Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And so it begins...

This blog is as much about sharing the journey as it is about my personal attempts at chronicling it.  I was (and still am) notoriously bad at chronicling anything, so hopefully this will be a step in the right direction.  So without further ado... lets begin.

Well, me of course, though who I am could either be a long-winded explanation of 1st generation immigrant's journey or simply that now, I am quintessentially American.  Really though, I am just someone with big dreams and little direction, and wish to see those two factored a bit more aligned.

Ahh, now we come to the heart of the matter.  "What" is actually quite simple.  I aim to drive the contiguous United States (Alaska and Hawaii are both a bit hard to drive to, so they will be saved for later) and chronicle what makes America happy.  Not just what America thinks makes them happy however, but rather what people do regularly to keep themselves happy/entertained/content with life.  I also intend on joining on those activities, as the best thing for happiness is company (or so I've been told).  

All 48 contiguous states + Washington DC.  Direction... still being worked on.  Should I post a map at this point it would be nothing but a mess of squiggly lines.

Start no later than July, and end well... whenever it ends.  Not expecting it to last longer than 6 months, though who knows what will actually happen.


Thats the simple question really, the simplest one there is, and the hardest one to answer.  A "why?" has been swirling around in my head for quite some time now, but its never managed grasp hold of anything substantial. Its really a combination of career dissatisfaction, inner boredom, and social stagnation thats probably pushed me to this point.  The "why" also has to due with my great ability to resist change.  I find that any great change in my life hasn't happened gradually, but rather has occurred due to some pivotal event.  Maybe I'm depending too much these powerful events to shape me, but in the meantime, its the only way I can push myself to truly change.

That's really only part the story though, a another part is "why this project?".  Why do a project about what makes people happy?  Well, really the reason I want to ask others is that they might be able to provide a better answer than I can about myself.  I do a lot of things to keep me happy, whether it be spending time with friends, rock climbing, computer games, photography, or anything else I can think of.  But more and more I'm beginning to think I'm going about it all wrong.  Do those things really make me happy, or do they simply distract me long enough to keep me content?  I know there are people out there who are genuinely happy with their lives, and I want to know their secret, not necessarily of what keeps them happy but rather why.

Finally, we come to "why this medium?"  This is probably the easiest to answer -- because I know it just enough to get me into trouble, but not enough to be bored by it.  This project combines a few things I enjoy - automobiles, photography, filmmaking, web - and intertwines them into a single medium for all to see.  The medium should ideally just be the transporter of the artist's intent, but for me the medium has always been just as important as the message it carries.  I think by combining mediums one can create something that speaks far more about the topic, and more importantly do it for a much broader audience.

Since this will be a roadtrip, a suitable car will be necessary.  I've more or less settled on a NA Miata of the 94-96 vintage, though a well priced NB model is not out of the cards.  I'm looking to spend no more than $5000 for the vehicle on the high end, though somewhere closer to $3000 would be far better.  Getting a LSD with it would be a big plus, and getting it in red or British racing green would be the cherry on top.  The rest of the gear will be a fairly tight mobile shooting rig, with the primary shooter being ether a Canon T2i/7D on the cheap end or a 5D MKII on the expensive end.  The primary reason I'm considering the 5D is for its awesome lowlight capabilities, which coupled with a f/1.8 or f/1.4 lens means the ability to shoot anywhere at any time.  Besides the primary camera will be a backup HD camcorder of some kind (just something cheap and tossable, though not Flip camera cheap...), my trusty SD890is compact P&S, and a GoPro HD helmet/sports cam (to be mounted on the car or on any other moving vehicle I happen to try out along the way).

Now that I've got the technolust out of the way (and its difficult for me to keep the technolust to a minimum, though I will try my hardest to do so), the actual logistical "how" is a bit more uncertain.  My goal is to try to meet as many people as possible, with the primary meeting location being either public areas like parks or small diners, bars, foodstands and such.  If the people seem interested and have at least a decent thing they do then I will arrange for an interview and a later date for me to document what they actually do.  I will definitely need a list of interview questions as starters, though hopefully after the first initial questions each person will take the interview in a different direction.  The style of shooting I will try and vary from person to person, as not only do different event call for different style (dramatic, comic, simple, complex, etc) but also varying the style will just make for a better collection of video.  The goal however is to at all times avoid the documentary look.  I believe it is totally possible to make a documentary looks just like a film, and I hope to find out exactly how to do it.

Beyond just the the technical and artistic hurtles however is something thats far more difficult for me, and thats the personal hurtle.  I do not intend to do this project as simply an "American Safari" which I could very well do.  Rather, the topic of happiness requires a much more personal touch, something that I quite honestly do not yet have, and something that I will need to develop as the project progresses.  This is going to require a lot of awkward moments and quite a bit of self doubt on my part, and having not really tried something of this scale it will be interesting indeed to see to what extent I can handle and adapt to the social and emotional rigors of this project.

I could probably go on and on about the "how", and indeed much of the posts for the first month will just be more details, along with gear tests and better plans.  Sufficed to say, I want this to be a true multimedia (hate that word, I really do) project with photo, video, web, and social networking elements, and more importantly I want to break the observer/subject barrier of most documentaries and make something thats as much about the subject as it is about myself.

As they say, all journeys begin with a first step, and here is my first tentative crossing of the starting line.  Wish me luck for whats ahead!

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