Late last year I got a call from Werner Eggert in Hamburg and he invited me to fill in as a substitute professor for a few months teaching 12 international journalism fellows who were were completing a 10-month professional development program called "Journalism in a Digital World."
This program is similar to the nine month "Complete Journalist" program I help Tarek Atia produce a few years ago for the Egypt Media Development Program, so I was pretty well prepared.
Intajour's regular video and multimedia instructor had dropped out and I said yes immediately. The opportunity to work with Werner and his fine fellows for two weeks in Cologne and one week in Berlin was too good to pass up.
Werner and I have known each other for almost a decade - we were both consultants to the short-lived FUTUROOM project.
After two weeks of teaching these amazing colleagues how to make news films and produce multimedia projects at the fabulous RTL studios and journalism school in Cologne, I have to say we are all more than just Facebook friends now.
The fellows are all currently back in their home countries and we see each other now in videos that they are producing as part of their "E-learning phase."
That's right, they have homework and it's so cool to be able to grade student's homework from China, Ecuador, Egypt, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Iran, Costa Rica, Gambia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Pakistan and see video they made from their neighborhoods.
They got great instruction from my co-professor Joachim Vögele and special-topic experts like Winfried von Wilmsdorff, a documentary filmmaker and longtime cameraman for RTL.
"Winnie" as he prefers to be called, showed us all how to hack our DSLR's with Magic Lantern, increase production values with low-cost add-ons. He is a man after my own heart. I had brought my GoPro and mobile journalism hacks to the classes each day and demonstrated the results in progress.
In between classes we witnessed some of the live productions taking place in the RTL studios. Like this fast bit of Reality-TV fun captured with my iPhone.
TV cameras, air cannons and screams.
This scene literally exploded in front of me while I was outside taking a walk.
One evening after class, we got to visit the coolest TV news set in the world where they let me film discreetly while their show was going out live. My GoPro on mini tripod is so small and silent compared to their creepy robo-TV cameras.
Here is the resulting scene that features Peter Kloeppel delivering the news on virtual set of his popular nightly news show in RTL's state-of-the-art Cologne studio.
The sequence turned out to be pretty dreamy, actually a disturbed dream. It gave my wife nightmares so I entered it into this contest for Sony Professionals.
After cutting this reel, I continued to film for the next week at strange times of the day, finding myself with my cameras and pico dolly rolling across bridges and other odd locations. I started to cut those scenes together each night in my room and then I went on Facebook and saw that two of my favorite songsmiths, "The Two Johns" from "They Might Be Giants" had announced a video contest for their tune "Am I Awake?"
I had never heard this track before but, I said, 'what the heck' they just granted this filmmaker a license to audition their score for my dream film.
I dropped their track onto my timeline to see if their music matched these strange sequences I was making, and it pretty much was a lock.
So, I entered another contest. This time I could win a thousand bucks! But really, the fact that I could be allowed to make a music video for this band is a strong reward already.
I can show you a screen shot of the music video, but it is embargoed until April.