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Alicia East

Now more than ever, video crews need someone in their corner

Now more than ever, video crews need someone in their corner 150 150 Alicia East

“If there’s magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys, and detached retinas. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream nobody sees but you.”

Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris, Million Dollar Baby

Video crews have to be fighters. There’s no coasting. There’s no relying on someone else to pick up the slack if you have an off day. It’s just you—pounding the pavement with a load of gear on your back, facing off against competitors, keeping up to date on ever-changing technology and now, ensuring everyone’s safety with COVID-era safety measures, too.

It’s not enough to be a pro behind the camera. You also have to be an expert in marketing, finance, and interpersonal communications. Often, you just have to put your dukes up and act as your own advocate. It’s a lot to manage. That’s when it’s nice to have someone in your corner.

The best partner video crews can have

How much time would you free up if you could skip prospecting and fill your pipeline with desirable jobs? High-quality clients who understand the business realities of video production are hard to come by. Those who pay quickly are even harder. Time is money and clients and crews alike save both when they work with Crew Connection.

When you’re busy with work, the last thing you want to do is hound someone over an aging invoice. Crew Connection streamlines communication, cuts the red tape, and sends net 90 packing. Our crews are paid within 30 days—guaranteed.

COVID-19

This pandemic put production on hold for many video crews. Formerly busy production houses have had to adjust to the changing circumstances—by getting creative on existing projects, shifting their offerings, and adding safety measures. Running any business is hard and the pandemic just made it infinitely harder.

In boxing, you may be the one out there in the ring throwing punches, but there’s always someone in your corner. Now more than ever, video crews need partners to advocate for them. With a profile on Crew Connection, you get your very own marketing expert, sales rep, and accountant in your corner. And that’s worth a million dollars, baby!

How to make educational videos people actually want to watch

How to make educational videos people actually want to watch 400 300 Alicia East

No matter what their specialties were pre-pandemic, experienced video crews may see more opportunity to produce educational videos as we see schools, conferences, and other trainings and events shift more and more online. Be prepared to see more of your work shifting there, too. 

We’ve all had to suffer through our share of dry, stale educational videos. That means there’s a real opportunity to transform such pieces—to generate enthusiasm instead of eye rolls. 

We interviewed A. Troy Thomas, President and Owner of Inertia Films, about the special knack to produce something that does more than just convey the information. 

How to create educational videos that keeps viewers genuinely engaged, smiling, and clicking for more

What information do you need from clients in order to be most successful?

A. Troy Thomas: While we always need to get an idea of the technical details—the look, feel, style, platform, etc.—what we really need to be effective is to truly understand the audience and what makes them tick. That’s the first rule of effective communication.

We also want to know more about the person or company producing the video—how long they’ve been in business, what their culture is like, and what kind of project they want to produce. Beyond just the topic, we want to know what clients want to accomplish on a deeper level.   

What makes an educational video something people want to watch?

ATT: People like watching videos that present information in a new, uncommon way. Most want videos with creativity, color, relatability, music, and humor. Humor is big! As long as it’s appropriate for the content, making people laugh is a surefire way to engage them

What do you do when you know a client’s vision will bore the viewer?

ATT: We offer other options to creatively draw the viewer in but still get across the client’s ultimate message. The material is their world, but they don’t always know how to relay it. You have to go beyond the “what” with educational videos and get into why the audience should care. If they seem resistant to our suggestions, we sometimes provide examples of other videos with messaging similar to what the client has suggested and talk through what works or doesn’t work about that video. Giving them an example to start from makes it easier for them to start looking at how their own message comes across.   

What are some of the qualities of an engaging educational video? 

ATT: A video has to start with the basics of solid content, visual presentation, and creativity. Beyond that, it has to be relevant to the target audience.

Today’s audiences are used to fast-moving content. Use this knowledge to your advantage by incorporating appealing graphics, hiring dynamic presenters, and breaking up content into bite-sized chunks. 

Audiences want something creative and out of the ordinary. Make sure any critically important or unexpected information comes across clearly, but also respect people’s intelligence and think of fun, lighthearted ways to present content that people would generally take for granted anyway. 

Clients and editors must work in tandem to determine what designs and visuals will be most engaging. 

What’s the most common mistake that leads to a boring educational video? 

ATT: Simply providing the information in a standard, sanitized format is a surefire way to lose your audience. Even though the goal is to relay information, there’s a way to do it that makes audiences want to watch. 

The bottom line

Trying to produce a video that keeps audiences from falling asleep? It behooves you to go beyond pointing a camera at a talking head. Educational videos can be both informative and fun to watch. Crack that nut and you’ll never want for work.

A version of this post originally appeared on ProductionHub here. Conversation edited for brevity and clarity.

About Inertia Films, Atlanta, GA

A. Troy Thomas founded Inertia Films on a dining room table in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1993. Thomas moved headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia to leverage the post-Olympic boom in 1996 and then went on to add its first digital, post-production suite to facilitate in-house projects in 1999. From there, the company moved into a new production facility near downtown Atlanta. It includes two HD post-production suites, production offices, live shot capabilities, and a studio with Cyc wall. This award-winning company uses state of the art equipment on every shoot and continues to thrive in the film industry.  

About Crew Connection

Crew Connection puts experienced video crews and editors at your fingertips. In just a few clicks you can search, chat with, and book vetted crews local to your shoot—all on your own schedule. Sign up to find or become a crew on CrewConnection.com or call us at 303-526-4900.

Choosing the right lenses: What to rent, what to buy, what to avoid

Choosing the right lenses: What to rent, what to buy, what to avoid 2560 2560 Alicia East

Whether it’s framing as a storytelling device, the marvels of the latest gear, or the wonderful world of lenses, video professionals all have our areas we can geek out about. For Patrick O’Donnell of Eye to Eye Video, it’s the latter. His love affair with lenses started as a kid staring at catalogs and has now led him to a successful career as a tourist with better toys.

Here’s the 20-year veteran’s take on what lenses to use for what situations, what to buy versus rent, what mistakes to avoid, and how to be successful in the industry.

Alicia East: How did you get into this industry? 

Patrick O’Donnell: I had always wanted to be a still photographer growing up. I used to stare at photos in magazines with amazement and I knew that that’s what I wanted to do with my life— make amazing images. I also used to stare at photography catalogs and dream of owning all the lenses on the list. Some of them were $10,000 dollars! I wanted to know what it was like to put a lens that cost that much money on the front of my camera. My parents weren’t very supportive at first. They told me “A still Photographer? That’s not a real job!” They had very defined ideas about what jobs were. My mom was a teacher and my dad is a police officer.

“Still photographer” must have sounded really outside the box to them at the time.  But for some reason, they let me study Mass Communications and Radio at Towson University. I guess they listened to the radio and that made sense to them as a good career choice. They must not have realized then that images were everywhere in every medium and they didn’t equate that someone had to take those photos and got paid to do it. So I ended up taking Film 101 in between my radio classes at Towson with Professor Greg Faller and quickly found my passion. I was officially out of radio and into moving imagery. In high school I had taken a lot of photo classes, but it wasn’t until I took Greg’s class in college that I actually understood cameras and lenses and their importance to storytelling. Taking 24 pictures every second to compose a story, I was in love. I had such high regard for the power of a single image and still do, but this just fit, and telling stories with lenses quickly became my life.

AE: What lens do you use for which situations? Why?

PO: Every choice with a lens should be to serve the story. I shoot a lot of interviews and then shoot the subjects doing what they do. I really like wide angle lenses and if the locations are interesting I’ll use wide angle lenses to show them off. To get a close up I’ll move a wide lens in closer to the subject, always being careful not to distort them, and by doing this I can make a shot feel more intimate while also showing off a bit more of the environment behind them. This approach can make the subject’s world feel bigger and the lens is physically closer to them and that helps with the psychology of feeling closer to the subject, because you physically are via the lens. And it’s also important if the environment helps to serve their story.  20mm or 24mm are my favorites for interviews lately.

Of course it’s not always possible or appropriate to put a camera closer to the subject, and 50mm and 85mm are the standard portrait lenses for a reason. They are always the most flattering photographically to faces and they offer a greater separation from the background and can really help to isolate someone in their environment and give them enough room to let their story unfold.

AE: What are your go-to lens? Why? 

PO: My main lenses right now the Sigma 18-35mm and the 50-100mm, both are T2 cine versions. I treat them like variable primes. The flexibility to zoom in or out a little and still have a nice wide aperture has made for a perfect combination for me. Clients and subjects don’t always want to wait for a lens change, and more and more speed is required on set and it’s dictating lens choices. I find the Sigmas to be very sharp and fast, yet still economical.

I also use the Canon C-NE 18-80mm with a cine servo a lot. It’s slower at a T4, but offers great affordability and flexibility. When there isn’t time for a lens change and capturing coverage is more important than shot creation, it can cover just about anything quickly while still having great color rendition and sharpness. And for when the camera is on my shoulder all day, it’s light and fatigue is less of an issue. The Canon 17-120mm is a superior choice and I love it, but fatigue is a real factor during long days with it. Even with an Easy Rig, it’s a lot of weight. It weighs more than twice as much as the 18-80mm—not to mention that it’s four times the cost. After 20 years of holding a camera on my shoulder, my back now gets a say in the lens choice.

AE: What lenses are must haves even if you don’t use them often? Why? 

PO: As a documentary cinematographer, you need to be able to capture whatever is necessary to tell the story at any given time. This means a little bit of everything needs to be in your lens kit. No one can afford to have every special lens on hand at any time, but you’ve got to have enough to get by for when the surprise shot pops up from a producer or client, and they will all the time. Must-have focal lengths are everything from 16mm up to at least 200mm, and I believe in zooms. And then there are some specialties that can really help. A macro isn’t must have, but can really bring a lot to the table. Another is a super long telephoto. The Sigma 60-600mm has saved the day for me here and there when in need of a shot of a subject 200” away at a podium. You can’t always just move in for a close up.

AE: When do you rent and when do you buy? Why?

PO: Anything you use daily you should own, and you should buy the best you can afford and make money with while not sending yourself into debt. I learned early on when I was looking at the lenses in those photo catalogs as a kid that they are an addiction.  They are all so different and necessary that you’ll quickly want them all. It’s funny that those still photography lenses I was looking at back then are now available for and widely used on modern video cameras, but they lack some of the finer cine accommodations like a smooth iris or accurate focus markings. Even without those things, they can look great. Cine lenses usually are lot more expensive than still lenses and some cine lenses can cost over 100K! So I rent when a project calls for something special or when there is room in the budget. My Sigmas are great and I truly love them, but when the client is expecting more and is willing to put more budget into a project, I’ll go for it. I often consult with the production and show them why the story would be better with a certain rental choice. Sometimes the lenses need to be bigger, smaller, faster, longer, wider, or match a look that was previously shot. You can’t own them all… at least that’s what my bank tells me!

I recommend renting any lens before a major purchase and this will assure that you get exactly what you’re looking for and exactly what you need to get your stories completed.

AE: Have you ever regretted a lens purchase? Why? 

PO: I did have a regretful purchase. It was a used lens I had previously tried and I bought it from a guy on a web forum. It seemed to check out initially, but after some real world use I noticed that it was not 100% and it had a back focus/alignment problem. The seller denied any problems and also denied a refund. I had to send the lens in for a repair and it ended up costing just as much as it would have if I had bought it new at the end of the day.  Buying used is a great way to save some money, but you have to be careful. Be thorough and always buy from a reputable dealer or seller. Too good to be true is usually too good to be true. The bum lens is fine now, but the level of trouble was not worth the negligible savings and hassle.

AE: What is tops on your wish list? Why? 

PO: I want them all! But realistically I’ve got my eye on the new Angenieux EZ lenses. My primary camera has been and still is a super 35mm Sony PMW-F5, but I see the Sony PXW-FX9 in my near future and the main feature for me is its full frame sensor. Full frame hadn’t been a consideration when I first bought the Sigmas, which only cover super 35, but the world is changing to a bigger sensor and bigger is better, right?

The EZ line is made up of fast cine zoom lenses that cover a full-frame sensor and can also be outfitted with a zoom controller. The full frame combo of the two lenses cover 22-60mm and 45-135mm, which is a very similar focal length to my Sigma’s in S35.  It’s also a combo of focal lengths that I’m used to and comfortable with. Full frame means new lenses, and everyone likes new lenses, right? Well, everyone except my financial planner.

AE: Lenses have come a long way through the years. What do you think is next? 

PO: Autofocus could be a real game changer. I shoot a lot of very long interviews and most of the time I’m at a very large aperture to create a very shallow depth of field. This can sometimes make the task of keeping a mellow subject in focus very tedious, but a subject that moves a lot or is very animated can force you to stop down and change the bokeh of the shot to ensure that they remain in focus. For as long as I’ve been shooting, my advice to anyone about cameras was to turn off all the automatic controls. This may be over, because both Sony and Canon now have very professional and usable autofocus systems. Sony’s new system in the FX9 is called dual hybrid and utilizes both phase and contrast detection with stunning results. I’ll be following closely to learn which lenses have the best compatibility and dependability. I think autofocus could even bump the Angenieux EZs off the top of my wish list. I sense some lens testing coming.

AE: What advice do you have for people just getting into the business?  

PO: I have three pieces of advice to anyone just entering this industry:

Make yourself available if someone calls. The key to getting your foot in the door is entering the door when it opens.

Be on time. This is the most basic and best thing you can do. Production shouldn’t have to wait for you ever and not showing up on time is highly disrespectful and shows a lack of professionalism. In this industry you will need to build a good reputation and reliability and dependability should be your top priorities.

Listen to your instincts and be passionate about your work. I knew early on that I wanted to make images and I stuck with the path even though it seemed crazy to my folks. I made it work and even turned it into a great career. They can now see that I made a good choice for myself and that I have found this career path to be highly rewarding, engaging, and enlightening. I basically get to be a tourist, just with a much bigger camera, and I find myself getting access to people, events, and places that few get to see and experience firsthand. If you go down this path, throw yourself into it and enjoy the moments you get to capture and It’ll show on the screen. The gear is important, but the most important part of it all is a clear vision and a good dose of passion.

Once you build your arsenal of lenses, put them to good use with Crew Connection’s high-quality clients.

Note: Conversation edited for clarity and brevity. This article first appeared on ProductionHub here

About Patrick O’Donnell:

O’Donnell is Director of Photography at Eye to Eye Video based in the Washington DC area specializing in corporate, broadcast, and documentary video. O’Donnell has 20 years experience and is still learning new things every day. He works mainly in small crews of 2-4 people with him, audio, grip, and gaffer. He focuses mainly on feature stories and high-end interviews for Fortune 500 companies, major networks, and documentaries. Check out his demo reel for what all those awesome lenses can do.

Setting yourself up as an independent contractor

Setting yourself up as an independent contractor 2560 1707 Alicia East

If you’re ready to take the leap into working for yourself, you can save some hassle down the line by setting your business up the right way from the beginning. First things first: If you’re confused about whether you are/want to be an independent contractor or a gig worker, we define the difference here. If you’re sure it’s the independent contractor world you want to explore it’s a simple process if you know the steps. 

How Set Yourself Up as an Independent Contractor 

STEP ONE: Get set up

Choose a name and decide on the best form of business ownership (e.g. LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, etc.) for your situation. This will impact many things including taxes and your personal liability. For more info, visit
www.sba.gov/business-guide. Most states have unique license and permit requirements for business registration. This information is readily available online by searching “register a business in <your state>.”

No matter where you do business, you need to apply for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) here

STEP TWO: Protect yourself

Protect yourself and your business with insurance. Talk to your agent about General Liability and Workers’ Comp. General Liability protects you against claims for personal injury, property damage, associated legal fees, etc. Worker’s Comp pays for you and your employees’ medical expenses if they’re injured while working. Even if you don’t have employees, many companies require vendors to carry this coverage.

STEP THREE: Set up banking 

It will make your life eleventy billion times easier if you keep your business and personal finances separate. Set up your bank account and get any credit cards you need in your company name. 

STEP FOUR: Market yourself 

A great way to market your business is through a nice looking, informative website. You can hire someone to customize it or your can build your own. Visit www.godaddy.com for more information. 

STEP FIVE: Equip your business 

Independent contractors typically don’t use their clients’ equipment. You may already own everything you need. If not, consider leasing your equipment. 

STEP SIX: Manage your business 

Develop an Independent Contractor Agreement. Your larger clients will most likely require you to sign their own such document, but it never hurts to have your own. Either way, this is an important document. Click here to order a state-specific agreement, or do an online search for “independent contractor agreement example.”  Next, set-up an accounting system for invoicing and receivables tracking. Many independent contractors use Quickbooks or another DIY software to pay yourself and pay your self-employment taxes. You can also hire an accountant to do it for you. 

STEP SEVEN: Do something great

You did it. You’re in business. Now you can get busy contributing to the world in the ways only you can. Visit Crew Connection to see how we can help you fill your pipeline with high-quality work. 

Lights, camera, face masks: Video production during COVID-19

Lights, camera, face masks: Video production during COVID-19 600 450 Alicia East

Video people are some of the most resourceful on the planet. They can make a tripod out of a water bottle, block daylight with blankets and gaff tape, and simulate a rolling dolly shot with a shopping cart. Plus, they already carry a sherpa-load of gear, so adding a few sanitizing wipes and face masks to their essential gear list is no big deal. 

While we haven’t faced a challenge quite like a global pandemic before, every single crew knows what it’s like to make adjustments on the fly. We are no strangers to curveballs. The show, as they say, must go on. 

Production practices our Crew Connection video crews are adopting in the COVID-19 landscape

Limiting people on set

Much of production has to happen in person, but reducing the number is doable. For example, Yuki Uemura has producers ask questions remotely either by phone or teleprompter. The latter is especially helpful because it gives the talent a person to look at. 

Despite major advancements in the quality of footage, we’ve spent years fighting the battle to convince people that they can’t simply point their iPhone at something and get the quality they want. Still, a client’s self-filmed interview filmed on a phone can protect a lot of people. If a client goes this route, provide them with basic tips (film horizontally in a well-lit location, stabilize the camera on a surface at eye level, etc.) to ensure you get something you won’t mind putting your name on. Similarly, for b-roll, you can produce/direct remotely.

There’s a level of production that DIYers aren’t going to create with their cameras at home, but even primetime shows are scaling back production. Viewers understand and you can still deliver videos you feel proud of. Think of it as the acoustic version of your favorite song.

A cost/return analysis changes when the cost could be someone’s health.

Safety on set

For those who have to be on set, we can still cover the basics such as wearing face masks and gloves (except while being filmed), having plenty of hand sanitizer, taking scheduled hand-washing/equipment-sanitizing breaks, social distancing whenever possible, having individual catering boxes, etc. Most states, including Georgia, have compiled a list of best practices. Whenever possible, shooting outdoors while social distancing is an excellent option.

Equipment

It’s hard to beat a lav mic’s quality, but right now, switching to a boom is preferable. If you must use a lav mic, be sure to sanitize it well between use.

Much of the equipment that makes virtual production and/or social distancing easier on-set is in short supply at the moment. For example, we heard from Allen Rosen that a Black Magic piece “that will allow me to do Zoom, YouTube, or Facebook live from one of our field cameras” has been back-ordered for a month. He also reported that small, remotely-controlled webcams are hard to get right now. Apparently, gear that enhances distance filming is the toilet paper of our industry. 

Post-production

The fancy editing suites are nice, but damn, you can do a lot on a laptop. The fact that post-production lends itself well to working from home is one of the biggest blessings of our industry during the COVID-19 era. If “The Last Dance” can shift from their fancy-pants editing facilities to at-home production, you probably can, too. 

We’ll likely be turning to post-production even more than usual to simulate crowd shots or otherwise solve problems creatively. 

Larger productions 

This article talks about two larger-scale productions that moved forward with extra measures in places. “Katla” crew members wore color-coded armbands that dictated where they were allowed to be on set.

While instant testing would be even more helpful, the “Katla” team found daily temperature checks effective. The article noted, “Two crew members who went to the set with elevated temperatures wound up testing positive for Covid-19. They were both sent home to self-isolate for two weeks, and no one else became infected.”

What about the cost? 

The extras—from gloves and masks to individual catering and of course, new equipment—are going to mean some additional costs, but if the alternative is to halt everything or to wait indefinitely, those costs are justifiable.  

The crew (plus their families and a dog) of a Stephen King adaptation (also described in the above article) self-isolated in a remote farm town for the entire production. According to the producer, “The extra precautions added at least 20% to the initial $10 million budget,” but also made “this whole thing possible.” 

The cost to the environment is painful, too. Just as sustainability on set was starting to get some traction, productions have shifted to single-use makeup, individual boxed lunches, disposable masks/gloves, and more. Sorry, Mother Earth. 

Bottom Line

There is no roadmap for this, but we will get through it. And like everything these days, we’ll find some silver linings along the way. The best practices from the CDC as well as those specifically for video production provide more of a compass. Use that compass as your guide and adjust. Whether it’s figuring out how to balance homeschooling while working from home or making a DIY dolly, we know how to adapt. We’re creatives: It’s what we do! 

Find a crew following COVID-19-era best practices here. Crew Connection is standing by to help.

Pictured: Movie Mogul Productions on a PopSockets brand shoot.

10 ideas to put a social-distancing spin on Memorial Day Weekend

10 ideas to put a social-distancing spin on Memorial Day Weekend 2560 1745 Alicia East

Memorial Day Weekends of old boasted barbecues, parades, and oodles of red, white, and beer. The holiday recognizes those who have fought in the armed forces while also unofficially kicking off summer. This year is bound to look a little different even as restrictions ease up. Large gatherings, parades, and public fireworks displays are canceled. But you know what can’t be canceled? Kindness. The outdoors. Watermelon. We’ve got all that and more in our list of suggestions for how to celebrate and connect in a different way this year.

10 ideas to put a social-distancing spin on your summer kickoff

  1. Host a watch party with yourselves as the stars: You picked your friends for their shared sense of humor and values. Now’s the time to create entertainment only you and yours can fully understand. Use all your stupid inside jokes and shared experiences to create a mockumentary (like this one for the theater crowd), a commercial for a fictional product, or a music video. Decide ahead of time what the prize will be and how the results will be judged. Everyone should be encouraged to participate: Don’t let production value weigh too heavily in the judging. To get extra fancy and provide a space for all the snark you’d expect from your tribe, host a watch party. If you’d rather not create your own entertainment, conduct a poll and pick a favorite flick to watch “together.” Bonus if you make it 80s themed and add a costume party to the mix!
  2. Have a virtual experience: Everyone from The Bash to AirBnB is offering experiences you can take part in online. If ever there was a time to learn to do magic or cook Spanish tapas, it’s now! You’ve probably had a lot of hot dogs and watermelon in your life. Why not mix it up and go Greek for one of the most patriotic holidays around?
  3. Learn the history: I know I can’t be the only one who has celebrated a holiday without having any real idea why it exists, right? Whether you just want to find out for yourself or you want to turn it into a lesson for your kids, brush up on your Memorial Day trivia.
  4. Host a virtual game night: Incorporate all your new knowledge into a trivia night or coordinate your outfits (a must) for a round of Family Feud or Pictionary. You could also play some improv games like the one where you make up a story by taking turns adding one word or sentence at a time. This one is extra fun because kids can participate (likely with hilarious results) too. However you choose to virtually gather your tribe, have everyone throw in for a cash prize or something silly. I remember a long-expired jar of homemade pickles that made its way through white elephant gift exchanges for decades in my parents’ group of friends. Every year, it showed back up. I can still the seedy green slop now. You never know what beloved traditions could come out of this time.
  5. Virtual bake-off: In one of the most wholesome side effects of stay-at-home orders, people are suddenly baking all the things. Selfies in exotic locations have been replaced by bubbly sourdough starter in jars and glamour shots of crusty, drool-worthy loaves of baked perfection. Honor this new pastime with a doughnut or cake-making contest (if you can find some flour, that is) where everyone sends in a picture of the final product. Assign the judges (the younger the better) ahead of time and let all participants watch the judges’ live critique. Take the feel-good factor up a notch by having a $5 buy-in where the winners get to pick a charity to donate to. Thanks Krisi Olivero of Live. Laugh. Film. for this idea and for donating the winnings from your bake-off to Frontline Foods (a Colorado charity that donates meals to healthcare workers)!
  6. Take a vacation from electronics: I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but I do think we are leaning on technology now more than ever. After all of those virtual gatherings, spend a little time electronics-free. We’re all attached to our devices at the wrist, so it will be a worthwhile challenge. Go for a long walk. Grow something. Have a distraction-free conversation. Even if you think you have nothing left to talk about with those people you’ve been around 24/7 for the last 2.5 months, step into it. Sit with the discomfort of not having something to reach for and see what kind of magic comes from it.
  7. Take a road trip: There’s a weird phenomenon that happens the longer I live somewhere. Colorado was my home for most of my life, but when I was packing up to move, I mourned all of the many attractions that were always a drive away and on my “someday” list. Somehow the longer I live somewhere, the less likely I am to get out and see it. Because life. But with life as we know it on hold and the current state of air travel, now is the perfect time for a weekend road trip to some outdoor attraction where you can still practice social distancing.
  8. Teach your kids (even the littles!) to make their own breakfast: I’ll be tackling this challenge this weekend with my 4-year-old at the helm, her little brother in tow, and the newborn in a carrier. And then, with a little luck, I will move on to one of my most prized holiday weekend activities: a nap.
  9. Make the food anyway! Of course, like so many holidays, food takes center stage at most Memorial Day celebrations. Take advantage of cooking for a smaller crowd! Instead of lining up a bunch of generic patties on the grill, up the ante with some extra special burgers: think homemade sauces and caramelized toppings. There are some stellar vegetarian options, too! And what’s Memorial Day without watermelon? There’s something for everyone—from the vegans to the meat lovers—at this Memorial-Day-themed Food and Wine page. Wash your hands a lot while you cook and then deliver some baked goods to a neighbor. Bonus if they’ve served in the military!
  10. Share a thank you card or video: Along the same lines, take a little time to thank someone who has served in the armed forces—whether they’re close to you or just an acquaintance. Some people are really suffering during this time and the little acts of gratitude can do a lot for recipients as well as givers.

Bottom line

I’ve heard from a lot of friends that they’re getting back to some of the simple pleasures of life—sitting down to a meal as a family, dance parties in their PJs, and growing something under the warm summer sun. Get outside, eat some food, and enjoy your family or the quarancrew of your choosing. You may find yourself a little slower to jump in on “business as usual” even when the opportunity comes back around. From our Crew Connection team, where you can find the best video crews – take time to enjoy the long vacation!

4 alternatives to screen time while sheltering in place with kids

4 alternatives to screen time while sheltering in place with kids 610 345 Alicia East

Pre shelter-in-place, I was one of the irritatingly-principled parents who seriously limited screen time to special occasions like a quarterly family movie night. Admittedly, I also found it useful here and there when I noticed smoke from an overcooked bird cascading out of the oven or it felt like the whole house was going to crumble into a heap around me as a result of the sheer volume inside it. In this new reality, as a working parent with 3 littles (all 4 and under), I feel the constant temptation to put the older two in front of a screen so can get a little time in front of mine. I am very grateful for the various sizes of square babysitters I can turn to at any moment. 🤷🏻‍♀️

It’s not all about me though. I want my kids to become fully-functioning human beings with the capacity to do something productive with their boredom, energy, and creativity. Also, I’m fairly confident they’ll still benefit from knowing how to read in our new reality.

3 WAYS TO MAKE THE DAYS A LITTLE MORE ORDERLY, HAPPY, AND PRODUCTIVE—FOR KIDS AND PARENTS ALIKE

  1. Make a plan the night before. My husband and I used to have a nightly routine of packing lunches and bags for the following day. We’ve replaced that with planning activities and deciding which blocks of time we will each cover with kids or work, respectively. We never follow the plan exactly, but it sure does help to have a guideline. Since our daughter is learning letters, we start the day by spelling out a word (our theme for the day) with magnetic letters. The younger one identifies the color of the magnets. I have noticed the kids are actually happier when we have a structure (even if it’s a loose one) instead of letting the day just run itself.
  2. Cook together: We enjoy this Kids Cook Real Food program to support cooking together in the kitchen. Yes, you can just wing it, but I have found the structure of this very helpful since my kids are small and need to be guided carefully rather than just set loose with a knife. It also provides guidance for working with multiple age/skill levels at one time so you can be in the kitchen with toddlers (no joke!) all the way up to older kids. I love that it gives them some independence in the kitchen and motivates them to be participants rather than just recipients at mealtime.
  3. Garden: As we mentioned last week, gardening is having a moment. Between sparse grocery store shelves and more time at home, people are growing food for food’s sake as well as for therapeutic reasons. Why not get the kids involved? Of course they love to water the plants, but you can take it further with activities they will learn from, too. This online resource is geared specifically toward kids.
  4. Water day: Each of the above requires your full attention. A water day, on the other hand, is a great option because a) kids love it; b) some water activities are independent enough that you might be able to catch up on some communication or just get a moment to think; and c) it sets them up for a very long nap. And nap times are more valuable than gold right now.

BOTTOM LINE

I realize that every person’s situation is different. Some are still working the front lines or don’t have a partner to share the load. And some will have to let the screen be the babysitter just to be able to keep feeding the babies. Whatever your situation is, I hope you’ll be patient with yourself and those around you.

As long and trying as this time seems, we will never get it back. Yesterday, my son woke up from his nap and said, “I need some snuggling.” It was a rare moment with just the middle child while the other two were sleeping. I had things to do, sure. I always do. But I left my phone in the other room and sat with him. I told my restless legs–which threatened to carry me away–to be still. I told myself: This 2-year-old in your arms is not an obstacle to all you have to do: Being with him is all you have to do in this moment. So I was. And sure enough, a short time later, he was wriggling out of my arms and on to the next thing. I’m just glad I wasn’t the first one to move on. During this shelter in place, I am determined to look back and know that I did what I could to provide shelter (haven, security, love) for those in my care.

3 new skills to learn for a new reality

3 new skills to learn for a new reality 2500 1667 Alicia East

We can only guess what things will look like on the other side of this. And for me, I can’t spend too much brain space guessing. Not only has my history of predicting the future not proven very accurate, it also takes energy and time away from what’s in front of me in my actual world.

What we do know is that some things simply won’t be the same. Even as restrictions ease up in some places, the virus is still raging and the world is still changing. Some of the changes will stick. Doctor Fauci recommends ending handshaking permanently, for example. The business world was already moving rapidly toward telework and online interaction. Now, you might say it’s Zoom-ing there even quicker.

So what can we do right now to prepare for what’s ahead? The combination of being home more often and navigating a changing world makes now a great time to learn a skill for the new normal. We’ve identified 3 that will serve you well in both business and health.

These 3 skills set you up to adapt to a changing world

Podcasting

As a fairly new medium that democratizes the process of getting heard, it’s been compared to the blogging of 15 years ago. Major bonus during a pandemic: You can podcast from home without fancy gear, other people, or permission from anyone. Also like blogging, podcasting likely won’t be a big money-maker in itself. But if you can get established and find your niche, you can build a platform for your work and products. And a platform? Well that, of course, is invaluable.

I learned the basics–and met some great people virtually–with Seth Godin’s podcast fellowship. It was affordable and got me started with the basic foundational technical knowledge and necessary equipment. It can be as simple as a computer (had it) and a headset (30 bucks). The website says it will be offered again but there are similarly-priced courses available elsewhere. If you want to make a career of producing podcasts, you may want to invest in something that goes deeper. If you’re ready to drop nearly 3K, consider The Podcast Engineering School which will take you deep into the finer points. Keep in mind that you may end up racking up the tab on the other tools of the trade. Think mixers, boom mics and more.

Cyber Security

Hackers and scammers are not new, but their tactics evolve to every new situation. They’ll come after your credit card info, your identity, and your stimulus money. They can seriously blow your life up. Rest assured (?), if it can happen to Equifax, the government, and Zoom, it can surely happen to you. Becoming a security expert is good for your own financial world, of course. In addition, being able to offer security advice to your clients or employer makes you that much more attractive. Whether or not you’re consulting as a security expert, just being savvy enough not to fall for a scam (like this one, which took a Shark Tank judge for nearly 400K) could save your job and reputation. Udemy offers The Complete Cyber Security Course: Hackers Exposed, along with a boatload of other courses to solve nearly any business challenge.

Gardening

While you may not think it’ll directly benefit your work, knowing how to garden feeds mind, body, and soul, which pays dividends in every other area. It also helps the environment and ensures you can put food on the table even when the supply chain gets interrupted. P.S. You can’t work if you can’t eat.

You can learn about gardening in any number of ways and many of them are free. It’s also a rabbit hole you could spend your life getting lost in. As a gardener with a couple of years (and a million google searches) under my belt, this particular course by Ron Finley (the gangster gardener) has really piqued my interest. I mean, the man calls air “gangster as f%#k.”

Your investment in Masterclass also gets you access to everything from basketball to acting. You name a skill, it’s probably there. And it’s taught by, well, a master. Even if you don’t plan to become a professional tennis player, you might enjoy learning about it directly from Serena Williams. Surely some insight from one of the greats will benefit you and enrich your life.

Bottom line

Netflix and home haircut tutorials can only take so much of your time. If you’re ready to be mentally stimulated instead of just entertained, there are endless opportunities. What skills have you taken the time to learn with all this extra time at home?

Time to get outside and grow some stuff!

Time to get outside and grow some stuff! 2560 1920 Alicia East

You’ve baked a cake from scratch. You’ve lost too many hours of your life to Tiger King. You have a jar of sourdough starter on the counter. You know what it’s time for? Something (anything) outside. You could take advantage of this rare period of time when you’re not driving through the Chick-fil-a on your way to soccer practices and take a walk with your quarancrew. Do it in a place where you can keep practicing social distancing, though! You could forage for mushrooms (but only after educating yourself on the subject, please). Better yet: you could grow some food in your yard, on your patio, or even on your counter!

If you’re thinking about producing some of your own food, you’re not alone. Some seed companies are short on stock and local nurseries are running out of starter plants. There are still options though and you don’t even need a traditional garden with rows or some ambitious plan to feed your family for a year. Even people with a small patio or simply a sunny windowsill can produce a satisfying crop at home.

Here are 5 ways to produce your own food (even without a big yard).

  1. Raised bed plots: This is a great option to get you outdoors and growing a few goodies with minimal investment of time and energy. You can grow a surprising amount of food in a 4×4 plot and you don’t even have to tear up your yard. If you find you love it, you can add new plots next year. Here’s an intro to the method of Square Foot Gardening.
  2. Potted porch plants: Without any yard at all, you can grow some herbs, greens, and maybe even a few tomato plants right on your back porch or patio. Herbs are a great place to start because they cost so much in the store and go bad quickly once harvested. Growing your own means you can step outside for a breath of fresh air and come in with a handful of aromatics. Bonus: you’re less likely to forget about something you see regularly than a plot in the corner of your yard. No porch? We got you, too! 👇
  3. Sunny windowsill: Some plants–especially herbs like basil and mint–thrive without the traditional requirements. To avoid disappointment, look for varieties that do well indoors before you buy.
  4. Indoor growing systems: You can invest in a system like this one with lights and the capacity to grow dozens of plants at a time or you can get a small tabletop aquaponic system to grow some greens and entertain your kids at the same time. The large systems require a big upfront cost and regular nutrients, but the big bonus is that you can do this year-round. The small systems aren’t especially economical for the amount of food you get, but some say the experience is priceless. Plus right now, Back to the Roots is offering 30% (code LOVEMOM30) off with a mother’s day special.
  5. Indoor/outdoor fruits: We saved the most ambitious for last. Even if your climate isn’t known for growing fruit, you may be able to grow fruit trees in pots. Many of these grow well indoors most of the well and benefit from being outside during summer months.

This is admittedly a departure from our usual topics, but after weeks of hunkering down indoors, Crew Connection felt it was time to talk about doing something (anything) outside. (Of course, if you need to contact a video crew, give us a call!) While a big perk of gardening is of course the good clean food you’ll harvest, it also carries the bonus perks of helping you get a little exercise. Whether you’re concerned about food security or simply want to have the yard you’ve dreamed of, now is a good time to get out and grow some stuff.

A Message from Crew Connection

A Message from Crew Connection 814 429 Alicia East

We’re all hurting

From crews in Alaska to clients down under, we’re in touch with people around the globe. One thing has become clear through our communications: We’re all hurting right now. The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by individuals, families, professionals, and companies across the globe.

We will make it through

Despite the challenges, our communities are resilient. Crew Connection brings people together. Our network of crews tells stories, reports news, and pushes limits with original content. While our location scouts are not very busy, our editors are still humming along. Our producers are planning the next impactful project and our Coordinators are on hand – ready to help with your live streams.

We’re here for you

We have strengthened our relationships with our at-home workforce of editors, motion graphics designers, and producers. We have our finger on the pulse of local permissions that allow news crews to get out there. As you navigate the challenges of COVID-19, please reach out with any questions and concerns. During times of crisis, people turn to the media for information, comfort, and entertainment. Crew Connection and our experienced video crews are and will continue to be here for the artists around the world who are creating and informing our global community.

Stay safe and healthy!