On The Set of American Dropout

I pull into the parking lot at 6 AM. A silent Sunday morning; spring birds have yet to rouse themselves. Across the street, a power plant; next to me, the metro line; behind and ahead, nondescript business park buildings. I see a glow through a glass-paned garage door, approach, and enter the Garden, a co-working and maker space.

Production staff say hello and bring me to a multi-use studio, where gaffers are rigging lights and the DP is discussing camera operation with the director.

Initial lighting tests, setting up for first interview.

Initial lighting tests, setting up for first interview.

So begins the day on set. In production is a documentary titled American Dropout, which will shed light on the issues surrounding high school dropout rates and how these problems can be resolved. Today, three women who have left the public school system for various reasons, as well as several experts with a variety of perspectives and experiences, share their stories. Filming, already ongoing on the west coast, will continue in Chicago and elsewhere.

As still photographer, I capture the day - setup, interviews, off-camera goings-on, and all the rest. The opportunity to be present for these storytelling hours is an honor. I hear of the difficulties that led to choices to drop out of school, of overcoming obstacles, of mentorship and relationship and real-world solutions that have helped many graduate and move forward. The director, Rob Carpenter, takes time out of the busy schedule to chat with me and share his vision for this film, as well as several others.

Rob talks with Ashley, one of the interviewees.

Rob talks with Ashley, one of the interviewees.

Most inspiring to me is the interview with Bill Milliken (see another one of his talks here). For 50 years, he has been a mentor and friend to young men who would likely have otherwise been swallowed up by gangs and prisons. After himself struggling in school, he moved to Harlem and began simply spending time with the young men that were out on the streets. That relationship, that love, brought hope to many young men who would otherwise have had none. Decades later, those relationships have grown into the Communities in Schools program, which “connects students and their families to critical community resources tailored to local needs. Working in nearly 2,700 in the most challenged communities, in 28 states and the District of Columbia, Communities In Schools serves nearly 1.26 million young people and their families. It has become the nation's leading dropout prevention organization, and the only one proven to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates.” To see this man continue to build relationships and speak about the need for love and for people in high-risk areas to get connected with resources to help them succeed is incredible.

American Dropout is slated to be released in late 2019. Based on these interviews (just a few of many), Rob’s passionate directing, and the attention to detail given by all, this will surely be an excellent and eye-opening film!


The Importance of Video Marketing

Word of mouth is still an incredibly effective way to bring new clients through your doors.  It’s organic and requires little investment of your time or finances.

Yet, when it comes to building your business and getting more clients, you often need to jump-start that process.  One of the best bang-for-your buck investments is video marketing.

A variety of statistics show that the vast majority of consumers across industries believe video helps them make purchasing decisions and increases the likelihood that they’ll commit to a product.

Consider the following scenario:  I search for a nutritionist in my area online.  A map of local matches appears.  The first name that pops up has a website with an outdated style and it takes me a bit of time to navigate around.

Returning to the map on the search page, I click on the second nutritionist’s website link. Immediately I am invited to start the journey to health, and I scroll down to see more detailed information about what that means, without clicking around.  Overall, this second website is more inviting and I’d be more likely to contact this practitioner for help getting my nutrition on track.

Back to the search page, I click the first result below the map, which is an aggregation site featuring profiles of nine professionals near me.  They all have great photographs and full profiles detailing what they do, with testimonials, listed specialties, and more.  I visit their websites; each one is professional and polished.

However, none of them have any videos on their landing pages, and I don’t feel like reading through all this text trying to determine who is the best fit for me.

What would happen if just one of these professionals invested in a short and articulate video describing how they can help me and what makes them different from everyone else?

  • They would clearly and uniquely demonstrate their professionalism and competence

  • I would feel like I already know them a bit before I call to set up an appointment

  • I would be more likely to commit to working with them as I pick up the phone

  • I would be grateful that they provided an easy way for me to digest the information I need to make the call

Video marketing, done well, can break down the barriers that stand in the way of calls and bookings.

It may also be just the right tool to help you stand out from all the competition within your industry.

I provide video marketing services for businesses in Columbia, Ellicott City, and the surrounding Howard County area. Talk to me to start a conversation about helping your business grow.

Typewriter Poetry: Lyon Distilling, Saint Michael's, MD

Saint Michael’s, a small historic town in Eastern Maryland, known for its waterfront views, small shops, and inns, is also becoming known as the hometown of Lyon Distilling, a small batch micro distillery famous for its rum and rum cocktails.

Some months ago, I met the owner, Jaime Windon, and was invited to bring my typewriter poetry to their tasting room. So I did, on a cloudy September Saturday.


The tasting room is a wonderful space, and the staff are some of the friendliest people I’ve met this year - there’s a sense of familiarity almost immediately. If you’ve got your guard up, you’ll find it falling away. The family atmosphere and camaraderie was palpable and I loved the chance to hear stories of the distillery and of Saint Michaels from Jessi, Avery, Meghan (of Gray Wolf Craft Distilling), and other members of the staff.

There was a steady stream of interested visitors throughout the day - folks celebrating their anniversary, a bachelorette party, and a number of guests from a number of weddings.

I enjoyed interacting with a lot of newlyweds and newly-engaged couples and getting the chance to write poems honoring their stories. On the lighter side, one regular asked for a humorous poem about William Shatner, while Jay of Eastern Shore Brewing asked for a poem to include the words “unicorns, pixie dust, and bags of glass.” On the poignant side, a gentleman asked for a poem about missed opportunities, and asked me to include the phrase “the leap not taken.”

Overall it was a fantastic day. This being my first trip to Saint Michaels, I was immediately taken by the town and fully intend to go back to spend time truly exploring - there are little coffee shops, a historic car museum, antique stores, woodworkers, and all sorts of things to see.

Not only that, but it’s the sort of place where, after a visit, you’ll leave surprised at just how many people will easily call you friend.