Some of you know me as a video director, speaker, and violinist. But my sport is weight-training. (Not bodybuilding, fyi.) I’ve been a lifter for 20 years, and it’s changed how I think about a lot of things, including my creative work.

First, a little bit about how we build muscle. It’s a multi-part process.

Me, taking a selfie break at my local Anytime Fitness gym.

Pushing yourself to new levels

To get started, you have to load the muscle. This means applying more weight than what the muscles are used to. Which is why we train by lifting progressively heavier weights. If you just stick to the same program, you won’t be doing your body any favors. And you’ll get pretty bored, too.

Once the muscle gets loaded, you get sore, which tells you the inflammatory molecules and your immune system are activated. Muscle glycogen helps to swell the muscle and connective tissues grow, too.

The muscle literally has to break down to rebuild, stronger.

Lesson 1 from lifting: Getting out of your comfort zone, literally, is part of the process.

While this is happening, you have to rest the muscle. This is why we lifters rotate “back days” or “leg days”. Rest is key to success!

Lifting Lesson 2: You can’t always be in “building” mode. We all need regular breaks in order to stay creative.

Failure leads to success

Another element of weight training is “training to failure”. This means repeating an exercise (such as squats or bench press) to the point of momentary muscular failure, i.e. the point where the neuromuscular system can no longer produce adequate force to overcome that weight workload.

Lesson 3 from lifting: Failure is part of the growing process.

To successfully train to failure, you have to pick a weight that’s heavy enough to make you struggle to complete your last rep. But you have to know what you’re doing with this technique. You can lose form and then hurt yourself, if you aren’t training properly. Thus the need for spotting, which you will see a lot with bench press and squats.

Lesson 4 from lifting: Often, you need help to get to the next level.

If you do know what you’re doing, then working to failure can help you break through a plateau—get past a barrier that in some ways is in your mind, not only your body.

Being in the moment

One of the things I love about lifting is how it forces me to be in the moment. My work already feels like a series of marathons with various finish lines up ahead. But with lifting, there’s just this moment. This one lift, right now. That forces me to focus. To make the most of the lift. And to ignore all the other looming deadlines and projects.

Lesson 5 (and super hard for me as a go-go person): There is value in simply being present in the moment.

What you put in matters

Lifting definitely helps me focus on the foods I need to eat. Your body needs both carbs and proteins to build muscle. You need a sufficient supply of amino acids.  Your body doesn’t produce leucine, isoleucine, and valine, so I add them to my workout mix (you’ll hear the term BCAA’s–branch chain amino acids–from lifters, and everyone tinkers around with their perfect workout mix). BCAA’s are the body’s essential tools to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue, and a lot of lifters think they also reduce post-workout muscle soreness.

So Lesson 6 is that creative muscle-building requires “input”–going to museums, concerts, plays, films, installations, as well as simply time to think about these things–in order to create more interesting “output”.

By now you’ve figured out that my point here isn’t about weightlifting. It’s about creative work and life.

I’ve learned that it’s important to push myself and my team to try new things. And a trainer often helps me do that–find a new creative way to exercise the same muscle group. Or try hitting an entirely different muscle.

In my work, team members and sometimes coaches help support my creative reaches. It would be easy to just phone in the work and repeat the process for each new video, workshop or speaking engagement. But instead, I’m often trying a challenge I’ve never taken on before. And in turn, pushing my team to do the same. This helps us learn and grow. And ultimately do better work.

We sometimes try and fail. And that’s okay. (And that’s where my producer backup planning comes into play—often the client isn’t even aware we tried something and ended up going a different route.)

We often need help–creative work is a team sport. As with lifting, we need spotters and trainers to support an inspire us.

We also need breaks. Last year, our team really pushed ourselves because we had so many new and exciting projects and clients. But we also got really fatigued. So I shut down our virtual office for 11 days to recharge our creative selves before starting in on work for the New Year. And I plan to bake in plenty of vacation time in between creative workouts this year, to be sure I’m coming at them with full energy.

We also need time to focus on the moment, and not worry so much about what’s coming.  And we need positive input. As a creative, I love going to museums, concerts, plays, long walks–anything that gives me the visual and auditory version of those branch chain aminos.

Whatever your sport or passion, I hope you are building in time for trying new things.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a spotter or a trainer.  Try and fail, and try again. And set aside time to regroup and recharge.

Here’s to building some new muscles in 2023!

Production is a team sport, and this year I’m so thankful for my extended team! The year kicked off with a nonprofit board retreat with co-facilitator and master strategist Ed Spitzberg of Spitzberg Advisors. Remote workshops at the Visual Storytelling Conference were packed, thanks to the team at Future Media Conferences. We had in-person shoots in DC, Miami, Albuquerque and Maryland with talented crew, including DP Sheila Smith, DP Bunee Tomlinson, Sound Engineer Brian Buckley, Shooter/Editor David Godbout, Producer/Director Danilda Martinez, plus post team Adam and Rachel at RHED Pixel, editor Abbey Farkas, and motion designer Chris DiNardo, plus Cheryl and her fab team at OttHouse Audio. And we shot remote interviews with people all over the world, and in-person actors in the studio thanks to the talented team at Interface Media Group and production managers Frankie and Grant.

NABShow Las Vegas was a blast, and our first in-person #GALSNGEAR Women’s Leadership Summit was a success thanks to visionary coach Ellyn McKay, talented workshop leader Eva Jannotta, and our team that included Samantha Cheng, Danilda Martinez, Kimberly Skyrme, and our student camera operators Beatriz Rodriguez and Myrka Morales.  And of course our lead sponsors at DELL and NVIDIA!

Summer included a reinvigorating creative conference at SUNY Fredonia with my academic colleagues at UFVA, including the insightful Ruth Goldman and Allie Sultan. More production and more travel…and thanks to my new friends at Vimeo for including me in their boating evening during IBC Amsterdam! The fall kicked off with a challenging 100th anniversary project, shout out to archival producer Malkia Lydia for scanning and keeping track of thousands of historical images. And I couldn’t share ideas without social media mavens Maria and Zury to carry the day! What a year. THANK YOU ALL. I’m so grateful for each and every one of your talents, skills, and good cheer. Let’s do it again next year!

Live events are back! In fact, I’m headed to one right now in New York. But can we remember how to meet up in person? Here are some of my top strategies. I’d love to hear from you about your own tips, too.

Digital scans

Most conferences now include QR codes on badges. The good news is, they scan right into your contacts. The bad news is, you get back from the conference with massive new contacts in apps that don’t really mesh with your own system. Plus, you may have no idea what you discussed with those people. So what I like to do is jot reminders in my Google Keep notes app so I can copy-paste them into my contacts.

Take Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? You can have the person hold up their badge ID next to their face for a photo. For really fun or key moments, I’ll also take a selfie to share afterwards with an email follow up. People actually appreciate these because they can’t remember who they spoke to either!

Take a selfie to send with a follow up note.

Bring business cards

With the digital scans mentioned above, it may seem like business cards aren’t needed. But I can’t tell you how many people appreciate them. First, it’s tangible. Second, you can jot a note right on the card. And third, in many countries a card exchange is required to begin a serious business exchange. With so many easy, cheap cards available from places like Moo.com, why not have some handy!? You can even include a QR code that goes right to your website or demo reel.

Networking during the #GALSNGEAR Women’s Leadership Summit at NABShow

Networking tips

Instead of “what do you do?” ask “where are you from? Most people are happy to talk about their hometown. And you might remember each other better with this conversation starter, too. Another tip: instead of immediately pitching yourself/your company, try to find something the person you are meeting could find helpful. For example, another connection (“oh, let me introduce you to Charisse, it sounds like their web marketing company is just what you are looking for!”) or it could be another kind of help (“If you are ever filming in Miami, I know a great videographer you could call.”) People get very tired of hearing other people’s elevator pitches, so you will make yourself stand out, and get further by being known as a “connector”—someone everyone wants to know!

Get out of your comfort zone

Planned meetings are great at key industry events. But nothing beats serendipity. I’ve bumped into so many people over the years who have led me to key clients, collaborators and vendors, that I can’t even count them. So don’t make your every moment be scheduled. Enjoy the serendipity!

Follow up

Most people are swamped with unread emails the week following a major film festival or conference. I will typically wait 2-4 weeks to follow up, unless there was a mutual agreement for something sooner. But that doesn’t mean I don’t draft the emails right when I get back, before I forget our vibe or what we discussed.

Try local transportation

Local transportation is where you’ll get to meet, well, the locals. So while it’s fun to hang out with conference attendees, don’t forget to try local metro or bus systems. Many events will include vouchers for free or discounted transportation during your stay. Check at conference welcome tables and see what you can get. For the recent IBC event in Amsterdam, I got a free bus pass which gave me access to the entire city for two days.

Stay healthy

Ever since losing my voice before hosting a major livestreamed session at an event, and getting an emergency delivery of a box of these from a colleague, I’ve been a believer in Prince of Peace Ginger Honey Crystal “tea”. Also lozenges, plenty of water, and protein bars (these vegan Hazelnut ones from Trader Joes’ are pretty tasty). When I’m a speaker at an event, I generally also bring protein drinks as they won’t stick in my teeth! Of course hand sanitizer has always been a must, and now more than ever. Get the kind that can snap onto your backpack or purse.

I love to travel and meet new people, so I’m thrilled to get back to in-person events. Whether you love them or don’t, hopefully these tips will help you succeed as you venture out in person!

What are the key trends affecting jobs in film and content production? This was one of the questions I answered in my recent talk at the University Film and Video Association annual conference—a meeting of college educators. A couple of the trends I spoke about affect not just job-seekers, but those of us already working in content creation, plus any company or nonprofit producing their own content.

Two key trends are affecting all content creators, from small nonprofits to streaming networks: remote workflows and massive amounts of data.

Remote work is here to stay.

Let’s first talk about remote work.

I’m not just talking about Zoom meetings here. In our content creation world, remote work preceded Covid, and new technologies accelerated our ability to do everything from remotely dive into a sound mix session to allowing a director to see what the camera sees without being on set. In addition, we use tools allowing clients to give us feedback asynchronously directly onto a video timeline, and these tools got even more sophisticated during Covid. For example, ADOBE tools allow us to begin editing with temporary video files directly from the camera before we even arrive at the edit room. And systems like the Teradek, which I often use so that I can see what the camera is doing when I’m sitting near-set. But paired with an encoder and decoder, we can bring that signal to a client or producer sitting several hundred miles away.

What does this mean for content creatives and the people who hire us? We need to be extremely organized and good at self-management. And each of our team members must also be motivated, organized, and able to deliver their components of our workflow whether or not we’re sitting in a room together. Everyone also has to be excellent at communication. Even if our happy place is working alone, successful creatives must be able to collaborate and synchronize the vision—often very quickly.

The Teradek can be paired with a variety of devices to give us a remote view of the shoot.

The second trend is data.

So. Much. Data. We can shoot terabytes of data on a single shoot with multiple cameras. So it is no longer realistic to have the junior production assistant or intern function as a DIT (Digital Information Tech) on set. We use people who have real expertise in how to tag the metadata, organize the files and ensure everything is getting backed up properly. We can’t afford to lose track of anything in the transition from the shoot to the edit. There is so much data that Netflix recently released a list of jobs on set and near set that are involved in the management of data from field to post. In addition, we have many clients who like to update and revise various videos, to give them a longer lifespan. That means we need to be systematic about how and where we archive our projects, so that we can bring them “back to life” at a moment’s notice.

Both of these trends mean that successful creatives, no matter what our job description, need to be massively organized, and always thinking ahead about how we can work smarter to deliver our best creative results. That’s what my team and I try to do every day. And we’re excited about all the students learning the ropes, and entering the workforce to join us in the near future.

Data management is a big part of the workflow in professional content creation.

 

We recently developed an inspiring conference video for the nonprofit JPro, the organization of, by, and for all those who work at Jewish organizations across the United States and Canada.  It’s a hard-working group!  In addition to year-round programming, every three years JPro runs a conference that gathers Jewish community professionals to share ideas, network and learn. This year, after two years of prolific change, the conference, JPro22: Going Places, Together in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America, was looking for a fresh approach to its annual Young Professional Award video. The goal was to weave together all six stories of the award winners into one big story arc telling how, through their dedicated work, these emerging leaders evoke the bigger themes of JPro and its community of nonprofit professionals. So we dug into our ideas bag and many meetings and weeks later, turned out the video at the end of this post.

Setting the Goals

We first took a look at the project’s goals and opportunities. Right away, we knew the awardees were young, active professionals, so we wanted to create a look that matched their energy. We decided to create an animated visual approach with angles and colors that keyed off of the wonderful conference logo designed by Greater Good Strategy. With its bright colors and lines which cleverly incorporate a Jewish six-pointed star, this logo inspired our thinking. We wanted to evoke the intersectionality of JPro community’s work and Jewish values, while baking the colors of the event logo into our visual framework. And by the way, we love it when clients have a brand guide with RGB values for video!

Solving Problems Before They Happen

In pre-production, we always assess our challenges and come up with solutions. One key challenge for this project was being able to deliver for a big screen at a conference while working with a wide range of UGC (user-generated content) from each of the awardees—in a wide range of resolutions, formats and sizes. Within our timeframe, we couldn’t possibly shoot our usual 4K b-roll in six locations to demonstrate the important work of these awardees and their organizations, so we knew we would be relying on existing assets like photographs and video to tell their stories. By designing an animated framing device, with a gentle color wash evoking key colors of the logo, we could highlight the best portions of these images. And by not blowing the images up too much, we could avoid pixilation on a big screen at the conference. Our goal is always to think multi-platform, so big screen impact was critical for this project, while retaining a design that could work online after the event.

Using an animated framing device helped to draw the eye to the best storytelling parts of visual assets.

Remote Interview Workflow

Since the fabulous JPro awardees work in multiple cities across North America, some in Canada still in lock-down, we quickly dispensed with the idea of travelling to shoot interviews or shipping 4K cameras to them, and decided on a simpler remote interview workflow. We used Zoom to pre-interview each awardee, to delve into their individual story arcs and themes. I always get pre-interviews transcribed with Rev.com so I can review them, note key phrases or stories, and start building out my interview questions and story arc.  What’s cool about Rev is you can also scrub through the video and see how those selections look on camera. Then we scheduled the actual interview recordings. Rather than relying on Zoom, we used a studio Tricaster system with engineer. The Tricaster can work with signals coming via Zoom or Skype, and stabilizes the incoming VOIP signal. The engineer isolates just the interviewee, using all available video resolution for their recording and not wasting it recording the other people on the call.  And in this case, our favorite studio also has last-mile fiber optic cable, keeping our signal as pristine as possible.

A little BTS of my home setup for on our remote interviewee, lower left, and our editor/co-producer Danilda Martinez, lower right. (Interface Media Group Engineer Monte Cansler is hiding!) Note my hi-res Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Pro camera is off, since I’m not being recorded.

Post Workflow

Once remote interviews were recorded, we immediately got them transcribed so I could start curating soundbites and developing and editing script based on the themes that would drive each video segment. The goal was to develop a key theme for each awardee that would flow seamlessly into the next theme and awardee, but also tell a bigger, unified story about JPro.  The themes were then incorporated into the After Effects graphics framework for the video.  Once I selected soundbites, we built a “radio edit” (voices only, no pictures) to be sure the story arc worked before our talented producer/editor Danilda Martinez began selecting associated visuals for the Premier Pro timeline. Throughout the editing process, we got alignment on visuals, soundbites and themes from our client using Wipster.io to manage comments and ensure any proposed revisions got addressed quickly with our post team.

Wipster.io is a tool that gives our clients asynchronous frame-accurate feedback.

Moving from Premiere to After Effects, our animation designer Chris DiNardo placed each video frame into a series of customized motion templates to adjust and crop images and create angled transitions that matched angles and lines in the event logo. We even brought this visual theme into the lower thirds (on screen names and titles of speakers) for continuity of design. Throughout our post-production process, I kept revising the script so that our team always had an “on paper” representation of what was going on in the edit.

Keeping a unified brand look throughout–including “lower thirds” where we ID people on screen–is another key to good video storytelling.

 

Telling great impact stories is my passion and that of every member of our team. The JPro22 Young Professional Award video project exemplifies how we use creativity and technology to support nonprofit organizations, their partners, funders and stakeholders through the power of video storytelling.

Working with professional actors is one of the highlights of being a director. Actors bring a range of talents to a script, even when that script is nonfiction (the kind I direct). On a recent shoot with actors, I was reminded of some of the reasons I like working with pro talent. And also some of the distinctions it is easy to forget when working with nonprofessionals in front of the camera.

Nomenclature
One of the first differences between working with pro talent and non-actors is the words we use to communicate on set. If I’m working with actors, I can say “back to one” for going back to your first mark for action, or “let’s do a pickup” for repeating a line or phrase that had a hiccup. With non-professionals, we spend more time explaining actions we need, and often why we need them because we can’t use this short-hand. A great example would be explaining how we need both wide and tight angle coverage of the same action, which is why we shoot it multiple times. An actor knows this and will ask which lens or framing we’re on so they know what we’re looking at in our monitors.


Expectations
Good actors come to the set prepared to deliver their lines. If you are directing a scenario, they’ve already studied the setup and considered actions they might use to make the scene believable. If an actor is reading from a teleprompter, they will still usually request the script in advance so they are ready to read it without any stumbles. One of the problems I see so often with internal communications teams expecting a CEO or other executive to be able to read off a teleprompter easily is that this is a learned skill. Even if an executive does it multiple times a year for the quarterly report video, they don’t do it weekly or daily like a professional does. So they may need some coaching.

Selecting wardrobe is something pro talent expects to do on a shoot–it often comes as a surprise to non-actors.

Varying the timing or delivery of lines is something pro talent can do easily.

Consistency
Even when an actor is playing “background” and doesn’t have primary lines, they will be consistent in their actions. Maybe they pick up a coffee mug and take a sip during the scene. They will pick it up at the same point in the action every time, which ensures that we have matching action across multiple takes and camera angles for ease of editing. When you work with nonprofessionals and expect them to re-enact a scenario, even if it’s something they do every day for their job, they won’t be able to deliver this consistency. So plan accordingly and schedule additional time (at least 20% more time) for your shooting and editing.

Actors are an important part of our team as storytelling professionals. They can add depth, drama and professionalism to your next video. And if you need pointers for working with non-actors on camera, check out my book Real People on Camera from Routledge Press. It includes tips and strategies I’ve used over the years to get great “performances” from non-professionals in front of the lens.

In a few weeks, I’ll be spending time with more than 60,000 colleagues in media, tech & entertainment at @NABShow, producing our first-ever #GALSNGEAR Women’s Leadership Summit there, and sharing some of my production and business strategies at these conference sessions.

If you’re headed to Vegas, too, here are some of my tips from years of navigating this town for business (which isn’t quite the same thing as going there for fun, although we definitely have that, too). One of the big challenges is food, since this is a large event. Luckily you can get discounts with your NAB Show badge. You can also try some of my top local food picks:

1. Lotus of Siam.  This Thai restaurant–now with two locations!–offers beautifully made, authentic, and seriously spicy cuisine. Try the spicy prawns or the sea bass in any of the three sauces–I had the ginger sauce with mushrooms one year and it was divine. For folks who love spicy (me!), beware. The scale at Lotus is the real deal. If you ask for 10, you might need a tableside fire extinguisher.

2. Kaizon Fusion Roll. Step inside this strip mall sushi place and discover a chic Asian fusion dining experience. On offer are unique (and gigantic) sushi roll combinations in a low-key, hip bar atmosphere. Just across street from Hard Rock Hotel but not nearly as pricey as their famous sushi place.

3. Sen of Japan is another local favorite, with consistently high reviews and more authentic Japanese fare.

4. Lindo Michoacan A local Mexican 3-restaurant chain well regarded, including by my local friend whose wife hails from Mexico.

5. Echo and Rig Vegetarians, avert your eyes. This place let’s you pick out your cut of steak, then have it grilled up at the restaurant next door. Talk about “on-demand” dining!

6. Piero’s A Las Vegas institution and close to the Convention Center where we’re all living for this conference. Dinner only.

7. Tamba Indian A family owned place with plenty of tables for big groups. Except heads up, don’t go the Tuesday night of NAB Show (4/26) because Women in Streaming Media, RISE and #GALSNGEAR are hosting an event there (email me an I’d be happy to send you the RSVP link!)

8. The only Vegas eatery on the strip that makes my list consistently every year is Beijing Noodle No.9 at Caesar’s. Try the soup dumplings (they’re not IN the soup, the soup is IN the dumplings!) and a bowl of Lanzhou noodle soup.

9. The Peppermill. Everyone tells me about this place and I’ve never actually made it there. But they say the breakfast will keep you alive on the show floor for an entire day!

10. Walgreens. No I’m not kidding you. There are three on the strip. With food truck lines at the Convention Center often long, and with little turnaround time between sessions, I’ve come to learn that grabbing some yogurt or a freshly made sandwich in the morning from Walgreens is a reliable go-to food solution. And that saves more eating fun and funds for dinnertime. There is one exception–the Indian carry out in South Hall, which is excellent.

I hope to see you soon at NAB Show in Vegas!

Amy DeLouise is a writer-producer-author-speaker and foodie who operates out of Washington, DC but travels the world.

I was recently asked “how do you nurture your creative soul while advancing your career?” It’s a great question. I believe there are four keys. Today, I’ll take a look at the first: curating experiences to inspire your creative self.

At my company, when we launch a video project we often start with inspiration boards—something to inspire us; a visual framework within which we can build the story.  In the same way, it’s important to create your own “inspo board” for life. For me, that means going to a lot of museums and installations. Earlier this year I experienced Man Ray: The Paris Years at the Art Museum of Richmond–a fantastic look inside the creative process of this great photographer, as well as the creative milieu in which he soaked daily while living in Paris. And one of the things that surprised me the most was how much of Man Ray’s archetypal photos were created for commercial projects—commissions for magazines, book covers and the like. One of his most iconic and insightful images is of Ernest Hemingway with a bandage wrapped around his head. At the time, Hemingway had been struggling to write. At a party, he drunkenly mistook the chain of a previously broken skylight for the toilet chain. The glass came crashing down on him, he was rushed to the hospital, and reportedly spent hours on the operating table. That night, Hemingway almost died. Man Ray snapped the photo a few days later, capturing Hemingway’s vulnerability, courage, and a slightly rakish look with his hat off kilter as he looks into the middle distance. After the accident, Hemingway’s creativity was unblocked and he wrote A Farewell to Arms, probably one of his greatest works. Some of my many takeaways from this curated experience: a crisis can move us to action. The pivot point in a story can be unexpected. And getting paid to work doesn’t mean the work isn’t worthy–it’s a gift that allows us to keep creating.

Some of my other favorite inspirational experiences are outdoor installations, sculptures and murals. Living in Washington, DC, I’ve got plenty to choose from locally, including the haunting Korean war memorial, Some of my other favorite inspirational experiences are outdoor installations, sculptures and murals. Living in Washington, DC, I’ve got plenty to choose from including the haunting Korean war memorial, including life-sized statues by Frank Gaylord[ making you feel as if you are right there with them in the cold and relenting rain.

And the joyful murals surrounding Ben’s Chili bowl done by artist Aniekan Udofia.

I was also lucky enough to catch the multi-floor Adam Pendleton exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York when I was there last month for a project.

Now that Covid restrictions are lifting, I’ve got lots more places on my list to inspire my creative work this year. I can’t wait!

What art or installations have inspired you?

 

 

What trailblazers inspire me?  For International Women’s Day, I immediately thought of five world-changing, badass conservationists I met recently—women working in biodiversity hotspots to save their local habitat, species and communities to help save our planet.

As global citizens, we’re so lucky to have women like Awatef Abiadh working in North Africa, Ingrid Parchment working in Jamaica, Leah Mwangi in Kenya, Martika Tahi in Vanuatu and Le Thi Trang in Vietnam—check out their videos to learn more about the challenges they face and how they are bringing communities together to save biodiversity.  Biodiversity hotspots are Earth’s most biologically diverse yet threatened terrestrial areas. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) empowers civil society organizations–with leaders like these fearless, focused women–to manage the global biodiversity crisis at a local level, one initiative at a time.

One of the great things about being a digital storyteller is learning about people who make a difference in our world, and thanks to @Interface Media Group (IMG) I was lucky enough to get to know these five inspiring women and their incredibly important environmental work, partly funded through grants from CEPF, as part of the IMG production team which produced the CEPF Hotspot Hero Awards videos and the entire virtual awards event where all 10 heroes were celebrated. Let me take this opportunity to shout out the incredibly talented creative team at IMG, including Director of Experience Design Jordana Well, Senior Project Manager/Line Producer Frankie Frankavilla, Director of Visual Effects Dave Taschler, Editors Luke Blackwell and Abbey Farkas, Sound Designer Dennis Jacobsen, and Sound Mixer Pavel Sinev—it takes a village to create great content!

You can watch the entire virtual awards event produced by IMG here and learn more about the important work of CEPF, their global partners, and all the Hotspot Heroes.

 

Here’s a surprise: my biggest challenge last year wasn’t Covid. Not by a mile. Exactly one year ago, I broke my right wrist. So badly that I needed surgery. One 3” titanium plate and 10 screws later, loaded up on painkillers and still unable to feel my entire right arm due to a surgical nerve block, on Day 2 I assessed my situation. And it freaked me out.

Writing was my first challenge. As a multimedia producer, I do a lot of writing. The week after my surgery, a major deadline loomed for an 1,800-word blog post for one of my clients and a video script for another. Thankfully I had already done the background research. But boy, left-hand typing and non-dominant hand mouse-ing was quite laborious. (Speech-to-text was not the easy functionality I had hoped, which I’m sure my friends with different abilities already know.)

But here was the biggest challenge of all: playing the violin.

playing on a street corner at age 13 with my duet partner Jeff

You see, I’ve been a musician since I was six, and a violinist since age 9, having apparently begged my parents relentlessly to play that instrument.  Growing up, I spent hours taking violin lessons, playing in youth orchestras and competing in solo competitions acro

The only photo I have of Giuseppe DiLuisi circa 1906

ss my region. On weekends, various musician friends and I would play on street corners in Georgetown, a tony neighborhood in Washington, D.C., to earn money towards our college funds.  Years later, when playing in my college symphony orchestra, I learned from a relative that my great great grandfather Giuseppe DiLuisi had played the violin for a living, in summer riverboat orchestras on the Mississippi and

winter music halls in New York. At the age of 9, he had arrived in this country from Italy with only the clothes on his back and his little violin. So my passion stems from long family roots.

Flash forward, and I’ve been playing at a professional and semi-professional level for, well, a bunch of decades now. In the Washington DC area where I live, I’m lucky to be surrounded by great musicians, and often play in churches, in various chamber groups, and with my amazingly talented colleagues of the NIH Philharmonia.

Back in March of 2021, the thought of never playing again was devastating.

Music has been essential to my life—not only personally, but also professionally. As a content creator, I spend a lot of time curating just the right music, reviewing sound mixes, working with talented sound designers. Because sound is more than half the picture.

So when I broke my wrist, I did what I always do when producing a complex multi-media project: I threw myself into the details.  I read everything I could about rehab for string player injuries. I showed up religiously for painful physical therapy sessions twice a week.  I took my PT “homework” very seriously. And my talented surgeon Dr. Peter Fitzgibbons—who had been briefed in advance on my absolute need for full flexibility again—brought great confidence to each of my check-in’s. At one point, I brought in my violin and the Bach Brandenberg Concert #3, which the NIH Phil planned to play in December, and demonstrated a passage to show how far short I was falling to manipulate the bow into Bach’s many nuanced sequences. I was determined to not just play the part, but play the principal 1st violin solo part for this concert. And that was my goal every single day.

Focusing on one overarching goal has a way of putting everything else in perspective. Whether you are managing young children through Zoom schooling, grappling with your evolving career, or facing the trial of you or a family member struck by Covid.  Take the climb in small steps. Break the challenge into manageable pieces. You will get there.

Today, I plunge into the work of 2022 with gratitude. I can write and produce videos. I can play the violin again. The healing took so many steps. But I’m finally there. And you will be, too.