I wanted to share this photo of Jessica Hanley and her adorable family. On Sunday, after a long weekend of work, we decided to take Jessica’s holiday card photo. What you need to know about Jessica is that everything she touches is perfect. Her work is always impeccable. She often brings me a lot of luck with her positive attitude. Well, this image was the first click of the camera on Sunday. I usually shoot off 2 or 3 shots until I am happy with the exposure ratios. And then, of course, there is editing. But this was the first image and it is right out of the camera – no editing whatsoever. Seriously Jessica?!?!?
An upsetting thing happened when I was editing this piece. I looked to buy stock photos of mental hospitals in the US. I saw the most frightening and darkly “comical” images of people in straight jackets making insane faces. And that is all. Not a single normal image of a mental health care facility out of thousands. This can’t be how we view mental illness, is it??? Mental illness is the most common illness there is. Why do we attach ridiculous stigmas to it? We will never be close to curing something that we do not accept!
I am writing because I can’t get the good people at Preferred Behavioral Health out of my head. I shot this piece in May 2015. I spent the week with the devoted staff and their clients. The experience will never leave me. These are people helping their neighbors to get back on their feet again. They have programs for anyone dealing with mental health or addictions. If it is not under roof, they will find the help. They turn no single person away. They also make a big investment in preventing addictions and bullying through their Prevention First organization.
Please watch if you have 5 minutes. We all can make a difference just by changing our perspectives.
Here is the piece we just finished for Highlands County Economic Development Commission. This piece aims to attract large business to the beautiful and centrally located county in south Florida. The Avon Park Air Force Range procured the grant to fund the video. They are a big part of the community and go to great lengths to keep it pristine. I enjoyed my time with the folks down there. They are a great group of people. I wish them much success.
…and this is the way I’ve been formatting pieces since as long as I can remember. I guess that is 1988. Please don’t say out loud how many years that is. I am doing this piece for the Highlands County Economic Development Commission along with the Avon Park Air Force Range. I have met a great group of people who are looking to expand business and industry in a beautiful section of Florida. My favorite part of my job is learning. I am really looking forward to putting this one together.
We shot a little political message to be used on social media a couple of weeks ago. Greg Seidel ran and won the first seat for the Winter Park, FL City Commission. It was shot and edited pretty quickly so Greg could get it out before the election. I love Winter Park. Greg and Valerie are doing great things for the city. I’m happy to help in some small way…
For as long as I can remember I marched forward. I never looked back. Sure, I looked at pictures – because I take a lot of them!! – but my focus was always forward.
I was in a video 33 years ago. I didn’t watch the video for many many years. It played on VH1 and ultimately YouTube. My friends and family were entertained by it, but I honestly get very embarrassed seeing photos and video of myself so I’d slink out of the room whenever they played it.
I was in high school at the time. After that life brought one change after another. I wore many hats. I marched and I marched. I have good memories and some bad — though I wouldn’t waste any time focusing on those.
A few weeks ago I was asked to surprise the singer songwriter Bertie Higgins on a talk show. It was the first time we have seen on another since filming the video in 1982. The show segment was taped Tuesday and aired today.
This has been a year of looking back. All of my marching came to a halt for half-a-second last year. And for some reason my past started to catch up with me. Old friends and co-workers suddenly started calling. I was getting together and speaking with people I hadn’t in decades. Whatever/whoever is in charge of this universe wanted to remind me of something. Myself? I’m not sure. But all my younger me’s started showing up again.
The producer and the hosts of the show asked me to remember the filming of the video. I’ll recall as much as I can here. I was 17 years old and a senior at Tarpon Springs Senior High in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I was editor of the yearbook, and I did not put a single photo of myself because I was incredibly camera shy. There was a yearbook convention that spring which played host to my first bout of trouble! My childhood friend lived in the town where the convention took place. He was two years older than me, but we were close friends as our mothers were tennis partners throughout our elementary school years. The legal drinking age was 18 at the time so my friend Tommy and his friend Hogey ordered beers while we were visiting at the hotel pool. My yearbook advisor was also at the pool and I thought nothing of bringing my friends over to meet him. (I actually am that dumb.) The s*#t hit the fan within minutes. My parents were called. The principal was called. “Boys and beer” was all I heard. My parents weren’t upset with me which was a relief. They didn’t understand why I was in trouble. I didn’t have a beer and the boys were drinking legally in public. Still there was a threat of suspension and having my yearbook title stripped of me. (The yearbook was already done!)
Two days later the principal walked into my psychology class and asked to see me in the hall. My teacher Mr. Felicione looked sympathetically at me as I got up to leave. He had taken me aside the day before to let me know he didn’t agree with what was going on. When I got to hallway the principal was standing with two men. One was staring at my face with his index finger beside his mouth the way people do when they are thinking. They said they were casting for a video. They started touching my face and then my hair. I didn’t understand what this had to do with the hotel incident because I was SURE that’s why I was taken out of class. The principal had to explain to me that I was being considered for a music video for the song Key Largo sung by our high school alum Bertie Higgins.
I thanked them for the consideration, but explained how camera shy I was. Meanwhile I was leapt for joy on the inside because the principal was nice to me. Surely he wouldn’t circle back and suspend me after that. I told the men that there were many pretty girls at the school and they would not have any trouble finding what they needed. They said they would call our house that night to speak with my parents. I didn’t say a word about it when I got home, and we all went out to the movies.
The director called the next morning. My mother spoke with them. By the time she told me they were already knocking at the front door. They offered me $100 and said the video would be used to promote the song in Japan. I liked the director a lot. He was in my closet picking out clothes before I knew it. It’s a good time to mention he was gay. (My best friends through the course of my life have been gay men.) We hit it off immediately. He told me about his visions for the video and before long I was hooked by the process.
After packing up a pile of my clothes we set off for the grocery store. Ted, the director, purchased Vasoline so my hair could look wet all day long. He explained what he wanted from me which was mostly sadness! The story of the song was that the relationship had failed. The singer is trying to convince his partner to try again. We were to have a few happy flashbacks and a hopeful ending, but principally I was to look discouraged and done!
We went to Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs for our first shots. That is where I met Bertie. One of our first shots were to run up the stairs of Spring Bayou. We were holding hands. I thought we were going in one direction but Bertie went the opposite way. My feet got crossed up and I looked completely pigeon toed in the shot. We didn’t film another! (There were a lot of YouTube comments about my gimpy feet years later.)
Bertie was very professional and kind. He was over a year into his fame at this point. Key Largo had been a hit and he had appeared on just about every show. We shot on 35 mm film which I found very cool. Whenever I wasn’t in the shot, Ted let me look into the camera as we filmed. I was completely excited by Ted’s job. I thought for the first time that day that I would love to be a director.
We went down to Howard Park Beach next. Bertie, the cameraman and myself road on the back of a pick-up truck while it road across the parking lot. The palm trees moved behind us making it look like we were on a boat (a very smooth boat – ha).
I feel like we went on a boat next but I know we ended the day back in the Howard Park clothes at Sunset Beach at sunset. Did we shoot a second day? I honestly cannot remember this part. But we did shoot on a boat. And that is when Ted heaped vasoline on my hair. He did this himself and combed it through. My hair did look wet!! We shot the scenes on the boat and I was to look miserable with Bertie. They were happy with my “performance” but the story might have been lost somewhere in the editing.
At Sunset Beach I went into the trailer that was onset for Bertie. I met his wife Beverly and I mistakenly stepped on her foot. I am clumsy. I was falling and I came down hard on her foot. I wanted to die. I am completely embarrassed.
We wrapped production before we got to film the happy scenes. I look a bit like a sour puss in the video, but I was having a blast in reality. We all said good bye and I was sad to see it end. I didn’t tell many people I did the video. I didn’t watch when they sent the tape to our house. March march march. I didn’t think about it again for many years. And then…. VH1 hit the air. I was working up in New York City at ABC by then. More to come on that…
Yesterday was long day filled with the usual ups and downs. My favorite line of the day came from my assistant Anthony who showed up around dinner time. “You are really racking up victim’s rights pamphlets!” he said, as he looked at the paperwork Officer Escobedo left on my kitchen counter.
My second bike stolen in two weeks. Might not seem like a big deal to some, but I live for my bikes! I ride every day. I ride for fun. I ride for transportation. I ride just to think. The first one stolen was my favorite. I had it for 21 years. I moved it everywhere I moved and it moved me. I felt like my legs weren’t complete unless my feet were in the peddle cages. I had that bike locked up fairly well to a stair rail right outside my kitchen door. My yard is enclosed with electronic gates and this area is not easily visible from the street. I locked the second bike in the same place. (losing reader confidence – not smart I know) But this time I used a huge intimidating cable, the largest I could find. My brain told me that the robber had probably moved on and even if he didn’t “he would never want to deal with this size cable.” My brain also thinks everyone is a nice person deep down so “naturally the robber probably feels very badly that he stole my first bike. He won’t return to hurt me again, but I’ll lock the bike really good to block any temptation.” My self dialog is kindergarten.
I woke up happy yesterday morning. That’s usual for me. I am always an optimist in the morning. Every day has the potential to be a great day. I put on my yoga clothes, packed my bike trunk and strapped my mat to my back. I said good bye to the dogs and hopped out the kitchen door. I saw the super large cable lock in the driveway before I even noticed the bike missing.
The work day went fine. I shot some real estate photos. I had lunch with some great friends. I furthered my relationship with the Orlando Police Department who tried (I am sure only to please the bicycle nut that is me) to dust for finger prints on scrap metal left at the scene.
There was only one choice for dinner. Yup. Tijuana — the feel good place.
Then Anthony and I played around with light and filters for an upcoming shoot. I laughed so much when I saw this picture this morning. It looks like I could not keep my eyes open. I look exhausted. Modeling is my least favorite thing, but necessary for the job of making others look good. (Not even I could ask Anthony to model this one) The woman who will actually model for these shots will be perfect! She is a super talented and beautiful actress, singer and dancer. I thought it would be fun to show the before (me!) and the after (Blue Star). I am looking forward to the shoot.
I haven’t opened the victims right pamphlets. I hope they tell me that the best thing for me is a new bike or a massage or even a mani/pedi. I hope they don’t just tell me about the judicial process, prosecution and stuff. I’ll choose my self dialog this time. It’s usually way more optimistic!