The Passion Bug
My daughter Samantha is a senior in high school this year. She is a creative person, with a passion for the arts. As we start our tour of colleges across the Midwest I can’t help thinking about where I was at when I was her age. Especially since one of our first stops is Kansas City to visit UMKC, which is right down the street from my alma mater, the Kansas City Art Institute.
When I was senior in high school I was hitting every rock show that came to St. Louis. Smuggling in my Olympus OM-1 and a Vivitar 70-210 zoom lens I married my love of music with my passion for photography.
After high school, I attended KCAI to major in Photography. They put all freshmen through a course called “Foundations” which was like a boot camp for artist. Every two weeks or so you practiced a different medium – painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography and so on.
The idea was to expose yourself to areas outside your comfort zone and introduce new ways of looking at the world. But I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone, I had it all figured out, I knew photography was all there was for me, so why am I drawing nude models every Thursday for 2 hours when my drawings looked like glorified stick figures with a penis and boobs?
Then came the week for video. The instructor took us over to the “video lab, “ showed us the basic operation of a video camera, then said, “Think of an idea, go shoot it. When you’re done, we’ll explore the “editing suite.”
Two 3 quarter inch top loader tape decks, editing tape to tape with a little audio switcher. That was the state of the art set-up.
My idea was simple, take a tennis ball and give it a life of it’s own. The plan was to have the tennis ball go on a journey through the KCAI campus, cut to the Steely Dan version of “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo”.
It started with the tennis ball on my shelf in my dorm room. It rolls off the shelf, out the door, through the hall and down the steps and on through the campus. Each scene I’d set the camera up on a tripod, hit record, then roll the tennis ball off camera and into the scene – classrooms, past the instructor’s desk, cafeteria and so on, shooting a variety of locations around the campus in no particular order. Then it would eventually find its way back to my shelf, where it landed just in time for me to enter scene and notice everything in place.
It wasn’t until I entered that “Edit Suite” that I realized it was actually going to work. I threw myself into the process, experimenting like a mad scientist.
This editing thing was a hoot!
I was crafting a story, exploring every which way to cut it. Then came my final hero scene, getting the ball to jump back on the shelf and rest….which I tried to shoot by gently tossing the ball on to the shelf, but I couldn’t seem to get that shot right.
That’s when the light bulb went on: if I shuttled the ¾” deck just right, I could get the opening scene to look good playing backwards. My first editorial challenge, solved.
It was like I split the atom, my aha moment, I couldn’t wait to telephone my family.
The magic of editing was in full bloom. When I showed my piece to the small audience of my class, to my amazement they laughed and applauded.
I knew right there that the magic of editing was something special. I got the bug that day/night in the edit suite and it has never left me.
I’d give anything for a copy of that video today, unfortunately that work of art is lost and nowhere to be found. I remember it being, or at least I think, the best thing ever made. Maybe it’s better to just keep that dazzling memory than to find the original video with it’s inevitable flaws.
I graduated from the KACI with a Bachelor’s Degree in Video/Photography in 1986.
Thanks to foundations and an open mind, I’ve been editing ever since. Today, I still get those giddy moments in my edit suite; those moments are key to longevity.
After our tour of UMKC, Sammi and I plan on stopping by the Art Institute, and retracing the journey of that tennis ball. I can only hope that through her journey into the college life, as she seeks a creative, artistic vocation, that she gets bitten by the passion bug, like the one that got me, and that it sets her world in motion.