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AME Conference jib edited

Occasionally, a job comes along that requires special sacrifice on the part of a camera operator.

Would it be working long hours? Surviving an irregular meal schedule? Being forced to stay in less than satisfactory accommodations?

Fortunately, none of these circumstances befell yours truly during my most recent job. However, waiting for elevators was the bug-a-boo on this trip and also provided an opportunity to open some doors in mind (pun intended).

Joyco recently completed a two week stint working with another Arvada company, Initial Production Group (IPG), in Indianapolis, Indiana at the 18th Quadrennial Convention of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Women’s Missionary Society convention.

Joyco has frequently added to IPG’s productions by subcontracting a camera jib and operator. That would be me, Mark Flick, Director of Photography, at Joyco Productions and here’s my story from the road.

Although traveling for my job is nothing new, setting up shop for two weeks in one place is a tad uncommon.

The convention shoot itself consisted of a three camera shoot and a number of video sources taken to three screens in Halls A and B of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. There were three camera ops, a director and digital tech on site to run the video portion of the show.

AME Conference empty chairs edited

The event was the 18th Quadrennial of the Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Two different groups met consecutively, which accounted for the long shoot: first the Young People’s Division (YPD) of the Women’s Missionary Society, then, later, after a one day change over, the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) met. The groups only meet on this scale once every four years. So there were a lot of meetings, church services and concerts for which to provide video production.

What’s interesting to me, is the adjustments one has to make to live and work for a long time away from family and friends: setting up housekeeping in a hotel, finding places to eat, keeping as regular a routine as possible, and keeping your energy and enthusiasm for the job.

As far as the work goes, operating a boom is fairly strenuous work, especially during setup and takedown. What’s important is to stay mentally alert and physically up to par during the course of production. I’ve found the best way to accomplish this is to establish as much of my home routine on the road as possible.

Regular hours are sometimes difficult to keep while on location, especially when business meetings or concerts run long. So I try to get short naps during off hours. Good thing I also often had time to rest while waiting for the elevators. These brief rest-bits help to keep you sharp.

Finding places to eat is also important. The crew was housed in several Marriott properties immediately adjacent to the convention center. We received a per diem for food etc. So it becomes important to not “spend all your money in one place.” Eating in the restaurants on the hotel property is quite expensive. So with the help of my trusty iPhone, I discovered a number of less expensive restaurants within six blocks walk of the convention center. Not only could I eat well and regularly, I’d get lots of exercise in the process.

You also need to find a grocery store. You cannot last two weeks without running out of something. In this case, five blocks from the hotel, I located a CVS pharmacy. I usually shop King Soopers in Denver and was looking for a similar facility. As far as I could tell, there is only one “grocery store” in the Indianapolis downtown area. CVS was closer and, although they didn’t carry everything in the world like King Soopers does, they did have what I needed. Plus, carrying groceries five, large, city blocks back to the hotel, is a pain. So I made quite a few trips back and forth to CVS but for “good” reasons.

What made the whole job bearable was the pleasant atmosphere of the hotel. You simply must have a place to stay that you look forward to returning to each night. “Your room is your castle,” to catch up with family, sleep and simply stretch out and relax. Fortunately, the Springhill Suites Hotel in downtown Indianapolis was ideal for this. Besides having a comfortable bed and great bathroom facilities, the housekeeping staff left my stuff alone. I think it’s very important to keep your bathroom routine as close to your home activities, as possible. I don’t appreciate people coming in and moving my stuff around. The Springhill housekeepers did exactly what I like: leave my stuff untouched, but change the towels and make the bed. Overall, excellent service from the hotel staff including the complimentary hot breakfast each morning. Getting a good breakfast, with a rotating variety of choices, really started my day off on the right foot the entire time I was there.

But what set this trip apart guessed it: waiting for elevators. Once you gather 5 to 6 thousand people from all age groups in one hotel facility, elevator use becomes problematic. Waits of three, four or five minutes were common during the course of the convention. But all this time spent waiting became a good opportunity to meet people and get to know them.

Take for instance the time I rode up to my floor with three ladies from Haiti.

They explained to me that during the course of the convention, a goal of $30,000 was set to open a women’s clinic on the island. That goal was far exceeded. I had no idea of the extreme need for basic medical care in Haiti. The island is still recovering from the massive earthquake that occurred several years ago and medical services for women and children, especially in the mountainous regions, is sadly lacking. The clinic to be built by the Society, will go a long way to reducing the needless death and suffering currently being experienced by remote populations. I always thought Haiti was almost back to normal, but my conversation with these God-fearing ladies, really opened my eyes.

I also discovered by checking out the WMS website that, "The WMS is composed of over 800,000 members located across four continents in thirty-two countries. We are in the forefront of works of mission, at the head of the Church, operating from the highest level within each of twenty Episcopal Districts and reporting to every meeting of the General and Annual Conferences.” No wonder I heard so many different languages being spoken at different times in the elevator. Good to know.

Working large conventions is a lot of fun for many reasons, not the least of which is meeting people you’d never have the opportunity to contact back home. Guess that’s why I love my work.

The moral of my story is, take advantage of the small things in life, like waiting for elevators, that may not be as “sexy.”

Up next: a week in Orlando for the Up With People 50th Anniversary Reunion at the Dolphin & Swan Resorts in Walt Disney World. Should be another interesting group of folks to get to know and another large hotel with lots of elevators!