Lives: Red Terror
The New York Times Magazine, July 1, 2001
The story of an escape from Ethiopia
By Mekbib Gemeda as told to Robert Mackey
In 1979, in my homeland, Ethiopia, it was the time we call the Red Terror. The military government was killing people - there was a fight between the government and an opposition group - and there were bodies on the street every day. They left them out each morning for everybody to see, with slogans painted on them like, ''This Is an Enemy of the People.''
I was a theater student at the university. I had some great teachers, but there was no freedom of expression - you just had to say, blah, blah, blah, the usual propaganda. I was looking for a way out, so I applied for a government scholarship to study film in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
I wasn't really involved with the opposition. But if you had gone to a meeting or had read a pamphlet, you were already in trouble with the government. You had to be with one side or the other. The only thing to do was try to be invisible, but you can't be, not altogether. One day when I was visiting a friend at work, they came to pick him up and they took me too. I didn't ask any questions nor did I know who they were exactly.
At the district prison where we were taken, they beat us and tried to get us to admit that we were part of some conspiracy to overthrow the government. You would say, ''It's not true,'' and they would tell you, ''Yes, it is'' and beat you, and then you would go through the whole ordeal again. They had the power to kill you and not to inform anyone. And that was exactly what they were doing. The most terrifying time was around midnight, when they would call out the names of people they would take to kill that night. You would just lie there and wait for your name. One of those nights, I remember the person lying beside me suddenly got up, having heard his name. From the crowd of prisoners huddled together on the ground came a low voice of support saying, ''Courage, brother,'' as he reluctantly shuffled toward his assassins.
Eventually, they took us to a central prison. It was built for about 500 people, and there were thousands in there. They were mostly political prisoners, including the grandchildren of Haile Selassie, the emperor who had been deposed by the current government. But there were also armed robbers and murderers.
You had to make your own place to sleep. There was a shanty town made of cartons and plastic sheets. It was fantastic, like something out of science fiction. In some ways it was beautiful. It was a madhouse, but also the freest place in town. You could say what you wanted to. I met people there I hadn't seen in years. Everybody invited you for tea, and you would sit and talk.
While I was there, I found out that the Ministry of Education had called me at home. I had won the scholarship! But I thought: There is no way I'll get to go. Here, they keep people for years and years with no trial. Somehow, about three months later, for some crazy reason, my friend and I got out. It was very mysterious to me how it happened. There was no question that I was supposed to stick around. They were still doing some kind of investigation.
The next day, I went to the Ministry of Education and said, ''What's the situation?''
''Where were you?'' they said. ''We were looking for you.''
I lied and said I was in the countryside because of a death in the family, and they said: ''Well, now you'll have to hurry.'' By now the school year had started, and the other students had left for Yugoslavia. ''Where is your paperwork?'' they asked. They sent me off to get a kind of clearance from my neighborhood, from the political cadres, saying that I wasn't involved in any bad political activities. It was the same government, just another office. That's when I thought, Well, then, it won't work out.
I was in another district when they picked me up. I knew someone in my neighborhood's office, so it wasn't as if they looked closely at me. In the end I got the clearance. But I was still scared I would be blocked at some point, getting my passport or my visa. Everywhere I went I was thinking, This is the moment someone's going to say, ''Where do you think you're going?'' But nobody said anything. In a week, it was all done.
Going to the airport, I was miserable and dazed because I hadn't slept for days. I could see relief in my mother's eyes for getting what any mother in Ethiopia would have wished for at the time, her son's leaving the country. The whole way I was thinking, Somewhere, someone is going to stop me. My family dropped me off and said goodbye, and I was still thinking: Don't leave. I'll need a ride back. When I think of it now, it seems impossible. But they just stamped my passport, and that was it. I didn't really feel any relief until the plane took off and we were flying over the highlands in the north. I remember looking down and thinking: That's really it. I am never going to come back to this place again.
March 15, 2006 | Permalink
Interview with Arianna Huffington
The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 19, 2003
RM: How did your TV commercials connecting S.U.V.'s to terrorism get started?
AH: After watching the drug-war ads equating taking drugs to terrorism, I wrote a column making a link between driving gas-guzzling cars like S.U.V.'s and supporting countries that fund terrorists. And at the end of this column I had what I considered a rhetorical question: would anyone be willing to pay for a people's ad campaign to jolt our leaders into reality? The next morning I woke up to a flood of over 5,000 e-mails. So I called two great friends of mine who are sort of activists in their own ways. One is Laurie David, who is an environmental activist and married to Larry David, who put the first hybrid cars on his show, ''Curb Your Enthusiasm.''
RM: I've noticed he's driving a funny car on the show, what seems like a funny car for L.A.
AH: He's a complete believer in it - in fact, he came to our press conference yesterday in his Prius.
RM: Doesn't everyone in Hollywood drive an S.U.V.? Didn't you?
AH: Yes. Absolutely. That's really the nation-divided, the city-divided element that's going on. There are S.U.V.'s everywhere.
RM: What kind of car do you drive now?
AH: I drive a hybrid Prius.
RM: Since when?
AH: I've been driving it for six, seven months. I mean, I'm a new convert. And that's why I'm not here like a holier-than-thou person. I was driving a Lincoln Navigator until November 2001.
RM: You wrote a book about the Greek gods and goddesses and their lessons for modern life. They're not really famous for their self-restraint - wouldn't they all drive S.U.V.'s?
AH: I think Hermes would definitely be driving a hybrid car. He really understood complexity and could handle it. He was the god of the underworld and the god of commerce, just to give you an idea. Zeus would probably be flying.
RM: What would Maria Callas drive? You wrote a biography of her too.
AH: Maria Callas would not drive. Prima donnas do not drive. But the best thing going on here now, people who do not drive, but use drivers, now have chauffeur-driven Priuses.
RM: Do you know what Prius means?
AH: No, I'll have to find out. It sounds vaguely naughty. With my Greek accent a lot of things sound vaguely naughty.
RM: Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Patricia Arquette are some of the people driving hybrids. Don't you worry that since celebrities are always pitching something, your effort will seem like just another ad campaign for Toyota?
AH: Basically Washington is in the pocket of Detroit, so we need all the forces we can gather, and if those forces include celebrity, fabulous. Incidentally over the last few days I am finding out there are a lot of people driving hybrids who are not publicizing it - Kirk Douglas and Richard Dreyfuss, for instance.
RM: Are you worried that your movement will be swept out of sight if we go to war with Iraq and that's what the news is all about?
AH: I don't really think so. You know, in one day, yesterday, we got more than 400,000 hits on the Web site. We're already having people signing the pledge to give up their S.U.V.'s.
RM: You have a pledge?
AH: Yes, they don't have to put their hand on the Bible and swear, but so far 4,000 people have signed up in the first two days.
RM: Can 4,000 people really scare Washington and Detroit?
AH: First of all, this is just the beginning, but secondly a very small aroused minority is all that it takes in our democracy at the moment to scare Washington. They scare very easily.
RM: You're thought of as a conservative, and you serve on the board of the Points of Light Foundation, so what do you say to your conservative friends who drive S.U.V.'s?
AH: I have reregistered as an independent - but I don't think it's a left-right issue. A lot of Republicans share this concern. But I still have a lot of friends who drive S.U.V.'s, and my personal response is not to browbeat them but to help them connect the dots. And if they still choose to drive an S.U.V., that's their choice. You know, I have a lot of my friends making wrong choices all the time.
March 15, 2006 | Permalink
Lives: 'You Don't Have to Take the Bait'
The New York Times Magazine, May 21, 2000
India – that’s the name she goes by - works undercover for Check-a-Mate, a New York City company that investigates men and women on behalf of their romantic partners. Here she speaks to Robert Mackey about life as a sexual decoy.
I've done decoy work for about five years now. I started out doing it as a favor for my friends, to see if their boyfriends were worth their time. I would try to talk to them, just socialize. If I could get the guy's phone number, I would tell my friend: ''I don't think he's worth your time. I think he's really a player.'' Then I saw Jerry Palace on TV talking about Check-a-Mate. I said, ''Wow, I can get paid for this!''
How it works is, women who are suspicious of their husbands or boyfriends go to Jerry. He asks them what their story is -- are they married or engaged or dating? What kind of women is the guy attracted to? They might see a photo of me to see if I'm the right type. The wives tell us if there's a regular club he goes to; if she doesn't know, we'll follow him and see where he heads.
I just walk in there, I try to make myself visible, maybe smile, have eye contact, let him know that I'm interested. Physically, I have gone as far as kissing, but I don't think there's a need to go that far. I don't do it the way the other girls do -- I don't go in for the kill. I don't think that's fair, because a lot of these guys are in their 40's or 50's, they've been married for God knows how long and here's a woman who's attractive coming on to them. They're like: ''Man, I never got an opportunity like this. Let's go for it.'' It may just be a one-night thing, and he may really not be a cheater.
I have a recorder hidden in my purse. I put it right on top of the bar, or wherever I am, and we can record both of us talking. We go for different kinds of proof, that depends on the wife. We had one at a restaurant where the wife walked in while her husband and I were hugging and I had my head on his shoulder. She wanted to catch him right in the act. I remember looking in his eyes when he got up. You could tell that he felt bad for me, and I felt bad for him, but I knew it was the right thing to do. It's a very strange thing: you know you're doing the right thing, but it's an uncomfortable feeling.
You can definitely tell which man is just flirting and which man wants to get in your pants. And I can also distinguish between a sleazeball and the guy who took the opportunity because he never thought he'd get one again. Those are the ones I'm a little bit iffy about. I feel bad because I know it was just the moment; they didn't think of what the repercussions would be. But still, what's done is done.
I've had more than 100 cases, and I would say out of 100, about 98 fall for it. The main question that people ask me is, Don't you feel bad that you're ruining marriages? And I always say, Well, I didn't ruin it; he did. I don't think it's a trap. A trap takes you in whether you like it or not. I think I am bait. You don't have to take the bait; you have the freedom to walk away. So do I feel bad that he got caught? And his marriage is ruined? No, I don't. Not at all. I feel bad that this woman had to put her life into this man and then realize he's not at all what she thought he was. That's what I feel bad about. And I'm not knocking men -- this goes for both genders. If this person is misleading you, you should know, and get out, and go pursue your life with someone who can offer you a little bit more.
Do I believe in love? I think it's still out there somewhere -- I don't know, I'd like to think it is. But I'm not looking for it, because people play too many head games nowadays. And most people don't know who they are, so they're constantly being something they're not, trying to be everything you want them to be. And then you see the true colors too many years later, and then you've wasted all those years on someone. I can't do that. It's sad, it really is. If you think you're settling, you're better off alone.
What They Were Thinking:
Small-Business Owners Near Ground Zero, Six Months Later
The New York Times Magazine, March 10, 2002.
Photographs by Barbel Schmidt (to come)
Interviews by Robert Mackey
A portfolio of images of small-business owners taken near the World Trade Center on Feb. 22, 2002
Frank Djerdjaj, Little Italy Pizza, 11 Park Place:
''I'm Albanian, from Kosovo. I've been in New York 15 years. Most of the Albanians who come to this country first go to Italy, and they learn the style of Italian life there, cooking and this and that, and so when they come here they start working as pizza guys -- and they work hard and they take over. As the owner, I've been here nine years. It was a really good location -- last year we just signed a new lease, a 15-year lease, upgraded the store, with all brand-new marble, spent a fortune, and then Sept. 11 came. When they opened the viewing platform there, the line was actually ending up in this block, so we were fortunate for like a week or so, but then when they got in with tickets, then there was no line anymore. But there's a god out there. We'll get back.''
Mukesh Patel, Park Place and Church Street:
''I took over this business about two years ago. I don't own the stand, but it's like I'm subletting. They're not taking any rent from me right now, because, you know, the guy is good, a nice person, and he understands everything. Slowly, slowly people are coming back, but business is very slow. The main problem is a family problem. My two sons and my father and mother are still in India, and my wife is here. My sons are coming here for the first time in April or May to see if they like it, to stay here. My father and mother have been here two times, but both have had bypass surgery, and you know here the cold is too much sometimes, so in summertime it's all right, but they don't like wintertime here.''
Tony Romano, Hair Today, 150 Fulton Street:
''I've been working in this area for 40 years, since I came from Italy. My first job was on Cortlandt Street, exactly where they put the trade center later. I've been able to survive because I'm on the second floor - some of the hair salons on the ground floors, which have a very high rent, can't make it now. My landlord, the Collegiate Church, is not giving us a break on rent. The only break is that for six months, from October until March, they deferred one-third of the rent - only deferred. Then I've got to start to pay it back on top of the regular rent.
But this is what I like to do. I talk to people. In this business you've got to talk to people. If you don't want to talk to them, they talk to you anyway.''
Mitchell Kikoen, Mitchell's Place Jewelers, 18 Park Place:
''I've been in this exact location since 1975. You know, I'm not only a jeweler, I'm woven into the community. Everybody knows me. I'd enjoy when people would stop by and we'd chitchat, and it's a big piece of your heart that's missing when it's not like that anymore. We had a respectable Christmas, we had a respectable Valentine's Day -- but we have a lot more awful days than we ever used to. There is tourist traffic in the neighborhood, but we're on a side street, and they're looking for pins and caps -- they're not the ones walking in to buy diamonds and fine neckpieces; that's really reserved for the corporate people that know me, know my reputation for so long. Only people that know us come to see us. It's like a clubhouse atmosphere -- we're a very personable store. The silver lining in the dark cloud is that like most Americans, most New Yorkers, people have bonded in a more adhesive way than ever before.''
Susan Bergen and Ronnie Ferber, Atlas Security Hardware Corp., 130 Church Street.
Bergen: ''There's a lot of businesses suffering down here. You don't hear it on the news anymore - it's like we're old news. The creditors, the bill collectors still call, and we tell them we were affected severely, because we're still in the restricted zone. And they say, 'That was six months ago.' They think it's just gone away.''
Ferber: ''It's called the Immediate Zone now - from Chambers down and from Broadway over. They're promising grants to the businesses down here for rent, but nothing's come through yet. We're just waiting. The answer is to stay and be here, so as it picks up, we're here for it, hopefully in a few months, or maybe in a year or two. We're not going anywhere.''
The New York Times Magazine, May 5, 2002.
Photographs by Naomi Harris (to come)
Interviews by Robert Mackey
A portfolio of images of one night in Brooklyn's busiest emergency room.
(Text only version)
Sandra Scott's night begins with a resuscitation and ends, after dawn, with a pile of paperwork. In between is a 12-hour shift at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn. Scott, a 34-year-old specialist in emergency medicine, has worked at Kings County since 1998. Because Kings County is a publicly financed hospital in a low-income neighborhood, many who come in are uninsured, but the hospital is obliged to treat them. Which means that Scott sees a wider range of cases than doctors in most E.R.'s. In addition to dealing with cuts and bullet wounds, on any given night Scott will treat everything from miscarriages and S.T.D.'s to dental problems and what one patient believed was sleep disturbance caused by a spell.
The work is exhausting, but Scott has turned down cushier offers outside the city. ''I like taking care of uninsured patients,'' she says. ''My experience in more private settings is that the patients are maybe overeducated. They pick up a Cosmo magazine and it tells them that Xanax is good for them, and then you have to explain to them why you don't want to give them Xanax. Patients here, they're pretty grateful.'' Scott, who grew up in Louisiana, also recently started a rape crisis center at the hospital and spends part of her vacation each year in Haiti, teaching medicine in Port-au-Prince and treating patients in the countryside. She came to Kings County, she says, ''because New York City emergency medicine sounded glamorous at the time.'' When I ask her if it still seems glamorous after four years, she looks at the popping flashbulbs and smiles. ''Well,'' she says, ''you're here.''
7:42 p.m.: Early in the shift, Eli D'Attilo, an 84-year-old man with advanced Alzheimer's, is brought in by paramedics and E.M.T.'s, who began resuscitating him at his nursing home. D'Attilo had signed a living will asking that ''heroic measures'' not be taken to keep him alive, but until they get clearance from the hospital administration to honor this, Scott and her colleagues must do everything they can to keep D'Attilo from dying.
8:20 p.m.: While resuscitation continues on D'Attilo, Scott calls the hospital administration. ''What can we do to stop this?'' she asks. She is told to keep D'Attilo on a respirator, but they can stop treating aggressively. ''We developed a relationship with the family,'' Scott says. ''We told them we were hoping he would die while in our care.''
9 p.m.: D'Attilo's son, Joseph, and his daughter-in-law, Karen, are given privacy with D'Attilo as they wait for him to die. ''They put us in an alcove and closed the curtain,'' Joseph says. ''They were really understanding. They knew what was going on.''
9:04 p.m.: In preparation for what promises to be a busy night, Scott takes a quick coffee break. ''It's getting warm outside,'' she says, which means more violence in the street. ''And it's Saturday night in New York City.''
9:28 p.m. Tiesha Banks, 15, has been slashed by a razor blade after a gang of girls jumped her and her friend as they sat on a stoop. ''I helped her,'' Banks says. ''We had a fight, and they cut me.''
10:30 p.m. Banks, angry and in pain, waits to be stitched by a resident who has gone to consult a plastic surgeon. Of the girl who cut her, Banks says, ''I wanted to hurt her.''
12:40 a.m.: As expected, Eli D'Attilo dies on Scott's shift. She pronounces the death, then goes to call his son. ''My father didn't just fall asleep,'' Joseph says. ''It took him three and a half years to die.'' Thankfully, the care in his father's final hours was ''very, very excellent,'' he says. ''You'd think Kings County would be the pits, but it was the Cadillac.''
12:43 a.m. Diobenton Delmas, 25, comes in after being slashed during an attempted car-jacking. Delmas, whose wound stretches from his collarbone to his armpit, seems unshaken by it all. ''That's what happens when you're driving those Navigators,'' he says. ''They want those Navigators.''
1:02 a.m. Scott examines Roman Mantachev, a Russian tennis instructor who has arrived with a deep wound in his leg. Mantachev claims that he was attacked in the street by people he didn't know. ''He was saying they took a stick and poked it through his skin,'' Scott says, ''but it turned out it was from a nice big, fat kitchen knife.''
1:23 a.m.: Scott takes a moment to clean some of Mantachev's blood off her leg and disinfect it with hydrogen peroxide. Meanwhile, Mantachev has changed his story and now says that he stabbed himself.
1:47 a.m.: Detectives who had been called to Mantachev's apartment building by neighbors who saw blood in the hall show up and confront him with Polaroids of his blood-soaked apartment. They question him about whom he's protecting but ultimately leave with no more information.
2:32 a.m. Scott checks on Delmas's recovery. ''He was Haitian,'' she says. ''I was speaking Creole to him. The whole night, he was laughing and flirting and stuff.'' Delmas later confides: ''She was so cool. I wouldn't mind to date her, to tell you the truth.''
2:57 a.m.: Scott is called away to check on a 17-year-old boy with multiple stabs wounds who has just been brought in. She likes the E.R., ''because five different things are always happening at the same time,'' she says. ''I'm a little hypomanic.''
3:14 a.m.: Mantachev calls Scott over to his bed, saying that he is nauseated and has ''lost focus.'' Scott says: ''It was a combination of the blood loss and the psychological effect of whatever he'd been through. He was so cool for so long, and then he was all discombobulated.''
4:32 a.m.: Scott cleans and repairs a scalp laceration. ''This guy was intoxicated and just tumbled down a couple of flights of stairs and had a big hole in his head,'' she says. ''He was so obnoxious. Still, this is one of my favorite things to do - my mother was a seamstress.''
7:25 a.m.: By the end of Scott's 12-hour shift, Banks, Delmas and Mantachev have all been discharged. Scott leaves with a bag packed for a few days in Miami. ''It's always nice to finish a shift,'' she says. ''The best thing is just stepping outside.''
Interview with Michael Apted
The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 14, 2001
RM: For your new documentary project, ''Married in America,'' will you do the same thing you did in the ''7 Up'' series, in which you check in on your subjects every so often?
MA: The idea is to take nine couples who are getting married this fall and to follow their marriages over the next decade. And I've chosen them from three main areas -- the New York-New Jersey area, Alabama and the Los Angeles area -- to get as big a variety of marriages as I can, multiethnic, multifaith. The first episode will be the preparations for the wedding, ending with the wedding itself. We haven't decided how frequently we will go back.
RM: Have your plans been affected by the World Trade Center attacks?
MA: One of the couples I've already done lived right by the trade center. In fact, we filmed them going back into their apartment. They'd just come back from their honeymoon. Of the two couples we've yet to do, there's a policeman and a doctor who live in New York, so we're trying to get them at their work as it's impacted.
RM: The ''7 Up'' films are sort of an experiment, with a starting hypothesis and then results. Did you have some basic ideas about marriage at the outset?
MA: No, none at all. The only thing I wanted to do was to choose couples that I thought, in my opinion, for what that's worth, had a real shot at making it.
RM: How do you tell which ones have a shot at staying together?
MA: It's just a visceral feeling. Some couples you sat in front of and it felt like a train wreck about to happen. Others you felt that it had been thought about, even if it had only been thought about quickly. And I felt if an audience got a sense that I was trying to find people whose marriages wouldn't work, then that would kind of spoil the whole idea of the film, which is a serious look at why people get married.
RM: What attracts you to marriage as a subject?
MA: Just that, particularly in America, we're bombarded by the whole idea of family values and how important that is in our lives, and conflicting with that are the gigantic figures on divorce. It's so dramatic, the counterpoint between what we talk about and what we do in terms of marriage. That's enough for me.
RM: Will viewers find this series instructive?
MA: Since it does deal with the drama of ordinary life, I think that can only be helpful. It's a wonderful counterpoint to the Hollywood-fantasy version of life. People are fascinated by why people fall in love and get married, and in some ways it'll be revealing to the audience as much as it is to the people in the film, hopefully. So maybe it does add some minuscule bit to what we know about how we live.
RM: Will your presence affect the marriages you're studying?
MA: It's possible. The fact that people have agreed to become accountable to the general public every two years of their marriage may make them change their behavior -- I don't know. It doesn't seem to me not to make it worth doing.
RM: What about vice versa: do you find that your documentary work influences your own life - your marriage, say?
MA: I'm sure it does. It was kind of alarming. You think how many people have thought so much about it, how well prepared they are -- you know, I think of myself, and my first marriage, and I think, Christ, I didn't know anything.
RM: You have lived in the United States for 20 years now, and your second wife is American. Is there a difference between a British and an American marriage?
MA: The English don't really talk about issues very much, and one of the reasons I think my marriage collapsed, my first one, was our inability to confront issues. Americans are much more open about things. Now whether that's generational, whether a younger woman in England would be more open, would not accept a state of denial about issues, I don't know. But I definitely feel that Americans are much more in tune with the notion of therapy and of having help with marriage.
RM: How does that play out in this documentary?
MA: I've been sort of staggered by how open people are being, because I'm asking very intimate questions - about their sexual life and stuff like that - and no one has, you know, told me to take a jump. There's the downside, which is the Jerry Springer circus element, but maybe beside the hearth, beside the fire, it does make for a slightly healthier society.
VIDEO - Theater
The New York Times – New York, 2007
Web Producer, Writer and Video Producer. Edit the World News section of The New York Times’ Web site. Produce web pages, update the site to reflect breaking news developments and work with correspondents and photographers to produce multimedia features – including slide shows, audio reports, online discussions and blogs. Also help to produce special sections and interactive graphics and contribute articles, blog posts, video and photographs.
The New York Times Magazine – New York, 2000 - 2007
Researcher/Reporter. Published about two dozen magazine articles and interviews under my own byline. Fact-checked articles written by staff writers and freelance contributors. Wrote headlines and captions, contributed to the editing of articles and frequently provided additional reporting.
Guardian Unlimited – Washington, D.C., 2006 - 2007
Freelance Writer. Contributed three essays to the Comment is Free blog.
GQ – New York, 2005
Freelance Writer. Wrote an article on globalization and the wine industry.
The Al Franken Show – New York, 2004
Radio Producer. Wrote scripts, blogged and produced segments of the Air America Radio show during the 2004 election campaign.
TransWorld Sport – London, 1999 - 2002
Freelance TV Producer and Cameraman. Produced and shot three 8-minute television reports on sports and war - in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belfast - for Britain’s Channel 4.
Wired – San Francisco, 2000
Freelance Photographer and Web Video Producer. Shot photographs to illustrate three articles in Wired magazine. Shot and edited a web video on architect Rem Koolhaas.
AP/ Worldwide Television News – London, 1995 - 1998
TV Producer and Editor. Wrote scripts, edited video and recorded voice-overs to produce news reports for a television news agency providing material to hundreds of international broadcasters, including ABC, CNN and the BBC. Worked to tight, frequent deadlines.
UNTV – Zagreb, Sarajevo, Belgrade, 1994 - 1995
TV Producer and Cameraman. Produced a series of television reports and short documentaries for a United Nations-sponsored program broadcast twice a week inside the former Yugoslavia during the last two years of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Several pieces were re-broadcast on European stations like ZDF and RAI.
American Friends Service Committee – Phnom Penh, 1992
TV Producer and Director. Wrote and directed a 20-minute, Khmer-language, educational docudrama for an aid organization in Cambodia.
Pacifica Radio News – New York, 1992
Radio Producer. Produced a series of reports for local and national broadcast.
New York University, 1993
Studied film and television production in the M.F.A. program at NYU.
University of Pennsylvania, 1985 - 1990
B.A. in English.
March 05, 2006 | Permalink
Process: Paint Into Pixels
The New York Times Magazine, May 12, 2002.
An interview with Eric Rohmer
It has been four decades since the French New Wave was new, but now, at 82, one of its pioneers, Eric Rohmer, has gone digital.
The director shot his latest film, a period piece about the French Revolution, entirely on digital video, which allowed him to use computer technology to recreate 18th-century Paris. Rohmer's look at the past is different from special-effects spectaculars like ''Gladiator,'' however, because his method relies just as heavily on paint as it does on pixels. Rather than shoot his film's exteriors on the streets of Paris as it is today and then use a computer to remove signs of the 21st century, Rohmer decided to shoot his actors on a soundstage and then have them digitally inserted into paintings of Paris as it looked at the time. Here is one shot from easel to finished frame.
1. The Painting. The first step was to create a series of paintings of all the parts of Paris that Rohmer wanted to show. The director collaborated with the painter Jean-Baptiste Marot, pictured, to transform his storyboards into 37 fully realized canvases, ''inspired,'' Rohmer says, ''by engravings and paintings of the period.''
2. Setting the Stage. Next, each painting was videotaped and then projected onto a soundstage to find the actors' positions. The stage has to be ''a very ugly green,'' Rohmer explains, because when the images of the painting and the stage are later digitally mixed, everything the color of the backdrop disappears.
3. The Soundstage. For the actual recording of the live action, the actors, extras, carriages and props were shot against this green screen. Here, two actresses get into position near a murdered soldier and an abandoned carriage. Behind them, an angry mob assembles and prepares to riot.
4. The Composite. Once the video from the soundstage is combined with that of the painting, it's hard to tell them apart in a still. The film has a nonnaturalistic look, but for Rohmer, what was important ''was to show the places. Cinema is a relationship between people and the places they are in.''
March 03, 2006 | Permalink