Frame of Mind: 40 Days & 40 Nights

Wow. I am not sure how to find the words to explain what life has been like since February 4, 2022 to March 14, 2022. “Whirlwind” is one word to sum it up, but even that does not do it justice. Essentially, over the course of 40 days, I was home for exactly three of those days. And, trying to find the motivation to be even slightly creative has been an exercise in futility, however, I suspect because of the fact I am finally sitting down to pen these words it provides evidence that I am starting to turn back into a normal, functioning human being. So, what lead ‘Ol Art Dog to be away from home for 37 out of 40 days? Well… A LOT. Women’s soccer and dirtbikes were the culprits, and I bet you didn’t expect the soccer part did ya? Yeah, well, neither did I. But, that is the life of a freelance filmmaker/full time hot dog pusher at 

Another installment of our ALL IN series has been shot at the 2022 JS7 Spring National at Freestone County Raceway in Wortham, TX. You can also expect our Loretta Lynn’s installment of ALL IN to launch in July of this year.

In late January I received a text from friend and fellow dirt scooter filmmaker, Jordan Powell, asking if I had any interest in traveling to Florida for a 30 day job to shoot small docu-series about a professional women’s soccer team (due to client work Powell already had booked, he was unable to accept the job and reached out to me to take his place). Instantly, my interest was peaked by the opportunity to work on a non-dirtbike project. However, my interest also crashed into the ground upon hearing the part where I would be gone for exactly 30 days. Before ever accepting the opportunity, the first thing I needed to do was discuss this with my wife, because I sure as shit was not leaving her for an entire month if she was not comfortable with that idea. Thankfully, she is truly an amazing, supportive, and encouraging woman and, without hesitation, she said that I absolutely had to accept this opportunity. “We’ve done 30+ days apart in the past and we can do it again” she told me. So, we had that box checked off. Next up was the man who refuses to accept 99.2% of my calls (Wes, dude, I am not calling you collect. You can afford to talk to me on the phone), Wes Williams. It took about a day, but I was able to get him on the phone and explain the opportunity. Before I could finish explaining he said, “YES. I cannot stand in the way of that.” So, with all of the boxes checked, I accepted the job and proceeded to hop on a plane to meet a brand new production crew I had never met or worked with and live with them for 30 days in the horse shit town of Bradenton, FL (my apologies to anyone that lives in the Bradenton/Cortez area, but seriously… Wow. What a dump) while shooting a docu-series on the Kansas City Current at the IMG Academy as they dove into their pre-season training. 

The gear traveling to Florida. What’s wild is this photo I snapped doesn’t even show all of the bags. In total, we had 17.

My knowledge of soccer is exactly zero. I never played it. I don’t watch it. I know nothing. Thankfully, the crew had vast knowledge in the sport as they played at a high level, coached soccer for many years, and still had their thumb on the pulse of the industry. However, as a quiet and mellow individual, it’s always nerve-wracking walking into a new situation with a new crew. All you hope is that it moves fast, efficiently, and that you get along with the new faces you’re working alongside. Luckily, the crew was solid and very laid back. It made my life far less stressful and the time move quickly, especially since they knew the sport so well, they were able to provide me with tips on what to expect, where the action would play out, and more. As for our scope of work, the objective was eight five minute episodes (releasing two a week) and 25 60s player profiles. We had a full time, in-house editor with us, our fearless leader, Matt, also helped in all areas from shooting and editing, to logistics and directing. I was hired purely to shoot on the provided equipment, which was a Sony FX9 with Canon Cine glass. Overall, the experience was one of kind and a lot of fun. Shooting on the Sony FX9 had me wanting to burn that camera into the ground or feed it to an alligator multiple times throughout the trip. However, somehow, it remained in one piece. And, no this isn’t because I am some RED fanboy, because I am not. My next camera body purchase will not be RED. While the image out of the FX9 is solid, the overall ergonomics and user interface was the fucking stupidest thing I’ve seen since owning a Sony FS700 circa 2015. Despite the fact the camera had timecode, multiple XLR inputs, and built-in NDs, those weren’t enough for me to fall in love as it was instead a solid reminder to me why I will never go back Sony. Seriously, Sony, can you just TRY a little to make the user interface a little less complex? Maybe drop 10 of the 400 stupid ass menu options? Nah? Okay, great. You suck. And your camera is stupid.

The Sony FX9 inside the Orlando Exploria Stadium: the home of the NWSL’s Orlando Pride. KC Current and Orlando Pride played a pre-season game while I continued think of ways I could burn this camera into the ground.

No matter the job, no matter the crew, and no matter the pay check, at some point, you are more than ready to go home. Travel is hard and, the older I become, the more difficult being away from home has become. When I was young I was so eager to leave and experience the life of a traveling man. I am not sure what it is, but with age, it’s slowly caused far more stress and become much less enjoyable. You miss your family, you miss your friends, and you miss your normal, everyday routine. Which, for me (routine), is a very imperative part of keeping my stress and anxiety levels down. Over the last few years, I’ve realized a small tool to help me minimize the stress of travel, which is to literally arrive at the airport four to five hours early. Seriously. It allows me to take my time checking bags, not rush having to get almost naked when going through security, and then finding my gate. Arriving so early also allows me the opportunity to fire up the computer and catch up on work and/or emails. At this juncture of my life, it is all about minimizing my stress levels, especially when you have stress about being away from home for 30 days. Plus, it’s not like I am traveling for vacation. It’s for work and there is always a level of stress no matter the job and all the other variables that come along when traveling with $100k in camera gear, rental car debacles, hotels, etc. On trips like this, I also do my absolute best to create as many opportunities as possible for the travel life to mimic home life. That means setting a schedule for my workouts and runs, going to the grocery store and finding as many things from home as possible to eat, and so forth. Everybody is different, and that may sound odd, but it’s been a tool I’ve learned and developed to help me maintain a form of sanity so that I don’t become a moody bitch (ask Wes about this. He and Brandon Carter experienced this with me during the 2020 SLC stint). Sorry, fellas. Thanks to therapy, I literally don’t get like that anymore. I swear! 

Now, after 30 days of shooting and being away from home, to say I was ready to get out of there was an understatement. However, I got the gut punch that I would then head to Wortham, TX for a seven day shoot at the JS7 Spring National at Freestone County Raceway. The silver lining? I would be home for exactly THREE days before hopping on my next flight to Texas. So, the not-so-fun part was telling my wife that I would be coming home but there was the aforementioned caveat. She was not thrilled. She was understanding and supportive, but simply put: sad. And, I can’t blame her. Honestly, I was sad, too. I was ready to be home and decompress and get back to a normal schedule, but that just wasn’t going to be the case. And, that is were the sacrifice and, for lack of a better term, grit comes into play. I’ve said it a thousand times before in these articles, but this shit isn’t glamorous. It’s a lot of work, a lot of long days, a lot of shitty food, and a lot of time away from home. And, you have to come to work with the same “ready for battle” attitude on day 34 of 37 that you had on day one of 37. It’s why I’ve seen so many with such great talent not make the cut or simply give up. Once they get a real taste of what this is like, they realize the time put in verse the pay check isn’t what they want or what they expected. And, while there is money to be made at the levels individuals like Wes and I are at, it’s still not go buy a yatch and retire money (if that’s your sorta thing). The passion for filmmaking has got to outweigh everything else. 

Perhaps the highlight of the 2022 JS7 Spring National at Freestone County Raceway in Wortham, TX was being able to make Jefferson Starship Simpson get this photo of me in front of the Navarro sign. If you are not watching the docu-series on Netflix called CHEER, you are seriously doing yourself a disservice. It is truly an unreal, eye-opening, and honest look into the best cheer team in country: Navarro Community College in Corsicana, TX.

After three very short, yet very enjoyable days home with my wife and pup-pup, it was time to repack, revisit the airport and fly in a tube to Texas for seven days. The positives here were that I knew the crew I was going to be with (Jefferson Starship Simpson and the guy with two first names, Blake Keith), I knew the area, the track, and the event well. And, it was a place I have always enjoyed being at and shooting at. So, I was doing what I could to use those positives to help me survive seven more days on the road. Overall, my objective at Freestone was to focus on another installment of our ALL IN series. So, it allowed me to focus on the creative aspect of my job and go do what I do best: wander. Still, by day four or five, I had literally hit a mental and physical wall. Our days were starting at 6:00 a.m. at the track, on location all day, and then dinner and the local Starbucks or our hotel room to edit until almost midnight. Now, couple all of this with the fact that I had been in Florida for a 30 day job, in a time zone three hours ahead of mine, then back home to California for three days where the time zone goes back three hours, and then to Texas where the time zone is two hours ahead of California, AND then the clocks jumping one hour forward while I was in Texas for that Daylight Savings bull shit and I was basically a dead man walking. Whatever day was the high of 34 degrees, rainy, cloudy, and windy, at Freestone was the day it really hit me. I think I spent more time hiding in our eco-friendly mini-van with the heater on full blast then I did outside shooting. I was just surviving at that point and didn’t know how I was going to get through a few more days. But, like every other time, I managed to fight through the feeling of death and capture what we needed over the remaining days before heading back home to FINALLY decompress. 

What was the 2022 edition of Freestone like for us? We made a vlog that documents all of the behind-the-scenes of our week and me in full, cranky survival mode. Enjoy and like, comment, and subscribe so we can retire and go buy that yatch.

So, out of 40 days, I was legitimately gone for 37 of those days. I’ve been home for roughly eight days and just now starting to feel human again. It’s been a very difficult struggle getting back into the swing of things and finding the motivation, but it is finally coming around. I think my body has finally realized that I’m back home and is adjusting to its normal time zone once again. It’s now a matter of getting back into my normal routine and schedule and finding a healthy balance of work and non-work time. I will say, my biggest objective this year is to do everything I can to avoid the feelings I had towards the end of 2021 because that shit was not healthy for anyone. And, I will say a small step forward in achieving that goal was last week (one day after getting home) when I was offered to DP a two day, good sized commercial type gig down in San Diego, CA shooting last Thursday and Friday. Despite the great rate and the opportunity, the timing was simply just not right. I needed to be home, and I needed to decompress. Going back into it right away on a commercial gig with a proper crew would’ve legitimately broke me as I knew I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to survive it. So, I politely declined the offer in the name of  my own physical and mental wellness. Proud of myself for turning it down? Yes. Under about any other circumstances, I would’ve jumped all over it, but as I mentioned, I need to have a balance and turning down a job was the balance I needed to help me reset and prepare for the next one(s) coming up. Sometimes, saying no is okay. My therapist would be so proud to hear me say that.

My final day of travel. Day 37 of 37: a hot chocolate was earned.

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