Feb 5, 2014

Laruth Video Productions

In my previous post, I covered the events leading up to my chosen profession (Beauties and the Beast).
Lately, I've been going through some 400 master tapes of productions done by us over the years, writing some to DVD while tossing others into the scrap heap of history.
Seeing these titles has brought back many memories-some good, some bad and some downright ugly.
The years 1990 through 1999 were a beautiful haze of different small town auditoriums, high school gymnasiums, local fine arts centers and college arenas. Wherever you could host a
beauty pageant, we were there. I believe we covered every town in the state of South Carolina, as well as a few in North Carolina,Georgia, Virginia and DC. Not all were pageants, although a good 90% were of the pageant variety. We also shot musical theater, opera and the occasional dirt track racing event.
We were very fortunate to work with some of the best directors of local and regional events in the state. For example; Talmage Fauntleroy of the University of South Carolina Opera Company.
We were hired to shoot the USC Dance Company's spring gala at the Koger Center in Columbia. Mr Fauntleroy was a friend of the professor of dance for the USC Dance Company and just happened to view our tape in her office. Next thing we know, we're being booked for an entire season of opera at USC. I knew absolutely nothing about opera (except for Queen's "A Night at the Opera").
I learned fast.
Lot's of action, lots and lots of singing and plenty of movement on the stage. We had no time to attend rehearsals, so we became very proficient at blocking shots on the spot.
Two things that I took away from those two years of doing opera for Mr Fauntleroy - he was a stickler for details, and he loved to direct. The stage lighting was always superb (thanks to a guy named Barry Sparks), and the talent was always, always amazing. And though I could not understand one word of what was being sung on that stage, with every performance I came away enlightened. Talmage Fauntleroy passed away the next year, way too young, so our opera days were over.
Another amazing director was my good friend Kimberly J. Miller. I met her in the early nineties when she and our other friend Martha Suber approached us to put together a music video for the
Newberry School District.
Written by Martha, the song "I'm Too Cool" featured students from local areas schools singing and dancing to a message that preached "I'm too cool to use drugs". The video used a rural setting to get the message out to kids who weren't used to seeing the 'urban' landscape. We featured kids on logging trucks, jumping up from behind a cow, in a small rural downtown area, on the front porch of an antebellum home, in a cow pasture, etc. We spent a couple of months shooting (have you ever tried to coordinate the schedules of 30 kids, 6 adults and the weather?) After the shooting was complete, we sat down to a two month edit. We had a screening for all the kids and their parents, complete with numerous bloopers and the town loved it! Not only did they love it, but it was entered into an awards category for the Telly Awards and came out a winner! Yay!
We also had the good fortune to work with Kim and Martha again for a show that they conceived and performed at the Smithsonian in Washington - "A History of Women in the Blues", which opened to
rave reviews in DC and also played in Richmond, VA. Not only good writers and directors, but Kim and Martha are also pretty damned amazing performers as well!
We did our share of weddings, mostly for good friends and family. I loved shooting weddings-so predictable and easy. Not that we didn't work hard. In those days, I had to wear a battery belt, which weighed in at 18 lbs. I also had to wear a 1/2 inch recorder slung over my shoulder and the camera rested squarely on the other shoulder. So I carried an extra 23 lbs., more often on 90 degree days, for hours on end.
But weddings were always fun events to shoot, and I became quite good at editing them. My takeaway for weddings? Please the mother of the bride and the battle is won!
Another revenue stream for us was dance recitals. Not small ones, but for the larger dance companies in the state. It was not unusual for these companies to have well over 200 dance students
per recital. I didn't fully appreciate the fun until my granddaughter Fiona participated in one several years later. At one recital in North Carolina, we took along my dear friend Pamela Adams to operate
one of our cameras. After we packed up, we gave Pam her salary and jumped in the van for the long trip home. Seeing a tattoo parlor, Pam asked me to pull over and proceeded to spend her evening's
pay on her first tattoo. I was honored to have been a part of that. (While watching a cop get a tattoo across his chest, Pam asked "does it hurt?" The cop replied "lady, my nipples are so hard right now that
I could cut diamonds with them"...ouch!)
We shot a pageant at Myrtle Beach one year and asked Pam to come along and operate a camera. The pageant began at 9am, broke for lunch until 4pm, and then went until 9pm. Long days! Because we
were at the beach, Pam and I hardly slept - filling our nights with clubs, drinking, and running amok. At times during the pageant, I would find myself dozing during those small intervals between
contestants. Using our wireless headsets, Pam would always wake me with a crude, yet funny joke (Hey Reid-why is Helen Keller's leg yellow? 'Cause her dog was blind too"). Kept me going for days!
Along the way I've shot military funerals, political commercials, rap video and a host of graduation exercises-from kindergarten to high school. Not a bad biz-if you like variety!