Another September 11th

AU's 9/11 Memorial 
A couple of weeks ago I visited my alma mater, Wesley College in Dover, Delaware, for the first time since the year I graduated. 

I was a senior on September 11th, 2001, on my way to class when I walked through the commuter lobby and saw a burning tower on the TV's. It had been a hard morning for me already: on the drive in from my rural neighborhood, a bird smashed into my windshield. Blood was everywhere. 

I hadn't slept the night before, anxiety, restlessness, and back pain kept me up. None of that is too memorable, but the emotions that followed made a permanent imprint. 

Few showed up for our early class, and we were there for several confused minutes before school was canceled and campus closed. 

Classes streamed out into the street, and we whipped out our early model cell phones (pre-text messaging) to call loved ones in the New York area, or anywhere at all. 

Before all the circuits jammed, I was able to speak with a friend working in the Diamond District. Though he was far enough away, he's Arab-American, so I worried more. (We had watched The Siege together in South Jersey just a few years earlier.)

For the next three days, I sat in my pajamas, inconsolable, and watched CNN. I lost my job waiting tables at a country club. Finally, my roommate turned the TV off and peeled me off the couch. 

That led to my news blackout for the next several years. Despite being a student of media, I was not immune to the profit-driven media overtaking my emotions in lieu of providing actual information. Bad media is more than just mindlessness: it creates fear, misinformation, and wars. 

Eventually, I found my way into news so that I could be a part of the solution. As I sit here now just outside of Washington, D.C., I continue to work towards that goal. 


More Interviews with Lonnie Martin

Lonnie's first coffee in Prague. Swiped from Facebook without permission. 
Lonnie Martin landed in Prague yesterday as part of AU's study abroad film program at FAMU. The rest of our classmates who are spending the semester abroad with him are on their way.  
Excerpt from David A. Cook's A History of Narrative Film

So it's a good time to post the rest of our interview. In part four, we talk about the making of Women's Studies and dealing with negative feedback. 

In part five, Lonnie talks about film festivals, rookie filmmaking mistakes, and the business of filmmaking. 

In the final segment, Lonnie talks about his ideal situation being "just enough to get by" and we wrap it all up. 

Check out Lonnie's Prague blog, hosted by Great Society. Prague updates on my blog to follow, so we can all live vicariously. 


The Future Was Wide Open

As I gear up for my second and final year of film school, I am already fearful of not being able to find a job. In the meantime, I'm trying to stay up on this industry that's changing as quickly as the technology that makes it all possible. 

I just came across a darling six-part short film series that was created by an ad agency to market laptops for Intel and Toshiba. (My anti-consumer stance and desire to get paid to tell visual stories are having a stand off.) 

"The Beauty Inside" featured the company's laptops but it was more than an ad. It starred actors Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Matthew Gray Gubler, and had a social media component with auditions held on Facebook. The episodes vary in length, from 4:45 to 9:38 minutes. 

Last month the series won a Daytime Emmy for "Outstanding New Approach to Original Daytime Program or Series," the first to beat out a televised program. It also garnered three Grand Prix Awards at 2013 Cannes Lions, a prestigious festival that celebrates creative works in the field of advertising and communications.  

This week "House of Cards" was nominated for 14 Emmy Awards, which the Washington Post reported as "a watershed moment for video content," in terms of how awards have been handled in the past. The article mentions that in 1999, it was a big deal when "HBO's "The Sopranos" became the first series not carried on broadcast television to be nominated for best drama." 

But with the ever-consolidating media, I take this as a good sign. New companies, new opportunities for innovation and outlets for creativity. 



Horror Movies as Social Commentary: an interview with Lonnie Martin

Women's Studies is an independently-produced horror/satire about feminist ideals gone wrong that Lonnie Martin made in 2010. It was his first feature film.  

Co-produced by and starring his wife Cindy Marie MartinWomen's Studies got a decent amount of press back when the video was released.

But nothing like the amount of hits their website and Youtube pages got a couple of months ago when Jezebel posted the trailer and a barbed blurb, which set off ridiculous internet insult-slinging. They didn't even reach out to him for comment. 


Had I not known Lonnie personally, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it all. Just another white dude making movies with chicks making out.  

However, since befriending Lonnie in a film theory class at American University earlier this year, I already knew him to be a thoughtful feminist and talented storyteller. 
So I wanted to give him a voice here. We had a long audio interview a couple of weeks ago. Here's the first set: 

In the first part, Lonnie talks about his screenplays leading up to Women's Studies, and introduces his dream project, Maynard Comes Back, a horror anthology. 

In the second part, Lonnie discusses the old school horror of George A. Romero and connects the "torture porn" of Saw to the social anxiety of real life torture uncovered in the Abu Ghraib scandal.    


Wombmates #dc48hfp

The weekend before our final term paper of our first year of graduate school was due, half my film school class procrastinated by signing up for the 48 Hour Film Project, a contest where you make a movie in two days or less. 

Our entry was Wombmates. Though we didn't win, we were nominated for best short. It was a pleasure seeing it on AFI's big screen (twice!) and listening to the other filmmakers & viewers laugh as they watched.  

But also, it one last big team effort before 1/3 of the cohort goes away to Prague for the fall semester. Good work, team. 

Wombmates from Matthew Lucas on Vimeo.


How Do You Get Your News?

Guess which DC museum is my favorite. 
A very smart but ill-informed friend told me earlier this week that he feels disconnected from the world since he doesn't have a regular news diet. 

He asked where I go to keep up, and what outlets he should check out on a daily basis. 

Because he works in finance, I recommended the Wall Street Journal (duh!). Even though I'm not particularly business savvy (yet), I'm especially interested in the health, media & tech industries. But I also like the WSJ for its multimedia website, stellar foreign reporting, and crazy A-heds.  

Also, look to the leaders of whatever industry you're in and read what they read. This is a great clip of Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger & Bill Gates discussing their news consumption habits. (Buffett reads five: his local newspaper, the Financial Times, WSJ, the New York Times, and USA Today; Munger likes The Economist.)   

Since I've been in grad school I haven't been able to keep up with the news much, so I rely on my ever-evolving Twitter newsfeed & lists to give me the headlines from 1,000 or so of my favorite journalists, like Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman, Canadian public health reporter AndrĂ© Picard, and Sarah van Gelder of Yes! Magazine

I like NPR's app because I have several favorite member stations, like DC's WAMU, Seattle's KUOW, and the small but rad WPSU out of Penn State. 

Since it's summer break and I have more time to read, I use my school subscription to browse a gazillion newspapers via Library PressDisplay.

It's like my own private Newseum. 

But my favorite source by far is Washington Journal, C-SPAN's daily call-in show. Every morning its hosts go through the big stories in the major papers, and the guests always include a slew of journalists.

This morning one of the guests was Yahoo! News political reporter Chris Moody. 
He spoke about the business of web reporting (seriously, who needs j-school? Just watch a ton of C-SPAN). 


Another topic of today's show asked viewers how they get their news. A caller commented that C-SPAN is her main source because she doesn't have to worry about a bias or slant. She can watch and "hear it from the mouth of the individual” politician or public figure, and make up her own mind about what's happening. 

Same reason I like C-SPAN. I stream it online almost every day, several times a day, and listen to the app during my commute or workouts. 

My friend's inquiry made me curious about where my most informed friends get their news. I started with Creative Loafing's news & politics editor Mitch Perry, one of my first editors back when we were both with the WMNF Evening News

Mitch does the work of three people, never sleeps, and his weekly recycling bin could fill a small library. He sent me his reading list via email: 
I begin my day (actually in the middle of the night) by reading as much as possible. ALL of the New York Times; US, World, Arts, opinion, sports.  
Then at my front door in the morning are copies of the Tampa Tribune, Tampa Bay Times and USA Today. Occasionally I'll pick up a Wall Street Journal, and a couple of days a week, a New York Post (guilty pleasure).  
At work before I write I read the Sayfie Review (an aggregate of Florida political stories), the Drudge Report, Salon, RealClearPolitics. Later in the morning I'll go check out Slate and JimRomenesko, with occasional searches on The Daily Beast, Talking Points Memo, National Review, The Hill and Roll Call (depending on how busy I am). 
I don't subscribe to New York Magazine so I go online on Monday to download my favorite stories there. I also subscribe to the New Yorker, Time, Sports Illustrated, New York Observer, Columbia Journalism Review, The Atlantic, Entertainment Weekly...and I think that's it. 
Also following Twitter, which often sends me to places unknown.....Sometimes I don't reach all those places either, depending on if I'm at my desk all day or not.

Slacker! On Facebook I caught up with Caitlin Constantine, the senior web content editor at Bay News 9, (and a former CL intern) who can give Mitch a run for his money: 

Pretty much every morning I scan the front page of the NYT website and I listen to NPR's All Things Considered and/or Morning Edition. If I am running late to work, I will also listen to the BBC

As part of my job, I read the Tampa Bay Times and I also check out the Bradenton Herald and the Ledger. I rarely watch TV news even though TV news is my job, although sometimes I do watch more opinion-oriented shows by Rachel Maddow, Melissa Harris-Perry and Chris Hayes.  
While doing research for my blog, I check out the front page of the following sites: the Atlantic, Salon, Slate, Huffington Post, CNN, MSNBC, the American Prospect, the Nation. I also read major woman-oriented blogs like BlissTree, the Gloss, the Frisky, and sometimes Jezebel. (But not xoJane*, I hate that site.)   
Finally, I regularly check in on tumblr, where I follow a lot of people who might be considered social justice bloggers, and on Twitter, where I follow a bunch of other journalist/opinionator/media types.  
Plus I follow a ton of blogs, usually about feminism, gay rights, trans rights, fitness, health and wellness and skepticism.
In her spare time, Caitlin runs marathons, competes in triathlons, and chronicles it all on her blog Fit and Feminist

*However, we both continue to hold a candle for Sassy


The Delivery

The only Mother's Day gift my mom wants from me is to beget a few little do-gooders. 

That's not happening anytime soon, so I gave her this as a consolation prize. She was not amused. But I was, and this project was an amazing learning/bonding experience for me. 

The Delivery from Matthew Lucas on Vimeo.

Brought to you by the producers of Ray Cyste Beer.


The Anti-Commercial Commercial

This semester is wrapping up, so I'll finally start posting some of the video work I've done thus far in film school.  

For this one, the assignment was to produce a commercial. Being the conscious consumer that I am, of course I had to make a statement. 

It was inspired by a Caps game I caught on TV earlier this spring. All the commercials were for Coors and cars - all white male oriented. The friend I was watching the game with mentioned that the Coors family & company had a dirty past, so I did my research. 

And while this commercial is a play on all I learned from a single hockey game, my intention is not to call out any specific corporation.

There's plenty of companies that have shoddy business practices, abuse human rights, shun worker's rights, etcAnd it's going to take quality policy makers along with talented, thoughtful business people & shareholders to right all that. But that's turning around the Titanic. 

It's easier to change us, the consumer. I believe the most important vote an American makes is not at the ballot box every four years, but how we spend our money on a daily basis. 


For the Girls

When I first got to AU, these signs used to annoy me. They're on the back of almost every door in every restroom on campus. 

I took them as constant reminder to never let my guard down.

Somehow though, I've come to see them more as a sign of solidarity. 

Happy International Women's Day!


Networking is Easy

Kristen Edgell, a marketing assistant at National Geographic, spoke to an audience of American University students & semi-employed freelancers last week about how to get started in D.C. area media.  

She moved up from North Carolina last summer after college, with a few bucks and the desire to work in TV. 
TIVA's Getting Started in Your Media Career featured panelists Laura
Mateus, campus recruiter at Discovery Communications, Jason Villemez,
production assistant at PBS Newshour, and Kristen Edgell of NatGeo. 
She temped for a couple of months and landed an assignment at NatGeo

Once in the door, she took on additional tasks and made herself invaluable to the team by learning everything she possibly could. It wasn't long before she was asked to stay on full-time. 

My favorite part of Kristen's story, though, was how she went on 40-50 informational interviews by the time she finished school. (And I thought I was a genius for doing three or four.)

There are two big things I've learned so far about networking: you have to show up (duh), and if you like people and are genuinely curious about why they do what they do and how they got there, then all you really have to do is listen
This makes networking not only easy but kinda fun. Then again, I've always liked talking to strangers. 

But there are plenty of people who don't, so I asked Kristen for insight on their behalf. She started with a quote from Networking for People Who Hate Networking
“Introverts, the overwhelmed, and the under-connected fail at traditional networking by following advice that was never intended for them in the first place.”
A few other pointers: 
  • Focus on a few. Are there people you can find out about beforehand? Spend your time doing your homework. You will not only feel more prepared, you will get more out of it.
  • Pace yourself. Extroverts collect, not connect. If you speak with one or two people and feel yourself getting stressed, it's okay to step away and play on your phone for a few minutes as you recharge. It will help your attitude and also allow you time to perhaps jot down the important points of what you just discussed so you can do a thorough follow up later.
  • Follow-up. When you give them your business card, write something memorable about you that you discussed, or would like to discuss. Then be sure to keep those contacts alive and intact. Send them a thank you note, referencing what you wrote on your business card. This will help people remember the quality of your initial conversation—and open the door to continuing the conversation. Gathering info with your keen observation skills and superior listening ability is what adds the quality to your connections.


Film School is Hard

Film school isn't all rainbows and Tarantino movies. 

I tried to do it his way. Didn't work for me. 
There's a ton of reading, a ton of crappy videos to produce before you get any good, and lots to sacrifice - namely, everything that does not support the goal of getting the most out of school & into the working world in a timely manner. 

Grad school, especially film school, is just like life: it is what you make it. You can do only what's required of you, or you can choose to excel. 

Charts & pictures make learning fun.  
I'd like to do the latter, but this semester my film theory class is 
getting in my way. I've never been much of an academic, and this class totally makes me feel like an idiot. 

Teaching each other: Professor & filmmaker Brigid Maher looks on as (l-r) Michael Nickerson, Michael Jee, Pat Flynn & Lonnie Martin school our film theory class on old Hollywood. 
I don't get it (Soviet montage, this means you) and I don't want to. That is, until we watched Citizen Kane and then I really knew how little I know about anything, and that it was time to pay more attention.

Extra reading and helping other students, especially non-native English speakers, decipher the stuff helps me figure it out more too. It doesn't hurt to have an awesome professor & the best cohort ever.

Another great prof., Maggie Burnette Stogner, did the video for Roads of Arabia, which closes today at the Sackler Gallery. 
Of course I'd prefer education be free. But the price of film school, for me, includes getting to know and work (and suffer) with classmates who are equally obsessed with creating & telling visual stories.  

I love grad school but can't wait to see what's on the other side. 
Before grad school, I had no idea who this dude was. Now I recognize him on the street, yo.  



Meanwhile, almost directly across the state in Tampa, things are hopping. 

First stop was a house concert in North Tampa with a couple of fabulous Canadians, John Wort Hannam and Scott Duncan. 

Tampa's a great mid-sized town to start off in, but I left (twice!) because there was little room for growth. 

Some ambitious people figure out how to make life work where ever they are, like Dana Pettaway. She traded D.C. for Tampa and started her own businesses, beauty+health+nature

I met her a couple weekends ago while she was hocking her paraben-free wares at the Tampa Downtown Market

At the market I also ran into my old roommate Cooper & his dad. 

As a third culture kid (yes, there's a name for that) who grew up hometown-less, Tampa offered a familiarity I never experienced growing up. I miss that feeling up here in cold, transient D.C. 

I have no idea where I might go in just over a year when I'm facing the end of graduate school. 

L.A., MontrĂ©al, C-SPAN. I'm open to anything and it's all very exciting. 

 But whether or not I move back, I've been doing my best to stay in touch with my beloved Tampa people. Like the Ekhos, who had their annual training day when I was in town. 

Contrary to what I learned as a kid, in adulthood, friendships don't have to end when you move away. 


Brevard County

I spent my senior year of high school & first couple of years of community college in Brevard County, Florida.

Back then it was easy to feel like I was headed nowhere. 

Where I had my first audition. Don't all journos start out wanting to be actors? 

I experienced the same feeling of being stuck in Brevard earlier this month when I was there for a brief family visit.  

Time moves on, though more slowly in some places. I blame the humidity.