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Melissa Fox Chicago

On Location: Women's March Chicago

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On Location: Women's March Chicago

#whyimarch

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Political feelings aside, this march has been a long time coming. The election was a tipping point but not the reason people took to the streets. In the planning stages, this movement had a tone that other protest movements did not. Women's rights are humans rights. Equality for all. This movement has a clear agenda, organization and support from the world. Today was bigger than me, my husband or my city.  The images from around the world echo a message that EVERYONE is feeling. The future is female and feminine values are needed to restore balance in our world. I want future generations to experience a better world than the one I leave behind.  

I had a plan to take portraits of protestors. But upon arrival it became very clear that not only would I not be able to find the people I selected but that today was about to be historic. I have marched for quite a few things in Chicago, but this felt different. THIS was the kind of march I read about in history books. The good will of the crowds reminded me of what it felt like to stand in grant park and listen to the first African American president speak on the night of his election. I decided to abandon all plans and go with the flow. There was no cell service and all signs were telling me to be present and soak the experience in. The photograph below beautifully illustrates the feeling: Soaking in the sunshine after a month of darkness while surrounded by like-minded men and women. It was a breath of fresh air. It made everyone beautiful. 

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I march for equality. I march for women.
I march for families and children of all races and religions.
I march for better representation in our government. I don't ever want to see a white washed inauguration again. My world is colorful. I want my art, my work, my media and my government to reflect the tapestry of culture that I experience every day.
I march because I am aware of the privilege my skin color affords me. I am aware that I am joining a long line of dissent from my friends of color.  I am honored to give you my space and my voice. I will hand you the microphone if it is handed to me.
I march because as a woman I have experienced sexism and misogyny first hand.
I march because no little girl should grow up thinking that her body is her only value. Because no man has the right to make decisions about her body for her. I march against discrimination.
I march for healthcare, because no one should go bankrupt because they are sick.
I march for education. As a public school kid I know the value of access to quality opportunities.
I march because the student loan debt is OUT OF CONTROL. Access to education should not put one in debt for a lifetime.
I march for access to the arts, for without it I would not have found my voice or my livelihood.
I march for the climate, because science is real. 
I march for the men in my life who stand with me to fight this fight, because women's rights are human rights.
I march for my gay, lesbian and trans friends because love is love is love is love is love is love is love. No matter what you identify with or where you come from. I march for affordable housing, because the American dream of owning a home is dead.
I march for immigration rights, because my family would not have survived WWi without it.
I march for the fight against income inequality, because I am the first generation to make less money than my parents and it is NOT because I am lazy.
I march for those, who for whatever reason, could not march today but wanted to, because I respect the hard working families that couldn't' afford to take a day off for activism. 

Today was just one day, but it was enough to give me the strength I will need for the days ahead.

Who runs the world?
Girls. Better get used to it. 2020 is female. 

POST SCRIPT JANUARY 23, 2017

It wasn't even 24 hours after the march that I started to experience backlash for marching. In fact, it was five minutes after posting this that I started to see women talking about how they "didn't need this march," or how we "special snowflakes," need to STFU and "get over it." I am currently in many arguments about the " Trump did more for fat women by getting them out to march than Michele did in 8 years," meme. That I even have to explain why that isn't funny is a problem.  

I did not march because "my party didn't win the election," I marched because I see progress on issues I care about slipping away. The election taught me that I need to be louder. I need to work harder.  Again, Trump wasn't the reason I marched but he was the spark that woke me up. He gave me a nice dose of reality. Helped me see that we weren't making the progress I thought we were. He popped my white privilege cherry wide open with his rhetoric. These things have been stirring in my soul for a long time. He was the push for me to speak up. 

I wish Trump well. He was elected and I respect our democratic system. I hope he proves me wrong.
Until then, I march. I write, I create, I scream, I cry, I work, I have uncomfortable conversations.
I am working toward creating a world that benefits all - not just the few. I am skeptical that he will help me accomplish that goal.

But here is the BEAUTIFUL THING: You have the wheel now dear conservatives. Prove me wrong.
Make it great for ALL AMERICANS and make me eat my words!!

Go ahead. I dare you. 

In the past few months I have spent time listening to views that oppose mine, as I have spent most my life among a conservative republican white family. I often felt alone in my views and choose not to engage with the racist, out of touch, conspiracy theories I heard spew from the mouths of those around me. I used to see my silence as respect for that person's views. I now see that as a passive participant, I am responsible for our current events. This work IS upsetting. It WILL challenge me but I am ready to engage more deeply. 

I grew up with one foot in the middle class white world and the other in the diverse poor side of my city. A unique experience I wish more people had. I have seen first hand what discrimination looks like. I have watched my talented friends of color struggle, while I succeeded. Just because YOU don't feel you need to march, doesn't discredit 2.5 million others who feel like they do. 

I am disappointed in you if you choose to alienate me when you keep calling for unity. Lead by example. Be curious and listen. 2.5 million people took to the streets. It will be in our history books. 

If you are a woman you owe your right to vote to the women in history who marched. Period. 

Images (c) melissa fox media LLC 2017 - may not be used or duplicated without my written permission. Inquire for media rates. Will donate for any women's movement, please write me for permission. 

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How To: Five tips to nailing a thoughtful, emotional and story rich interview.

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How To: Five tips to nailing a thoughtful, emotional and story rich interview.

In documentary filmmaking questions are king.

I could write for days on this subject. Interviewing people is a beautiful privilege. Recording someone is transformational. Leading people to their emotions is not only healthy but it serves the deeper hunger that we all have to connect. It is such important work.

Stories matter. People matter. I believe that if people told more of their stories to one another that we could create a more compassionate world. Anytime one can humanize an issue, we are one step closer to creating understanding across cultural, social and economic boundary lines. Have you ever asked the homeless man you pass every day to tell you his story? If you did, how might that change your view of that person? This is why I love my work. I get to ask these questions. I get to be curious for a living. 

Storytelling is an ancient art. We have evidence of it's impact on ancient societies through language, art and artifacts. Ancient cultures passed down their traditions through oral storytelling. I think stories are part of what makes us human. It is a form of expression. We love storytelling so much we have made whole industries out of them. Film, photography, social media are all bi-products of our desire to tell stories. Stories start with questions. 

In screenwriting class my instructor, the kick ass female director Jennifer Reeder that you should totally look up, always told us that if you feel stuck, start with a question. "What if?" If that didn't lead you anywhere, become an expert eavesdropper. Listen to people. Ask questions. 

When I first set out to be "filmmaker," I thought I was going to make narrative films. Before that I thought I was going to be an "animator." I wanted to make disney movies. It took years for me to arrive at the conclusion that what I actually wanted to do was to tell people's stories. It was the stories that inspired me. When I arrived at working on documentaries for clients I discovered that I felt most alive when I was asking questions and letting my curiosity guide me toward getting to know someone. It just so happened that I had a wonderful product of that curiosity in the form of a film. 

So ask questions. Ask lots of them! 

Then think about the kind of questions you are asking. They set the tone for your film and your relationship with it's subject. 

Here are five tips to nailing thoughtful, emotional and story rich interviews. 

1. Research, Write and Prep. The internet is an amazing place. Google your subject. Chances are there is public information that you can find out before the cameras come out. This will save time and help give you information to go deeper with your subject. Find out about their passions, tastes and lifestyle. Use this information to craft thoughtful questions that help your subject relax. I will sit down and make copious notes on a persons interests. I may or may not use all this information in my interview session but I will hold it in my mind in case I need it. Knowing if someone is a middle child versus an older child can help you discern personality traits and styles of questions. Then put together a plan for your interview and start writing your questions. In my work with clients I go as far as to write a script. I won't be focused on getting my words exactly, unless I run into a jam, but I will be able to see my whole story at once. 

2. Word questions carefully. Language matters. Use questions that inspire people to answer with a story. Be aware of your own bias in a question. This will show up in how you word the question. You can still choose to use your bias toward the goal of your film but be aware of how it works. 

  • DO: Describe to me what it felt like to ________. Tell me about ___________. What drives your passion for _________? 
  • DON'T: Were you upset? Do you like ______? If you can answer a questions with "yes" or "no" it is not a good question. 
  • DON'T:"How do police infringe on peoples rights when they scan cell phones during a riot?" Leads the subject to answer based on your believe that they are in fact infringing on rights. 
  • DO: Describe how you feel about police listening to cellphone scanners during a riot?

Wonderful TED talk on conversation analysis. 

I love listening to smart people talk about their work. This talk applies to interviews and communication. There is so much information in how you ask a question and how one responds. 

Prof. Elizabeth Stokoe takes a run on what she terms the "conversational racetrack"-the daily race to understand each other when we speak-and explains how to avoid hurdles that trip us up and cause conflict. Elizabeth Stokoe is a British scientist. She studies conversation analysis. She is a professor at Loughborough University.

3. Ask subjects to respond using "I" statements. Third person storytelling only works if there is a narrator talking about the subject. If you are letting your subject tell the story, they should use the phrases "I feel," "I think," "I know," versus "You feel," "You think," ect. With upsetting subject matter I like to remove myself from the upset and I might start to speak in third person. Good storytelling asks the subject to say "I." It is a small tweak that can make the difference between a story that inspires and one that falls apart. 

4. After you ask your question, listen carefully and pick out themes. Scan for words that are repeated. Listen for words that create feelings. Notice when the person across from you decides to not explore a topic. It is all data. Listening is a key element to getting a great interview. If I can pick out a theme from a story I can lead my subject deeper and gain trust. It is like getting a wonderful gift - it is affirming for the subject to understand that you care and are paying attention. This creates trust. It will also allow you to see where you can lead your subject deeper. 

5. Ask about feelings. I consider this to be the most important tip. Try this at home and with friends: Ask about feelings. While you are listening to your subject pay attention to your own emotions. Chances are if you are feeling something, your subject is feeling it too. Ask about them. "I noticed when you talked about ________, I felt sad. Is that true for you? Why do you think that is?" This is a skill, you can learn it. Notice and ask. You will be amazed with where this simple tip will lead you. 

BONUS TIP: Did you notice that only two of my tips are about writing the questions? The other three are about how you behave when you ask them. 

Yes, you need questions that are crafted to get the type of stories you are looking for. However, the key to getting a thoughtful, emotional and story rich interview is how you are with that person. How you feel listening to them. Feelings and relationships are a big part of my work. Don't run from them. Embrace them, feel them and talk about them WITH your subject. If you haven't "fallen in love" with the person you are interviewing by the completion of your film, you have not done your job and you can not expect your audience to fall in love with your film either.

And seriously, look up Jennifer Reeder and her new film #crystallake  

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Creative Blocks

 

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I know the feeling. The one I get after booking a cool project. The money is in, contracts are signed and now it is time to get to work. I pour myself a hot cut of tea and look over my notes. I read interviews, creative briefs and brand statements. When I think I am ready, I open up a new document and get ready for the genius to flow. 

The cursor then sits there. It blinks in defiance. It begs me to put down an idea. I am stuck.  This happens to me at every project. Be it a painting or a script I am writing. I am both thrilled and daunted by the blank page. 

 "Just start," I tell myself. Even if I have the intention to throw it out later, at least it will be a beginning. So I start. I fall in love with my first few ideas and then pat myself on the back for being so clever. The words are flowing out of me until they hit a brink wall with the weight of a thousand caffinated hang overs. At this point I hate myself. I hate my ideas. My genius is stupid. I give up and walk away for an hour. No use forcing work. 

I end up sleeping on it and come back to the computer renewed. This process happens a million times over the course of a project. I both fall in love my work and loathe it at every stage. That part of my work never goes away.  

Editing is the worst. Watching footage can be painful. It may be my best work to date. But it might not match the high standards I have set for myself. The footage represents all the choices made on a set. Editing is the process of wrestling with those choices while still seeing the big picture. I have to let go of what could be and focus on what is. I make little happy discoveries as I go. One minute I adore it the next I curse it as rubbish.  

At some point I call the work finished. I come to the conclusion that I have done the best with what I have. Months or maybe a year later I watch my work and finally aprreciate it. Creating is vulnerable. I don't think that will ever go away. I often call the same process: wrestling the beast. A blog for another day. 

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Interstellar

There is much to say about Interstellar. That muchness is still churning around my brain. (Blog does contain spoilers) 

My thoughts are at war with each other. I both loved the film and wanted to roll my eyes at it at the same time. I think it will take a second viewing to sort out what that is but here are my initial thoughts. 

First, I am utterly impressed with the technology of the film. It is beautiful. In all its stunning americana from corn to 1960s colored film stock it references the golden age of NASA. It harkens your soul like a little boy who dreamed of becoming an Astronaut. I am seduced by its beauty. The film technique makes me drool and I fell in love with the light and color. I was thrilled to see the use of projections instead of green screen and enjoyed its glory in 70mm. 

The Story 

The story elements need work. Most science fiction feels like an ideological lesson or warning about the pit falls of humanity. Interstellar is no different. Ripe with an after school special tone: The moral of the story is that love will save us all... eye roll. For a film that introduces five dimensional thinking it's characters come off as two dimensional. 

The script tried to be too smart at times. (Like naming a character ironically after Murphy's Law.) There are some elements that worked. Gravity was one of them. Nothing felt more grave then the realization that a tiny mistake in space time would cost everything to our main characters. This was the best moment of the film. It was a heavy force, a terrifying realization that everything has changed and there is no going back. If I was Keanu I would say : "Whoa." This is about as far as the film goes in dimensions and emotions. Even the best of performances couldn't save the lack of subtext.

Listening to Carl Sagan's pale blue dot, one but can't help but feel small and insignificant. It fills me with wonder, sadness and a vast longing to understand my universe better. This existential crisis is a wonderful theme to explore. It strikes at the heart of the basic questions we all face in lives. Our characters in the film venture out into this unknown. I was hoping we would stay there. In that floating fleeting world of questions and space. A topic another one of my favorite science fiction films does well: Contact. 

Interstellar and Contact are closely related on the comfort scale. (And not because they both share Matthew Mcconaughey.) When our main characters venture into that unknown they are greeted with familiarity. At the height of their fear they are met with family, love and peace. Half of me loved this concept and the other half rolled my eyes at the cheesy, "gee-whiz" feeling of it all.  Maybe I am just not clear on what I believe the universe be. 

Where Interstellar differs from Contact is that Contact leaves you to decide what you believe. I like that better then being told to swallow my moral lesson like a pill and enjoy it. In Interstellar you take the blue pill and daddy's love saves humanity. We are the aliens. We have just figured out how to evolve through time travel. In Contact we return to earth with more questions then answers. The only thing we know for sure is that we are not alone. I had hoped for an Contact like ending. I wanted to walk away with more existential questions than answers. 

Instead I had questions like:

Did anyone else notice that if plan B needed to go through, that there was only one woman aboard the ship? That would make her the queen bee of the human race. Wouldn't you send up just a few more ladies in this scenario - especially if you knew your equations would never work?

Did you notice that twelve "astronaut" apostles went into space to check out planets and we ended up on "Judas'" aka Matt Damon's planet first?

What about the theory of relativity for which planets to go to first? If the data looked promising but we were receiving it as if they had just landed wouldn't you wait a bit just to make sure. Our scientists took the time explain that to us but not to themselves. 

The Science 

I have much respect for the science that is represented in the film. What the script lacked in character complexity it made up for in science. I wished I had known this before I went to see the film. Physics and astronomy have always fascinated me. While I am not smart enough to comprehend the math involved in the complicated equations that help explain our universe I am however fascinated by the theories and science behind them. 

Ask my husband and he can attest to the hours of lectures and documentaries he has napped through while I absorb as much of the information as I can. Physics is f!%^ing amazing. This is the single redeeming factor of the film that separates it from something you can skip to something you need to see in the theater. 

The science is accurate. Geekgasm! The models of the black holes in the film use actual scientific equations. 

View from a camera in a circular, equatorial orbit around a black hole that spins at 0.999 of its maximum possible rate. The camera is at radius r=6.03 GM/c^2 , where M is the black hole's mass, and G and c are Newton's gravitational constant and the speed of light.

This made me want to see the film again. The science is the real character not the story we are being told. Overall I do think this is a theater experience. In 70mm the film enveloped its audience and it is a fun film to pick apart. 

What did you think? Leave me some comments below. 

 

 

 

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Still life photography with iPhone.

I was surprised when this snapshot became my most popular instagram photo.

This photo was taken in five minutes. I was splitting open a pomegranate. I looked down and noticed how beautiful it was. It reminded me of a 17th century still life painting. One of my favorites from Art History. I walked the cutting board over to my sunroom and set it on the table. I took one of the paintings off my wall and put it on its side in the background. I then took a book to block the light from the right side of the frame and adjusted the blinds to give me the light I wanted. It took me a few rounds of photographs with my iPhone to get the angle and exposure I wanted. When I touched the screen at the hottest (brightest) point, I got the light quality I wanted. Click on my diagram below to see how to set this up for yourself. The book placement is the key to getting the shadows right. 

Love these and want a print? Click on the images below to go to my print store. 

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