We have a lot of fun every year doing a Halloween photo shoot. This year was no exception. Check out all the photos exclusively at https://www.facebook.com/germanolivaphotography
Hard to believe that a Los Angeles suburb could have a farm, but the city of Norwalk once had one. A couple of weeks ago, I stood in front of the gate through which eager kids like me used to enter the farm to see all of the animals. It was closed with a padlock and ready to be demolished to expand the 5 fwy. I took a picture through the gate, never realizing that it would be the last picture I would ever take of the farm.
I can remember like it was yesterday how excited I was in elementary school going to a field trip to my local farm. This hidden treasure was just steps from my childhood home. I was excited to see all the animals and get a chance to pet them. There were so many to see – from pigs to llamas – it all seemed so exotic at the time.
As I took a photo of what was left, I never realized that I was documenting my childhood through my camera lens. The treasured landmark of my childhood is now preserved forever in the form of a photo. As a professional photographer, my job is to create a lasting memory for all of my clients. I never would have imagined that taking the photo would preserve my own childhood memories. It is never too late to revisit some of the locations of our childhood and snap some pictures to remind us about our childhood. The animals might be gone but the photo is going to last forever.
I never would have thought that a mere two minutes of film could be so valuable to a family – until the person in that video passed away. I recently had the honor of doing video services for a memorial service for a very prominent man who left an imprint in law, philanthropy and the political landscape over nearly 90 years of his life. The memorial allowed me to briefly enter his world.
The speakers ranged from a Mayor to a Congressman, sharing stories of a man who lived a life that ranged from working with JFK to writing the tax laws of our state. But it wasn’t the dignitaries who stole the show – it was the deceased himself.
The family managed to get a copy of a two minute clip of the deceased that aired in 1956 on the popular show called “You Bet Your Life” starring Groucho Marx. When I saw the family watch the clip, I realized the power of video.
“The film clip stands as a glimpse of who he truly was,” one of the family members commented to me. Don’t get me wrong – photos are great – but video truly captures the spirit of the individual. You get to see them smile and talking to others. If not for the clip I restored, the family would been left with simply photos.
In fact as a professional videographer myself, I quickly realized I don’t have anything recorded of my grandma. We often don’t think to record video of our family members until it’s too late. I would urge everyone to take advantage and spend the time and hire a professional to do video interviews. Video is the only thing that links us to our family members and allows us to have a very valuable keepsake for the next generation to enjoy.
When you are watching a movie, you often forget where you are. You are in a new world that is confined to the screen in front of you. You are transported to a new place by the story and characters – all in the comfort of a movie theater. But what happens when you watch a movie in an unlikely place like a Veteran’s Hall or even an Irish Pub? You are left wondering if the movie theater or your home is the only place to comfortably watch a movie.
Last weekend I had the honor of attending the 16th Annual International Sonoma Film Festival http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/. Hundreds of people flock to the city of Sonoma to watch films from 16 different countries. From feature films to documentaries, there weren’t enough hours in the day to see all of the films. The ones I did see like Mia, Acorazado, In Montauk and Spinning Plates, to name a few, were outstanding.
The venues were as varied as the films. One minute, I was in an art museum then an Irish pub and I ended my day in the Sonoma Valley Women’s Club. They were even showing films at the local Congregational church. The different venues made me realize that it was much more enjoyable to watch a movie in an unlikely place than a familiar place. Indeed, the unique experience of watching a movie in a small, intimate setting is what made the Sonoma Film Festival a truly enjoyable experience for me.
On USC’s annual day of service, we have the opportunity to give our time and our labor to worthwhile causes. I was fortunate this year to be able to give something else – my story. I never would have thought that sharing my past experiences with someone would mean so much.
This March, Trojans from across the world participated in the 2nd annual USC Alumni Day of Service. I had the honor of participating in a service project hosted by the USC Latino Alumni Association through which I had the opportunity to spend time with extraordinary middle school students from HYPE (Helping Young People Excel). HYPE provides talented low-income students in Los Angeles with the guidance and resources to qualify for admission at elite college-prep independent high schools and ultimately go on to attend college. If you don’t know about HYPE check them out. They are a great organization. http://hypelosangeles.org/ I was so impressed with all the students, who faced major challenges, but had such an incredible spirit of determination.
We met in Long Beach at the Museum of Latin America Art (MOLAA). I was paired up with a very excited student, Javier, who was ready to share his story. As we sat and talked about his family and his favorite subjects at school, he was most excited to tell me that he really loved math and wanted to attend USC someday. While math is not a passion I share (nor a strength of mine!), on the USC front we could definitely talk for hours. As we talked even more, I realized the value of being able to share your personal story with someone who is very eager to learn from it. We were only limited to about half an hour, but it felt like I was talking with him for hours. As I gave him advice and helped him hone the interviewing skills that he will need to attend an elite college prep high school, it was hard not to think how much this student reminded me of myself. I love telling other people’s stories – this is at the very core of my photography and video business. I never thought that telling my own story could have so much power – and even to help someone reach for their dreams. The day turned out to be one of the most fulfilling days for me because of the power we have to help children.
Had a great time with Rosie for her fabulous photo shoot. Here is a sneak peek of the day. Enjoy!
Do you spot someone famous in this clip from the classic film “Goonies”? Don’t worry I have embedded the clip below for the nostalgic fans out there.
Corey Feldman isn’t the only actor in this scene who would go on to great things. The actress who plays the maid is named Lupe Ontiveros. Lupe would go on and have a career that extended over 35 years. She starred in over 100 films including television and theater productions. You might have also seen her in such classic films as “As Good As it Gets,” “Real Woman Have Curves” and, most importantly, in “Selena”. She was in a category unto herself.
Every year during the Academy Awards, there is a memoriam in the middle of the show. While every year, they inevitably miss someone who deserves recognition, the omission of Lupe Ontiveros this year was shocking. Lupe deserves recognition not only for her incredible acting, but for what she inspired others to do.
She was an inspiration to me in particular because she beat all the odds in the entertainment industry. It is very difficult to be an actress in Hollywood let alone a Latina and an older woman. Lupe was in a class of her own, always finding a way to do what she truly loved.
Anytime Latinos are acknowledged for their contribution in the media, it makes a huge impact on the dreams and aspirations of hundreds of people. Her exclusion made me think how important it is for Latinos or any ethnic group to see themselves on the silver screen. Movies give us a chance to relate to characters that closely resemble ourselves.
Including her in the memoriam would have shown Hollywood was going in the right direction finally and recognizing talented actresses from all ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, they let me down. But Lupe Ontiveros never did. Her films will ultimately remain her lasting tribute. That is something that the Academy can never take away from her.
My Top Picks For 2012
Let me explain.
Clearly I have excellent taste in cinema and am a very discerning viewer. However, at the end of the day, we go to the movies to be entertained. I happen to love romantic comedies and action films/thrillers – unfortunately, there are few great movies produced in these genres.
The films on this list are MY top films of 2012. They’re not what the Academy deem worthy of their esteem. They are, however, the movies that made me laugh and cry, that made me care for the characters portrayed and that transported me to a whole other place, even if just for a couple of hours.
My itty bitty reviews
Ted: Crass and flippin’ hilarious
End of Watch: Real, heart-breaking. I am PSYCHED to see Michael Pena portraying Cesar Chavez.
Flight: Just a really excellent film – tight
Cloud Atlas: Loved the book, loved the movie
Life of Pi: Ditto- Beautiful
Silver Linings Playbook: Couldn’t look away
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer: If you haven’t seen it, don’t talk smack. History + vampires = awesome
The Five Year Engagement: The only rom-com that was any good this year. I love all these funny people.
Magic Mike: Thank you, Channing Tatum.
21 Jump Street: SO funny!
Skyfall: I love Daniel Craig as Bond. I didn’t think he could outdo himself…then this came along.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: One of the best movies I’ve ever seen about high school
Savages: CA + Mexico collide w/ lots of pretty people
The Hunger Games: Saw the movie first, then read the book – they did an amazingly good job. Great casting.
Wreck-it Ralph: Te quiero mucho, Ralph!
7 Psychopaths: Great original script! Dare I say Christopher Walken’s most awesome performance yet?!
Looper: Original, though-provoking and just a great film
The Lorax: After working on my boyfriend for four years to make him love nature, THIS film singlehandedly turned him into an environmentalist. He still yells “Lorax!” every time he sees a stump.
There are five seasons in Los Angeles – winter, spring, summer, fall and Awards season, the end of which is marked with an annual ritual called the Academy Awards. LA is an industry town – it seems a majority of Angelenos either work in the industry or are within one to two degrees of someone who does. That’s partly because it takes SO MANY people to make a movie. It’s the antithesis of the solitary writer laboring on novel. A movie is fundamentally a collaborative effort.
But don’t think for a moment that all collaborators are equal. No, there is a definitive caste system in the movie industry – are you above or below the line? This metaphorical line refers to the creative individuals who are indispensable (and need to be insured because if something happens to them, the future of movie would be in jeopardy). Below the line is a veritable army of technical production people – from camera operators to assistants to make-up artists and the costume crew to caterers – all of whom are indispensable to the movie actually getting made…. Those above the line usually include the writer, director, the lead actors and not many more.
Guess who isn’t generally above the line? The cinematographer. Cinematography is still viewed as a technical skill. But I don’t take that as a knock – cinematography is a beautiful combination of artistry and tech and that’s exactly why I love it.
Every year, German and I spend the months leading up to the Oscars binging on great films and debating the Academy’s selections. We always fill out our ballots for awards night and every year German beats me on the technical categories like sound design, visual effects and production design. He has honed his eye to what great craft looks like.
This year, as you watch the Oscars, don’t tune out when they get to the more technical categories or that weird moment when they play footage of a bunch of nerdy men in tuxedoes (at the Academy’s technical award). I ask you to join me in clapping just as hard for the amazing artists below the line.
Here we are trying to work off the calories we ate last weekend for Superbowl Sunday. Or, in my case, getting over the fact that the 49ers were so close to being back on top. Some are feeling bitter, but let’s use this opportunity to reflect on what really matters in this life. As we approach the first weekend without football, I am looking thru my DVD library to find a movie to fill in for football. There were many memorable moments of the game including the blackout that changed the momentum of the game or the amazing Superbowl commercials. I continued searching for a film that captures the same emotion as the Superbowl. It did not take long to find the movie that I was looking for.
I will give you a clue…its the story about a young man who grew up to be a football player. The player’s name is Michael Oher and guess what he played in the Superbowl. His life inspired the film “The Blind Side” the 2009 biopic about a woman who opens up her home to a homeless teen and fosters his love of football. If you have not seen the movie I highly recommend it. As we move on with our weekends without football. I can’t stop to think how far Michael has come from nothing to Super Bowl Champ. Football season might be over and there clearly was a winner on Sunday, but the true winner are those who believe in the power of generosity and helping people achieve their dreams. Can’t wait to watch it over the weekend.