicals removed from the hulls of ships are draining to, as well as the installation of proper downspouts on the gutters of the port’s warehouse and maintenance buildings.
One sound bite that stuck with me from the interview with our host were the challenges of bridging the two worlds- that he had the credibility of having worked in the maritime trade for many years himself, but enforcing the environmental rules with a lot of salty dogs not too happy to have him around looking over their shoulders and ‘seeing those same guys at community BBQs and events in ‘a county of only 37,000 people’…
PCC (Puget Consumer Co-op) is turning 60 years old in 2014 and Pangeality Productions has been hired to produce the video celebrating this great legacy. What began in a household basement as a food-buying club of 15 families in 1953, is today the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the United States, with $200 million+ in sales last year at 9 Puget Sound area stores. The videos will combine a huge collection of archival footage, old newsletters and articles from local print media, membership cards from over the years, interviews with various people who’ve contributed to the success. I’ll also be shooting footage from a variety of their stores and operations, highlighting their farmland conservancy program, cooking classes and other community initiatives. PCC is opening new stores in Greenlake in June this year and in Columbia City in 2015.
Recently I filmed a great show of my friends in The Jefferson Rose Band, live at The Columbia City Theater. They call themselves ‘a world music dance party with hard hitting, bass-driven Caribbean, Spanish and African music laid on the roots of funk and reggae’. Jefferson and I met back in the mid 90’s when we’re were both attending Pitzer College and I’ve been a fan of his music all along. A few years back my wife and I stayed with him in Barcelona, arriving on Christmas day which included the karmic explosion evidenced in the video below, when I magically recovered over $10,000 worth of video equipment I’d accidentally left on a Barcelona subway. This is his band’s second album they’re recording, called Feel Like Dancing. Though I filmed the live show that generated the performance content used in the video, he created and edited the campaign video below, adding new voice over and delivering the pitch for the fundraising. You can catch them performing throughout the Pacific Northwest at festivals and other venues. Pangeality Productions has been filming live music and theater performances for the last decade, always at a reduced rate in support of the local arts community.
Recently I had the opportunity to do some interesting work with the City of Seattle Departments of Transportation, and Planning & Development. The work involved filming the presentations of software vendors who were finalists in an RFP to provide Seattle with its main software to these departments. Think everything from the person who handles the call noting an abandoned vehicle and dispatching the appropriate response, to an inspector in the field doing survey work around residential property lines and everything in between. From the online experience for Seattle residents to the entire back end of customer service, and all of the employees in between. It was a bit monotonous from a creative perspective but having received a BA in urban studies and always having been interested in how cities work it as fascinating. Plus I got to see the completely different styles of how the teams sold themselves and pitched their product to a room full of city employees from a variety of departments and layers of administration. The videos in the long run serve as both a legal binding document to complement the eventual contract as well as a reference point to revisit as necessary. The teams also often cited how their products were being adapted and molded to fit the needs of their clients that are other American cities.
I recently returned to Nepal for the 6th time in 20 years. Nepal has a special place in my heart after having studied there and learning the language for the first time in 1995. I subsequently spent time as a volunteer, working in tourism, teaching English, making movies and generally exploring this wonderful country.
This was my first time back in 5 years and though I was returning mostly as a tourist, I did manage to do some filming, with the goal of developing my DSLR skills. Typically for work I am shooting with my Panasonic HVX 200 camera that uses a very different approach, but in this case was working primarily with my Canon (though I did also shoot some video on my Flipcam and GoPro). I’d set a rather unrealistic goal of making a short documentary about Kathmandu. While the idea itself was very doable, I’d set out to take on a project that required more than the roughly 4 days of filming I’d given myself.
Traveling with an old friend, we’d spend most of the trip outside the capitol city in mountain villages, then a few back in the big city together. He left 5 days before I did and it was in that window that I’d planned to do the work. Needless to say, I made the mistake of scheduling a bunch of interview shoots, which all turned out to be great and well worth the time. But in doing do, I didn’t leave myself near enough time to shoot b-roll and wander, which ironically was so strange given it was that wandering unplanned shooting that really inspired me and brings me the greatest joy in the first place. That plus the emphasis I put on the DSLR side instead of the exploration and having fun which I should have kept as the focus.
With that goal guiding me, I’d connected with my friend Dan McComb, an excellent Seattle DSLR filmmaker about some gear to rent in support of my goal. I ended up renting a hot lens, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8, a Zacuto viewfinder, a microphone and a few other things. In the long run, there was a real part of me which wished I’d just gone for it with my Flipcam and not wasted any time trying to learn new gear. The main difference with the DSLR approach is for me that I’m used to running and gunning as a one man band, with built in audio, and limited variations. I’ve already mastered the gear I work with and know how to make things happen alone and on the fly. Not with my Canon.
So I shot a handful of great interviews with an urban planner, a cinematographer, a political writer, a DJ, a human rights worker, and a handful of others- mostly friends and friends of friends who I had connections to and loved all of those interactions. Those will each no doubt stand on their own as great interviews that I’ll share via YouTube and Vimeo but the main thread to hold it all together with beautiful chaotic visuals just wasn’t there cause I failed to make it happen. Good but frustrating lesson to have learned. I did shoot some additional videos with my flip cam, some sweet timelapses with my new GoPro, and some really great stuff with my Canon as well. The main challenge with the DSLR system is the need for everything to be on a tripod, which was antithetical to my random street shooting flow.
Here are a few random photo selections from the trip
In the heart of downtown
GoPro camera mounted on rickshaw handlebars
Passport photo collage at Sandwich Point in Thamel
GoPro mounted in Asan Tole, downtown Kathmandu
Kathmandu communication connections
Swayambu monkey drinking coke
My old language teacher checking out my videos
My old friend Anglakba making popcorn and tea one morning in the village
Anklakba, his wife daughter and grandchild
Navigating a high mountain road in the Helambu region