ChomPics Guest Post – Episode 1 Director of Cinematography Lizette Arocha

A couple days ago we heard from Kate Wenzel, the director of ChomPics Production’s first episode for the 2013-2014 season. Now check out what Lizette Arocha, the director of cinematography for episode 1, has to say about her experience! :

On September 15, I received an email that said “UF National Broadcasting Society TV Production Project”. Reading it, I immediately knew that I want to be part of this project. I could tell that this was something bigger than any other opportunity in the college. I marked my calendar to attend the information meeting. I found it odd that the meeting would take place in room 1090, knowing that it is a small room, because I could just picture every production student jumping at this opportunity. Like I expected, the information meeting was packed. Somehow we crammed 77 people into a room that holds 25! However, what surprised me most was not the number of people, but finding out that this entire project was the brainchild of two students: Beth Benge and Connor Hachey. I guess I was expecting it to be led by professors. It was clear that Beth and Connor had been working to bring this idea to life for quite some time, and they had clear plan of what they were doing. It was reassuring to see that, because it meant that this was not something that would die down without ever getting finished.

A few days later, I filled out my application. It wasn’t too hard to choose my team preferences. I’m into production; writing, acting, and marketing are not my things, so I chose the Technical Services/Cinematography, Directing, and Editing teams. I’m pretty sure that was the order of preference, but I remember changing it many times before settling on it. I wanted to challenge myself, but I didn’t want to take on too much. I also wanted to be part of principal photography rather than post-production because filming with a large crew would be a much more different experience than filming in small groups for class projects. Then I came to a checkbox: “Check here if you would like to be considered for a Director position within a team”. I hesitated, and I skipped over it. I filled out the rest of the application and then came back to that checkbox. I checked it, I unchecked it, I checked it again. I stared at that little box. It meant the difference between participating in the project and having creative input on it. It meant throwing a massive responsibility on my shoulders. It meant giving up a lot of free time throughout the semester. It meant adding a very impressive entry to my résumé and my portfolio. I thought long and hard about checking that box. I knew that I would be producing a short film for my Advanced Camera and Lighting Techniques class that would take over my free time the second half of the semester. I wasn’t very happy with the last short film I did for a class, so I wanted to put extra effort into this one for a kind of personal redemption. On the other hand, I didn’t want to shortchange myself by having a lower position. Although I was confident that I would be able to fulfill a Director position, I was scared of not living up to that potential, of being overwhelmed, or of jeopardizing my short film. After a very long time, I psyched myself up to check the box. I told myself this was an opportunity I could not pass up and that I was perfectly capable of doing it. I also kind of tricked myself into calming down by thinking “they might not choose me anyway” and “I can do one of next semester’s episodes.” Before I could change my mind again, I submitted the application.

The following week I received a reply: “Congratulations! We would like to offer you the position of Director of Cinematography/Technical Service Director for the 2013/2014 NBS TV Production Project!.” I was thrilled, but at the same time I got scared again. I tried not to let it get to me and decided just to approach it with a positive attitude and focus on the value of this opportunity. That worked fine until we had our first Technical Services Team meeting. Beth and Connor announced that I had been chosen specifically to work on the pilot episode because I had the most experience out of all the Directors of Cinematography. I freaked out again. The pilot was to be produced during November, when I knew that I would be busy with my own short film. Worse, the potential shooting days for both projects were on the same weekend. For the next few days I seriously considered asking to be assigned a later episode, but I kept hearing “We chose you for the pilot because you have the most experience.” I knew I would be letting Beth and Connor down if I backed out at that point. I gave myself a bit of a pep talk, shook off the negativity and my fears, and decided to buckle down and accept the challenge.

I took on a proactive approach in order to contribute my best to the project. I asked to be included in the storyboarding process because I felt that it is part of the Cinematographer’s job.  I arranged a training session with my Technical Services crew to teach to use the equipment because they were not all familiar with it. I created a shooting script and shot lists to be organized on set. When we were done filming, I went beyond my position and became an editor as well. All in all, I have dedicated the majority of my free time for over a month to ChomPics. As it turns out, the shooting days for my short film had to be rescheduled, so everything worked out so that I could dedicate the appropriate time to each project.

Checking that little box on the application was the defining moment of this entire experience. Without it, I may have ended up being a boom mic operator wishing to have a larger contribution. Now, I can claim this pilot episode as partly my production instead of just something I worked on. I am so happy that I allowed myself to be chosen as Director of Cinematography and that I accepted the challenge; and I am extremely thankful to Beth, Connor, and whoever else took part in the decision to choose me and assign me the pilot. It was hard and stressful, but in the end very rewarding to have participated in such a big way in this project. I am part of something bigger that I could have imagined, and I am happy to have helped take it off the ground.

Beth and Connor, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you for spearheading this wonderful project. I truly admire your initiative and dedication. Thank you.

I came up with the name for this project, ChomPics. In a very special way that little contribution will always symbolize everything that I have given and will give to this project.

-Lizette Arocha