I don’t like labels. In this case, The Urban Explorer. It’s a fine hobby for those who like to keep score of their visits to abandoned places by taking photos, leaving footprints, and posting their trophies online.
The problem was, I was in danger of being viewed as one when I began exploring one of the last structures from the days of Big Coal in NE Pennsylvania. A derelict, a giant machine, that formerly broke large pieces of coal into smaller ones became my photographic stomping ground. Its stories ran deep and deserved to be told. It was an opportunity to get back to the basics of journalism, and if it all worked out, perhaps a documentary film.
I turned to those I trust and started looking within my inner circle: photographers, cinematographers, graphic artists, musicians, and even clients that had a desire to revisit their journalistic roots. When I searched, I needed to see excitement, not just enthusiasm, when I described the project’s scope. With that in mind, I asked a writer and photographer to be the first ones to join the cause of telling this forgotten past.
I figured the best way to start was for everyone to have creative freedom. We’ll go with the strongest ideas and do so without attaching our professional egos. We created a constant feedback loop and reviewed images, footage, and words. That process, and more importantly, a unique kind of collaborative trust developed and it gave us the necessary course corrections to keep us on track.
Our next step was creating music. I again turned to the inner circle and found a composer/cellist who not only lived and understood small-town Pennsylvania life but insisted on joining our explorations so she could catch the vibe which would fuel her writing. It’s that type of dedication that’s been feeding everyone for the past 2 years.
Of course contracts and budgets and all of the intricacies of new business models are very important. And I addressed none of them. For me what that trumps all of those is something that can’t be bought or signed, it’s a genuine and honest collaborative effort that keeps the machine well oiled and moves us closer to our goal.
Previously published on ASMP’s Strictly Business Blog.
Presto and a not-so-proper-trailer is born. It’s a glimpse into our experience and how our efforts are taking shape while filming the last days of the Huber Breaker. John is currently serving as President of the ASMP Philadelphia Chapter.
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