CREATE Festival recap

Categories Thoughts, Video

Forgot to post this on the blog, this is a quick video recap of the CREATE Festival which I had the privilege of going to.

Here’s how it all worked: I got sent the application through my friend and applied. They said OK- we’ll play one of your videos on a projector and give you a VIP badge. Steeltown reached out to people in the festival to schedule Facebook live interviews for the event, I said I’ll do it. I get to the venue 20 minutes before the interview with my camera – because I’m super aware of opportunities that happen because you do things you were never asked to do. Head to the front where they tell me I’m able to sign in to the left. But the VIP badges are in front of me, so I clarify that I think I’m supposed to get one. “Oh!” They ask me my last name. “James.” A lady to my left exclaims “Oh, hey! Willy? Are you Willy James? We were just looking for you.” I’m escorted a few feet away where there’s a good number of production people – all of whom also seem to know me by name.

There’s a spotlight and multiple cameras. It’s sectioned off and within view from the people hanging out at the festival. They give me the details of what they want to talk to me about and when they’ll need to get me mic’d up and all that.

Now, let me tell you, the whole process felt very accommodating. This isn’t an everyday thing for me at all, this made me feel special. Like I *was* somebody. You need somewhere to sit your backpack? Yes, of course, let me get that for you. Also overheard a number of times “That’s Willy James with Ask Pittsburgh” which is hilarious to me because that’s not a big thing yet.

Back to the front desk, they give me a VIP badge with my name on it, a t-shirt, and a swag bag. I’m really feeling special. My video isn’t being played but that’s OK because the ability to say it was supposed to is just as good to me.

Talked to my friends at the GPAC table so my social gears are warmed up before the interview. I’ve done the interview and I’m just hoping it was everything it could be. Actually watching my own interviews makes me feel uncomfortable, I haven’t seen the whole thing.

30 minutes until the “VIP” party starts. I Ubered to my place and back, it set me back a surprisingly low $9.75. Still a chunk of change to me because I’m freelancing and go from gig to gig at the moment. I’m also very frugal, think Larry David. But I Uber this time because I had my backpack with me and who wants to walk around drinking with their backpack? Not this guy. I get back to the event, head to what I’m thinking is the open bar – and it’s not. $5+ beer, $8 mixed drink, $10+ wine. But there are drink tickets. Was I supposed to get one of those?? I buy a mixed drink anyway and go up to the front desk to ask. And, while they didn’t come with the $50 value of VIP tickets, some companies apparently had them and the lady said I could probably talk my way into them. I’m all for it, but right before I circled the room I got wrapped up in a conversation with a cute girl who I thought was interesting. I don’t even really flirt that often but I will if you put a VIP badge around my neck.

And then she left because she had to get going. We were going to hang out today but I just don’t think she’s super interested in me! Taking that in stride is what I’ll do.

After that, there were a number of other people I spent time talking with so I didn’t really eat much of the food they had there, as nicely laid out as it was. That’s how it normally happens, I’m usually too caught up in talking to eat.

The awards ceremonies ended. The festivities ended. I was left alone once again and walked down the street to McDonalds out of necessity for my stomach. I didn’t look forward to the fast food like I did when I was much younger. And there was like, 1 employee doing all the work so it took 10 minutes. Then I walked home and didn’t mind doing it. Especially when I have Spotify and my earbuds.

This video would have actually been out a day or two sooner but I typically put the video work I’ve been hired by others to do higher up than my personal projects so, had to get that out of the way first.

Link to full video.

Celebrating Gus & YiaYia day

Categories Thoughts, Video

Most people didn’t know the day existed. It’s something the City of Pittsburgh does to celebrate people who contribute to the culture. I think it’s a good tradition that should be continued.

After posting this video, many people shared it expressing great remorse over how they can’t believe they missed the day. That they should have been there to celebrate it.

I didn’t know about it either. Just happened to Google “Gus & YiaYia’s” a few days before and saw an older article by the Northside Chronicle about the ice ball stand being awarded a day – April 25th.

And I’d be darned if I’d miss a chance to celebrate a neighbor. A Pittsburgh icon. A person that I’m surprised let me film everything that I did. He barely ever does interviews. He turned down around 7 just after talking to me about Mr. Rooney passing away.

That’s a firm demonstration of values if I’ve ever seen it. They really don’t make them like Gus anymore. I’m very honored to have made this video with him. Did you know it’s my most viewed video, too? 43K and counting on Facebook.

It would probably have more on it except for the fact I left that stripper story in there. My intuition tells me government, corporate, and nonprofit entities are substantially less likely to share something that has edge to it. They seek to limit the scrutiny they could be under from sharing – or appearing to endorse – content on social media. In general, the formula is: the safer the better. Both in artist and art. But something told me to leave it there. When you mix love, nostalgia, and a dose of the truthfulness; you get a beautiful mix.

Link to video.


Ask Pittsburgh – should marijuana be legalized?

Categories Thoughts, Video

A continuation of my series, this episode we Ask Pittsburgh: should marijuana be legalized?

This series exists for one main reason: I like watching people talk. As mentioned before, the idea was inspired from iamOTHER‘s series StereoTypes. I’m just not nearly as charismatic as Ryan Hall, the host of the show. Really I just want more episodes but it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime seeing that the last episode came out 3 years ago. I’m not crossing my fingers. But I can remix the idea to my own liking.

The other big reason is it encourages discussion in our city and brings exposure to other opinions in a really cool way, and I’m not just saying that because I made it. I’d watch every episode if someone else had beat me to the punch.

Link to video.

For the near-future episodes, I’d like them to be a bit longer. I’m probably going to have to spend more time out and about. The goal is to get the stronger opinions to represent many of the people watching the show.

I’m looking to fix the wind problem as well. For my camera, I have a quick workaround: a makeshift micromuff.

I’m pretty sure I’ve fixed the out-of-focus issue… for the most part.

And for the record, for every person you see on this video I’ve probably gotten about 15 no’s. It’s a game of persistence if anything.

Thank you to NEXTPittsburgh and Upgruv for featuring the video, and to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for putting it in their 4/20 article.