Lost Count: Revisited

The Day of Publishing

Today is the day that we’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to see what weeks of interviewing, scripting, filming and editing have all come down to.

Before I  impart my final thoughts about the project, I would like you to direct your attention below to watch our final video.

Let me start by saying that this was by far my favorite project that I have ever worked on. Demetrius was an incredible subject with a complex and fascinating story and had phenomenal talent to showcase. His professionalism throughout the process has been much appreciated.

From the beginning, this project was, frankly, really fun to work on. I was talking to my co-producer, Julius Burchett, earlier this week and I told him that this video has become almost addicting.

As I was editing this piece, it became nearly impossible to pull me away from it. Even though I had other work to do, all I was thinking about was this video and I kept going back to it trying to make it as seamless as possible…. even if  itcut into the time I had to work on my other projects. oops.

Although it was enjoyable, this project was not void of challenges. The final product is not nearly perfect but I can say that I am stepping away feeling satisfied.

Honestly this project took me a bit out of my comfort zone but I am so glad I did so. What I have learned throughout the process has been invaluable.

Coming into the semester, I had no experience filming any type of poetry or music and had never worked on a video confronting such a large issue like violence and racial inequality in Chicago. When first scripting this story it was a bit overwhelming.

Honing in on the important aspects of our story was challenging. In the end, I feel that we were able to pare down the message enough to encompass what needed to be said.

Before I step away from this project, I want to express my gratitude. I am grateful, as I said before, for Demetrius Amparan for being such a willing subject. I am grateful for my co-producer, Julius Burchett, for being such a pleasure to work with. I am grateful for this class and Professor Rogers for teaching me insights about scripting and storytelling that I never expected to be so profound. I am grateful for my classmates and colleagues for their support and feedback through the process. Lastly, I am grateful for everyone who spends the time to watch this video.

Please feel free to provide any feedback that you have about the project share our video  with others who might be interested! And leading into the next headline, have a wonderful holiday season everyone.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

December 1st is a significant day in my life for two reasons. First, it is the day that I realize that I only have a few weeks to get my Christmas presents together, oops. More importantly, as a grad student, it is the time where all the work needed to finish my final projects comes crashing down at once.

Contrary to my previous statement, I am actually exiting for the coming days. It is an opportunity to put together some incredible stories that I have put so much work into all semester. Although my stress levels might be a bit higher than normal, it is an exciting time.

As for an update for the video we will create for Lost Count: Revisited, my partner, Julius Burchett, and I have completed the first draft of the video. You can take a look at a bit of what we have done below.

Up to this point, we have formatted our story completely and cut down the interview to tell the most important pieces of the story we want to represent. As I have discussed extensively in my previous posts, cutting down Demetrius Amparan’s message was no easy task.

Despite the complexity and after filling up the recycling bin with more than a few versions of the script, we have a story that we really feel good about. It explains a bit of Demetrius’ background, his feature on HBO and the inspiration and direction of his artistry.

What we have thus far is simply an edited interview with simple cutaways and varied focal lengths to try and keep the viewer interested. At this point, the story is solid but not where we want to be visually.

Over the next week, Julius and I will be filming Demetrius doing what he does best, being an artist and an activist. He has agreed to give us a raw, unfiltered and very personal performance of both some rap and poetry pieces that he has created. We will include these short performances in our video.

We will also be sure to capture compelling visuals to assure that the story is as engaging and interesting to the viewer as possible. We have been lucky to have an incredibly interesting subject such as Demetrius to feature, now is the time to put everything together and create the best story possible.

It is extremely exciting to say that at this time next week, we will have our final video posted on this blog. Please come back to this page one week from today to check the final version of Lost Count: Revisited!

Scripting, Scripting, Scripting

So the good news is that our first interview with Demetrius Amparan went really well. It wasn’t hard at all to get him to open up about his life, his artistry and the problems that he sees around him. Now it all comes down to effectively telling his story.

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As we had predicted before the interview, Demetrius is a complex character. He had not only experienced racial injustice growing up but had dedicated his adult life to irradiate them.

Here comes the challenge, condensing his thoughts into a three minute video. Honestly, there could be a whole documentary series made about this guy but we only have three minutes. All of our messaging in those three minutes is going to have to be concise and directed.

The direction we have chosen to take is the idea of how he uses artistry to affect change. Demetrius has used his art in many ways to bring about change. He has written and competed in poetry competitions along with releasing his own hip-hop music. Although the way he presents his art may change, his message is the same across his art.

He uses art as a platform to talk about topics that he knows aren’t talked about but are so relevant in low income neighborhoods. He talks about dealing with loss, not having food and what it means to be a father.

In our interview, Demetrius talked about how he loves using hip-hop because he can put a really catchy beat behind a powerful message. He wants people to listen to his music and get so caught up in the melody, that it takes them a few listens to realize the message behind it. Demetrius believes that is the most powerful way to affect people.

As for taking the next steps with this project my partner, Julius Burchett, and I have completed our script and know how we are going to tell our story. We will need one or two more shoots to capture the visual elements as well.

During out first interview, we brought two cameras to assure that we would be able to capture as many cutaways as we needed. Having two cameras was definitely effective but it was not sufficient.

We have already talked to Demetrius and he has agreed to meet with us again to shoot some b-roll and watch him executing his artistry. He agreed to perform some of his original poetry for us and he is actually currently planning a new music tour around campuses across the country so he has created new music for that. In our next interview he will share all of that with us.

For further updates on how this project is progressing and to see video clips from our past and future interviews, follow @LostCount_ on Twitter!

The Anxiety of the Interview

The all-important introductory interview, oh how you worry me. It’t not that I lack confidence in my interviewing skills, but rather, I know how important the first interview can be.

If you couldn’t guess, tonight is our first scheduled meeting and interview with Demetrius Amparan. My previous post went into great detail about the depth of Amparan as a person and some of the considerations that we need to have when approaching this story.

If you weren’t able to read my first post, Demetrius Amparan can be be described as many things. He is an activist. He is an artist. He is a father and overall, he is a concerned Chicagoan. A man born and raised in a beautiful city that is often so unforgiving. A man who, from a young age experienced tragedy and loss and most importantly, decided to take action.

After I get past the slight anxiety of beginning this project, the emotion that remains is pure excitement. In the week leading up to this interview, I have thought about the story extensively. Having the opportunity to tell the story of such a deep and complex subject is invigorating yet exhausting.

As of now, have completed the daunting task of finding a good story. It all comes down to telling that story well. The good news is that my partner, Julius Burchett, grew up with Demetrius Amparan and the two have shared similar experiences that we will cover in this video.

With the barrier broken down, it will be important to hone in on what we will want to focus on in this piece. Even before meeting him, I know that Demetrius Amparan will have many stories to tell. It will be challenging to only pick one.

The most important part of the the initial interview will be getting a feel for the most interesting aspect of his story. Whatever we decide on today will determine how we approach the rest of the process.

As for visuals, it will be important to capture compelling visuals that we can use to go along with the story that we tell. Julius and I decided to tell this story with video because of the non-verbal communication that is so important to express his artistry.

We want to show you the expressions that Amparan has when he is expressing himself through poetry and music. We want to show the viewer the intense look in his eyes, the expression on his face, his hands moving and feet tapping. These are the details that will make the story truly stand out.

To do this, we will be taking two cameras to the interview today in hopes of capturing good audio and classic interview footage while also capturing the small details and nuances while he is talking.

If you are interested in hearing what Demetrius says in the first interview, we will be tweeting pictures and video from our discussion. Follow us on twitter @lostcount_ to follow us throughout this journey.

I Play Pickup Basketball Games with Ghosts

I am more than afraid, that an age allowing me to be on this stage might have me murdered by Monday. I’m 18, I play pickup basketball games with ghosts. -Demetrius Amparan in Lost Count: A Love Story

You don’t need to see statistics to understand that violence affects so many people in Chicago. For Demetrius Amparan, using artistic outlets helps him cope with the violence around him.

In 2009, when Amparan was 18 years old, his poetry was featured on HBO’s series Brave New Voices. The featured poem, titled Lost Count: A Love Story, referenced Amparan’s friend, Eddie Lucas, who died after being hit by a police car.

His emotional account of the situation was the first look into Amparan’s use of artistry as a means of expression. Recently, Amparan has transitioned his focus away from poetry and put an emphasis on his work as a rapper.

Whether it is expression through poetry or hip hop, Amparan focuses on the issue of violence. His song GHOST focuses on what it is like to be a survivor after seeing so many people fall victim to acts of violence.

So lets call it off now so we don’t hurt in the end. Before I get to know your mother, start loving her lots. Next thing you know I’ll be picking funeral plots. -Demetrius Amparan in Ghosts

But Amparan does not limit his activism to the artistry that he creates. He currently serves  as the communications manager for A Better Chicago, an organization that focuses on improving educational opportunities for low income Chicagoans. Amparan is also a father of two daughters who he is  also raising in Chicago.

This Project

For this project, my partner, Julius Burchett, and I will be creating a short documentary around Demetrius Amparan and his work not only as an artist, but also an activist. Through  in-depth interviews and stepping into Amparan’s world, we will delve into his views on the what is occurring in the world around him and how he looks to better it.

From a young age, Amparan’s motivations to address the issue of violence in Chicago have been clear. In the coming weeks, we will hear more from Amparan as he discusses his past, present and future as an activist and how he uses art as a means of expression to try and provoke change.

This blog will contain weekly updates on what progress we have made an any insights we have gained throughout the process. Every week we will post short video content along with any compelling pictures that we have captured.

For further information and live updates of this project, you can also follow @lostcount_ on Twitter. We look forward to keeping you involved in this process and will appreciate any feedback!