I scanned and posted the audience feedback cards within a week of the Evening of Exploration, but over a month went by before I read and sorted them into categories. Why did it take so long? This question triggered a small crisis – Am I loosing momentum on the ALM project? Do I have a plan? What have I accomplished in the 3 months since the end of the trip?
This is one of those exciting blog moments where I have to grope around for a bit. Flashback!
October – December 2009
In early October Hello World and I returned home with about 30 hours of HD video. During the next two weeks I converted the video, shot a visual inventory and edited Evolution, the repair and packing sequence. I sorted, cleaned and stored all the gear. Hitching a ride back to Brooklyn with my brother Steve on 10/20, I settled down to catalog the video and post excerpts to the ondesire blog. Was there a feature length documentary lurking in there somewhere? In theory, a methodical review of the raw material would allow major themes to percolate.
Watching the video and seeing all the folks who supported ALM started me fantasizing about throwing a big party. I also wanted to introduce more of my Northern Michigan tribe to the project and expand it’s audience. I imagined organizing an event around a rough cut of the movie and including structured feedback both to foster interaction and create a sense of participation. I was planning to return to to Northern Michigan for Thanksgiving anyway, maybe a month was enough time to plan an event and cut a rough…
The Evening of Exploration was born!
Turns out that 1 month was not enough time to become familiar with all the footage, edit something coherent AND organize / promote a public exhibition. I dedicated a lot of energy to getting the theater filled – repeatedly emailing the scattered tribe, blogging, creating enticing imagery and composing press releases. To expand and diversify the audience, I invited Gretchen Eichberger to present choreography and the ukulele duo Saldaje (Melonie Steffes and Shawn Anchak) to play music. The price I paid for a nearly full theater was less time for editing.
Sweating bullets that the bumpy NYC to Chicago Amtrak ride would ding the stack of sata hard drives humming at my feet, I finally found a decent introduction – only four days before the Evening. My brother and sister helped me hash out a protocol for audience feedback in the rental car from Chicago to Beulah. Over the holiday, I grappled with the stark realization that my rough cut would NOT be the kernel of a coherent structure, but rather a smorgasbord of loosely connected ideas.
The Evening was fun and I reconnected with many excellent people. My original objectives were achieved to varying degrees…
Celebrate those who helped with the project
Seeing themselves onscreen often makes folks excited. Just being invited to a special event is nice too, especially if there’s food and interesting art. I could’ve done a better job of recognizing the collaborators if the movie had credits and / or if I mentioned specific names during my introduction. Basically, that didn’t happen because I ran out of time.
Connect regional folks to the project, build community support and awareness
It’s been over a month since the evening, so if I am planning on following up and consolidating this audience, I had better do it in the next couple of days. The evening did facilitate a productive feedback session with Steve Elrick. Also, a fantastic new friend and ally has appeared as a direct result of the Evening’s intense promotion. Andrea Maio is a film maker who missed the Evening but tracked me down after. We had a blast hanging out and she has since decided to relocate to Benzie County. I’ll be linking to her blog as soon as it’s up. Finally, Susan Koenig wrote an article about the Evening that may or may not have appeared in the Benzie Record Patriot, I’m still waiting to hear.
Get some structured feedback
I threw a variety of material at the audience, curious only to know what stood out, what made an impression. My feedback protocol wasn’t all that rigorous because the editing had barely begun. The responses were useful, the same five moments were mentioned by 52% of the audience. Several folks disregarded my instructions and offered detailed advice about editing and some even felt compelled to trot out their personal angst… awesome! I am so grateful for the responses, the only people I have a beef with are those that didn’t bother to fill out cards – like my brother and father. Geez, relatives can be a real pain.
Setting an intense deadline was both good and bad.
Rather than taking that the time to move methodically through the video, I was forced to slam together disparate fragments just to have something to show. This deferred the real edit process by a month. As the Evening got closer, I felt very scattered and struggled to let go of my expectations. I fretted that telling a disjointed story would actually deter the audience from following ALM’s progress. Key elements of the event were scaled down or abandoned because time was tight.
I am only now recovering from the trauma of promising a little too much. Deadlines are productive only when matched to specific outcomes well within the range of the possible. Deadlines can have an element of risk, they can stretch our identity and push our personal envelope – a little. Finessing the balance between what we are and what we want to be is the art of the setting deadlines. It’s wise to take an inventory of variables first – how many new things will have happen at once? Even for a turbo charged polymath, attempting more than 2 new things is asking for trouble.
The Evening would have been a better if I had conceptualized the event as presenting ‘selected excerpts’, rather than promising a ‘rough cut’. The problem was in my own mind, most folks don’t know the difference between selected excerpts and a rough cut anyway. Crazy expectations caused me to wig out.
December 2009 – January 2o1o
I whiled away another 2 weeks in Beulah before renting a Hyundai and returning to Brooklyn. Once back, I bit the bullet and dropped $2000 on 20 x 1 TB hard drives for cloning my archive. I need about 6 drives more to finish, but at least now I can travel with ALM. I finally tallied the feedback results and posted some comments. Andrea suggested a new tack for the project that I like. I’ve been reorganizing the blogs in preparation for the next push and feel the power flowing back. So maybe I am not groping anymore.