Out of this World – Free Animation and Graphics from NASA

On June 30, 2016 at an event hosted by Interface Media Group, WIFV (Women in Film and Video) brought the fascinating animation portfolio of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) and its director Dr. Horace Mitchell, to the attention of the local film and video production community.  The NASA-SVS Gallery of 400 videos and 6,200 visual images are free to anyone who wants to download and incorporate breath-taking scientific content, with the proper attribution to NASA of course!

Dr. Horace Mitchell makes an Impression

Man sitting in chair

Dr. Mitchell, who has a Ph.D. in physics, developed an interest in visualizing his scientific computations.  Using a variety of in house custom developed software, he and the SVS team uses raw data to produce scientific visualizations which have wide appeal in popularizing NASA’s scientific endeavors to the world.  They translate the data from satellites and earth based observations into gorgeous representations worthy of the finest impressionist painters.  In fact one these data generated videos is actually called Van Gogh Sun: (watch it on You Tube).

Check out these colorful images formed from bites and bits of data worthy of the famous one eared Dutchman himself.

The Perpetual Oceanof Data!

Another example of the NASA-SVS work which has gone viral (with over 300,000 viewings) is Perpetual Ocean which uses no audio narration at all, only ocean flow data and a software which in the erudite words of Dr. Mitchell, “drops digital particles into the flow fields” to produce graphic animation of ocean currents which translates esoteric earth science into spellbinding images.  Take a look, you won’t believe your eyes.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEe1bVjORN4 .

The SVS team, along with their partners in production at NASA Goddard, Conceptual Image Lab, Goddard Media Studios and NASA Hyper wall Productions, want you to take advantage of the work of thousands of NASA scientists to help spice up you productions for free.  A better use of taxpayer money for the advancement of “the Biz” is hard to imagine. Special thanks to award winning children’s animator Kristin Harris for organizing WIFVs animation round-table series.

  1. http://www.kristinharrisdesign.com/
  2. Scientific Visualization Studio

Film Spotlight- The “Victorious” D.C. Divas

Victorious: Women of The Gridiron

Thanks to our friends at WIFV-DC, we recently attended the Reel Affirmations Film Festival’s screening of Victorious: Women of the Gridiron. The film is about the D.C. Divas, an all-woman football team that was undefeated in the 2015 Woman’s Football Alliance season. Some of the best players in woman’s football were present at the screening, along with the filmmaker Robert Mac, to talk about the sport and the challenges of competing in a league that is widely unknown. This is real football played by the best athletes of their gender, but few people outside of their friends, families and supporters attend the games. The filmmaker explores why this is the case.

Shining the Spotlight on Women’s Sports

Women's Football Alliance

The screening of a 15 minute preview of the film showed a fascinating insight into the world of women who play league football. It got us thinking, women’s basketball has a huge following, why not women’s football? What role do the TV networks play at keeping this unrecognized talent pool in the shadows? How can these athletes break away from the stigma associated with women in a contact sport? The filmmaker is focused on these issues to draw some well-deserved attention to some of the toughest and most skilled female football players in the country.

(See a five minute trailer of Victorious here – https://vimeo.com/144878763 ).

Filmmaker Captures D.C. Divas Winning Season

Word Wizards CEO meets filmmaker Robert Mac
Word Wizards CEO (left) meets Robert Mac (filmmaker)

Robert Mac is an award-winning filmmaker and the Executive Producer/Co-creator of the hugely popular film – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, (available online for free) about the “juicing” health science craze as a way to good health. “Fat” has had over 13 million viewers, and is one of the most successful health documentaries ever made.

Mac embedded himself with this team during the Divas victorious 2015 season, and collected some amazing football b-roll. Any NFL men’s team would be proud to review such successful game winning plays at the end of an undefeated championship season. The interviews were compelling glances into each woman’s unique life story of how she got there, and the life lessons the game has taught her along the way. Yet nobody knows about them.

Support The D.C. Divas on Indiegogo

D.C. Divas Team Photo 2015

It is a story that must be told. The average male NLF player makes $1.9 million dollars per season. The average woman WFA player makes exactly $0. Hopefully, with Mac’s engaging story telling, this may not be the case for long. Support their Indiegogo campaign to help bring this team of champions and this league of talented athletes out of the shadows and into the spotlight of professional sports. Don’t forget to Check out their accomplishments and schedule on The D.C. DIVA’s web site.

  1. For more about the Reel Affirmations Festival see http://www.reelaffirmations.org/
  2. For more about the WFA see http://wfafootball.net/
  3. For more about the filmmaker see http://www.frontridermedia.com/about/

The Art of Selling Yourself – Through Your Resume

There were valuable resume and interview tips aplenty at an informative presentation on resume building, hosted by Women in Film and Video (WIFV) and Women in Cable Television Communications (WICT), at Interface Media Group on April 2, 2014.  The panel discussion was scheduled just ten days before the ever-popular WIFV job fair, so these important tips came just in time for some last minute resume polishing and brushing up on interview skills.

Applicants at the WIFV job fair.
Hopeful applicants will make their case at the upcoming WIFV Job Fair

Packed House

The packed house was not disappointed by the professional advice disbursed by the panel of experts. First to speak was Karen Proctor, who is a senior recruiter at the George Washington University Hospital as well as owner of her own recruiting company, Kreative Recruiting Programs.  She quickly focused on one of the main themes of the evening for creating a successful resume. Rely on short concise bullet points, supported by an explanatory sentence, and lose the lengthy paragraphs.

Karen Proctor
Karen Proctor

Recruiters have to review dozens and sometimes even hundreds of resumes for every opening. So they want you to get right to the point of what you can do for their company, based on what you have done for others before during your career.  If you are lucky enough to get called in for an interview you will get an opportunity to go into the details. In the mean time keep the items in your resume short and to the point.  One highly rated resume had a box in the top right hand corner with the heading “Core Competencies” which contained a bracketed and bold short list of high value items. Put your best assets right up front, where no one has to search for them.

Of like mind with Karen was panelist Ken Nice, who is Program Manager for Yoh Company.  Ken’s recruiting accolades include current clients at Discovery Communications, TV One, and HARPO Studios.  He has been a specialist in temporary staffing at the Freeman Agency in L.A. and manager of temporary staffing at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA. Ken reinforced Karen’s point that short entries and bullet points are better for resumes than long paragraphs that no one has the time to read.  Both felt that a resume can have more than one page, if the extra space is filled with short but relevant bulleted items.

Ken Nice
Ken Nice

As far as the physical layout of the resume is concerned, for people who have been in the work force for several years, it is best to go in chronological order from your current work experience backwards.  Watch out for unexplained gaps in your work experience time line.  Put more emphasis on the recent events than the distant past.  Education goes at the bottom, as that happened a long time ago for seasoned professionals.

On the other hand, newcomers to the workforce who lack work experience can fall back on education and extracurricular activities.  Both Karen and Ken were in agreement that they don’t really care about what your goals are.  They both assume that since you are talking to a recruiter, that your goal is to get a job.  So strike “my goals” from your resume as irrelevant.  What they really want to know is how can you fill an employment need for the company that is reviewing your resume.

Both Karen and Ken were firm supporters of getting help in employment searches from the social media phenomenon LinkedIn.  For example, it is useful for job searchers to join groups on LinkedIn in their area of professional interest.  If you are going to a specific company to look for work, check who in your network group might already work there, for some advanced scouting help.  You can just type in the name of a company, and the name of people in your group who work there will pop up. Or you can just ask people in your LinkedIn groups for advice on how to approach a certain type of job opening.  Most people on LinkedIn share such information freely.

The next speaker was WIFV Board Member Elizabeth Ventura, who has managed multimillion-dollar production company operations, served as line producer on multiple broadcast series, and managed complex outreach-type hiring events.  The local production companies that she has helped to greatness include Discovery Communications favorites, Team and Base Productions.

Elizabeth Ventura
Elizabeth Ventura

At Base she played a principal role, managing the financial and production operations of this rapidly growing bi-coastal corporation and its affiliated companies.  Her own resume was used as case study of what a production company might want in a production manager.  Again she relies on short bulleted points, but with dozens of impressive credits and references from across the gamut of production management experience.

She doesn’t really care what your formal education is in the production arena.  However, if she is shooting cop shows and you mention that you edited a cop show, you are much more likely to get the job.  Talk mostly about what you can do for the company, based on your assessment of what the job calls for.  She is not a big fan of cover letters; the resume should speak for itself.  Most important is to get right to the point by putting your accomplishments in the chronology.

The final panelist was Katarina Price of Katarina Price Photography who spoke about the value of a good headshot.  Whether you are talent, makeup or any other parts of “The Biz” where glamour is a premium item, you need a good headshot to go along with your resume.  However, she showed attractive headshots of video producers in assertive, provocative, and relaxed poses, which exuded confidence and accomplishment.  Even avatars for Internet usage should be attractive color pictures set in the work environment.  The use of a professional to take the headshot is highly recommended.

Katarina Price
Katarina Price

Some of the other experts discouraged using a photograph as an actual part of the typical production job resume.  However, all of the panelists agreed that the resume was merely the foot in the door to landing the target job.  They stressed that the key to performance during the all-important first interview was to convey an aura of confidence with approachability.  I left with a much deeper appreciation of the job filling process as seen from the eyes of the experts.

Finally, I am sorry to say that Word Wizards, Inc. will not be represented at the WIFV Job Fair for the first time in recent memory.  However, if you want to apply for a position at WW, are a fast typist (at least 75 WPM,) have experience with transcription software, or are proficient in translating in a foreign language, please send us your resume to generalinfo@wordwizardsinc.com.  Best wishes for a successful job-hunt.

The Science of Good Story Telling

Women in Film & Video, Washington DC, Producing Change Since 1979

Producers and reporters of science programs for film and television are always looking for engaging, compelling stories to teach and motivate and to open our minds to infinite possibilities. Scott Gordon, C.E.O. of Word Wizard, is addicted to scientific programming and watches very little else except the News.  That’s why he joined me as we both attended the recent WIFV (Women in Film and Video) event which focused on Scientific Productions.

Main Speakers

Some of the brightest minds in science programming met at the WIFV panel discussion held at Interface Media Group. Panelists included: Karen Heineman, executive producer of Inside Science at the American Institute of Physics; Michael Rosenfeld, head of television and film at Tangled Bank Studios; Jennifer Shoemaker, director of Missions Media at National Geographic Society; Rebecca Howland, producer for Screenscope, Inc; Miles O’Brien, science reporter and producer; and Wade Sisler, executive producer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Katrina Jackson—new WIFV member and PA at Goddard—served as moderator.

The Power Of Social Media

Using social media to promote science programming. (flavor image)

One of the first issues discussed was social media and how to attract viewers to science programming. Attracting and retaining viewer’s takes a sustained social media outreach which, when updated regularly, can prolong the lifespan of a documentary over a made-for-television presentation. Larger shows offer games and interactive media on their websites like Your Inner Fish airing on PBS which allows you to view a 3D body and click on the different body parts to understand how they evolved from other animals.

With the help of the Internet, some science websites and blogs have become so popular that they make it to television. For example, I F$#$king Love science website—beginning as a popular science blog—now boasts a following of 10 million, and is being picked up by the Science Channel.

Dealing with the Skeptics

Mars Rover Curiosity exploring the rocky surface of Mars.

Whether you believe in modern science or not, it is undeniable that the Martian Rover Curiosity, which is as large as a VW Bug, is traveling around on another planet at this very moment; and uncovering evidence of water and perhaps even life itself.  By faithfully and accurately reporting on this modern marvel, the science producers at NASA Goddard, confound the skeptics every day. Therefore Science Producers can deal with the Nay Sayers and sceptics by being certain that science programming can clearly show by what means their conclusions were reached. How an audience perceives a scientist directly affects how or even if they listen. Scientists must be perceived as down to earth, likeable and exciting. National Geographic’s International Fame Lab encourages young scientists to compete in a live panel-judged competition to become potentially a new voice of science.

Producers need to reach out to educators and school systems to assure their products are accepted into school systems. National Geographic also adapts some of its programming to the classroom. Their Engineers in the Classroom program—developed in conjunction with Lockheed Martin—offers specialty lesson plans for grades K-12. Others like Rebecca Howland offer their one program Extreme Realities on PBS as well as on YouTube.

Today, Nat Geo sometimes skips the heavy camera setups and sends explorers to distant locations with only an I-phone to record a story but with the quickly evolving technology, the little guy and the smaller company may find it difficult to keep up in science programming.

Diagram showing the design of the James Web deep space telescope.

And talk about distant locations, NASA Goddard is currently assembling the James Web deep space telescope which will dwarf the Hubble in size and power.  It will travel in an orbit way beyond our Moon, and be as big as a one story house.  Who knows what it will be able to see, perhaps all the way back to the “Big Bang” itself.  You can be sure that it will be ably covered to the scientific community and to the public by the science documentary production team at NASA Goddard.  Thanks to WIFV for the first rate programming.


Women in Film and Video Kicks Off A Revolutionary New Year

WIFV Kicks Off a Revolutionary New Year

WIFV Party

Picture taken from WIFV Website

A Truly Grand Start to 2014

The DC chapter of Women in Film and Video kicked off their 35th year in style with a holiday party at the offices of the nonprofit organization 1776. Located at 1133 15th Street, Farragut North, 1776’s workplace—and party rental space—features bright, open areas, comfortable furniture and festive ceiling lights, and was the perfect backdrop for WIFV’s gathering. Included in the merriment were video professionals, the WIFV board and past presidents including Ginny Durrin. Guests dined on a delicious buffet and an extensive selection of drinks featuring beer, wine and champagne. Also in attendance were Brian Wilbur Grundstrom, the new president of TIVA (Television Internet Video Association), Tim Lorenz from IMG and John Summer from AFI Silver. Among the festivities, raffle prizes included wine classes, tickets to the WIFV anniversary dinner, as well as tickets to National Geographic’s Women of Vision exhibit.

WIFV Holiday Party

 Photo taken from WIFV Website

WIFV president Erin Essenmacher welcomed the guests and presenters who recognized exceptional members including: Hillary DePuy and Faith DeVeaux, awarded The President’s Award for service to WIFV. And Karen Kasmauskki, awarded the Randy Goldman Career Development Scholarship. WIFV also debuted its first episode of Lunatic Fringe, a new web series produced by the organization. Lunatic Fringe centers on a beauty salon rife with intrigue, comedy and larger-than-life personalities.

WIFV Background

Women in Film & Video, Washington DC

Picture taken from WIFV website

For 35 years, Women in Film and Video has been helping women advance in the fields of film, television and multimedia through networking opportunities and an exchange of ideas and career experiences. The organization got its start when 11 women meet and realized that they wanted the opportunity to network and change experiences with other professional women.  Begun with 35 members, WIFV now boasts a membership of over 1,000 in Greater Washington. In addition to networking events, the organization sponsors workshops on a range of topics from Improving the Sound of Your Production to Budgeting for Your Documentary. WIFV also hosts an annual job fair, panel discussions, and Women of Vision Awards.

Location, Location, Location

1776, Where Revolutions Begin

Picture taken from 1776 website

Where Revolutions Begin

The WIFV party venue is the home of the nonprofit 1776. Founders of 1776, entrepreneurs—Evan Burfield and Donna Harris—established an incubator for global startups to tackle major challenges in government, healthcare, education and energy. After passing the rigorous selection process, these new entities now have access to government and corporate leaders, venture investments, politics, business and social enterprises. Their office space known as the penthouse at 1133 15th offers amenities like a fully-stocked kitchen, configurable work spaces, conference rooms with LED TVs and projectors, and access to corporate partners.

Keeping Your Budget Under Control

Getting That Green

wifv logo

As we all know, budgeting your work, especially documentary film work, is not easy.  You must first secure the money, not an easy feat mind you, and then be extremely careful to utilize it to its fullest extent. The still-shaky economy makes it even more difficult for production professionals to secure budgets, since people are still hesitant to give money to anyone even if they have a fantastic, sure-hit proposal. Once you do get that hard-earned or begged-for cash, what is the best way to go about using it? One way to find out is at an upcoming panel called Demystifying Media Budgets, which is being presented by Women in Film and Video or WIFV on June 5th at Interface Media Group. Some of the experts on the panel include D.C.-based writer/producer/director Claudia Meyers, owner and president of Double R Productions, Rosemary Reed, Freelancer Sharon Sobel, and president of Film Odyssey Inc., Karen Thomas. While this event promises to provide some great tips on managing money for your documentary and video production work, I had a few tips of my own that I wanted to share.


A Technical Hand

While it makes plenty of sense to go the reliable route of Excel spread sheets, paper receipts and data storage, those methods don’t work for everyone. Some great software alternatives include inDinero, Xpenser and FreshbooksinDinero is a great money tracking and finance site for small business, and ideal for freelancers who want an efficient way to have all their accounts in one place. Xpenser is a nice little tool specifically built to manage expense reports with versions available for all the major smartphones, like Android, Apple, and Windows. FreshBooks is a great program for invoices, with apps for all the major mobile systems, and is a great tool for a media freelancer, since it also helps track un-billed time and tracks different rates for different projects.

Ask Around

This is probably one of the most tried-and-true ways to make sure you’re not over-paying for services. While it might seem unwise to be so transparent about money, it still can pay off to chat with other freelancers and media professionals to see how much they’re budgeting for different aspects of their work. It can be a great way to make sure you’re not getting ripped of by overpaying for something when others are getting it for much a cheaper rate. One of the nice things about the D.C. production and media community is that it’s small enough that everyone is fairly open to helping each other out. Another avenue to use is Quora, a type of online search engine that can be really good for generic questions such as, “How much is too much to pay for ____?” While some of the answers may not be incredibly specific, they can at least point you in the right direction and give you a helpful range to work with.

Mining For Gold – The 2012 WIFV Job Fair.

Each year Word Wizards is privileged to recruit talent at a media related Job Fair sponsored by Women In Film and Video of DC (WIFV.)  On March 24th, at the Luke C. More Academy, in SE DC, prospective employers from across the spectrum of film and video production came to collect resumes from energetic job seekers.

Logo for Women in Film and Video

Recruiters for media production professionals in education and public sector broadcasting were represented by American University, WHTU Howard television, Media Concepts, PBS, C-Span and AFI Silver Docs. Major production houses such as Henninger Media, Interface Media Group, and Maslow Media Group were looking to hire employees related to production and post-production. Boutique production houses such as EFX Media, Sapling Pictures, Team People, Will Interactive, and “Yoh” were snapping up resumes from video editors, producers, camera people and production assistants. One of the finest audio post houses in the DC area, Ott House Audio, was looking for a few good sound techs. Hundreds of recruits braved the rainy weather to present their skills and talents before the recruiters.

The main floor of the WIFV Job Fair

Word Wizards sought employees and contractors for our own special niche in the media production world.  We are always looking for fast, accurate typists for our core service, audio and video transcription.  Many production professionals start their careers as interns transcribing sound bites; thus they are a natural fit to work for us.  Some candidates were extremely proficient, exceeding 100 words per minute for their tested typing speed.

The Word Wizards Inc table at the WIFV job fair seen from the front

Many others have produced logs, closed captions, and subtitles during their time within the media production industry. Several of these individuals found that they can earn some cash from us typing and logging, while awaiting the production job of there dreams.  Along with four fast typists, we’re considering hiring a Spanish and Arabic translator to add to our translation capabilities.

In addition, Word Wizards also does a lot of graphic design work for print and digital media. Some very impressive resumes were collected form people, who work with InDesign, After-Effects, Quark, and PageMaker.  These highly trained graphic design specialists are vital. When a client requests something special, we have many different outlets to find the right designer for the project.

Word Wizards Inc talking to a potential new employee at the WIFV job fair

Word Wizards would like to thank Women In Film and Video for gathering such an impressive group of talented people for the recruiters to review.  Qualified producers, video editors, camera people, audio and graphics professionals also owe their gratitude to WIFV for making the event happen. It is our fondest hope that the Job Fair will remain a feature of the media production landscape far into the future.