Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Silver Tree, Pink Lights

When I was but a wee lad, my Grandmother Tuck had a silver metallic tree with pink lights on it. As I recall at the time, I thought it was all a bit strange and not Christmas-y enough for my taste. However, my guess now is that she thought it very up-to-date, or else maybe she just liked it. I think the latter is probably the case, as she was not a fashion follower.

  Now suffice it to say that I loved my Grandmother dearly, and she loved me "a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck." How could there be more? But the metal tree was always bit of a mystery, and after a time she went back to a more traditional Christmas tree, a pine of some type.

  In the last few years I have found myself thinking about this tree, wondering about her choice, remembering the color and the sparkle of the needles. As I have become more interested in things mid-century, I have been wanting to bring this tree back to life - well, you know what I mean. So I was on a quest.

My Grandmother Ivey Tuck, sitting on Santa's lap 
while visiting my studio during a shoot for Hardee's around 1985. 
Santa was played by Dean Shelton.

  With only Lynn and myself at home this Christmas, we had planned to tone down a bit, we didn't plan on putting up a tree at all, until I hatched the idea of the silver tree with pink lights. After an intense search I realized that the silver metal trees were not so easy to find anymore, and I wanted a vintage one in reasonable shape. Nothing was turning up. A few places had them, but only for their in-store  props. So after some thought I decided we would do an homage to the tree. At Target I found a modern silver tree and pinkish LED's. For now it will have to do, but the search goes on...

Do you have any memories of quirky holiday decorations? Maybe family traditions gone awry? Share your stories with us!

Wishing you & yours a happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A New Way of Seeing

These photos are just a few samples of a new technique that Mark has been experimenting with in recent months. It's an in-camera process that gives images surreal, dream-like quality, and it can be used for still photography, as well as for film & video. Our recent short film "esperanza" is an example of this technique in motion. The images above were created on the job for clients, including AAA, UNC Greensboro, and the Eastern Music Festival. We are intrigued by the potential this style offers, and we can't wait to see who wants to try it next!

Current Events

It's been a busy fall for us here at Mark Wagoner Productions! In addition to the projects mentioned above, we've had some exciting collaborations in recent weeks including video shoots for HGTV, Stainmaster Carpets (screen grab above), Sealy and Wells Fargo. Check out our Facebook page to keep up to date on all the fun, or give us a call to discuss your next project!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

SET THE STAGE a short stop-motion film to promote the 17 DAYS Festival

   Early in June I received a phone call from my good friend Tom Philion, the CEO of United Arts Council for Greater Greensboro. Tom and I have worked on many projects over the last dozen years or so, always to good end. This call started a conversation about promotion ideas for the up-coming 17 Days arts event in Greensboro. After some thought, I came up with an idea for a stop-motion piece with a story of a stagehand who, after making a blunder, saves the day. Tom was intrigued enough to give me the go ahead, so I started assembling a team to produce the 30 second film "Set the Stage". 

   After a call to fellow filmmakers Stephen and Marie van Vuuren, I had the start of what would become a fantastic and enthusiastic team of stop-motionists (I think I may have coined a new term). The team was rounded out with Emma Hadley, an art student at VCU, Daniel Irons, a film student at SCAD, and Lynn Wagoner. I am grateful for all of their help, this project would not have come to life without them.

    With Marie as lead set designer helped by Lynn, Emma doing the design and construction of the props and figures, Stephen working out timing and technical issues during the shoot, and Daniel handling the camera and lights, we had all of the aspects of producing a lovely project. Now keep in mind - this is a lot of work for six people! We had a total of almost 30 days of work - from planning to editing - by the time it was completed.  

    My inspiration for the story comes from an experience that I had many years ago while working as a stagehand on a fashion show. The pre-set was for the front rag to be in the up postion, set parts in place and lighting set for the first scene. Perhaps five minutes before showtime, with a full house, I needed to be in position in the wings stage right, but I was in the wings stage left. The only way to get to where I was supposed to be was to walk right across the stage, in full view of the audience. I was halfway across when I realized maybe it would have been better to walk upstage behind the backdrop. I was mortified, but I kept going on with the confidence of a 23-year-old. Of course, I walked right into the director who was waiting in the wings. This experience contributed to my style of directing, which helps keep me calm, even when not all is perfect. Like our animated hero, a figure of notoriety that goes way beyond Greensboro, I went on to help save both the day and my respectability, and I am reminded that we often get a second chance to prove our value.

   The set features the number 17 as you would expect, a tip of the hat to our friend Harry Blair and the beautiful Greensboro Oak Leaf design he created around 1985 for the Carolina Theater, and many of the feature performers and art that will appear during the festival.

     We all had a hand in the animation. On the opening shot, we had the camera dollying, focus pulling from a chandelier moving up and out of frame, people in the audience sitting down, and the curtains opening. That was the shot with the most different movements, but perhaps not the hardest shot to pull off.  We have different answers for that depending on who was the main animator for a given set-up. While on there can always be a bit of tension with the difficulty of some of these shots, everyone had fun is ready to produce another stop-motion soon, well, maybe in a few weeks, or perhaps a month.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Making of "esperanza"


This little project started with an invitation to shoot at my friend Mark Hewett's store, Area. Lynn and I shop there, and we have rented and bought props from Mark for years for the studio. We even shot a print project there once, back when there was money spent on hosiery advertising (that seems like another lifetime!) I knew I wanted to shoot something that took advantage of the great windows upstairs, and had an element of a fashion and lifestyle look to it, but it had to have a story. I did not want to shoot just a collection of pretty pictures.

I was talking to Kelly Swanson from Ink Photography Productions about this, and she was excited to help. We spent a few phone calls and a lunch talking about cast, props, crew, time of day, everything except the lost subject, the story. After a few months of ruminating on this subject, it suddenly became clear in a moment - as these things often do. A story about longing for what might be, or what might have been. It would be the woman's story with the guy in the supporting, but perhaps not supportive, role.

Also going on at the same time over this past winter was a brewing battle of two new cameras, the Red Scarlett and the Canon C300. Both were announced to much fanfare on November 3rd, 2011, but with no exact delivery time. I was in the market to make a change, and I went back and forth with my excitement and decision. I worked on this every night, reading every test and comment I could find. Finally by mid-February, I had made a decision to buy the Canon C300, and as predicted, this has proved to be the correct move on my part. It shoots a wonderful image, with tons of latitude, and it is great in low light. We have already shot more than a dozen projects with this camera.

I have been thinking about a technique for manipulating the image on a motion picture camera that would feel very real, as in not done in post, and has a emotional feeling associated with it. I have tested many filters, lenses, mirrors and various objects to achieve what I saw happening in the head upon my shoulders, but nothing seemed to work. At last this camera plus some very old lenses gave me the combination to make this imagined image come to life. I am really excited about this look, and what's more, I can achieve it with still photography, too. A few clients have already asked me to create stills and video using this look.

(Please call me to find out more or how we can use this look for your project!)

So, back to the story of the story, longing is a theme that appears in many artistic forms, perhaps I am most knowledgeable with the subject from the writing of the Sufi poet Rumi. I decided, (after much mental tennis), that the film should end the way life often does, with some degree of uncertainty. Endings do not always end like the movies, I doubt I'm the only one who feels this. The way you see the ending may have to do with how you look at life, or then perhaps not. I go back and forth less now than i did during the edit, but even I still have mixed feelings about it.

Kudos to everyone who helped make this a reality, Kelly and Lauren at Ink, Mark at Area, Cheri Osterholt and Kent Chilton for opening themselves up for a great performance, Stephan Weed for all the hard work on shoot day, Stephen van Vuuren of SV2 Studio for help on set and on story building, Jill Davis for tons of post production support, and to Lynn for listening to me talk about this for months and her support on getting out and shooting it.

Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Telly Time 2012

We are so excited and humbled to announce that Mark received four Telly Awards for his work as a Director and DP during the last year! You can see the award winning spots by clicking the links below:

Charitable / Not For Profit, "Go Out For A Run"
      for the GO FAR Club with Watts Communications

Cinematography, "Sam the Flim Flam Man"
      with G-Force Marketing Solutions

Cinematography, "Taniya Nayak - Mohawk Flooring"
      with ASV Productions

Cinematography, "Santa Letters"
      with G-Force Marketing Solutions

We want to thank our good friends and colleagues who worked with us on these projects. They were all team efforts!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Showreel for 2012

Come view our new showreel on Vimeo! It's an exciting collection of the wide variety of work we've been up to recently. Then browse our website for more in depth samples.