thoughts from jr

Jehovah's Witnesses for the win!!!

 When in Nashville, we encountered a group of Jehovah's Witnesses on a beautiful pedestrian bridge. I thought to myself, "they are probably here to talk to people, I wonder if they'll talk to me on camera?". I don't have any strong feelings about JWs, I did not walk up to them with any intention other than to find out them as people, individuals. I was so thankful they were willing to talk to me. I'm hopeful they enjoyed the experience as well, I'm sure they get a lot of people that just want to argue, criticize, point out the "flaws" in their way of life, their religion, etc. hat was not my intent, and I think that's why they opened up.

As I reviewed the footage of them back home, I wasn't really feeling it as a WIIAY video. So, I put it on the backburner. Then, when out on the downtown mall in Charlottesville capturing some B-roll for the video about Donny, I saw another group of JWs doing the same thing. Just standing there, with their table, their racks of pamphlets, and their inviting smiles, and I realized this could go nicely with the Nashville JW footage I wasn't sure what to do with. So I hit record and walked up to them. I was kind of bummed they didn't want to get personal at all, thy didn't even want to tell me about what makes JWs special. They were polite, but firm. And if had more time, i would have hung out till their 2-hour shift was over and talked to them on their "break". I realized on my drive home that I could combine this footage with the Nashville JW footage and call it "What is it About Jehovah's Witnesses". So I did.

 When the video dropped I started getting comments, like a lot of comments, and views, lots of views, and likes, lots of likes. Having "Jehovah's Witnesses" in the title seemed to be a big deal on YouTube. As several commenters pointed out, there's a lot of people that are "recovering JWs" that are looking for YouTube content about JWs. It's kind of a big deal. Several people suggested how I might get more JW content.

 That's not goal of this channel, I'm not here to expose JWs, or target them, or pinpoint them at all. It just happened. Now, if I happen to encounter more JW's on the street as I'm looking for more people to interview, I won't hesitate to walk up and see if I can get them to talk to me.

 Keep in mind, I am never looking to ridicule, or take anybody down with my videos, quite the opposite, I want to bring out the best in people, find out what's unique and special about a person, and expose that. If they happen to be a little eccentric, or funny, or crazy, that's great. I'm going to show them as the person they wanted to present to me and my camera.

 Now, I am almost out of footage I've already shot. I've got one more interview to edit and publish. I've got to get out there and record some more interesting people. I've got an idea that might be fun to explore.

 I'll be going to places where there are a lot of like-minded people and find out about them as a group. For example, I've been spending a lot of time in community theater these past few months, and I've determined there's something different about "Theater People". So I interviewed a bunch of them and will turn that into a video called "What is it About Theater People". I'm going to do the same thing for comedians, musicians, farmer's market people, horse people, etc. I'm really looking forward to this new twist on "What is it About You?". I'm sure I will also find individuals to talk to in my travels and I'll continue to post videos featuring one or two random strangers.

 Thanks to all of you that have watched these videos so far, I'm enjoying making this content for you. Please consider sharing it with your circle of acquaintances to help me spread that word.


Hi there WIIAY fans.

If you are reading this, you are truly a top fan of this channel, and what I’m trying to do with it. So, let’s talk about that a bit. I started with an idea that sat percolating in my brain for a few months. The idea didn’t start to really take shape until I got off my ass and took my iPhone camera out and started talking to people, random(ish) people. That’s when I started to figure out what was working, and what wasn’t working.

The camera worked ok. I was hoping to use the fancy app that lets you film with two of the four iPhone cameras at once, but I screwed up and selected Picture in Picture instead of two discrete video files. That’s why, in the first couple of videos you see my face, even when my face isn’t framed up quite right, and why I chose to cover up the PIP when the camera facing me wasn’t pointed anywhere good. Now, I’ve got that figured out. Won’t happen again.

Also, I found out what happens when my phone’s available memory maxxes out while filming a video. It would sure be nice if the fancy camera app (Filmic Pro/Double-take) would stop recording, save the video, and tell you that you are out of memory. Well, it does two of those things, and “save the video” isn’t one of them. I lost 20 minutes of my cousin Pat the Passionate Painter because of this. Then when he graciously agreed to do most of it again, I accidentally recorded with PIP again, damnit!!! Seriously, that’s the last time.

I also learn a ton in the editing process. I’m using DaVinci Resolve, the free version, which is pretty bad ass for a free video editing program. I’ve used free and paid for video editing programs, about 6 different varieties, and this is by far the best. I learn something new about it with every new video I put together. For example, I now know how to blur out sensitive information, and anchor the blur to the part of the video that needs to be blurred, such as Precious’ driver’s license. That was fun!

I’ve been out to film on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville several times now, and gotten some gold every time, then in Iowa I got three videos worth of interviews. But New York City takes the cake. I talked to a guy that charges people that want to put his Burmese Python around their necks for a photo op… $20 bucks each! I quickly agreed, ran and got Kiki, my girlfriend, so she could put the snake around her neck, and I could find out what it is about this guy that made him think he could just go out to Central Park and put snakes on people, for money, lots of money, like enough for him to live on, and then some! I pain him his $20 and gave him a $5 tip.

Then we found The Fantastic World of the Portuguese Sardines. A store that sells one thing, sardines from Portugal. It’s right next to the M&M store, so after Kiki got her candy, we stopped to see what the deal was with a Sardine shop right there in Times Square. The place was beautiful, ornate, and filled with Sardines, thousands of them in beautiful Sardine tins. Plain Sardines, several flavored varieties, and of course, Sardines with Gold Flakes. Also, Andres and Precious were way happier and fun to talk to than you might expect Sardine Salespeople to be. So, I got the camera out, I filmed the shop, I talked to both employees, and now we have a WIIAY video from a Mid-town Manhattan Sardine Shop.

I also found a woman in Times Square, after midnight, dressed up kind of nice with a flamboyant red hat, swinging a green light saber as if she was a young Padawan. When I asked her about it, on camera, it became clear that I was not going to figure this woman out. I asked her some question, got some shots of her swinging the light saber, we exchanged info, and that was that. I’m still miffed by that one, but it’s going to be a video that will include her as well as the short interviews I did with the Times Square photographer dudes that take people’s pictures, then try to sell them their pictures. But the two I talked to spoke just enough English to sell pictures, not enough to answer most of my questions. So I will probably do a Times Square combo video featuring Light Sabre lady, Photo dudes, the big, scary, oily, masked, muscle-flexor that I was afraid to talk to, and more.

I’ve learned that you, the viewer, want shorter videos, and I need to get to the point in the videos, especially if I want to capture the attention of a wider You Tube audience. On it, will get to the point, no long intros, don’t bury the lead, etc. etc. I started creating YouTube Shorts and Tik Tok style videos with shorter versions of the big videos, in hopes of getting people to want more, so much more that they go find this YouTube channel, subscribe, and devour all the videos, in their entirety.

Going into this I thought I was a good interviewer, even when doing it on the fly, with no ability to prep specific questions or talking points for my interviewees, you know, cuz I’m finding random people on the street for these videos. But as I watch the footage of me asking questions, I’m not impressed with my own questions. I need to take advantage of the things these people tell me instead of just saying “nice!” and asking whatever question finally pops into my head after an awkward silence. For example, I interviewed a family at a park in Iowa, and they gave me a lot to work with. But I ignored the opportunities they gave me, and talked too much, and asked some dumb questions, then I let them go. I really want a do-over on that one. As I write this, the plan is to release that one as my next WIIAY video, despite it being below the standards I am developing for this channel. It’s a learning opportunity.

One way to help me solve this problem is to go to a place where there will be a bunch of people with a unified interest, so I can prepare questions for all of them, and ask all of the people the same questions, then put the footage together with a bunch of subjects, instead of only one main subject per page. For example, instead of a 10-minute video primarily centered around one guy I’d put out an 8-minute video featuring say, 5-10 golden nuggets from, say, people at a Farmer’s Market, or a Car show.

I will still try to find the most interesting people in these public places and ambush them with thoughtful questions, after all, that is the goal for these videos. To find out what it is about the people of this world, one at a time.

Thanks for watching the videos and reading this blog post!



thoughts from jr

what is it about me?

“What is it About You?”

Wait, so I’m doing a blog now too?

This question can be asked in different ways to imply different levels of interest, from curiosity to a verbal attack.

The point of the “What is it About You?” video series is definitely not intended to put anybody on the defensive or make them feel attacked or made fun of in any way, it’s an expression of my desire to learn more about what makes you interesting.

I believe everybody is interesting in some way or another, and I plan to go out into the world and find out what it is about the people that I meet that the whole world should know.

I’d like to interview normal, everyday, average people and find out what makes them extraordinary.

In our first episode you see me proving my hypothesis, we learned about several different people, Chris, who dropped some deep knowledge on me, two homeless men who seem rather pissed-off, a couple that wanted to know more about what I was doing, and then of course, the star of the show, Bil, with one “l”.

There was something about Bil, I knew the moment I saw him that he was going to have lots to say and wouldn’t have any problem saying it. Was it the beer he was drinking next to a trash can? Was it the wild Hawaiian shirt? The two pairs of glasses? The Surly Wednesday bike with the big fat tires? Well, yes, it was all of those things.

I had been sitting in a chair on the Downtown mall, watching people walk by, just not seeing anybody that looked like they’d be willing to talk to me on camera. Or maybe I was feeling a little nervous about asking people to talk to me on camera. I didn’t really want to bother people, but I figured if I could find someone that appeared as though they were looking for a reason to talk to a total stranger with an iPhone camera, I would get out of my comfort zone and see what happened. As soon as I saw Bil, I didn’t have to think twice, I got up from the chair, went over and asked him if I could ask him a few questions on camera for my YouTube channel. He said sure, I hit record, and the rest is YouTube gold.

I went home that night feeling like I had proof of concept. That I could indeed talk to total strangers about what makes them tick, even with a camera in my hand.

My hope, my dream, the purpose of this Video Series, is not to make anybody look bad. I’m not looking for “gotcha” moments, I truly want to give people a chance to show the world what makes them awesome.

Since that first day with the camera, I’ve had the pleasure of talking with a lot more people, on camera, and having some surprising, interesting conversations learning what it is about them that made me willing to walk up, stick a camera in their face, and start asking them questions.

As you’ll see in episode 2, it doesn’t have to be total strangers either. My cousin pat is a passionate painter who could probably have his art up for sale in some gallery and make a lot of money, but that’s not why he paints. Wanna know why he paints? Watch the video, he’ll tell you. Well, he told me, and I filmed it, so you can watch it.

I realized early in the editing process that I’m gonna need a better camera, a better microphone, better editing skills, and a lot of time to devote to this project if it’s gonna be successful. Well, I got a new camera, I went and found a better microphone, and I cleared up some memory on my iPhone so I can always be “at the ready”. I’ve also been through multiple edits for each video so far, with some eagle-eyed review from my collaborator Gary Hawthorne. He gives me notes on each edit I do, and I take most of his notes and incorporate them into the videos, some I ignore. But I almost always, ultimately regret not listening to him 100% of the time.

I’m trying to keep these videos to a reasonable, digestible length, but people, including me, just have so much to say. As I edit these videos, believe me, I do consider how valuable your time is, and I try not to waste any of it. There’s plenty left on the cutting room floor.

Gary asked me to write up something to put on the website, so while this final version of episode two was percolating, I opened Word, and started typing, and this is what came out. I’m not sure it’s what Gary had in mind, but as I read back over it, I’m realizing that it feels like a blog post. I’ve never done a blog before, but it feels right that there should be one that goes along with the video series, so consider this the first edition of the WIIAY? Blog. Gary will figure out where that should live on the website and tell me what he really wanted me to write as soon as he gets to the point in the blog. Thanks, Gary, for the help and collaboration.

As I write this, episode one has 70 views, and the channel has 13 subscribers. That’s a start, I guess. I know these things take time to develop and grow. To help it along I’m planning to work on some short, more Tik-Tok friendly versions to get some more exposure, traction, interest. As soon as I figure out how to make a landscape video look good switched to portrait.

Gary and I have big plans for this, we are ready with a website (the one you are looking at right now) where we can keep you updated, and maybe even have some merch available. Wouldn’t you like to walk about with a shirt, or a hat that says, “What is it about you?” on it? You might just find that people will want to reveal to you, like they have for me, exactly what it is about them! And the more we show interest and love towards total strangers, the Mo’ better this world gets.

Ok, it’s late, and I need to get to bed, thanks for reading, see ya next time.