Alex Vo - Relaunched!

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Alex Vo - Relaunched!

Exciting news! After several years and many clients later, I had to start thinking about a site and image rebrand. This was a no-brainer to work with my good friend Barry of Design Rehab and First Article. We gutted the entire old site, vetted my list of clients, and surfaced an information architecture map that equates to what you see before you! Thank you all for the support throughout the times and I look forward to new projects and telling new stories!

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Always a student – Golden hour

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Always a student – Golden hour

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.” - Conrad Hall

On the way back from NAB, Amber and I were driving through the dessert and we stumbled on an abandoned building. Locations can be very inspiring. I had my Red Epic with me and one reflector so I waited until it was close to golden hour and used the sun as my main light source for this shoot. I would prop the reflector on walls and rocks to give Amber a fill light or key light whenever possible. This was a great learning experience working with no other light sources but the sun and this really allowed me to focus more on composition and camera movements. The image out of the Red Epic is amazing and this was a great opportunity to test skin tones, flares, over cranking at 60fps and 5k widescreen aspect ratio.

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Pearl and Ricardo

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Pearl and Ricardo

This is a very unique wedding that unexpectedly made the local news on TV. Pearl and Ricardo were so fun to work with and the entire event was inspired by the one and only, Tim Burton.

Here’s the local channel where the wedding was featured on TV.

There was so much that the couple wanted to remember and so this is the first wedding where we setup a post wedding interview to hear all of the behind the scenes stories. Here are a few screen grabs of the awesome setup with a custom made backdrop that Pearl and Ricardo made by hand. It’s so much fun collaborating with other artists!

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Always a student – Unbleached Muslin

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Always a student – Unbleached Muslin

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.” - Conrad Hall

It’s crazy what a haze machine and some unbleached muslin can do… As a filmmaker, I’m always finding new ways to create THE look and feel that’s fitting to the story. This documentary explores the life of Rocky Lewycky and his thought process when creating his sculptures. Since he describes the process as a dialogue between himself and the clay, I felt a warm soft light would be most fitting. The haze machine added an ambiance to it that made it feel like a dream and this allowed for some nice light rays in the background as well. 

Lighting setup for the closeups

Below is a before and after picture of the space.

Lighting setup for the wide shot

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Documentary Storytelling

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Documentary Storytelling

This is the story of Jake Giuriceo. Meant4More Apparel contacted me about doing a series on people who have overcome great struggles in their lives and allowed those experiences guide them to a greater path in life. This is the mission behind Meant4More Apparel and Jake is the first of this mini series.

I have been asked how I approach projects like this and I wanted to share my creative workflow and how I develop these stories from Pre-production to the final edit. I have always loved documentaries because of their spontaneous nature and I strongly believe that curiosity is the best tool for documentary storytelling. 

PREPRODUCTION: Plan and allow yourself to be curious.

An old classmate from film school introduced me to Jake’s manager after seeing the first promotional video I did for Meant4More Apparel. His manager sent us an in depth news article on Jake’s life and why he has built such a  strong fan-base so early in his career. It was because of his story. Meant4More saw him being a perfect fit for their athletic line so now they are official sponsors of Jake's journey.

I didn’t have much knowledge on the sport of boxing so it was very easy for me to be curious while preparing for this project. I was curious about how Jake started boxing in the first place. I wondered what goes through his mind when he steps into a ring; what it feels like to have a fan-base and how his trials in life made him the fighter he is today. 

This list of questions become a structure for the narration and from here, I create a shot list of visuals to support Jake’s story.

The first visual that came to mind was Jake inside the ring and the camera shooting from outside. This places the ropes in between the camera and Jake so the ropes symbolized him being imprisoned within his old lifestyle.

I also visualized scenes of Jake training to the point of exhaustion and for me, that symbolized the times in his life when he was at the brink of giving up. We did this scene in two different locations, one being at the stadium and one inside the ring.

PRODUCTION: Plan, Plan and then Plan some more. Then allow those plans to change.

When I have my list of questions, shots lists, shooting location and schedule… We are ready to shoot! It usually always helps to visit the location beforehand to map out the shots and make sure they will work. With documentaries, the more you plan, the better. But at the same time, I also like to plan on being spontaneous. There’s always moments on set when someone will throw out an idea that just makes sense and is better than what we originally planned on. For this shoot, it was the freeway overpass scene!

When my DP spotted it, we immediately dropped our plans of moving to the stadium right away and shot a number of scenes here. While having Jake run underneath the freeway bridge, I knew this was the main shot that would be able to tell his entire story.

This is the shot you will see most in this documentary. It starts off with Jake in complete darkness underneath the freeway bridge and ends with him reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

As his story progresses from Jake’s dark times in his life to where he is today, I felt this shot represented that best. If you watch that shot carefully, there’s a very short flicker of light that is reflected by Jake’s necklace while he was in the darkness. The necklace happens to be a cross and that little shimmer of light represented his faith that led him through those dark times in his life.

UPDATE December 6th, 2012 – This video was chosen as one of Vimeo’s Staff Picks!

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How to Get Inspired - Alex Vo

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How to Get Inspired - Alex Vo

Inspiration can come in so many different ways for me and I’ve noticed lately that my curiosity usually opens myself up to be inspired. I love storytelling and the direction of where my stories are heading is usually driven by who the characters are. My characters are usually inspired by the people I see and/or already know, so during the day as I’m driving around… I people watch. Once in a while during these “drive by people watching sessions,” someone I see will really stand out and I will let my judgmental ways of thinking run with it. I’m not trying to be a judgmental pr**k but this practice works to form these fictional stories and eventually I’ll get an idea for a possible script. If it’s good, I usually write it down in my iphone notes. If not, I continue being a judgmental pr**k…

My latest project was a music video that I directed for a talented acapella artist, Paul J. Kim. When we decided we were going to collaborate, I began listening to his track Run Fly Fall and immediately saw a male and female character in my mind. I wasn’t sure who they were or where their stories were going but this was just the beginning. My first inspiration was the song itself but this is where I began to brainstorm on who these characters were. Do they know each other? Are they a couple? Is the female character REALLY A MAN!?!!? There are so many directions I can take this story. As I began to people watch while driving through downtown San Jose, a homeless man stood out because under his dark hooded jacket and long beard, he looked like he was my age. He was also a little tipsy and held a very cliche bottle wrapped in a dirty brown paper bag. Because he was so young and resembled such a typical cliche homeless person, I was fascinated to think outside the box a bit and started to wonder where this guy came from and what life events lead him to this moment where we crossed paths. The entire concept of the Run Fly Fall music video formed around this man and the possibilities of him being someone beyond my judgmental ways of thinking.

From there, the only thing I felt was missing in this story was conflict. The greater the main character has to struggle in a story, the greater the triumph. Soon after this I heard the big news of Steve Jobs passing away and his struggle with cancer was the final element that I needed to complete this story for my music video.

 

When I first started writing screenplays, I would lock myself up in my apartment and force myself to sit down in front of my computer to write. It was almost as if I was expecting great ideas to come when I would only make time for them. But as I am developing as a filmmaker, I’m learning that great ideas and great stories doesn’t come with time but rather from a child like curiosity on the way I look at my life. As my perspectives change, the things that inspire me seem to change and I feel like there’s so much more that inspires me when I look at life this way.

 

Inspiration is everywhere and can come in so many different forms. Sometimes the greatest stories are inspired by the ones we already know and some of these stories might still be unfolding before us today. I don’t expect my storytelling process to work for every filmmaker out there and something that inspires me might not necessarily inspire someone else. But this is why the art of filmmaking is so extraordinary to me. We all come from different walks of life carrying different experiences and telling stories in our own unique ways and that… is inspiring.

Alex Vo is a producer and director based in San Jose, California. He is currently managing his own production company specializing in television, documentaries, weddings, music videos and everything in between. With a film degree at Full Sail University, his goal is to further his education by creating content for HRTV and film festivals around the world.

This is an interview I conducted for Zacto. Direct link here: http://www.zacuto.com/how-to-get-inspired-alex-vo

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That’s a wrap!

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That’s a wrap!

The music video is officially wrapped at 5AM this morning after I dropped off my DP back home in San Francisco. This was an intense 5 day shoot but I had so much fun and the support that I received from my cast/crew was phenomenal.

Melissa Locsin, thank you for all of the time and emotion you’ve given to this project. You are an incredible actress and it was an honor to have the opportunity of working with you.

Mykha Ram, It was awesome to work with you again. Thanks for shaving your head for this production and enjoy having your eyebrows around bud. Mykha drove all the way from Sacramento to be a part of this everyday so he wins the longest commute award. Thank you Mr. Clean.

Fr. Brendan McGuire had a small cameo as a priest in this project and he was a blast to have on set. He’s over 6 feet tall so the only way we can get him on camera with our other actors is to have him sit… Thank you Brendan for being a part of this!

David Malloure, (AKA Thor) This guy is an incredible DP and I learned so much working with him. Thank you for making your way down from San Francisco to be a part of this. The last couple of days was a breeze as soon as you joined the crew. To find out more about him and his work, you can visit: http://thewoodenlens.com/

Amber Myers, My Crafty/Assistant art director/PA/Assistant Makeup/Woman of my dreams… She filled in all of the areas of this production helping out with whatever she can and I can’t thank her enough. I’m sorry you got a cold from this shoot but I couldn’t have done this without you hon.

David Rengers, you were always there when I needed you. Thank you for your commitment each and every day of the shoot. One day, I will be making David Renger’s books into movies… just watch… To get his latest publication of Ring Dragonz, go here: ringdragonz.com/

Jessica, Thank you so much for all of the time you were on set and providing rides for my crew. Jessica is my little sister and an upcoming filmmaker. I’ll be her production assistant one day when she puts together her movies!

Mina Tran… for never working on a film set before, you were an incredible makeup artist. I couldn’t have asked for more. Thank you so much for all of the time you’ve given to making this possible. I would hire you again in a heartbeat! Please check out her webpage at: bellaminamakeup.com.

Stephanie, Thank you for coming on set and always being such a positive light! You also provided my DP rides to shooting locations and I can’t thank you enough. She also had the important task of teaching Paul Kim how to drive stick shift the day he was driving my car on camera… Both of sisters must have been great instructors since he learned really fast!

Alvin Cura, you are the man! Alvin was my BTS videographer everyday of the shoot and was an amazing Art Director on the final day of shooting. All of the small pieces of hospital gear was provided last minute by him and it looked incredible. Thank you Thank you Thank you!

Paul Kim, Thank you for providing the music that inspired all of this to happen man. It was a blast working with you my friend! Paul and I initially had a discussion to do this a little over a month ago. He happened to have a wedding in San Francisco this weekend and we knew this was the opportunity to make it happen. For more of his music, please visit: pjkmusic.com.

And a special thanks to my BTS photographers Xavier Durante and Ryan Bernstein.  Check out more of their work by clicking on their names. They are great guys with a great eye for photography. A special thanks also goes out to Dr. Nancy Le for letting us use your office, Hong at Charlee’s Liquor for letting us use your store during business hours and Mary Stokes at Riviera Terrace Apartments for lending us an empty apartment for the shoot… Lastly, Panera Bread, Pizza My Heart and Safeway… Thank you for donating all of the food we had on set.

Filmmaking is a beautiful collaboration!

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