The iPad, Film Editing, My Book and Delays

10 02 2010

My book sitting quietly in a Barnes and Noble bookshelf

Long time readers of this blog will realize that it has been a long time — since I’ve posted. There are some very good reasons for that, not the least of which is that my new book was being written, rewritten, rewritten again, and published — all of which required a time sucking amount of work.  All of which I’m thrilled about.

This is the fourth edition of my ancient book on editing room workflow, written originally back before anyone knew what the word “workflow” meant. It is a total page one rewrite and, because I’m not an assistant editor any longer, I had to do a ton of research with assistants (those that are left). I learned a tremendous amount about what assistant editors do today and much of that shows up in the new book. I’ll be dropping some of that on you in the weeks ahead.

Of course, I want each and everyone of you to go out and buy 50 copies each of the book.  But that’s not what I’m interested in talking about today. So, let me go on.

Another reason why this latest posting has been inordinately delayed is that I’ve been editing one or two films. One of them is a great comedy road movie that follows a self-destructive screenwriter as he drives across country accompanied by the young kid who’s been assigned by the film producers to babysit the guy . The film is, I think, going to be loads of fun, but what’s really interesting about it for me is that I’m editing it long distance. My co-editor is in Massachusetts and my director is in Rhode Island.

That means that the three of us are going to spend lots of time shooting copies of our Avid bins back and forth to each other so we can see what each of us are doing. This excites me a lot, but that may be because I’m slightly crazy about the future. A conversation I had a little while back, showed me that not everybody shares this mania.

Last summer, when Final Cut Pro 7 (or whatever they’re calling it) came out, I remember enthusiastically talking to a friend about the iChat Theater function, which allows the editor to play out anything in FCP over an iChat video conference, simply by pointing to it. It’s an easy way to play dailies or your sequence to any of your collaborators. It doesn’t have any of the real interactive functions that would make it a true shared editing platform (I’ll be looking at Fuze soon, which promises much more), but it certainly is a start to long distance communication in the editing process and I was telling my friend about it.

He looked at me horrified and said “I’ve got one word for you — outsourcing.” He was worried about his job going overseas.

“But you’ve got to look at it from the other side,” I told him. “You’re an accomplished Hollywood feature and television editor. There will be plenty of people around the world who would love to work with you. But they haven’t been able to because you live here in Los Angeles and they don’t.”

He agreed that this was possible but then said “A lowering tide lowers all boats. Even if I could get those jobs, my salary is going to go down. Way down.”

Hard to disagree with that.  Welcome to the 21st century. With the collapse of television syndication and the advertising market, the days of 10 month guaranteed jobs for tv editors are going away. As Hollywood moves more and more to large tentpole films, the number of mid-range films is also disappearing and, along with them, a sizable number of cushy mid-level jobs. Those of us who live off of these types of projects are going to have to get used to the fact that our incomes are going to go down, unless we adapt to the new markets.

And, miraculously, those markets are all over the world. What my friend, and all of us, are going to have to do, is to learn to juggle multiple jobs across multiple time zones. Some of us are doing that already. It’s really only the larger job markets that haven’t been doing it. No producer is going to share his/her editor’s time with someone across the globe. But if that same producer is hiring his/her editor for a few months, laying them off, bringing them back on again for a month or two, and then laying them off again — well, they’re going to have to get used to sharing them with the rest of the world.

So working long-distance is going to be a smart thing to learn how to do. And somehow I’ve stumbled right into it.

Apple's new iPad

Then, enter the iPad. I’ve been asked endlessly whether I’m ready to rush out and buy one. Honestly, not really. I’ll wait until the device matures a bit more (just like I waited for the iPhone 3G and am thrilled that I did). However, the possibilities that this new device gives us in the vertical market that is filmmaking are thrilling.

Imagine a producer pitching a project to a studio. Right now they send a script and, perhaps, some accompanying materials, to the studio where (if their readers like it) it is sent home with 50 or so executives to be read over the weekend. This is called, in a predictable burst of studio originality, the “weekend read.” Many studios have moved the weekend read from paper to the Kindle, which saves paper but does nothing to brighten the experience for those poor junior executives.

Now, imagine if you will, that the producer has loaded the script onto an iPad and that there are embedded links within the script to location photos, audition tapes, CAD drawings of sets, and 3D mockups of the worlds that are only hinted at in the script. That is going to be a clearer, more interesting vision of the story for every single one of those bored-to-tears weekend readers. It’s also going to be more helpful to me, when I read a script before an interview, or to an art director as he/she tries to figure out what’s inside of the director’s mind.

And that’s just one single use for this device. If you take a look at the dozens of applications for filmmakers available on the iPhone (Taz Goldstein has a great list, adapted from his recent Supermeet talk, up at his site Handheld Hollywood and, by the way, the Supermeet was a great event, even if I did have to watch it streamed on Ustream — you should go and look at it right now). There are slates galore, some of which even will help you import your footage into your NLE. There’s a very cool application to allow you to remotely control your f-stop settings on your camera. There are director’s viewfinders, storyboard creators, teleprompters and research tools. And that’s for the iPhone.

Imagine what we’ll be able to get with a 10″ screen.

Here’s my point. For years we’ve been on the cusp of something really new and exciting in the filmmaking world. We’ve gone all digital — from capture through editing. We’ve also seen the world of distribution change — so the need to print film for theaters is fast disappearing, and we will be easily distributing to each of the four screens that people watch their entertainment on (see an earlier post of mine about Four Play).

What’s been missing is the ease of getting from this digital creation, to the digital consumption in any way that resembles a realistic viewing format.

The iPad is more than a hint into that future, it’s the door ajar (not fully open yet, but not closed).

The Future of Television – Finally!

16 07 2009

Last week I ran a panel at the NATPE LATV Festival. NATPE, which is the National Association of Television Program Executives, describes itself as representing companies and people who are “involved in or wanting to become involved with the creation, development and distribution of television programming.” Along the way they promote discussion about television programming. And that’s what I was doing at the conference. Promoting Discussion. Hey, I’m all about talking (as anyone who knows me will sadly attest).

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, unless I’m doing reality television, what the hell is there to talk about? Is there any television industry for me to create programming? And why should I care?”

Well, here’s why those of you who are in any part of the entertainment industry (or who would like to be) should care. The really interesting thing about the conference was just how aware the entire industry has finally becoming aware of the sea change. Of course, you’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see the changes. There are editors who I know who haven’t worked in eight or nine months; some are looking to sell their houses to make ends meet, and nearly every single person I know now says that they are working “below their rate” (which means, working for less money than they used to and waaaay less than they’d like to). And those changes are going to irrevocably affect how we all make and distribute our media.

The overall takeaway I got from the panels I visited and the one that I ran (“Animation: The Web Levels the Playing Field” with Chuck Williams, Producer, Walt Disney Animation Studios;  Allen DeBevoise, CEO,;  Uri Shinar, CEO & Founder, Aniboom;  Lifeng Wang, President, Xing Xing Digital Corp.) was that the television industry is changing mightily and those of us who can’t accept that change are totally hosed. That’s what I twittered after the conference.

I know, I know. But it’s interesting that this was coming from the real players in the industry.

There was much discussion about the collapse of the syndication market and the precipitous drop in ad revenue. The combination of these two things — the foundations of how this content gets paid for — means that content can’t be produced at the same level as before because it can’t be sold for as much money as before. There was plenty of discussion about the change in the broadcast model — 22 episode orders for (essentially) two network runs of a show, running primarily on broadcast with some nod to web streaming models like Hulu.

There was some discussion about how the web is beginning to suck away some of the ad revenue as well as some of the distribution, but the general consensus is that there’s no real money on the web yet — at least not at the levels that the Big Boys are used to. Uri Shinar, who runs Aniboom, said on my panel that he has to look at moving into traditional media to supplement his online, crowd sourcing method of distribution. Chuck Williams, who is directing at Disney Animation, said that they are approaching the dual distribution mode from the other direction — spreading into online to keep their franchises alive during the years in between theatrical releases.

The web is an established tool and it is growing in importance, the players agree. But there are still many people who don’t get it. For those of you who believe that you’ll be able to work below-the-line as you always have been (one show at a time, for a very good wage, guaranteed for 22 episodes a season), well you might as well line up at the state unemployment office now. Shows that once shot for eight days will move to six or fewer, episode orders will shrink to ten or so episodes with the possibility of renewals. That means that our contracts as editors won’t guarantee us more than two or three months of work.

We’re going to working on more things (sometimes simultaneously), for less money, than before. And that’s actually going to be exciting and dynamic. We need to embrace that reality.

Paradoxically, this means that those of you who are now graduating from college, with a decent skill set and some work behind you, are really going to be in a much better place than Old Farts (Disclaimer: I Am An Old Fart of a type), who have kids and mortgages and big car payments. We won’t be agile enough to catch the wave. More likely, we’re going to be buried under it.

Someone responded to my tweet about the conference with another one that “They’re five years behind.” That’s true. There are some people who began establishing a base in online programming years ago. They were greeted with jeers: “There’s no money in that.” Even today, people who are all about following the money will challenge us with the accurate claim that very few people have figured out how to make money on the Web with content or programming.

But those days are fast going away. The cable/phone company’s Four Play strategies (in which they will sell you a phone, your television programming, your wireless and your internet/data all through the same pipe) are moving your computer screen into your living room. The recent court decision to allow Cablevision to keep remotely storing viewers shows on their servers rather than our DVR boxes, will only accelerate that move. Within a few years, it won’t matter where we decide to watch our shows — on a large television screen, on our computer monitors, on our cel phones, or on a screen built into our refrigerators. The future of the Apple TV is finally here.

This means that there will be a million channels out there to fill with programming. No, make that an “unlimited number of channels.” There is always the danger proclaimed by Bruce Springsteen (“57 Channels and Nothin’ On“) but that depends more on who’s watching than who’s programming. As companies like Revision 3 show (check out their very cool Film Riot, a how-to-make cheap VFX show with Ryan Connolly), the real future is going to be creating much much cheaper content for a much smaller niche market.

If you guys want to have a future in the film world of the future — you should figure out how to do that. Then you’ll be way ahead of the professional Television Programming Executives and maybe be able to set your own agenda.

The Erratic Future of Education

8 06 2009

A recent episode of This Week In Tech, Twit 197, focused on education.  Along with host Leo LaPorte were Don Tapscott, Gina Trapani, Jeff Jarvis, and Jeff’s son Jake Jarvis. Now, Don is the author of a number of books, including one of my favorites — Grown Up Digital, which looks at the generation of kids who have no memory of world without computers and the Net.  The group spent a large amount of time talking about what is wrong with high school and college education today.

They’ve mostly got it right, but not really.

Now, most of you know that I teach at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, normally known as the USC Film School.  So I have a bit of vested interested in both improving education and making sure that it doesn’t get destroyed in the rush to improve it. Some of you are going to claim that I’m part of the problem, and I’ll cop to some of that, as well.

But, let me back up a few seconds. Just what were those Twitters talking about?

First, let’s say that I agree with them that much of 7-12 and college is broken.  There is way too much teaching to the test. Jeff made the point that Jake (who is beginning his college application thought process now) has to take these crazy AP courses, which force him to regurgitate facts, just so that he can apply to Really Great Colleges.  I’d add that here in California, high school students spend more of their valuable class time and homework time ingesting facts that normally don’t make it anywhere into their brain in any lasting way.  And, with a student/teacher ratior of 35 or 40 to 1, that’s completely wasted time.

At USC, I see a lot of teaching that is, what I’d call, “Sage On The Stage”  That is, it’s the professor dishing out The Facts to the student, who needs to take it in, so that he/she can get proper grades. I find myself guilty of that at times as well.  Sometimes, it’s just easier.

But there’s no class that I teach that doesn’t rely primarily on projects. Honestly, I can’t figure out how to teach otherwise. Projects are considered a vital part of what is called “learner centric education” (in which the curriculum takes into account the learning style and capability of each student).

The guests on TWIT 197 spent a lot of time talking about how formal education, as it exists today, just doesn’t work. Taking a look at the success of a number of tech entrepreneurs who didn’t complete college (or who never went at all) they surmised that it was better not to be taught in our present system.

But here’s the thing that the guests on TWIT 197, in their glee at piling onto the faults of the normal educational model, fail to take into account. Every student learns differently, and students in different cultures learn differently as well.

Right now, I’m working with a group of Vietnamese filmmakers who have come to USC to take a six-week course in digital filmmaking, in the hope that they’ll improve their world storytelling skills. I’ve done two lessons so far — in one I played a number of film clips and discussed the shape of the story with them. In another, we worked on the Avid to examine alternatives in cutting.

Surprisingly, this group wanted more of the film clip discussion. And we’ve added an additional class on just for that purpose (they’re going to be making four short films, so there’s going to be plenty of time for project work).

Some students in my regular classes look at the editing screen and need to start moving things around. Others need to understand some of the “why” behind it, before they can feel good about moving things around.

In short — everyone learns differently. Not everybody works better when they’re left to their own devices. And not everyone works the same way in every subject.

So, while I basically agree with most of what was said in TWiT 197 about the failures of education, a huge missing piece in the discussion for me was the acknowledgement that sometimes the Sage on the Stage does work — for some students, in some subjects, at some ages. Most of the time, it’s a combination of many different methods. At some point, I’ll tell you about a project on learning that I’m working on in New Mexico — that can be a real incubator for change in teaching. And some time, you’ll hear about the really exciting work that Nolan Bushnell is starting in education — something that can revolutionize that industry in the way that he did for gaming with Atari.

But, for now, what I’m going to say is that anytime anybody makes a broad statement about anything — look twice at it.

When Is Too Much, Too Much?

3 03 2009

Sony's PMW-EX1

Sony's PMW-EX1

Or, just because you can shoot a lot, should you?

I hope this isn’t too muchb “inside baseball” but there was a meeting of a lot of the production faculty here at USC last weekend where we got a chance to sample the new workflow using our Sony HDCAM-EX1 and EX3 cameras. (Ironically, two days later Avid announced a great upgrade to their Media Composer product, to MC 3.5, that makes it possible to edit the XDCAM-EX files natively, but that’s a story for another post.) It is a transition that we started making this past fall and is slowly taking over the film school. Our higher end classes are using the F900 or the EX-3, but we are definitely making the move to HD and digital capture across the entire school.

The really interesting point came in a long discussion that we ended up having about one of our key undergraduate course — called Production III — which moved to the EX-3 this past fall. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to take a little detour to tell you how the class is set up, since it’s germane to the central question of how do we move into the file-based capture world.

The class, called CTPR 480, and is a course in which four teams of about ten undergrads each, make a short film in an intense collaborative format. Each film has a director, two producers, as well as two cinematographer, editors, sound recordists/designers, production designers and one AD. They use other students help to fill out their crews. So this turns out to be the class in which these students learn how to work in very detailed ways in a particular specialty, as well as to work collaboratively with a large group of people. (A trailer for one of these 480 films can be found on YouTube). Up until last semester, the students shot on 16mm film, with a total allotment of 4400 feet of film — or about two hours worth of original shooting. This gives a shooting ratio of about 10:1, since the films have a maximum length of 12 minutes without credits.

The bad news about this, is that students are always stressed about the amount of footage that they have, and they sometimes tend to shoot in tiny little bursts — a line at a time, precutting the film in camera. The good news about this is that it requires the students to really think ahead of time about what is important to their overall story — once they run out of film, they simply can’t get anymore. The entire class and faculty can watch all of the dailies every class and really look at how the students are progressing week to week.

But what happens when there is no longer a physical/cost limitation on the amount of film that can be shot because they are capturing digitally with a file based format? In other words, if they can shoot 26 takes of a set-up, with no film cost penalty, what changes in the class? And, if I can be presumptuous, what changes in the filmmaking process?

Well, the first thing that the teachers in the class learned is that they will shoot 26 takes. If they need to do ten more takes to get the perfect dolly move, they will. But, what happens to the actors’ performances over that length of time? What happens to the crew’s?  What happens to the rest of the shooting schedule? And, from my point of view, what happens to the post-production schedule which hasn’t changed at all?

To move this out of film school, what happens when you remove one of the barriers to excessive shooting, but not the others?

AS anyone who has ever been on the set with an indecisive director can tell you, shooting take after take after take, doesn’t insure better takes. In fact, it usually insures the exact opposite — you may end getting a dolly without a bump, but a performance suffers. You may end up getting a great performance from one of the actors, but the other (who peaked after take four) goes downhill. And when you get into the editing room, does the indecisiveness really end? What about trying a version with a small smile? What about one with a quizzical frown?

Nope, in my opinion, though there is a lot to be gotten from experimentation, it rarely helps to broaden the boundaries of what you want as a filmmaker, to the extent where your collaborators can’t figure them out. I describe my process as “crawling up inside the head of my director” and it helps me to be creative in a way that can advance the overall project. It’s the way a good director can get my artistry without going all over the map.

But if the inside of the director’s head is a huge maze of constantly dead-ending corridors, I’m not going to know what to do, and it will be hard for me to create in a way that the filmmaker is going to consider helpful. I can cut a sequence 80 different ways, but only ten of them might be helpful to the overall story. What I’d really love my director to do, is to give me the outlines of the territory of the film so I can deduce those ten ways and do them in the most effective way. If I’m trying to cram five months of work into two months, then I’m going to have to eliminate at least 70% of those dead ends. Since each change expands the work exponentially (since it affects the way I cut the scene before and the scene after that change).

And that’s just in the editing.

So, the idea that unlimited footage equals better filmmaking is a complete sham (unless you have unlimited money and time, as well as an unlimited capacity for getting bad results). Just because you can shoot 26 takes, doesn’t mean you should.

The Eddie Awards, Twitter and Me

13 02 2009

This Sunday is the annual Eddie Awards, where the American Cinema Editors hand out their yearly awards for best editing in varying categories of film and television. Don’t forget to watch it on television.

Oops, you can’t.  It’s not on TV.  But to get up-to-the-minute results, I’m going to try and Twitter the results as they happen.  Come and follow me on twitter at

Unconfuse Yourself About Blu-Ray

27 01 2009

Some of us, for some reason, think Blu-Ray is the wave of the future.  Me? I think that it’s the wave of a little blip in time — like now. As I’ve said before, I don’t really think that most people care enough of image quality (or see the difference in image quality) to make them want to go out and repurchase all of their favorite DVDs in their library. It’s no shock that Blu-Ray disks, therefore, haven’t been selling the way the geniuses at the AMPTP would have hoped. New DVD player purchasers may want to go to Blu-Ray, and people who rent may be inclined once they get those players, but I don’t see the population running en masse to the format.

That having been said, it’s important for those of us in the content creation field to be savvy about Blu-Ray and have it in their arsenal of talents. And that ain’t always easy.  Until now.

On a special edition Larry Jordan’s great audio show/podcast, Digital Production Buzz, Larry and Bruce Nazarian (DVD guru, president of the Inernational Digital Media Alliance, and owner of the web site Recipe4DVD) give an amazing overview of Blu-Ray history, technology and methodology.  Bruce, who gave an amazing talk at Macworld this year about burning a Blu-Ray disk using regular old fashioned DVD disks, is incredibly knowledgeable about all of these topics and Larry is his usual great interviewer — asking questions that he obviously knows the answers to but which help explain the topic to people like me who don’t have a clue.

Go over to the website right now and get the podcast, if you haven’t gotten it already in your podcast feeds.  It’s a fantastically educational tour through this complex subject.

The Sundance Film Festival and Me

17 01 2009

sff09-tiles-graphicI’m up at the Sundance Film Festival  where I’ll be speaking on Monday and signing copies of my book on Tuesday.

Here are the details for the Monday afternoon panel:

Monday, January 19, 2009
From 2-3:30 p.m. – New Frontier on Main Street
Long time film editor, USC Professor and author Norman Hollyn will moderate a panel with 2009 Sundance filmmakers on a topic loosely based on his book “The Lean Forward Moment: Create Compelling Stories for Film, TV, and the Web.”  Hear directly from directors, producers and editors with films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival about how they find their “lean forward” moments and turn those into compelling stories that entertain millions.

Panelists include:
Jason Stewart, editor of 2009 Sundance Film “World’s Greatest Dad.”
Sterlin Harjo, director/writer of 2009 Sundance Film “Barking Water” and 2007 Sundance Film “Four Sheets to the Wind.”
Ondi Timoner, director/producer of 2009 Sundance Film “We Live in Public” and 2004 Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner “Dig”

I will also be signing copies of the book the next day at Dolly’s Bookstore, right in the heart of Park City at 510 Main Street, from 1:00 to 2:00pm.  That’s on Tuesday, January 20th.  That’s right, watch the inauguration and then come and have me sign a book.

Edit Fest is August 8th and 9th

22 07 2008

A.C.E. (the American Cinema Editors organization — there the three letters you see after the names of a lot of editors out there) is running what looking like an incredible event on the second Friday and Saturday in August. Its called EditFest and will give you an opportunity to “Learn about the craft of editing from the working experts.” It start on Friday evening with a welcome reception at Universal Studios with the ACE board members and ACE Interns. The next day is split between Saturday morning, where top television editors will be on a two-hour panel, and the afternoon, where there are three events — Editors of Summer Blockbusters, Animation Editing, and Cutting for Comedy.

It looks like an amazing event. “Tuition” is $349 and looks well worth it.

You can see a few more details, including contact information, by downloading this postcard or going to the ACE website.

Should We Make Media?

15 07 2008

Daisy Whitney, in a posting over at TV Week, says “Just Because Everyone Can Do a Video Doesn’t Mean Everyone Should” and it’s an interesting statement. And one which I’m of two minds about.

First, as a filmmaker and teacher, it makes me insane that people make media who have absolutely nothing to say, other than “Hey, I can make media.” I cannot read blogs and tweets which contribute nothing to world except the user’s location and food ingestion. Likewise, I can’t take it when people makes “hilarious” videos that do nothing for the world except add to the amount of bandwidth waster on cute pets.

Yet, as a filmmaker and teacher, I am also completely aware that not everyone has access to teachers and facilities like we have at USC. In fact, having worked in lesser advantaged areas of this country and the world, I’m aware that most people don’t have access to people who can help them get a leg up on the thought process of media creation. For them, getting a cheap camera or cell phone and shooting material is the only way to learn.

Daisy had a slightly different point, though:

Doyle Albee, president of the firm Metzger Associates, told me that he has explored whether it makes sense for his company to produce some sort of weekly webcast or Web series, sort of a “Metzger Minute.” It’s an interesting idea, he said, but right now it’s not in the cards. And that’s because there isn’t a reason to do one at the moment, he said.

I liked his response because it recognizes that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Or that you need to. Sometimes a blog is enough. Sometime a Web site is enough. And sometimes even just a phone call, memo or e-mail can convey the same point.

She makes alot of sense here (for more of Daisy’s thoughts, check out her occasional visits to the This Week In Media podcast). The real issue is not grabbing bandwidth, or people’s time. It’s about learning, however we can, which media is appropriate for each of our messages. Not everybody should be doing a podcast, and for those who are, not every issue needs to be podcast. That’s one of the issues I have with regular podcasts. While I acknowledge that regularity builds viewers and listeners — that’s a marketing idea. In terms of content, I much prefer the podcasts and blogs that publish when there is something to say. I would offer the opinion that some of the reason why I often skip over large parts of the content in some of Leo Laporte‘s podcasts nowadays (which I never would do, even six months ago) is that there is a sense of “filling up time”. The last TWiT ran almost two hours long, and it seemed that a large percentage of it was redundant jabbering, even from someone as consistently fascinating as Merlin Mann.

The great thing about the web is that, until recently, we didn’t feel that we had to create anything regularly. So readers/listeners/viewers like me didn’t get the feeling that I sometimes get on the New York Times Op-Ed pages — that the columnist had to write something, so he or she went fishing.

So, to answer Daisy Whitney’s question: no, we don’t have to make videos if we have nothing to say. But if we do it for the learning first, then we can do what we have our film students here — we don’t send those early learning attempts out into the world.

[Disclaimers: I should point out that I do a weekly column for Film Industry Bloggers, and that Daisy’s podcast New Media Minute is not scheduled — in other words, when she wants to publish it.]

Film School Diaries

11 07 2008

No, it’s not the hot and steamy version. From what my students tell me, that’s pretty much not possible (One of my students told me that she just couldn’t date while in school because she didn’t have any time to meet anyone who wasn’t at the school, and dating film school guys was just, well, in her words “Yuck!”).

No, I’m talking about a weekly podcast and blog that I’ve been following for a while now (It’s been going on since the beginning of January 2007). It’s called Video StudentGuy and it’s put together by Paul Lyzun.

Paul is a guy who has a day job working video production but, on evenings and weekends, is taking a two-year program in Boston all about Video Production. This year has has been working on two films of his own (as well as working on a slew of other people’s projects — very much like our students at USC). His final film, which he’s working on now (and which will not be done by the time he graduates — but that’s common too), is a documentary about the value of craftmaking in this era of mass-produced items.

The thing that I really like about about Paul’s podcasts (I subscribe via iTunes, but it’s also available at Libsyn) is that he’s completely honest about what he knows and doesn’t know, and how he makes mistakes. You can also see him struggling to get to the real breakthroughs which, in my humble opinion, are about how to better tell a story, not how to operate the equipment. It’s been fantastic watch him work through his thoughts about what his documentary is really about.

Along the way he talks about his abilities and his learning with the cameras (including scheduling), the editing systems, the bureaucracy of his school, the difficulties of production scheduling and commitments, as well as personal boundaries — such as when he realized that he couldn’t always say “yes” to helping out others, if it meant that his own project was going to suffer.

His latest podcast is about learning DVD Authoring.  I haven’t listened to it yet, but I just put it on my iPod and it’s going to be in my rotation for this weekend’s trips to the gym.

It’s a great listen for anyone who is trying to power through in this industry.