Our camera crews haven't started wearing pedometers yet, and our cafeteria campaign to push green leafy vegetables still has a few holdouts. But nevertheless, we're proud of our small role in the War on Obesity.
Tune into the season premiere of NBC's The Biggest Loser tonight!
Our crews shadowed the Boston contestants for part of their journey, and we have no qualms admitting that we will be playing favorites as we root on all of the "Loser" hopefuls this year.
Here's a sneak preview of what to expect:
What does the historic Mayflower ship and Sam Adams brewer Jim Koch have in common?
Both are prominently featured in the pilot of The Beer Traveler, our new series-in-development celebrating the world's most fascinating beer cultures, destinations and traditions.
The Traveler, a.k.a. two-time North American "Beer Writer of the Year" Kerry J. Byrne, is shown below sampling some fresh hops with Mr. Koch at his research and development facility.
Sam Adams pays homage to the brews of Colonial America, but if we go back a century further, the Pilgrims' love for beer might surprise you.
Many people associate the first settlers of Plymouth with those traditional Thanksgiving foods -- some of which were not even part of the original feast. What few realize is that the crew and passengers of the Mayflower drank beer as their primary source of hydration (water quickly went rancid) and that even young Pilgrim children consumed massive quantities.
The Mayflower crew actually chose to land at Plymouth when their beer supplies were getting too low. Unfortunately for them, growing hops was extremely challenging and it would take a decade until they figured out how to make beer in the New World.
Here the Beer Traveler clinks drinks and shares stories with the legendary Gov. William Bradford:
To learn more about The Beer Traveler, click here. Where should our camera crews go next?
For those of you who forget birthdays and anniversaries, the Rubik's Cube turned 30 this year -- and our camera crews were in Manhattan to celebrate with some of America's rising stars in puzzle resolution.
Most of us on the Award Productions creative team consider the Cube a pivotal toy from our childhoods, so it was an absolute honor to witness a competitive tournament.
It was also a bit humilating to see the kiddies solve the Cube in mere seconds. Because we have no formal training in the Rubik Arts, it can take many of us hours to reach completion. (For the record, we do have formal training in video editing, shooting, producing, writing and graphic design).
Back in our wonder years, we recall the strategy of forcing one cube block to pop out and then having a pile of Rubik's pieces to rebuild like LEGOs. You could always tell the cheaters because their Cubes were always loosely rattling from having been taken part too often.
Check out these brilliant kids:
Turns out that there is also another kid who can do it blindfolded.
And if that isn't impressive enough, check out these amazing artists who craft mosiac murals out of disassembled Rubik's Cubes!
Perhaps there is no other group of people who are more stereotyped than the American cheerleader. You've heard all the remarks before. Perhaps you've even helped to spread them. Cheerleaders are all looks, no brains. Cheerleaders are snobby and superficial. Cheerleading is just a way to get guys to look at you.
Just the mere question "Were you ever a cheerleader in high school?" comes with heavy insinuations and baggage. See any episode of "Glee" for clarification.
"Blood Sweat & Cheers," our documentary film about the subculture of competitive cheerleading, takes a step away from this universe. The Pop Warner girls are still somewhat insulated from the inevitable pressures of dating and the sexual connotations that the uniform carries at an older age.
The film is aimed at a general audience, particularly at parents who place a high value on the character lessons of youth sports. We went into the film assuming the world of cheerleading was a casual activity like taking tap dance lessons or aerobics. We wrapped up our year viewing these girls as having the same kind of dedication and drive as Olympic athletes.
So it's extremely gratifying to get the stamp of approval from the cheerleading community.
In the latest issue of American Cheerleader Magazine, writer Alison MacQuarrie praises BSW for its gripping portrayals of long practices, self-disciplinary challenges, injuries, team comaraderie and meeting fan expectations. We are absolutely flattered by the sports movie comparisons she makes to support her endorsement:
"For every mainstream sport, Hollywood has produced some sort of heartwarming drama about a team’s emotional journey to the championships. Basketball has Coach Carter, Hockey has Miracle, Football has Friday Night Lights and the list goes on. Of course we couldn’t forget about the classic Bring It On
series—which drew people of all types and opened the public’s eyes to the gravity-defying acrobatics that cheerleaders perform.
But as entertaining as Bring It On is, its light and comedic storyline still puts it in a different category than deeply inspirational movies like Remember the Titans.
Ever since I started cheerleading I’ve been waiting for a television show or movie that takes you behind the scenes of a competitive squad to show cheerleaders’ hard work and true athleticism that is often overlooked. Finally, Blood, Sweat & Cheers has done just that."
...The story keeps you on the edge of your seat when the squad faces injuries and other obstacles as they pursue a national title under intense pressure. After witnessing the girls’ hard work, ambition and yearning to win, as well as the support and involvement of their families and teachers, it’s almost impossible not to root for Burlington."
Thanks to Alison and American Cheerleader Magazine for such a spirited endorsement!
The special limited edition DVD of "Blood, Sweat & Cheers" is now available at CheerleadingFilm.com or at Amazon. (See the movie trailer HERE!)
One of the bonuses of working as part of a camera crew is the opportunity to sample gourmet cuisine at the end of the shoot. Oh, it doesn't always happen. Many a time, our camera crews live on Powerbars and Gatorade.
But producing how-to cooking demonstration videos -- such as this assignment for New Hampshire Magazine -- is always a pleasure.
What can we say? Folksy restauranteur Jim Borbotsina's classic Saganaki dish melted in our mouths and got us hooked for life. The Greek delicacy is "Flaming Cheese," and the kitchen theatrics is half the fun.
Do you have a product or service you'd like to promote in a how-to or demonstration sales video? It need not involve either fire or cheese, but if it does, expect our camera crews to stick around a little longer off the clock!
(Jim Borbotsina serves up Saganaki and a variety of Greek/Italian specialties at The Way We Cook restaurant in Manchester, NH. Download a free copy of the Saganaki recipe here).
Great news for fans of NBC's hit reality show "The Biggest Loser."
Viewers will be able to cheer on contestants from the Boston area when Season 10 begins in the fall. Award Productions recently had the pleasure shadowing the local hopefuls as they began their adventure in shedding the pounds.
We're looking forward to rooting for "our" contestants in September. Stay tuned here for details as soon as they are released...
Whenever our camera crews and producers are working out of the office, one of the most stressful parts of the day is trying to agree on just one take-out restaurant to provide lunch.
During this documentary video shoot about herbal medicine in the South Pacific jungles of Vanuatu, there were no such arguments. The choices were coconuts, tarot root and whatever animals happen to be killed that day. Killed in front of you.
We have tremendous respect for vegetarians, but we deliberately didn't send any on this assignment.
Cameraman Peter Koziell almost looks like he's ready for some Rocky Balboa-style training with raw meat. However, we typically train with DVD and on-line tutorials when it comes to learning the nuances of new video production technology.
Whether you need to travel around the world, or just next door, to tell your story, our HD camera crews are used to delivering the goods on tight deadlines.
Drop us a line to share your upcoming projects and your advice on lunches everyone can agree upon.
Joe White, executive producer of our Emmy-nominated documentary "Beyond Kitty Hawk," was just recently honored with the coveted President's Medal by the Aero Club of New England (ACONE).
ACONE is the oldest aero club in the Americas, predating the first Wright Brothers flight, and is globally renowned for its efforts to promote aviation history and educate the public about the value of general aviation.
White, a recreational pilot, oversaw production of our "Kitty Hawk" film and dedicated it to the unsung heroes who helped advance flight technology from the invention of the airplane to the Space Age.
Besides appreciating this well-deserved recognition by his professional peers, we candidly think this medal is one of the coolest-looking awards we've ever seen. Medals have an Olympian aura, far more than a traditional plaque or trophy.
As in many professions, having eight arms would certainly make life easier in the world of television and video production -- especially when we are at the airport. However, based on this amazing footage taken by a kleptomaniac octopus off the coast of New Zealand, we're sticking with human cameramen.
At the risk of sounding judgmental, the footage from this octopus is a bit too shaky and randomly scattered for our tastes. If he or she (how do you tell the gender of an octopus) truly wanted to capture the scene, we would have seen some wideshots and closeups of the diver chasing after his precious camera.
We do have tremendous admiration for the diver, Victor Huang, who was not intimidated by the ocean beast and fearlessly chased after his equipment despite the octopus' obvious superiority in swimming and upper body strength.
It's the kind of never-ever-quit attitude that would make him a great fit on the Award Productions creative team.
The price of HD camera equipment has dramatically dropped over the past few years as the quality has significantly risen. Consequently, there are hardly any barriers anymore to making a documentary film -- except, of course, the all-encompassing time and money.
Student filmmakers are blessed with unlimited time, but naturally lack experience. Here are a few tips for those of you about to take the plunge into your first documentary film:
1. Get out of Talking Head Land as soon as possible. Sit-down interviews are fine for background and to string together missing pieces of your narrative. BUT, if you happen to be following your subject for an extended period of time, try to get a series of shorter interviews with them commenting on events IN THE MOMENT.
2. Creatively Frame Your Interviews. Getting people sitting in a chair with a lamp or books in the background provides boring visuals, regardless of how fascinating the material is. If you have a scientist, interview him in a lab and frame the shot with beakers. If you are with a yoga instructor, have her sit on a giant rubber ball. Be creative but not goofy.
3. Start living with your subjects. There are two schools of thought on this, and some filmmakers warn about the dangers of becoming "friends" with your film's characters. We say that you can always be "friendly" without ever dropping your role as an outsider, as an observer.
If you are documenting the lives of a construction worker, a politician, a daredevil or a paramedic, what do they do when they are not on the job? Just shooting some token b-roll of them having breakfast with their family doesn't do it for us. Put an HD flip camera in your pocket and go socialize with your subjects. Soon, they'll lose the distinction from when the camera is turned on or not. And you'll capture the most precious stuff of all.
Good luck! Documentary filmmaking is all about spending countless hours waiting for stuff to happen, with the hopes of getting a few minutes of footage that viewers will never forget. Your patience will pay off in dividends.
(At Award Productions, we've made six documentaries -- one which was nominated for an Emmy, four which premiered on PBS, and one that was optioned as a reality TV pilot for Country Music Television. Check out a few of our select documentary clips.)