BEHIND THE SCENES AND Q&A > STAZHIA'S LENZ
Q&A WITH RUBY MAREZ
1. Where did the inspiration for this video come from?
I was home on a Wednesday night vacuuming, cause I'm really cool like that, and the news was on. I heard a story about a new trend in having professional delivery room photographers come to shoot births. I remember turning off the vacuum and saying out loud (to no one), "What? What?!" It just so happened later that weekend I was creating a character reel for a Magnet audition that required original characters so I started to riff on who that person could be with one of my close friends, Agueda Ramirez. We came up with the name StaZhia and wrote her character monologue for the audition and from there I developed the character into a live sketch that was performed with my Magnet sketch team CA$H and then later adapted it into a faux filmed reality show web-series with the Magnet Video Lab. So watch the news! You can get inspired from all the garbage they put on there. (Sidebar: I write a lot of news sketches. I'm a little obsessed with how bad the news is.)
2. What were your film making challenges?
Ummmm...where do I start? You wear so many hats when you write, act, and are in charge of pre-production, production and post-production of your project. I know it is something I will get used to, but wearing all these different hats was the biggest challenge. It was hard to be heading production and giving my fullest the day of the first shoot with everyone. Mostly because I was concerned about the other actors having a good time, being full hydrated, that kind of thing. I had a lot of fun that day but wish I was able to just play and hang more with the cast. They are all hilarious, talented actors and I have been wanting to work with them for some time so I wish more of that could have happened. My biggest challenge was in post. Post production was intense, grueling, and it's where I have the least experience. One example of a challenge I faced in post was finding all the audio music for the show. In reality shows throughout almost the entire episode there is music playing underneath the dialogue. I had to find similar reality show music to use for my shoot which was incredibly time consuming and sometimes costly. Reality shows also use a lot of exterior shots as a way to show a passage of time or a scene change and finding stock footage that was royalty free was also a time sucker and cost money.
3. How did the Magnet Video Lab help you grow as an artist from Season 1 to Season 2?
Magnet Video Lab has been instrumental in helping me grow. They are all really good about helping me think about how a sketch will play video-wise and what film elements I can incorporate to help tell the story. I could not have done either of these shoots (Season 1 & Season 2) without their help.
Look at my Chandelier (coming out this fall!) was the first sketch I shot back in Season 1. MVL helped me punch up the script, storyboard it, film it, and think of music for editing. It was a one day shoot, I was the only actor in it, and I had to significantly age throughout the shoot. The most important factor for the sketch was finding an opulent space with a beautiful, classy, dignified chandelier that would not cost me an arm and a leg to shoot in. Joe Whelski of MVL helped me find the perfect location - The Landmark Loew's Jersey (http://www.loewsjersey.org/). It is a historic movie palace from 1929 located in Jersey City, New Jersey. Look them up, go there, and donate your time or money in keeping this beautiful theater and live entertainment venue alive!
For Season 2 with StaZhia’s LenZ the whole scale of the sketch was much grander. There were 6 actors, 2 shoot days, 2 cameras, graphics that needed to be made, and additional music and video footage I had to find. I also had to do a lot of research that included watching several reality shows to capture the reality show tone. I didn't realize how much more of an undertaking it would be and all the moving parts this video had. I learned a lot and would not have been able to accomplish all these things without MVL’s help. For example, reality shows cut from one person to another about every 3 seconds. So we had to shoot it that way, moving the cameras from one persons face to another pretty quickly. The D.P.’s (Jim Turner of MVL and my friend who I also went to high school with Joe Pickard ) also had to zoom in and out a lot to capture that reality show tone.
Reality shows also use a lot of green screen commentary to carry the story, so Annie Quick of Magnet Video Lab opened her apartment up to me to set up her green screen and shoot my green screen commentary. Jim Turner of MVL let us borrow his equipment (key lights, lav, etc.) to get this done, which was incredibly kind of him. Dan Dobransky of Magnet Video Lab took the time to key out all the green screen. Dan also made the photoshopped photos that StaZhia takes of the mom-to-be (which you see in episode 4) as well as the "StaZhias LenZ" logo and the “Brava" logo. I am in love with all the graphics he made for this project! Especially the logos. I think I jumped up and down like a little girl on Christmas getting a puppy when I saw the logos he made.
This project would not have come together without the help of my fellow Magnet Video Labbers. It had so many components to it beyond my skill set. I come from a performer/writer background and so I always feel good about the pre-production and production side. Post-production is where I really feel challenged. This project required a lot of post-production knowledge in terms of editing, graphics, and design that was beyond my skill level, so it was incredible that I had a community of people with expertise in those areas that I could turn to for guidance. I wouldn't have been able to finish this project without their help. I am so grateful and feel truly blessed. Also, working with them is a lot of fun :)
4. What's next?
My doctor says my vitamin D levels are low and I need to get some sun so I am taking his advice and am gonna go hit up the beach, go for a day hike, get some nature in before summer ends. I've been holed up in my apartment editing since May and spent all winter learning the basics of editing. Hopefully my friends will forgive my absence and will come hang with me.
I'm also releasing the concluding episodes of StaZhia's LenZ, episode 3 and 4 along with some bonus footage in the next few weeks. So stay tuned for that!
I’m already planning my next shoot for early October. I’ve written two scripts as possible contenders for Season 3 of the Magnet Video Lab. I write a lot and these two scripts have already gone through several rounds of edits and been tested in front of live audiences. I have recently found two professional editors, one video and one sound that I love working with which will make post-production a helluva a lot easier on me. I look forward to working alongside the editors again and not attempting to do a full edit myself. I am a very self-sufficient person and have a history of not asking for help when I need to - I’m sure if I had ever studied medicine I would try to do surgery on myself. I think this last project has officially broken that bad habit. These editors are from the improv/sketch world, understand comedy, and share my comedic sensibilities so it’s a joy to work with them.
5. Any last thoughts?
I just want to thank everyone who helped out on this project. It really did take a village to get this all done including members of The Magnet Video Lab, people from the comedy community and friends of mine. From everyone's input on how to edit the writing, to Jim's excellent camera work and equipment use, to Annie filming me in her apartment with her green screen, to Dan Dobransky operating the boom mic and Joe P. A.ing, to Annie's help with any editing query I had, to Alex Shifman coming over and helping me out of a rut when I got stuck editing, to Dan Dobransky making graphics for StaZhia, keying out the green screen, and creating the awesome StaZhia LenZ and BRAVA logo, to Binu Paulose creating the Vogue, W, & Harpers Bazaar magazine covers as well as the graphics for "Next Time on StaZhia's Lens", to my director and D.P. Joe Pickard who totally knew what shots to get, to my gaffer Alex Nelson who kept us lit real well, to Grant Goldberg who sound mixed the final version of StaZhia, to Nick Palm who is the online editor and worked with me all week to give the video a final edit, to all of my excellent actors: Noel Dineen, Ann Carr, Emily Tarver, Binu Paulose, & Robin Rothman Taylor to Claire Burns who let me use her professional modeling photos for the sketch, to my doctor who let us shoot in his office, to my close friend Agueda Ramirez who helped me write the StaZhia character and finally to Armando Diaz who kept encouraging me and telling me my idea and first edit was good and who met with me to give me notes on my first cut. Sometimes all you need to hear to carry on is that you have good material and it just needs finesse. Armando is very supportive of The Magnet Video Lab and his notes are priceless. Finally, Annie Quick should get the "Mother Theresa of editing" award. She has spent countless hours helping me edit and teaching me what NOT to do and what to ALWAYS do. I am over the moon that I have gotten to work with so many wonderful people. I had a lot of fun developing this from concept to creation and am so grateful to everyone who was involved.
"StaZhia's LenZ" is a mocku-reality show for the BRAVA network following former high fashion photographer, turned delivery room photographer StaZhia, whose lens captures shadows, light, and a ton of crotch. No delivery room is safe from the "upskirt expert".
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