Rarely do you find your work and passion intersect, but when they do, watch out – that is one powerful cocktail! My intoxicating crossroad occurred when the Tri Valley Animal Rescue contacted me to create a video about their Non-Profit Organization. I was familiar with this Bay Area institution because years earlier they rescued my beloved cat Shiloh, but I was not aware how passionate they are about their mission. Before I even had my first meeting with Board member Gary Zeigler, I knew I wanted to make an inspiring video that not only highlighted all the good they pay forward to the community, but I wanted to illustrate, the beauty, humor and love that these animals give us each and every day.
After our first set of discussions, I decided I was going to create a music based video that was upbeat and would appeal to a broad audience. I knew that if I found the right music everything else would fall right into place. I scoured the internet for a song that fit all the vignettes that kept popping into my head. A few days past and my search seemed to stall. But as any artist will tell you inspiration is everywhere you just have to sit back and embrace it. So while on break from my search, I decided to check my email… and there it was! An email from my favorite clothing store Anthroplogie. It wasn’t a clothing ad or sale, but a photograph of a graceful blonde women being swept away while holding a colorful bunch of balloons and the title read “Have you heard?”. It was a song from an up and coming artist, Mindy Gledhill. As I listened to her sweet songbird voice, I was certain this was the compelling artist that would be able to tell the story I envisioned. I quickly Googled her and came across the song “Crazy Love” and I knew my journey had just begun.
I began by composing a shot list of different scenarios I wanted to film. Since the Tri Valley Animal Rescue is a Bay Area organization, I was cognizant I wanted to ground the piece by including Bay Area landmarks that would be instantly recognizable to all that viewed the video. The landmark that probably best represents Northern California is The Golden Gate Bridge. So on a beautiful clear Sunday afternoon I ventured to Ocean Beach which has breath-taking views of The Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. As I drove down the Embarcadero, I was horrified as I saw the marine layer roll in covering San Francisco with a blanket of gray clouds. My heart sank when I pulled in the parking lot and nothing was visible except the sand. Rita Gorenberg and her sweet dog Doogie where waiting for me on one of the dunes. I didn’t want the day to be a total loss so I thought I’d steal a few close ups of Rita while she was playing around with Doogie. Just as I started to film one of those San Francisco miracles was bestowed upon me, the dreary fog parted and the sun burst through providing me with a picturesque view of Alcatraz, and The Palace of Fine Arts. And if you examine the video closely, at the two minute mark, while Rita is flying a kite on the beach you can see the first red tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Not what I had envisioned, but I was happy just the same.
My next visit was to Lisa Bell, a TVAR volunteer who bottle feeds infant kittens until they are ready for solid food. She had just gotten home from work and the kitten’s were ready for their evening feeding. She corralled a gorgeous orange kitten who looks exactly like my cat and the tiny kitten put both paws around the doll-sized bottle and drank it like a mischievous child. The milk was dripping out of the sides of her mouth and my heart was about to explode with joy. As Lisa fed the kitten, she unprompted, started lovingly whispering into the kittens ear. I was so moved at that moment I completely understood how passion for other creatures is such an enriching gift. In the middle of filming Lisa got a call that the animal shelter had just found some abandoned kittens. Lisa called her son from the other room and asked if he would pick them up. Without question he grabbed his keys and left. After I finished filming and was packing up, he returned home with cardboard animal carrier with 3 kittens. I peered in and saw these palm-sized black and gray creatures with matted fur, covered with fleas. It was fascinating to watch the speed at which they cleaned them up, de-fleaed them, and began bottle feeding them. The kittens literally came to life before my eyes. It was a really powerful day for me.
Tri Valley Animal Rescue provides all medical care for it’s rescued animals and ensures they are completely healthy at the time of their adoption. Shaelyn Lopez’s job is to give the animals medical check-ups, shots, and attend to any special medical needs they may have. Shaelyn and I met at TVAR foster volunteer, Natalya Brandt’s home. Natalya has converted her family room into a sanctuary for kittens and cats awaiting adoption. The room, decorated with cat trees and toys, was bathed in the golden yellow glow of late afternoon. I was struck, that just like Lisa, Shaelyn lovingly whispered and kissed each animal upon examination. Shaelyn explained to me that right before our appointment that the animal shelter had called that they had just acquired a young dog with a withered front leg and if she did not pick it up, it would have to be destroyed. Shaelyn loves her job and is passionate about animals, so without hesitation, she picked up the young dog. He was playing outside until our appointment was over, then Shaelyn could bring him to her Mother’s house until he could get proper medical attention and be placed in a loving home. Shaelyn and I walked out and the happiest, gentle, little dog was running, playing and nuzzling anything in the vicinity. I was in awe of the caliber of people in this organization, and drove home feeling I was involved in something bigger then myself. (It was kind of a euphoric, to be honest.)
I wanted each little vignette to express the personality of the individual and the animal they rescued. So working with Sarah Yee, was a no-brainer. Sarah is a multi-talented Bay Area artist who is currently at college at the New School in New York. One day while looking on the internet for a place to meet, I came across the Elite Audio Cafe in San Francisco. Not only were the reviews of the Cafe stellar but customers raved how the barista was an amazing latte artist that brightened their day. I contacted the cafe and explained my project and they bent over backwards to help. The co-owner, Charmaine, even suggested that I send a photo of Sarah’s dog, Tucker, so the barista could practice before we arrived. Everything went off without a hitch. Tucker was the perfect gentleman, smiled on queue , and Sarah and the barista’s portraits of Tucker were work’s of art. I have to say that the best part was that we got to drink the lattes when we were done filming and it was hands down the best I’ve ever had!
Working on the Tri Valley Animal Rescue project was such a rewarding endeavor for me. I got to meet the most amazing people who are having such a positive impact on the community, and are enriching peoples day to day lives in the best possible way, with Crazy Love. And I got to experience all this while doing the thing I love most, being a photographer and filmmaker.