Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fruitcake Cookies, but not like Mom's

When I was but a wee fellow, we always had fruitcake at Christmas time. It was almost always Claxton, made with sticky candied fruits and nuts. We even sold them for my high school band. While I do have a fondness for the idea of this tradition, I must admit they do not seem that appealing as a food item. Stand by Alton Brown...

The other fruitcake event that took place at our house each year was my mother making fruitcake cookies. OK, strange I know, but stick with me here - there is a pay-off. I always knew that she was prepping to make fruitcake cookies when the packages of bright, and I mean bright, green and red round fruit things appeared at the back of the our white with gold fleck counter-top. One year when I was around 10, I came into the kitchen and saw this cup of raisins sitting on the counter top. Well, I did like raisins, and they seemed fair game just sitting one watching... in goes my hand for as big a fistful as I could grab. The funny thing was they were wet, but no point in putting them back, plus they were dripping on the floor. Time to get rid of the evidence, down the hatch in big gulp. If you have ever made fruitcake or cooked with dried fruit, you are probably aware of the technique of soaking them, usually in some alcoholic spirit, to soften them. Remember the part about a big handful? OK, now think bourbon. My mouth was on fire, plus I was panicking about getting caught for eating all the raisins. Of course, it was about that time that my mother came in to find me stuck with a mouthful of bourbon soaked raisins and wet hands dripping on the floor. Lucky for me she seemed to find quite a bit of humor in the whole scene and helped me with a paper towel to get cleaned up.

Back to Alton Brown... A week or so ago I was watching Good Eats on the Food Network, and Alton was doing a show on fruitcake. No candied fruit here, he was talking dried blueberries, cherries, apricots and currents. This sounded really good, so after the memories of my Mother's cookies came to mind, I had the bright idea of converting Alton Brown's recipe to make fruitcake cookies. Nice, I could pay homage to my mother and update her recipe all at the same time, especially nice since I have not seen a copy of her recipe in many years.
Here is my recipe for fruitcake cookies. Please let me know what you think about these if you make them.

Mark's Fruitcake Cookies

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried chopped apricots
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
  • 1 cup gold rum
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter (1-1/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken


Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit.

Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Mix batter together then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then mix in nuts.

Spoon batter with a desert-sized spoon onto cookie sheet, bake around 14 minutes. They should look brown on top and lift from the pan when done. Cool on a wire rack and store in a airtight container. Makes around 70 cookies.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Go Far 5K

On Saturday we started production on a short documentary film about GO FAR (Go Out For A Run!). With perfect weather after days of steady rain, it was a great day for watching 1,000 people run a 5K many for the first time.
We had a crew of 4 people, Maciek Krzysztoforski on stills, Zack shooting and sound, Harvey Robinson (of Harvey's Kitchen fame) shooting, along with me on a third camera. We shot 750 still photos and 3 hours of video footage. Watch for the film in a few weeks and if you have small ones sitting around, check out this program, 2 thumbs up, and then some!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Watcher, a short film shot with Pinhole Video

This short is the outcome of something I have been thinking about for a few months, video shot with a pinhole lens. Well, as you may know there is in fact no lens creating the image, just a very small hole made with a pin. Pinhole image creation is very old and started with the camera obscura. I have worked with pinhole photography a few times over the years, and this thought of video created with a hole in a piece of aluminum foil would not go away.
While this image is not suited to showing great detail in an object, it does have a very ethereal look and would work nicely for a baby's POV, dream state, or other-worldly kind of feeling.
This is my first test, and we plan to shoot with some different size pinholes to go for different looks. I liked this look for a horror film, so with a tip of the hat to Halloween here is "Watcher".

Monday, October 5, 2009

Save the Monkeywhale Music Festival

   This past weekend proved to be  big on fun (bigger on wearing me out) shooting a film on the Save the Monkeywhale Festival 2009 in Greensboro NC. It was 3 nights of NC bands, 12 in all, in 2 venues. The show comes out of the Harvey's Kithchen series of short films on North Carolina music, and beyond. The goal of the festival was to help fund equipment to keep the whole thing moving and support local arts and music. 

   My good friends at Monkeywhale, headed up by Harvey K. Robinson, asked me to come out and shoot a documentary film on the festival. I came away with 3 and a half hours of footage that will be mixed with some video from Harvey and Zach Hadgraft to produce a music video for each band and an overall film about the festival. Watch here, Mark Wagoner on Blip.TV, and for the upcoming films.

   In the mean time here are some frames from the footage that I shot at the festival.

A music soaked  crowd watches House of Fools play.
Now You See Them at Solaris.

Stephaniesid at the Blind Tiger, off beat sound with rock solid in the pocket
Bruce Piephoff, the master at work.
The Never from Chapel Hill, YES!
Martha Bassett in a glow at the blind tiger.
On maracas Katharine Whalen peforms with Alcazar Hptel.
The Martha Bassett Band.
Matty Sheets on interviews.
Citified plays the sound, nice.
Alcazar Hotel are the Czars.

Jim Avett steps in with Amelia's Mechanics.
Eating the Invaders cranks it up at Solaris on night one.
Fans went wild, or were mesmerized.

Holy Ghost Tent Revival had the crowd dancing at Solaris.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spartan Basketball Commercial

We just finished shooting a really fun TV commercial with Wilky Black and our friends at G-Force Marketing for UNCG Basketball. I have shot for many years for The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and it is always great to work on a project for the school. This was to announce that UNCG basketball is moving to the Greensboro Coliseum, this will be great both for UNCG and for local college basketball fans.

The whole spot was shot in 2 days with a small crew, lots of water, and a great cast. We used the Letus 35 adapter on our HPX500 to get a film look on the video. The camera was always moving on a 10" slider dolly. With this set-up, we were able to shoot 11 shots at 8 locations in the 2 days, with lighting on some of the sets. It was a fun shoot that turned into a great spot.

For more info about tickets for UNCG basketball please look here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Irata-Eye of Ra music video

Last fall I served as DP on a music video for the band IRATA. The song "Eye of Ra" is from their first CD. Love the song and the band. Look here for a post about the shoot.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Going Green

We have made a commitment for Mark Wagoner Productions to go green. Yes we are painting our cyc wall "green-screen" green. It will give us 17'w, 14'h, 12'd, of flat Rosco green paint. This is the "official" green color so it should key out nicely. We will have it ready at all times with only the need to touch up the floor. We already have projects that are slated to shoot on our green stage area, nice! Book now, book often.

First coat done, it's like watching paint dry.

Car Rig

Last week we had to mount our HVX200 on my van for a time lapse shot for a TV show we are shooting. While it was mounted, I shot a little extra footage. Here are some production stills of the rig and the outcome of the second shoot of the day. Although we had done a test shoot a few weeks ago, on this set-up we learned a lot about rigging the camera to the car. Our next rig will smooth out the shots even more.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

48 Hour Film Production, "Dance Again"

This past weekend we produced a film for the 48 Hour Film Project titled "Dance Again". It is about the stress of the mundane items of life and how chocolate cake makes it all better. We had a shoot of only eight hours, followed by twenty-five hours of editing. We had a great crew headed by Christian Parsons, and everyone did a great job. We got the film turned with four minutes to spare... damn, I could have gotten in one more cut!
Above are a few screen shots from the film.

Some people have asked me about how we got the look for the film. This is a very simple short film that takes place over six minutes at one small table. We do have one scene from the kitchen to help the "fantasy" aspect we needed to get in (one of the festival requirements). Anyway, we had set out to do a very simple film, but shoot it as beautifully as we could.

I had put a lot of thought into the look I wanted to achieve, and even before we arrived on the set, we did some critical work to achieve a clean image. A few days before the shoot, we brought all of the shoot monitors into the edit suite and calibrated everything as closely as we could. Here is a photo of that process. Then, our camera rig consisted of an Panasonic HPX500 - this is a 2/3 inch camera that I have spent a lot of time tweaking and setting up looks for. On the front of it, we used a Letus 35 adaptor with Canon zoom and prime lenses and a Chrosziel matte box. The lighting is a mix of soft window daylight, HMI, and tungsten lighting.

What this meant for post-production was that the color, contrast, brightness and overall look were achieved on the set. There was no correction done in post, except on the shot in the kitchen. This is big when you have a short deadline and need to edit, not spend time fixing exposure and color issues. I am coming to the place (perhaps it is back to the place) that we should create the look in-camera on the set whenever possible and change "fix it in post" to "enhance it in post".

Call me if you would like to know more about this process at 336.854.0406

Here are some production shots from Elizabeth Lemon.

These photos are from Bert Vanderveen.

And, from Tom Lassiter.

Friday, June 19, 2009

48 Hour Film Project Prep

Monitors- check!

Our team has been very busy this week making plans for a shooting a film for the 48 Hour Project this weekend. We will write, shoot  and edit a film in 48 hours, hopefully a bit less since we have to turn it in downtown.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Popping Pills

These eye-popping images are part of an ongoing video & still project we've been working on with the good folks at Banner and Blue Zoom. For you techies out there - the movie was shot with the HPX500, and the stills with the Hasselblad H3D-39.
(For more video samples, check out our library on