FAMU / by Bill Frakes


Jimmy Colton reminded me of this piece in a Facebook comment yesterday.

His kind words started me thinking about a few things.

How much my personal and professional lives shifted strongly in a very short time frame.

More or less seven years ago Laura and I started producing multimedia/video pieces in earnest. For a few reasons. We work very well together, and this format is the best way to utilize her multitude of storytelling skills. Longform storytelling was in it’s infancy and we wanted to get to it early on. It was clear the media landscape was changing and having our own production company is a good way to at least partially control what and how we approach projects — there are some serious issues that need to be talked about and we wanted to start to position ourselves in place where we could tell them. But more about that when we relaunch www.strawhatvisuals.com and www.billfrakes.com during the first week of January 2016.

A wonderful picture editor at Sports Illustrated Marguerite Schropp Lucarelli assigned us to a do a piece on the FAMU band. I always jumped at any chance to work with her, for more than 2 decades she has been a kind, and consistently great friend first, and editor second.

It was one of the first multimedia pieces Laura Heald and I did. Total exploration of the medium from the ground up. We had some ideas, but not much experience.

Laura did a wonderful job of both shooting and editing. We had paired one of our 300mm f2 lenses with a Nikon D90, and first time out she rocked the manual pull focus — a tough thing to do.

We were hard at work trying to finish the piece on the band.We desperately needed a few more pieces to get it close to what we wanted—standards were different then, they have evolved massively in the past years. We had no way to put the cameras in motion then, primitive audio, and frankly very basic video files to work with. Still we had emotion, and passion for the piece and the storytelling I think carried the day.

At halftime of the game, my sister Elizabeth called to tell me our mother had passed away in faraway Nebraska. I was shaken and FAMU band director Dr. White could tell something had happened. He asked, I explained.

He brought the entire band together, said a prayer, and they sang. Incredibly generous gift.

The D90 was Nikon’s first foray into DSLR video, and thanks to William Pekala we had a couple of the units available. When he got his hands on the camera initially he called me and said you need to see this. It’s going to change your world. I don’t think either of us could have guessed how right he would be.

Jimmy helped us figure it all out, and get it published correctly.

Lots of thoughts today mainly about what great folks I’m surrounded by.