David Kavanaugh’s Production Journal

‘Listening In’ on Subtitled Silver-Scapes

Posted in Uncategorized by davek1 on July 22, 2009

Listening In from hans gullickson on Vimeo.

It’s been months since Hans approached me about this project. Hans, visiting his living room across the street, and I, seeking shelter from a winter’s bluster, poured for a few hot minutes at Goodbye Blue Monday over his silver, hand-printed book called ‘Listening In.’ After that, I blew him off for a few months. Now look, that awesome little book is also a faux-Japanese art flick or something. I admire how they shot it. It looks digitally desaturated, but it actually the case that everything in frame is painted silver. This effect is only betrayed when you see the candles flicker in picture. There is a slightly warmer light reflecting off the surfaces withing their halos. Hans and I wanted to work together in some capacity, even though I neither helped in shooting or editing the project, so I volunteered to create an effect for his subtitles that would play better than the standard Final Cut Pro overlays. We devised a process that involved creating the subtitles in Adobe Photoshop, then videotaping them hand-held in a dark room. I purposely disturbed the autofocus feature on the video camera so that it would be constantly trying to find it’s sharpness on each image. We then imported each clip the timeline that he and Bill had worked out in Final Cut, and applied a cocktail of color correction and chroma key filters to create a subtly more organic and random feel to each clip. It took a while, but we laughed while we worked so it all went by pretty smoothly.


Hunx and His Punx

Posted in filmmaking, Music Video by davek1 on June 2, 2009

This might be the gayest video I’ve ever shot.

Not gay in that “let’s get married and join the army of heteronorms building their own prisons in the suburbs” kind of way. No, this is more of that down-and-dirty bubblegum punk rocker lightly dusted by slow-motion glitter atop a giant pink telephone in front of a tinsel curtain kind of gay.

Hunx and His Punx, another solo spin off from Gravy Train!!!!, is seen here crooning over an unrequited love. We shot him with the cheapest plastic tilt/shift lens on the market in two locations. One was Justin Kelly’s living room which doubles as a sound stage, and the other was the vacant lot behind his apartment in San Francisco.

Special thanks to Jerry Lee for lighting in the studio, Brande Baugh for the awesome Connie Chung-inspired makeup, and Justin of course for not letting me actually take a vacation without shooting another music video.

That telephone was designed and built out of cardboard in one night by Annie Danger.

The Younger Lovers, rockin’ in the empty playhouse

Posted in filmmaking by davek1 on May 27, 2009

Brontez Purnell, formerly of the ultimate party band Gravy Train!!!!, and currently editor of the queer ‘zine Fag School, conceived of this video with my friend and collaborator, the unstoppable Justin Kelly.

They recruited me to shoot it when I was on vacation in San Francisco after working for Beet Medicine at UCSF.

We shot for a day at the Home of Chicken and Waffles at Jack London Square in Oakland – wonderful cheese gits and buckwheat pancakes, fried chicken of course, and the service! – and then on location in Brontez’s shower.  Good thing I’m not squeamish. Neither was my gaffer, Ben Leon.

Special thanks to Alan Resnick for turning out to help us run the camera.

It’s not just the material in the piece that stands out among the kind of jobs I’m usually recruited to shoot, but the spirit; that spirit carries over from Brontez’s life into all of his work.  It was really refreshing for me to get out of New York and to work with someone who is so unashamed of himself and what he has to say, so unicumbered by capitalistic urges.  Brontez manages to infuse everything he touches with the raw, honest and fearless energy of the queer punk scene which seems all but dried up and shrivelled in other venues.  In his own words, “This decade showed a dramatic decrease in the good old standard of cool, queer, punk-kid records. Everyone ran for a drum machine and opted to be the next Justin Timberlake. No probs. No shade. This just left the playhouse empty. Enter the Younger Lovers.”

A few weeks ago the Younger Lovers came to Brooklyn on tour.  I was out of town and missed most of their shows, but I did catch one at The New Museum on Bowery street, a show they split with Gamma Rays.  We projected the video between sets on the museum’s fantastic projector in the performance space on the lower level.

Justin and I shot two other films that week in San Francisco.  I’ll post them here as they become available.

Brevis Adapter Demo Reel

Posted in filmmaking by davek1 on May 6, 2009

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This montage shows the versatility of the Brevis 35 Adapter.  Cameras used were the EX1, HVX and DVX.  All projects used a Nikon lens kit.

This package is available to rent from me, feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Meditation Number 5: fun with triple exposure

Posted in filmmaking by davek1 on April 13, 2009

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This is a an exercise on 16mm that I must have done in my freshman year at SUNY Purchase. I used to have a series of films and videos called ‘Meditations’ that depicted, in mathematically even time lines, people experiencing different levels of transcendence. This one is the most overt. The others were more mundane.

Each installment was composed of a series of shots that doubled in length at intervals, which also doubled in frequency, until the middle of the time line where frequency and duration began to halve. In this way the Meditations were perfectly palindromic. The effect may be subconscious at best, but at the time I believed that it could impart on the viewer a trans like state.

The first four or five Meditations were shot on VHS, but when I entered film school and learned how to shoot film and cut on a flatbed, the project expanded. I thought that the sound and flicker of the projector could help hypnotize a willing viewer.

As far as I know this never had a significant affect on any sober audience members.

I started the series in the year 2000 at the New York State Summer School for Media Art at Ithaca College. Meditations 1 through 4, which I produced there, earned me an admission and a modest scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute, which I chose not to accept. The project met very little enthusiasm from the faculty and students at Purchase, so I gave it up in 2002. I think I got as far as Meditation 7, or maybe 8. As I find these in the volumes of hard drives and film reels I have rotting in my parents basement, I will post to this blog.

Once all the Meditations screened in succession at a film festival hosted by Pedro Sousa at Gallery 4222 in Port Jefferson, NY.

Looking back at ‘Remnant City’ and ‘Yahweh’s Fist’

Posted in Illustration by davek1 on April 13, 2009


As the deadline for entries into MoCA approaches, I like to look back at old submissions for inspiration.

Yahweh's Fist Page 1 remnant__page_81 remnant__page_6

These are some of my favorite panels from comics I illustrated under the direction of Sean Viola.  We have another in the works that is still in script form and a few pages of concept art.  For this year, I’ll be submitting under a wrestling anthology hosted by my friend Sabin.

Collaborations with Joseph Krings

Posted in filmmaking by davek1 on April 9, 2009

There are only 26 letters and a handful of punctuations available for writers to finesse (or manhandle) into written language. It’s amazing how many permutations can be created with such a limited pallet.

Filmmakers and photographers are working with an even smaller pallet – red, green and blue – and with only these three colors we can create a similarly infinite range of images.  We can bring the viewers into any realm, from the most secret regions of the mind to farthest extent of the cosmos, using only the visible end of the spectrum.

With that in mind, I always find it remarkable to see what filmmakers choose to communicate given all the options they have at their disposal – taking into account, of course, technical and budgetary limitations.

This is a link to a project that I gaffed for a friend, filmmaker Joseph Krings.  His choice of images and words always impress me, but this project stands out from behind a very strict set of technical and creative boundaries.  I love working on projects with this spirit:

a small crew

left to their own devices

alone in an empty gallery

doin’ it till it’s done.

All Aboard Future by Joseph Krings

Here is a music video that we did together a few years ago.  I shot it on Super8 with help in the lighting department by the unstoppable Mike Mortell.

Silver Lung

All That’s Fit To Surf – Moveable Type and NYTimes Videos

Posted in filmmaking by davek1 on March 31, 2009

This is one part out of a five video series that Andy Plesser and I produced for The New York Times Company in the winter of 2007.

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Under the vigilant guidance of their PR department – and gifted with access to the as-of-then un-taped realms of their new newsroom and theater, dogwood garden and  lobby- I trekked up to midtown time and again for shoots and re shoots of their new headquarters as it was erected before our eyes.

The shoot culminated with a privileged interview with building mastermind Renzo Piano, and included pieces on the building’s intersting design features, energy-saving innovations, and the integrated newsroom.

The five pieces are hidden in their corporate page and have nothing to do with the on line version of their magazine, but at least one of my videos was embedded in an article by Randy Kennedy on nytimes.com – a high honor for a lowly producer/editor.

I am proud of this work because it is so conventional. I have always thought that straight television form, although we are all so familiar, and maybe sometimes even bored, with it, is actualy hard to execute. Here it is in a way that I find smart. It’s short, informative, not dull and it doesn’t rely on the really cheap conventions like swelling music and stock footage.

The client was really helpful in this project, at times maybe too helpful. I have to admit now in hindsight that their input was insightful and integral to producing such a clean and pointed project. It’s always clear and on topic, never straying from the corporate message, and I think still has room for some artful and interesting techniques.  Had this been left to only my devices the pieces would have been more expressive and less accessable, or useful, to a corporate client.  I like to think that the synthesis of our divergent approaches really payed off. 

It was hard for me, as the project’s sole shooter and editor, to be beholden to someone else’s vision. Doing so was a powerful learning experience for me that I don’t regret.  It was the first job of this nature I have ever had and it set me on a path towards collaborative success with future corporate clients. For the newsroom shoot we hired my good friend Claire Houghtalen to mix and boom operate.  On the Innovation and Sustainability pieces we hired Dave Woolner to come fill in for me while I was shooting something else.

Beet Medicine

Posted in filmmaking by davek1 on March 21, 2009

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My good friend and collaborator, the intrepid Andy Plesser of Beet.TV, just launched a new channel devoted to health.

He is one of the clips that are now live on beetmedicine.tv.

We’ve been shooting for a few weeks at some high level cancer clinics around the country. The participating doctors are interviewed by Dr. Peter Pressman, a retired oncologist and author who is teaching at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

The production is fairly simple. As the producer / editor of a video blog, I generally do everything – lighting, micing, shooting, editing, encoding and publishing. We shoot in 720p, which is much higher than the web resolution but a full quality version will hopefully be available soon.

I’m really proud of the little lighting kit I’ve put together for this project because it’s so bare and easy. I can pack it all up and carry it anywhere and the look will always be the same. The backdrop is a 6′ x 7′ white flex fill that I light with a single 1k placed just behind the subject. The key is much lower than the light on the backdrop just to be sure that it will completely blow out. In post, it’s easy to wipe out any imperfections in the white void that the subjects are floating in.

I watched several Errol Morris films during the planning of this project. His style has definitely affected the decisions we made while designing the format for Beet Medicine.

Please note that the Johnson and Johnson video that plays at the end of this clip was not produced by me or anybody associated with Beet Medicine.

Kayayo – Had I Only Known

Posted in filmmaking by davek1 on January 31, 2009

Here is an excerpt from the upcoming film Kayayo, Had I Only Known

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We just wrapped this film on the 10th. I had only been back in New York for a week by the time Alicia sent me a rough cut. There are almost 20 hours of footage and maybe around 80 scenes, so I am impressed at how fast they are getting it done.

We had a six person crew, Alicia Sully and I were from the US, Nash, Abdulai, Assana and Esa were all from Northern Ghana. We shot constantly for thirty days, half in the village (where we charged our batteries with solar panels) or in the slum down in the capital, Accra.

Here you can see two scenes shot in the north near the Baltanga Dam in the village called Voggu (pronounced “vough”) The last scene is from Accra in the south.

The film will be roughly 90 minutes long. It was written by Dagomba villagers and is almost entirely in their language. English is the primary language in Ghana, so it was fairly easy for us to get on in their culture, although in the villages most people speak only in their tribal tongues.

The short section above is just a rough of a few scenes that occur near the end of the film.

More to come as the film nears completion.

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