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Posts Tagged ‘Charleston’

Web-addicted? Addiction is such a strong word. Let’s say I’m “web-dependent.” Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Much of my clientele is elsewhere, so I am often waiting for some file to come over the wire. But, other times, when I am merely hitting F5 over and over to refresh the Yahoo entertainment headlines, I realize it’s time to yank the high speed line and get some work done.

I have folder upon folder of favorites bookmarked, but I seem to hit these most often:

  • Media Life: Daily news magazine covering TV, cable, print and the advertising world
  • By Ken Levine: Prolific TV screenwriter and veteran of M*A*S*H, Cheers and Frasier holds forth daily on the art, business and frustrations of the Hollywood writing trade.
  • Rotten Tomatoes: At ten bucks a pop, I don’t go to the movies without checking the Tomato’s aggregate scores compiled from dozens of film critics. I don’t always agree, but I do often enough. Also, when that charming little indie film you heard about finally hits Charleston (on DVD!) you can go back and dig up the six-month-old review before you head out to Blockbuster.
  • Terrace Theater: If by chance that charming little indie DOES hit Charleston in first run release, it will most likely hit at the Terrace on James Island. And, they have a liquor license…how cosmopolitan!
  • Politics: Bleh. If you must, try Real Clear Politics. It’s hard to find balance on the web, but this portal comes pretty close.
  • Music: Other than iTunes, it’s the one and only woxy.com, one of America’s premiere sites for modern and indie rock. Once, when it was an FM station in Oxford, OH it was my only companion on my 90-minute daily round trip from Cincinnati to southeast Indiana. These days, I admit I am more of a fan of their old fartvintage” feed.
  • Moral Guidance: Pointe North Community Church, Moncks Corner SC.

Finally the hard stuff, my biggest weaknesses, the monkeys on my back:

  • Cinematical & TV Squad: Sister sites that provide news, reviews and lively discussion about movies and television. Do me a favor…go there, find a loudmouth commenter called Cincinnati Mike…and please, tell him to GET BACK TO WORK!

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I think it’s unavoidable; whatever it is you do for a living, you observe others doing the same thing and you judge. I once had a friend who was an architect, and every building we would pass was too busy, too vertical, too…glassy-and-stony, and so on. One guy was a bartender, and the last place you wanted to be with him was a bar in his off-hours. “Geez, could you put MORE tonic in that, you hack!?”

With me it’s movies and TV. Long before I wrote for a living, I had spent 15 years in video production. So I am always noticing lighting, shot composition, camera moves, etc. Trust me, this is not a point of pride. It’s sort of an OCD thing that too often takes away from the experience.

When watching a film on a Friday night, I tend to drive people around me crazy with arcane observations (often accompanied by rewinding the DVD to illustrate) about some aspect of story structure. I once had a fantasy about doing film reviews for some alt-weekly somewhere. But you need to live somewhere large enough and cosmo enough to get early screenings. Sorry friends, Charleston is not that place.

Also, I tend to be very forgiving. I “get what the director was trying to do,” even if I don’t love the results. Real critics are paid to take a stand, however bitchy. I suppose, as Mr. Burns lamented on The Simpsons, I’m too nice.

Anyway, a small (!) circle of friends does take pity on my film affliction and asks my opinion from time to time. So I make mental notes when something really stands out, and once in a while I may share them with you. Tune in tomorrow!

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In an exciting twist that we all saw coming, the stirring conclusion to the corporate newsletter dilemma is to turn it over to a professional writer! Preferably, one based in Charleston but who serves clients nationwide!

On both the editorial and publishing sides, the professional copywriter can definitely help smooth out the rough spots. Just as importantly, the writer provides the corporate newsletter with something it rarely has…a singular voice. This may sound like something only a writer would care about but, trust me, it’s a much better read.

So, you get the gig. How do you get started? Your client probably has no idea, and is looking to you to grab the reins. Meet with the Manager and determine:

  • What kinds of stories he or she is after?
  • How will the types of stories be prioritized?
  • Who has final approval?

Then, meet with your internal…I don’t know what you call them…stringers, maybe. These are the marketing assistants who will running things on the inside. Carefully set up the responsibilities, procedures, the deadlines, etc. That’s the “publishing” side. On the “editorial” side of things, help them figure out what IS news, where to find it, and how to feed it to you in a format that is easily understood.

So, I follow all these steps and it’s instant success and universal acclaim, right? Right?

Easy Tiger. This is corporate communications. Here, the opposite of Crap isn’t “Genius!” The opposite of Crap is, “the newsletter? I guess it’s less crappy than it used to be.” In a business where the only Thanks you receive is getting paid in under 120 days, the corporate newsletter experience will seem very familiar. But, if you put on your business hat you’ll see that the newsletter provides something just as rewarding…a reliable four billable hours per week!

Genius!

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This is only vaguely related to copywriting, in that I write at my desk, looking out at the vast potpourri of nature that is Goose Creek. Anyway, this morning I noticed one of those big-ass crows swooping down to street level-then another, and another. Around here that usually means that some critter “up and got dead,” to use the scientific parlance, and now it’s snack time.

So check it out…

Snake
I did a quick search on teh intarwebs, and I am pretty sure this is a snake. Satellite imaging suggests it is about four feet long. Yeah, I guess you have to travel to Charleston to witness this level of natural, um, beauty. The closest I ever came in Cincinnati was having a rat cross my path as I sat in the drive-up line at Burger King!

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I’m new here, but making a living in video production in Charleston seems to be something of a scramble. And it doesn’t pay to be proud. I know established high-end pros whose typical schedule might include editing a corporate training video on Tuesday, videotaping a segment for Dateline on Thursday …and shooting a wedding on Saturday.

It follows that your client’s budgets will be all over the board. And there are times that you must get creative if you are going to make any money at all.

One of my clients had a thing for cue cards. From 8.5″x11″ to poster size, handwritten to 72-point font Word files. And, of course, it never worked, for all the reasons you can imagine. The need for a TelePrompter was obvious, but the budget never allowed it.

Once, with a shoot coming up on my schedule, I began to brainstorm the possibilities. I could rent a prompter system here in Charleston for $300 a day. I could try to choose from dozens of confusing software options to purchase. There were also several paper-based prompter systems to choose from, but it would definitely be a last resort. I still get nightmares about paper-prompting in the TV newsroom in the (late!) 1980s. Remember, where the long conveyor carried the hard copy past the single-tube black and white camera? At times, it was just like Lucy Ball in the candy factory!

As it turns out, the solution was even more low-tech than that–and definitely more portable. I built my own–see illustration!

The $29 Special!

I saw basically this same thing on the web for $250. I studied the picture, made some drawings, and then headed to Lowe’s. PVC pipe, some aluminum bar, some screws and a turnbuckle (I love that word!) Voila! Prompting goodness for the low price of thirty bucks, and it works perfectly. Sure, it looks like it will give you tetanus–but it works perfectly!

So, all you Tim Taylors out there-share your crazy invention stories with the rest of us!

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