No One Is Going To Feed You, You Have To Cook Yourself & You Have To Eat Yourself.
— Vivek Maheshwari.
This blog is for those who are eager to learn new things in their life, as well as for those who want to grow themselves to be a better person. As i said no one is going to feed you, you have to cook yourself and you have to feed yourself, in simple words what you want to achieve in your life, you have to make your own road by yourself. No one is going to create a way for you just to walk. I am starting a journey where i want influence million & billions of people to change their own life. As well as to help those peoples who want to be a successful entrepreneur. So join me in this journey and help us to reach more and more people.
There tend to be two main scenarios when it comes to food photography. Sometimes the client will have a menu of dishes prepared and you need to shoot as many as possible in a given time frame, OR the client has one particular dish or menu item that they want highlighted. This assignment falls into the latter category, as the whole point was to take images of one particular item: an extraordinary large chocolate chip cookie, dubbed “The Cookie.”
My local grocery store had spent a year experimenting in the kitchen to come up with a recipe for a gigantic chocolate chip cookie, and they needed photos of the product to help with promotional marketing. These photos in particular had a very specific purpose of being blown up into large decals and posters, that would be plastered on walls and windows throughout the store, so the highest resolution photos would be needed.
2: Research with Pinterest
After understanding the client’s basic photo needs, I always conduct research on Pinterest to get inspired and visually identify patterns among other similar photo shoots. While many clients encourage photographers to add their own twist or dose of creativity, it’s also a good idea to have a sense of traditional ways that others have executed similar photo shoots, in case your client ends up wanting a more traditional image. A quick search for “chocolate chip cookies” on Pinterest gave me a slew of ideas on different ideas to effectively photograph, “The Cookie.”
3: Use a variety of surfaces
Per the researched examples that I had found, plus my personal approach to food photography, I set out to shoot these cookies using three main surfaces: a ceramic plate on a granite countertop, a wooden cutting board, and the white paper napkins and packaging that came with each cookie. The purpose was to offer the client a variety of surfaces and textures to choose from, in addition to a variety of implied settings in which “The Cookie” might be consumed.
4: Incorporate people and action into the scene
The next photographic approach I took involved having a human model interact with my photo subject. Incorporating a human element, either by simply including a body part such as a hand holding the cookie, or a partially eaten cookie, gives the photo subject a sense of purpose and utility that the client might find helpful. It also adds a sense of scale – important to show the size of “The Cookie”.
5: Use ingredients and pairings
Pretty much every food has a logical pairing, such as white wine and fish, beer and burgers, and milk and cookies. Instead of just focusing on one component, why not set the scene by introducing a natural pairing to the photo subject? This not only sets the scene, but it can also help provide scale, in this case showing how large “The Cookie” is compared to a glass of milk.
6: Be open to feedback and further collaboration
After going through the above scenarios, and putting together a first batch of photos for client feedback, I was a bit surprised when they replied saying, “These are great, but not quite fitting our ideal vision.” Luckily, I asked for feedback early in the shoot and was able to collaborate further with the client to hone in on what they were actually looking for, which were photos more to the tune of this:
While the client’s initial instructions were to produce a variety of photos of the cookie, like the ones I first delivered, it took an extra conversation with them to realize that there were two main points they really wanted to illustrate:
Size mattered: Since “The Cookie” was truly large, similar in size to that of a DVD, we really needed to emphasize its huge size.
Have to see the goo: The selling point of “The Cookie” is the super gooey melted chocolate center of each cookie.
With these two points really emphasized, the resulting images ended up being purely macro shots, but the challenge was capturing the gooey melted chocolate centers. This is when a food stylist probably would have come in handy, but through trial and error, I was able to use my oven and microwave to re-create the melted chocolate look in my own kitchen.
7: Find the finished product and document it!
Whenever you perform photography services for a client, make every effort to get your hands on the final product that has your photo(s) in use. Having proof of your published photos is excellent for building your portfolio and credibility as a photographer, not to mention it just feels really good to see your images blown up on the side of a building.
Brian Thomas murdered his wife. Angie Bachmann squandered her inheritance. Is there a difference in how society should assign responsibility?
Thomas’s lawyer argued that his client wasn’t culpable for his wife’s death because he acted unconsciously, automatically, his reaction cued by the belief that an intruder was attacking. He never chose to kill, his lawyer said, and so he shouldn’t be held responsible for her death. By the same logic, Bachmann—as we know from Reza Habib’s research on the brains of problem gamblers—was also driven by powerful cravings. She may have made a choice that first day when she got dressed up and decided to spend the afternoon in a casino, and perhaps in the weeks or months that followed. But years later, by the time she was losing $250,000 in a single night, after she was so desperate to fight the urges that she moved to a state where gambling wasn’t legal, she was no longer making conscious decisions. “Historically, in neuroscience, we’ve said that people with brain damage lose some of their free will,” said Habib. “But when a pathological gambler sees a casino, it seems very similar. It seems like they’re acting without choice.”
Thomas’s lawyer argued, in a manner that everyone believed, that his client had made a terrible mistake and would carry the guilt of it for life. However, isn’t it clear that Bachmann feels much the same way? “I feel so guilty, so ashamed of what I’ve done,” she told me. “I feel like I’ve let everyone down. I know that I’ll never be able to make up for this, no matter what I do.”
That said, there is one critical distinction between the cases of Thomas and Bachmann: Thomas murdered an innocent person. He committed what has always been the gravest of crimes. Angie Bachmann lost money. The only victims were herself, her family, and a $27 billion company that loaned her $125,000.
Thomas was set free by society. Bachmann was held accountable for her deeds.
Ten months after Bachmann lost everything, Harrah’s tried to collect from her bank. The promissory notes she signed bounced, and so Harrah’s sued her, demanding Bachmann pay her debts and an additional $375,000 in penalties—a civil punishment, in effect, for committing a crime. She countersued, claiming that by extending her credit, free suites, and booze, Harrah’s had preyed on someone they knew had no control over her habits. Her case went all the way to the state Supreme Court. Bachmann’s lawyer—echoing the arguments that Thomas’s attorney had made on the murderer’s behalf—said that she shouldn’t be held culpable because she had been reacting automatically to temptations that Harrah’s put in front of her. Once the offers started rolling in, he argued, once she walked into the casino, her habits took over and it was impossible for her to control her behavior.
The justices, acting on behalf of society, said Bachmann was wrong. “There is no common law duty obligating a casino operator to refrain from attempting to entice or contact gamblers that it knows or should know are compulsive gamblers,” the court wrote. The state had a “voluntary exclusion program” in which any person could ask for their name to be placed upon a list that required casinos to bar them from playing, and “the existence of the voluntary exclusion program suggests the legislature intended pathological gamblers to take personal responsibility to prevent and protect themselves against compulsive gambling,” wrote Justice Robert Rucker.
Perhaps the difference in outcomes for Thomas and Bachmann is fair. After all, it’s easier to sympathize with a devastated widower than a housewife who threw everything away.
Why is it easier, though? Why does it seem the bereaved husband is a victim, while the bankrupt gambler got her just deserts? Why do some habits seem like they should be so easy to control, while others seem out of reach?
More important, is it right to make a distinction in the first place?
“Some thinkers,” Aristotle wrote in Nicomachean Ethics, “hold that it is by nature that people become good, others that it is by habit, and others that it is by instruction.” For Aristotle, habits reigned supreme. The behaviors that occur unthinkingly are the evidence of our truest selves, he said. So “just as a piece of land has to be prepared beforehand if it is to nourish the seed, so the mind of the pupil has to be prepared in its habits if it is to enjoy and dislike the right things.”
Habits are not as simple as they appear. As I’ve tried to demonstrate throughout this book, habits—even once they are rooted in our minds—aren’t destiny. We can choose our habits, once we know how. Everything we know about habits, from neurologists studying amnesiacs and organizational experts remaking companies, is that any of them can be changed, if you understand how they function.
Hundreds of habits influence our days—they guide how we get dressed in the morning, talk to our kids, and fall asleep at night; they impact what we eat for lunch, how we do business, and whether we exercise or have a beer after work. Each of them has a different cue and offers a unique reward. Some are simple and others are complex, drawing upon emotional triggers and offering subtle neurochemical prizes. But every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable. The most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager.
However, to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it—and every chapter in this book is devoted to illustrating a different aspect of why that control is real.
So though both Angie Bachmann and Brian Thomas made variations on the same claim—that they acted out of habit, that they had no control over their actions because those behaviors unfolded automatically—it seems fair that they should be treated differently. It is just that Angie Bachmann should be held accountable and that Brian Thomas should go free because Thomas never knew the patterns that drove him to kill existed in the first place—much less that he could master them. Bachmann, on the other hand, was aware of her habits. And once you know a habit exists, you have the responsibility to change it. If she had tried a bit harder, perhaps she could have reined them in. Others have done so, even in the face of greater temptations.
That, in some ways, is the point of this book. Perhaps a sleepwalking murderer can plausibly argue he wasn’t aware of his habit, and so he doesn’t bear responsibility for his crime. But almost all the other patterns that exist in most people’s lives—how we eat and sleep and talk to our kids, how we unthinkingly spend our time, attention, and money—those are habits that we know exist. And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom—and the responsibility—to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work.
“All our life,” William James told us in the prologue, “so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits—practical, emotional, and intellectual— systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
James, who died in 1910, hailed from an accomplished family. His father was a wealthy and prominent theologian. His brother, Henry, was a brilliant, successful writer whose novels are still studied today. William, into his thirties, was the unaccomplished one in the family. He was sick as a child. He wanted to become a painter, and then enrolled in medical school, then left to join an expedition up the Amazon River. Then he quit that, as well. He chastised himself in his diary for not being good at anything. What’s more, he wasn’t certain if he could get better. In medical school, he had visited a hospital for the insane and had seen a man hurling himself against a wall. The patient, a doctor explained, suffered from hallucinations. James didn’t say that he often felt like he shared more in common with the patients than his fellow physicians.
“Today I about touched bottom, and perceive plainly that I must face the choice with open eyes,” James wrote in his diary in 1870, when he was twentyeight years old. “Shall I frankly throw the moral business overboard, as one unsuited to my innate aptitudes?”
Is suicide, in other words, a better choice?
Two months later, James made a decision. Before doing anything rash, he would conduct a yearlong experiment. He would spend twelve months believing that he had control over himself and his destiny, that he could become better, that he had the free will to change. There was no proof that it was true. But he would free himself to believe, all evidence to the contrary, that change was possible. “I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life,” he wrote in his diary. Regarding his ability to change, “I will assume for the present—until next year—that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”
Over the next year, he practiced every day. In his diary, he wrote as if his control over himself and his choices was never in question. He got married. He started teaching at Harvard. He began spending time with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who would go on to become a Supreme Court justice, and Charles Sanders Peirce, a pioneer in the study of semiotics, in a discussion group they called the Metaphysical Club. Two years after writing his diary entry, James sent a letter to the philosopher Charles Renouvier, who had expounded at length on free will. “I must not lose this opportunity of telling you of the admiration and gratitude which have been excited in me by the reading of your Essais,” James wrote. “Thanks to you I possess for the first time an intelligible and reasonable conception of freedom.… I can say that through that philosophy I am beginning to experience a rebirth of the moral life; and I can assure you, sir, that this is no small thing.”
Later, he would famously write that the will to believe is the most important ingredient in creating belief in change. And that one of the most important methods for creating that belief was habits. Habits, he noted, are what allow us to “do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.” Once we choose who we want to be, people grow “to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper or a coat, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterward into the same identical folds.”
If you believe you can change—if you make it a habit—the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs—and becomes automatic—it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable, the thing, as James wrote, that bears “us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
The way we habitually think of our surroundings and ourselves create the worlds that each of us inhabit. “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ ” the writer David Foster Wallace told a class of graduating college students in 2005. “And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’ ”
The water is habits, the unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day—and which, just by looking at them, become visible again.
Throughout his life, William James wrote about habits and their central role in creating happiness and success. He eventually devoted an entire chapter in his masterpiece The Principles of Psychology to the topic. Water, he said, is the most apt analogy for how a habit works. Water “hollows out for itself a channel, which grows broader and deeper; and, after having ceased to flow, it resumes, when it flows again, the path traced by itself before.”
You now know how to redirect that path. You now have the power to swim.
It may seem irrational for anyone to believe they can beat the house in a casino. However, as regular gamblers know, it is possible to consistently win, particularly at games such as blackjack. Don Johnson of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, for instance, won a reported $15.1 million at blackjack over a sixmonth span starting in 2010. The house always wins in the aggregate because so many gamblers bet in a manner that doesn’t maximize their odds, and most people do not have enough money to see themselves through losses. A gambler can consistently win over time, though, if he or she has memorized the complicated formulas and odds that guide how each hand should be played. Most players, however, don’t have the discipline or mathematical skills to beat the house.
Harrah’s—now known as Caesars Entertainment—disputes some of Bachmann’s allegations. Their comments can be found in the notes.
In the late 1990s, one of the largest slot machine manufacturers hired a former video game executive to help them design new slots. That executive’s insight was to program machines to deliver more near wins. Now, almost every slot contains numerous twists—such as free spins and sounds that erupt when icons almost align—as well as small payouts that make players feel like they are winning when, in truth, they are putting in more money than they are getting back. “No other form of gambling manipulates the human mind as beautifully as these machines,” an addictive-disorder researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine told a NewYork Times reporter in 2004.
Three years after Angie Bachmann declared bankruptcy, her father passed away. She’d spent the previous half decade flying between her home and her parents’ house, tending to them as they became increasingly ill. His death was a blow. Then, two months later, her mother died.
“My entire world disintegrated,” she said. “I would wake up every morning, and for a second forget they had passed, and then it would rush in that they were gone and I’d feel like someone was standing on my chest. I couldn’t think about anything else. I didn’t know what to do when I got out of bed.”
When their wills were read, Bachmann learned she had inherited almost $1 million.
She used $275,000 to buy her family a new home in Tennessee, near where her mother and father had lived, and spent a bit more to move her grown daughters nearby so everyone was close. Casino gambling wasn’t legal in Tennessee, and “I didn’t want to fall back into bad patterns,” she told me. “I wanted to live away from anything that reminded me of feeling out of control.” She changed her phone numbers and didn’t tell the casinos her new address. It felt safer that way.
Then one night, driving through her old hometown with her husband, picking up the last of their furniture from her previous home, she started thinking about her parents. How would she manage without them? Why hadn’t she been a better daughter? She began hyperventilating. It felt like the beginning of a panic attack. It had been years since she had gambled, but in that moment she felt like she needed to find something to take her mind off the pain. She looked at her husband. She was desperate. This was a one-time thing.
“Let’s go to the casino,” she said.
When they walked in, one of the managers recognized her from when she was a regular and invited them into the players’ lounge. He asked how she had been, and it all came tumbling out: her parents’ passing and how hard it had hit her, how exhausted she was all the time, how she felt like she was on the verge of a breakdown. The manager was a good listener. It felt so good to finally say everything she had been thinking and be told that it was normal to feel this way.
Then she sat down at a blackjack table and played for three hours. For the first time in months, the anxiety faded into background noise. She knew how to do this. She went blank. She lost a few thousand dollars.
Harrah’s Entertainment—the company that owned the casino—was known within the gaming industry for the sophistication of its customer-tracking systems. At the core of that system were computer programs much like those Andrew Pole created at Target, predictive algorithms that studied gamblers’ habits and tried to figure out how to persuade them to spend more. The company assigned players a “predicted lifetime value,” and software built calendars that anticipated how often they would visit and how much they would spend. The company tracked customers through loyalty cards and mailed out coupons for free meals and cash vouchers; telemarketers called people at home to ask where they had been. Casino employees were trained to encourage visitors to discuss their lives, in the hopes they might reveal information that could be used to predict how much they had to gamble with. One Harrah’s executive called this approach “Pavlovian marketing.” The company ran thousands of tests each year to perfect their methods. Customer tracking had increased the company’s profits by billions of dollars, and was so precise they could track a gambler’s spending to the cent and minute.
Harrah’s, of course, was well aware that Bachmann had declared bankruptcy a few years earlier and had walked away from $20,000 in gambling debts. But soon after her conversation with the casino manager, she began receiving phone calls with offers of free limos that would take her to casinos in Mississippi. They offered to fly her and her husband to Lake Tahoe, put them in a suite, and give them tickets to an Eagles concert. “I said my daughter has to come, and she wants to bring a friend,” Bachmann said. No problem, the company replied. Everyone’s airfare and rooms were free.At the concert, she sat in the front row. Harrah’s gave her $10,000 to play with, compliments of the house.
The offers kept coming. Every week another casino called, asking if she wanted a limo, entry to shows, plane tickets. Bachmann resisted at first, but eventually she started saying yes each time an invitation arrived. When a family friend mentioned that she wanted to get married in Las Vegas, Bachmann made a phone call and the next weekend they were in the Palazzo. “Not that many people even know it exists,” she told me. “I’ve called and asked about it, and the operator said it’s too exclusive to give out information over the phone. The room was like something out of a movie. It had six bedrooms and a deck and private hot tub for each room. I had a butler.”
When she got to the casinos, her gambling habits took over almost as soon as she walked in. She would often play for hours at a stretch. She started small at first, using only the casino’s money. Then the numbers got larger, and she would replenish her chips with withdrawals from the ATM. It didn’t seem to her like there was a problem. Eventually she was playing $200 to $300 per hand, two hands at a time, sometimes for a dozen hours at a time. One night, she won $60,000. Twice she walked away up $40,000. One time she went to Vegas with $100,000 in her bag and came home with nothing. It didn’t really change her lifestyle. Her bank account was still so large that she never had to think about money. That’s why her parents had left her the inheritance in the first place: so she could enjoy herself.
She would try to slow down, but the casino’s appeals became more insistent. “One host told me that he would get fired if I didn’t come in that weekend,” she said. “They would say, ‘We sent you to this concert and we gave you this nice room, and you haven’t been gambling that much lately.’ Well, they did do those nice things for me.”
In 2005, her husband’s grandmother died and the family went back to her old hometown for the funeral. She went to the casino the night before the service to clear her head and get mentally prepared for all the activity the next day. Over a span of twelve hours, she lost $250,000. At the time, it was almost as if the scale of the loss didn’t register. When she thought about it afterward—a quarter of a million dollars gone—it didn’t seem real. She had lied to herself about so much already: that her marriage was happy when she and her husband sometimes went days without really speaking; that her friends were close when she knew they appeared for Vegas trips and were gone when it was over; that she was a good mom when she saw her daughters making the same mistakes she had made, getting pregnant too early; that her parents would have been pleased to see their money thrown away this way. It felt like there were only two choices: continue lying to herself or admit that she had dishonored everything her mother and father had worked so hard to earn.
A quarter of a million dollars. She didn’t tell her husband. “I concentrated on something new whenever that night popped into my mind,” she said.
Soon, though, the losses were too big to ignore. Some nights, after her husband was asleep, Bachmann would crawl out of bed, sit at the kitchen table, and scribble out figures, trying to make sense of how much was gone. The depression that had started after her parents’ death seemed to be getting deeper. She felt so tired all the time.
And Harrah’s kept calling.
“This desperation starts once you realize how much you’ve lost, and then you feel like you can’t stop because you’ve got to win it back,” she said. “Sometimes I’d start feeling jumpy, like I couldn’t think straight, and I’d know that if I pretended I might take another trip soon, it would calm me down. Then they would call and I’d say yes because it was so easy to give in. I really believed I might win it back. I’d won before. If you couldn’t win, then gambling wouldn’t be legal, right?”
In 2010, a cognitive neuroscientist named Reza Habib asked twenty-two people to lie inside an MRI and watch a slot machine spin around and around. Half of the participants were “pathological gamblers”—people who had lied to their families about their gambling, missed work to gamble, or had bounced checks at a casino—while the other half were people who gambled socially but didn’t exhibit any problematic behaviors. Everyone was placed on their backs inside a narrow tube and told to watch wheels of lucky 7s, apples, and gold bars spin across a video screen. The slot machine was programmed to deliver three outcomes: a win, a loss, and a “near miss,” in which the slots almost matched up but, at the last moment, failed to align. None of the participants won or lost any money. All they had to do was watch the screen as the MRIrecorded their neurological activity.
“We were particularly interested in looking at the brain systems involved in habits and addictions,” Habib told me. “What we found was that, neurologically speaking, pathological gamblers got more excited about winning. When the symbols lined up, even though they didn’t actually win any money, the areas in their brains related to emotion and reward were much more active than in non-pathological gamblers.
“But what was really interesting were the near misses. To pathological gamblers, near misses looked like wins. Their brains reacted almost the same way. But to a nonpathological gambler, a near miss was like a loss. People without a gambling problem were better at recognizing that a near miss means you still lose.”
Two groups saw the exact same event, but from a neurological perspective, they viewed it differently. People with gambling problems got a mental high from the near misses—which, Habib hypothesizes, is probably why they gamble for so much longer than everyone else: because the near miss triggers those habits that prompt them to put down another bet. The nonproblem gamblers, when they saw a near miss, got a dose of apprehension that triggered a different habit, the one that says I should quit before it gets worse.
It’s unclear if problem gamblers’ brains are different because they are born that way or if sustained exposure to slot machines, online poker, and casinos can change how the brain functions. What is clear is that real neurological differences impact how pathological gamblers process information—which helps explain whyAngie Bachmann lost control every time she walked into a casino. Gaming companies are well aware of this tendency, of course, which is why in the past decades, slot machines have been reprogrammed to deliver a more constant supply of near wins. 3 Gamblers who keep betting after near wins are what make casinos, racetracks, and state lotteries so profitable. “Adding a near miss to a lottery is like pouring jet fuel on a fire,” said a state lottery consultant who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity. “You want to know why sales have exploded? Every other scratch-off ticket is designed to make you feel like you almost won.”
The areas of the brain that Habib scrutinized in his experiment—the basal ganglia and the brain stem—are the same regions where habits reside (as well as where behaviors related to sleep terrors start). In the past decade, as new classes of pharmaceuticals have emerged that target that region—such as medications for Parkinson’s disease—we’ve learned a great deal about how sensitive some habits can be to outside stimulation. Class action lawsuits in the United States, Australia, and Canada have been filed against drug manufacturers, alleging that pharmaceuticals caused patients to compulsively bet, eat, shop, and masturbate by targeting the circuitry involved in the habit loop. In 2008, a federal jury in Minnesota awarded a patient $8.2 million in a lawsuit against a drug company after the man claimed that his medication had caused him to gamble away more than $250,000. Hundreds of similar cases are pending.
“In those cases, we can definitively say that patients have no control over their obsessions, because we can point to a drug that impacts their neurochemistry,” said Habib. “But when we look at the brains of people who are obsessive gamblers, they look very similar—except they can’t blame it on a medication. They tell researchers they don’t want to gamble, but they can’t resist the cravings. So why do we say that those gamblers are in control of their actions and the Parkinson’s patients aren’t?”
On March 18, 2006, Angie Bachmann flew to a casino at Harrah’s invitation. By then, her bank account was almost empty. When she tried to calculate how much she had lost over her lifetime, she put the figure at about $900,000. She had told Harrah’s that she was almost broke, but the man on the phone said to come anyway. They would give her a line of credit, he said.
“It felt like I couldn’t say no, like whenever they dangled the smallest temptation in front of me, my brain would shut off. I know that sounds like an excuse, but they always promised it would be different this time, and I knew no matter how much I fought against it, I was eventually going to give in.”
She brought the last of her money with her. She started playing $400 a hand, two hands at a time. If she could get up a little bit, she told herself, just $100,000, she could quit and have something to give her kids. Her husband joined her for a while, but at midnight he went to bed. Around 2 A.M., the money she had come with was gone. A Harrah’s employee gave her a promissory note to sign. Six times she signed for more cash, for a total of $125,000.
At about six in the morning, she hit a hot streak and her piles of chips began to grow. A crowd gathered. She did a quick tally: not quite enough to pay off the notes she had signed, but if she kept playing smart, she would come out on top, and then quit for good. She won five times in a row. She only needed to win $20,000 more to pull ahead. Then the dealer hit 21. Then he hit it again. A few hands later, he hit it a third time. By ten in the morning, all her chips were gone. She asked for more credit, but the casino said no.
Bachmann left the table dazed and walked to her suite. It felt like the floor was shaking. She trailed a hand along the wall so that if she fell, she’d know which way to lean. When she got to the room, her husband was waiting for her.
“It’s all gone,” she told him.
“Why don’t you take a shower and go to bed?” he said. “It’s okay. You’ve lost before.”
“It’s all gone,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“The money is gone,” she said. “All of it.”
“At least we still have the house,” he said.
She didn’t tell him that she’d taken out a line of credit on their home months earlier and had gambled it away.
Our brain can not distinguish beyond 30 frame per second. By filming anything faster than that it can be put on a 30fps timeline and it will play back slower. For example, filming at 60fps is 2 times slower than real time.
The iPhone 6 shoots at 240 fps, is 8 times slower than real time. We filmed at roughly 500fps and 1000fps which is 16 and 30 times slower than real time respectively. To accomplish this without ghosting in the footage the rule is the shuter speed has to be double that of the frame rate. At 60fps you need to be shooting at 1/125th of a second, 500fps is 1/1000th of a second and 1000fps is 1/2000th.
As we found out first hand, if you’re shooting somewhere dark, you’re screwed. The faster the shutter speed, the more light you need to shine on the object.
For 1000fps with the shutter speed at 1/2000 you need a lot of light. What seems ok to the naked eye, won’t necessarily be bright enough when shooting slow motion.
It’s not as simple as turning on more lights because they can flicker. Some low quality LED panels have a pronounced flicker when footage is slowed down. You can see this example in the movies or old TV shows where a TV in the background is flickering because it’s light output is at the same or slower rate than the footage being filmed.
Because every moment will be played out in slow motion, movement in real time can might not be obvious when the shot is slowed down. For shorter clips it’s not always necessary to use a tripod, but for longer slow motion shots we recommend it for the best final product.
If you are shooting a with a very shallow depth of field the focus of a the shot is vital to it being usable. In this case using a tripod is importing, any slight movement in your hands or body could shift the camera and in turn the focus point without you realising it. With the camera locked away on a tripod you will have one less thing to worry about.
5. Tracking shot
To do a tracking shot, you’ll need the tripod to stabilise the fast movement. Why fast movement when you want a slow pan? Because everything will be slowed down. What will feel like a fast movement of the camera will slow down to the perfect speed. This is something you might want to practice and check in advance if you only have one chance to get the shot.
6. Shooting too much or too slow
Shooting slow motion footage takes up a lot of space. When a single second turns into 40, you need to have enough storage space on your camera and
In the same way you can shoot too much, you can shoot too slow. Somethings are going to be better at 240fps than they would be at 1000fps. Then again, this Slow Mo Guys video was filmed at 170,000 frames per second so maybe there is no such thing as too slow.
When editing slow motion footage you need to be aware you don’t overdo it. Less really is more (unless you are making an entire video about slow motion). You will have shot amazing footage but by using too much it can take away from the overall video. The aim should be to wow the audience and leave them wanting more, rather than the opposite feeling.
Depending on the camera, your audio might automatically be muted. If you’re lucky enough to get sound, depending on the speed of the footage, the audio might sound like Dory speaking whale in Finding Nemo, or a low groaning sound. This is why slow motion videos often have musical overlay.
On a July morning in 2008, a desperate man vacationing along the west coast of Wales picked up the phone and called an emergency operator.
“I think I’ve killed my wife,” he said. “Oh my God. I thought someone had broken in. I was fighting with those boys but it was Christine. I must have been dreaming or something. What have I done? What have I done?”
Ten minutes later, police officers arrived to find Brian Thomas crying next to his camper van. The previous night, he explained, he and his wife had been sleeping in the van when young men racing around the parking lot had awoken them. They moved their camper to the edge of the lot and went back to sleep. Then, a few hours later, Thomas woke to find a man in jeans and a black fleece—one of the racers, he thought—lying on top of his wife. He screamed at the man, grabbed him by the throat, and tried to pull him off. It was as if he was reacting automatically, he told the police. The more the man struggled, the harder Thomas squeezed. The man scratched at Thomas’s arm and tried to fight back, but Thomas choked, tighter and tighter, and eventually the man stopped moving. Then, Thomas realized it wasn’t a man in his hands, but his wife. He dropped her body and began gently nudging her shoulder, trying to wake her, asking if she was all right. It was too late.
“I thought somebody had broken in and I strangled her,” Thomas told the police, sobbing. “She’s my world.”
For the next ten months, as Thomas sat in prison awaiting trial, a portrait of the murderer emerged. As a child, Thomas had started sleepwalking, sometimes multiple times each night. He would get out of bed, walk around the house and play with toys or fix himself something to eat and, the next morning, remember nothing about what he had done. It became a family joke. Once a week, it seemed, he would wander into the yard or someone else’s room, all while asleep. It was a habit, his mother would explain when neighbors asked why her son was walking across their lawns, barefoot and in his pajamas. As he grew older, he would wake up with cuts on his feet and no memories of where they had come from. He once swam in a canal without waking. After he married, his wife grew so concerned about the possibility that he might stumble out of the house and into traffic that she locked the door and slept with the keys under her pillow. Every night, the couple would crawl into bed and “have a kiss and a cuddle,” Thomas later said, and then he would go to his own room and sleep in his own bed. Otherwise his restless tossing and turning, the shouting and grunting and occasional wanderings, would keep Christine up all night.
“Sleepwalking is a reminder that wake and sleep are not mutually exclusive,” Mark Mahowald, a professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota and a pioneer in understanding sleep behaviors, told me. “The part of your brain that monitors your behavior is asleep, but the parts capable of very complex activities are awake. The problem is that there’s nothing guiding the brain except for basic patterns, your most basic habits. You follow what exists in your head, because you’re not capable of making a choice.”
By law, the police had to prosecute Thomas for the murder. But all evidence seemed to indicate that he and his wife had a happy marriage prior to that awful night. There wasn’t any history of abuse. They had two grown daughters and had recently booked a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary. Prosecutors asked a sleep specialist—Dr. Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre—to examine Thomas and evaluate a theory: that he had been unconscious when he killed his wife. In two separate sessions, one in Idzikowski’s laboratory and the other inside the prison, the researcher applied sensors all over Thomas’s body and measured his brain waves, eye movement, chin and leg muscles, nasal airflow, respiratory effort, and oxygen levels while he slept.
Thomas wasn’t the first person to argue that he had committed a crime while sleeping and thus, by extension, should not be held responsible for his deed. There’s a long history of wrongdoers contending they aren’t culpable due to “automatism,” as sleepwalking and other unconscious behaviors are known. And in the past decade, as our understanding of the neurology of habits and free will has become more sophisticated, those defenses have become more compelling. Society, as embodied by our courts and juries, has agreed that some habits are so powerful that they overwhelm our capacity to make choices, and thus we’re not responsible for what we do.
Sleepwalking is an odd outgrowth of a normal aspect of how our brains work while we slumber. Most of the time, as our bodies move in and out of different phases of rest, our most primitive neurological structure—the brain stem—paralyzes our limbs and nervous system, allowing our brains to experience dreams without our bodies moving. Usually, people can make the transition in and out of paralysis multiple times each night without any problems. Within neurology, it’s known as the “switch.”
Some people’s brains, though, experience switching errors. They go into incomplete paralysis as they sleep, and their bodies are active while they dream or pass between sleep phases. This is the root cause of sleepwalking and for the majority of sufferers, it is an annoying but benign problem. Someone might dream about eating a cake, for instance, and the next morning find a ravaged box of doughnuts in the kitchen. Someone will dream about going to the bathroom, and later discover a wet spot in the hall. Sleepwalkers can behave in complex ways—for instance, they can open their eyes, see, move around, and drive a car or cook a meal—all while essentially unconscious, because the parts of their brain associated with seeing, walking, driving, and cooking can function while they are asleep without input from the brain’s more advanced regions, such as the prefrontal cortex. Sleepwalkers have been known to boil water and make tea. One operated a motorboat. Another turned on an electric saw and started feeding in pieces of wood before going back to bed. But in general, sleepwalkers will not do things that are dangerous to themselves or others. Even asleep, there’s an instinct to avoid peril.
However, as scientists have examined the brains of sleepwalkers, they’ve found a distinction between sleepwalking—in which people might leave their beds and start acting out their dreams or other mild impulses—and something called sleep terrors. When a sleep terror occurs, the activity inside people’s brains is markedly different from when they are awake, semi-conscious, or even sleepwalking. People in the midst of sleep terrors seem to be in the grip of terrible anxieties, but are not dreaming in the normal sense of the word. Their brains shut down except for the most primitive neurological regions, which include what are known as “central pattern generators.” These areas of the brain are the same ones studied by Dr. Larry Squire and the scientists at MIT, who found the neurological machinery of the habit loop. To a neurologist, in fact, a brain experiencing a sleep terror looks very similar to a brain following a habit.
The behaviors of people in the grip of sleep terrors are habits, though of the most primal kind. The “central pattern generators” at work during a sleep terror are where such behavioral patterns as walking, breathing, flinching from a loud noise, or fighting an attacker come from. We don’t usually think about these behaviors as habits, but that’s what they are: automatic behaviors so ingrained in our neurology that, studies show, they can occur with almost no input from the higher regions of the brain.
However, these habits, when they occur during sleep terrors, are different in one critical respect: Because sleep deactivates the prefrontal cortex and other high cognition areas, when a sleep terror habit is triggered, there is no possibility of conscious intervention. If the fight-or-flight habit is cued by a other high cognition areas, when a sleep terror habit is triggered, there is no possibility of conscious intervention. If the fight-or-flight habit is cued by a sleep terror, there is no chance that someone can override it through logic or reason.
“People with sleep terrors aren’t dreaming in the normal sense,” said Mahowald, the neurologist. “There’s no complex plots like you and I remember from a nightmare. If they remember anything afterward, it’s just an image or emotions—impending doom, horrible fear, the need to defend themselves or someone else.
“Those emotions are really powerful, though. They are some of the most basic cues for all kinds of behaviors we’ve learned throughout our lives. Responding to a threat by running away or defending ourselves is something everyone has practiced since they were babies. And when those emotions occur, and there’s no chance for the higher brain to put things in context, we react the way our deepest habits tell us to. We run or fight or follow whatever behavioral pattern is easiest for our brains to latch on to.”
When someone in the midst of a sleep terror starts feeling threatened or sexually aroused—two of the most common sleep terror experiences—they react by following the habits associated with those stimuli. People experiencing sleep terrors have jumped off of tall roofs because they believed they were fleeing from attackers. They have killed their own babies because, they believed, they were fighting wild animals. They have raped their spouses, even as their victims begged them to stop, because once the sleepers’ arousal began, they followed the ingrained habit to satisfy the urge. Sleepwalking seems to allow some choice, some participation by our higher brains that tell us to stay away from the edge of the roof. Someone in the grip of a sleep terror, however, simply follows the habit loop no matter where it leads.
Some scientists suspect sleep terrors might be genetic; others say diseases such as Parkinson’s make them more likely. Their causes aren’t well understood, but for a number of people, sleep terrors involve violent impulses. “Violence related to sleep terrors appears to be a reaction to a concrete, frightening image that the individual can subsequently describe,” a group of Swiss researchers wrote in 2009. Among people suffering one type of sleep dysfunction, “attempted assault of sleep partners has been reported to occur in 64% of cases, with injuries in 3%.”
In both the United States and the United Kingdom, there is a history of murderers arguing that sleep terrors caused them to commit crimes they would have never consciously carried out. Four years before Thomas was arrested, for instance, a man named Jules Lowe was found not guilty of murdering his eighty-three-year-old father after claiming that the attack occurred during a sleep terror. Prosecutors argued it was “far-fetched in the extreme” to believe that Lowe was asleep while he punched, kicked, and stamped his father for more than twenty minutes, leaving him with over ninety injuries. The jury disagreed and set him free. In September 2008, thirty-three-year-old Donna Sheppard-Saunders nearly suffocated her mother by holding a pillow over her face for thirty seconds. She was later acquitted of attempted murder by arguing that she had acted while asleep. In 2009, a British soldier admitted to raping a teenage girl, but said he was asleep and unconscious while he undressed himself, pulled down her pants, and began having sex. When he woke, mid-rape, he apologized and called the police. “I’ve just sort of committed a crime,” he told the emergency operator. “I honestly don’t know what happened. I woke up on top of her.” He had a history of suffering from sleep terrors and was found not guilty. More than 150 murderers and rapists have escaped punishment in the past century using the automatism defense. Judges and juries, acting on behalf of society, have said that since the criminals didn’t choose to commit their crimes—since they didn’t consciously participate in the violence—they shouldn’t bear the blame.
For Brian Thomas, it also looked like a situation where a sleep disorder, rather than a murderous impulse, was at fault. “I’ll never forgive myself, ever,” he told one of the prosecutors. “Why did I do it?”
After Dr. Idzikowski, the sleep specialist, observed Thomas in his laboratory, he submitted his findings: Thomas was asleep when he killed his wife. He hadn’t consciously committed a crime.
As the trial started, prosecutors presented their evidence to the jury. Thomas had admitted to murdering his wife, they told jurors. He knew he had a history of sleepwalking. His failure to take precautions while on vacation, they said, made him responsible for his crime.
But as arguments proceeded, it became clear prosecutors were fighting an uphill battle. Thomas’s lawyer argued that his client hadn’t meant to kill his wife—in fact, he wasn’t even in control of his own actions that night. Instead, he was reacting automatically to a perceived threat. He was following a habit almost as old as our species: the instinct to fight an attacker and protect a loved one. Once the most primitive parts of his brain were exposed to a cue— someone strangling his wife—his habit took over and he fought back, with no chance of his higher cognition interceding. Thomas was guilty of nothing more than being human, the lawyer argued, and reacting in the way his neurology—and most primitive habits—forced him to behave.
Even the prosecution’s own witnesses seemed to bolster the defense. Though Thomas had known he was capable of sleepwalking, the prosecution’s own psychiatrists said, there was nothing to suggest to him that it was therefore foreseeable he might kill. He had never attacked anyone in his sleep before. He had never previously harmed his wife.
When the prosecution’s chief psychiatrist took the stand, Thomas’s lawyer began his cross-examination.
Did it seem fair that Thomas should be found guilty for an act he could not know was going to occur?
In her opinion, said Dr. Caroline Jacob, Thomas could not have reasonably anticipated his crime. And if he was convicted and sentenced to Broadmoor Hospital, where some of Britain’s most dangerous and mentally ill criminals were housed, well, “he does not belong there.”
The next morning, the head prosecutor addressed the jury.
“At the time of the killing the defendant was asleep and his mind had no control over what his body was doing,” he said. “We have reached the conclusion that the public interest would no longer be served by continuing to seek a special verdict from you. We therefore offer no further evidence and invite you to return a straight not guilty verdict.” The jury did so.
Before Thomas was set free, the judge told him, “You are a decent man and a devoted husband. I strongly suspect you may well be feeling a sense of guilt. In the eyes of the law you bear no responsibility. You are discharged.”
It seems like a fair outcome. After all, Thomas was obviously devastated by his crime. He had no idea what he was doing when he acted—he was simply following a habit, and his capacity for decision making was, in effect, incapacitated. Thomas is the most sympathetic murderer conceivable, someone so close to being a victim himself that when the trial ended, the judge tried to console him.
Yet many of those same excuses can be made for Angie Bachmann, the gambler. She was also devastated by her actions. She would later say she carries a deep sense of guilt. And as it turns out, she was also following deeply ingrained habits that made it increasingly difficult for decision making to intervene.
But in the eyes of the law Bachmann is responsible for her habits, and Thomas isn’t. Is it right that Bachmann, a gambler, is guiltier than Thomas, a murderer? What does that tell us about the ethics of habit and choice?
The morning the trouble began—years before she realized there was even trouble in the first place—Angie Bachmann was sitting at home, staring at the television, so bored that she was giving serious thought to reorganizing the silverware drawer.
Her youngest daughter had started kindergarten a few weeks earlier and her two older daughters were in middle school, their lives filled with friends and activities and gossip their mother couldn’t possibly understand. Her husband, a land surveyor, often left for work at eight and didn’t get home until six. The house was empty except for Bachmann. It was the first time in almost two decades—since she had gotten married at nineteen and pregnant by twenty, and her days had become crowded with packing school lunches, playing princess, and running a family shuttle service—that she felt genuinely alone. In high school, her friends told her she should become a model—she had been that pretty—but when she dropped out and then married a guitar player who eventually got a real job, she settled on being a mom instead. Now it was ten-thirty in the morning, her three daughters were gone, and Bachmann had resorted—again—to taping a piece of paper over the kitchen clock to stop herself from looking at it every three minutes.
She had no idea what to do next.
That day, she made a deal with herself: If she could make it until noon without going crazy or eating the cake in the fridge, she would leave the house and do something fun. She spent the next ninety minutes trying to figure out what exactly that would be. When the clock hit twelve o’clock, she put on some makeup and a nice dress and drove to a riverboat casino about twenty minutes away from her house. Even at noon on a Thursday, the casino was filled with people doing things besides watching soap operas and folding the laundry. There was a band playing near the entrance. A woman was handing out free cocktails. Bachmann ate shrimp from a buffet. The whole experience felt luxurious, like playing hooky. She made her way to a blackjack table where a dealer patiently explained the rules. When her forty dollars of chips were gone, she glanced at her watch and saw two hours had flown by and she needed to hurry home to pick up her youngest daughter. That night at dinner, for the first time in a month, she had something to talk about besides outguessing a contestant on The Price Is Right.
Angie Bachmann’s father was a truck driver who had remade himself, midlife, into a semi-famous songwriter. Her brother had become a songwriter, too, and had won awards. Bachmann, on the other hand, was often introduced by her parents as “the one who became a mom.”
“I always felt like the untalented one,” she told me. “I think I’m smart, and I know I was a good mom. But there wasn’t a lot I could point to and say, that’s why I’m special.”
After that first trip to the casino, Bachmann started going to the riverboat once a week, on Friday afternoons. It was a reward for making it through empty days, keeping the house clean, staying sane. She knew gambling could lead to trouble, so she set strict rules for herself. No more than one hour at the blackjack table per trip, and she only gambled what was in her wallet. “I considered it kind of like a job,” she told me. “I never left the house before noon, and I was always home in time to pick up my daughter. I was very disciplined.”
And she got good. At first, she could hardly make her money last an hour. Within six months, however, she had picked up enough tricks that she adjusted her rules to allow for two-or three-hour shifts, and she would still have cash in her pocket when she walked away. One afternoon, she sat down at the blackjack table with $80 in her purse and left with $530—enough to buy groceries, pay the phone bill, and put a bit in the rainy day fund. By then, the company that owned the casino—Harrah’s Entertainment—was sending her coupons for free buffets. She would treat the family to dinner on Saturday nights.
The state where Bachmann was gambling, Iowa, had legalized gambling only a few years earlier. Prior to 1989, the state’s lawmakers worried that the temptations of cards and dice might be difficult for some citizens to resist. It was a concern as old as the nation itself. Gambling “is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief,” George Washington wrote in 1783. “This is a vice which is productive of every possible evil.… In a word, few gain by this abominable practice, while thousands are injured.” Protecting people from their bad habits—in fact, defining which habits should be considered “bad” in the first place—is a prerogative lawmakers have eagerly seized. Prostitution, gambling, liquor sales on the Sabbath, pornography, usurious loans, sexual relations outside of marriage (or, if your tastes are unusual, within marriage), are all habits that various legislatures have regulated, outlawed, or tried to discourage with strict (and often ineffective) laws.
When Iowa legalized casinos, lawmakers were sufficiently concerned that they limited the activity to riverboats and mandated that no one could wager more than $5 per bet, with a maximum loss of $200 per person per cruise. Within a few years, however, after some of the state’s casinos moved to Mississippi where no-limit gaming was allowed, the Iowa legislature lifted those restrictions. In 2010, the state’s coffers swelled by more than $269 million from taxes on gambling.
In 2000, Angie Bachmann’s parents, both longtime smokers, started showing signs of lung disease. She began flying to Tennessee to see them every other week, buying groceries and helping to cook dinner. When she came back home to her husband and daughters, the stretches seemed even lonelier now. Sometimes, the house was empty all day long; it was as if, in her absence, her friends had forgotten to invite her to things and her family had figured out how to get by on their own.
Bachmann was worried about her parents, upset that her husband seemed more interested in his work than her anxieties, and resentful of her kids who didn’t realize she needed them now, after all the sacrifices she had made while they were growing up. But whenever she hit the casino, those tensions would float away. She started going a couple times a week when she wasn’t visiting her parents, and then every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She still had rules—but she’d been gambling for years by now, and knew the axioms that serious players lived by. She never put down less than $25 a hand and always played two hands at once. “You have better odds at a higher limit table than at a lower limit table,” she told me. “You have to be able to play through the rough patches until your luck turns. I’ve seen people walk in with $150 and win $10,000. I knew I could do this if I followed my rules. I was in control.” 1 By then, she didn’t have to think about whether to take another card or double her bet—she acted automatically, just as Eugene Pauly, the amnesiac, had eventually learned to always choose the right cardboard rectangle.
One day in 2000, Bachmann went home from the casino with $6,000—enough to pay rent for two months and wipe out the credit card bills that were piling up by the front door. Another time, she walked away with $2,000. Sometimes she lost, but that was part of the game. Smart gamblers knew you had to go down to go up. Eventually, Harrah’s gave her a line of credit so she wouldn’t have to carry so much cash. Other players sought her out and sat at her table because she knew what she was doing. At the buffet, the hosts would let her go to the front of the line. “I know how to play,” she told me. “I know that sounds like somebody who’s got a problem not recognizing their problem, but the only mistake I made was not quitting. There wasn’t anything wrong with how I played. ”
Bachmann’s rules gradually became more flexible as the size of her winnings and losses expanded. One day, she lost $800 in an hour, and then earned $1,200 in forty minutes. Then her luck turned again and she walked away down $4,000. Another time, she lost $3,500 in the morning, earned $5,000 by 1 p.m., and lost another $3,000 in the afternoon. The casino had records of how much she owed and what she’d earned; she’d stopped keeping track herself. Then, one month, she didn’t have enough in her bank account for the electricity bill. She asked her parents for a small loan, and then another. She borrowed $2,000 one month, $2,500 the next. It wasn’t a big deal; they had the money.
Bachmann never had problems with drinking or drugs or overeating. She was a normal mom, with the same highs and lows as everyone else. So the compulsion she felt to gamble—the insistent pull that made her feel distracted or irritable on days when she didn’t visit the casino, the way she found herself thinking about it all the time, the rush she felt on a good run—caught her completely off guard. It was a new sensation, so unexpected that she hardly knew it was a problem until it had taken hold of her life. In retrospect, it seemed like there had been no dividing line. One day it was fun, and the next it was uncontrollable.
By 2001, she was going to the casino every day. She went whenever she fought with her husband or felt unappreciated by her kids. At the tables she was numb and excited, all at once, and her anxieties grew so faint she couldn’t hear them anymore. The high of winning was so immediate. The pain of losing passed so fast.
“You want to be a big shot,” her mother told her when Bachmann called to borrow more money. “You keep gambling because you want the attention.”
That wasn’t it, though. “I just wanted to feel good at something,” she said to me. “This was the only thing I’d ever done where it seemed like I had a skill.”
By the summer of 2001, Bachmann’s debts to Harrah’s hit $20,000. She had been keeping the losses secret from her husband, but when her mother finally cut off the stipends, she broke down and confessed. They hired a bankruptcy attorney, cut up her credit cards, and sat at the kitchen table to write out a plan for a more austere, responsible life. She took her dresses to a used clothing store and withstood the humiliation of a nineteen-year-old turning down almost all of them because, she said, they were out of style.
Eventually, it started to feel like the worst was over. Finally, she thought, the compulsion was gone.
But, of course, it wasn’t even close to the end. Years later, after she had lost everything and had ruined her life and her husband’s, after she had thrown away hundreds of thousands of dollars and her lawyer had argued before the state’s highest court that Angie Bachmann gambled not by choice, but out of habit, and thus shouldn’t bear culpability for her losses, after she had become an object of scorn on the Internet, where people compared her to Jeffrey Dahmer and parents who abuse their kids, she would wonder: How much responsibility do I actually bear?
“I honestly believe anyone in my shoes would have done the same things,” Bachmann told me.
1. Match Your B-Roll’s Mood to That of the Entire Video
You probably have an idea of how you’d like your final film, and certain key sequences within it, to turn out. Use that aesthetic as a guide when you start planning b-roll, but don’t confine yourself to it entirely.
Is there a scene full of high-energy action? Try for dynamic, quick-cutting shots. Are you trying to emphasize and prolong a single moment in time? Search for dramatic, languid footage that can drive your story forward. Whether the mood is somber, peppy, or hopeful, look for b-roll that supplements the overall feeling.
2. Let Your Subject Guide You
If interviews are a key component to your film, listen carefully to what the subjects are telling you. Then, make it your job to illustrate those key points. Does he mention a specific location? Recall a memory? Describe a movement or feeling? Find a way to reveal these to the viewer with b-roll. That way, you won’t have to rely on someone’s words to paint the full picture.
3. Try a Different Perspective
Varying the angle of your shots can add an unexpected twist to your final product. Try shooting really, really high for a bird’s-eye view. Then crouch low on the ground and shoot upwards — you might just find that your surroundings take on new character from an unfamiliar viewpoint.
4. Don’t Stop Rolling
It’s frustrating when you’ve stopped recording, only to witness a fleeting moment that would have worked perfectly on camera. To ensure you’re getting the most of every frame, keep rolling well past the time you think you need to. As noted by this Transom how-to, it’s better to capture an unforgettable shot with imperfect settings, which you can try to fix later, than to miss it completely (or even worse, capture an unusable shot where you’re fumbling to adjust the white balance or ISO).
5. Capture the Extremes
Get as close and as far as you can from your narrative and subjects — literally. Try super-tight shots that almost render certain details indecipherable, then try sweeping, wide-angle shots that encapsulate an entire location.
Try to capture an interviewee in the minutes before or after speaking, when his expression is more neutral or unguarded. This gives the audience a way to see the subject beyond what is said straight to the camera.
Likewise, let your shots linger a few seconds longer than you think you need to, especially before or after any significant action. You might capture exciting material that you weren’t initially expecting.
7. Utilize Blur to Add Emphasis
Keep an eye out for interesting, detailed backgrounds so that you can switch up your depth of field; focus on your subject when he’s talking, then adjust the blur so that you can instead focus on what’s happening behind him. Even the process of adjusting the focus, moving from a wisp of fuzziness to razor-sharp definition, can make for an interesting transition to add to your cache of b-roll.
8. Don’t Forget Sound
While visuals are a major piece of the puzzle, sound is also crucial to making your film feel whole. Observe the natural sounds of your shooting environment and take a moment to record them, as well as their source. Organic audio can add a welcome interruption to a stream of constant dialogue.
9. Use Movement
B-roll doesn’t have to be stilted. Take the time to mix up how you’re moving your camera; try panning into a room while your subjects remain still, or following as they walk in and out of locations. Moving the camera in unusual ways can effectively transition between bits of audio.
10. Take Risks
Even if you don’t think something will work, try it anyway. B-roll is your time to experiment and add creative flair the way your main footage can’t. Try out the odd angle you’ve always thought about, test the interesting pan you think could work, or even use it as a time to test out new lenses or equipment. It’s better to be left with too much footage when you hit the editing room than not enough.
No matter what route you take, shooting b-roll is an opportunity to prove your knack for unique storytelling. If you find yourself in a time crunch or without the resources to capture your own b-roll, stock video can also help add variety to your finished project.
In the summer of 1979, a young seminary student who was white, had been one year old when Rosa Parks was arrested, and was currently focused mostly on how he was going to support his growing family, posted a map on the wall of his Texas home and began drawing circles around major U.S. cities, from Seattle to Miami.
Rick Warren was a Baptist pastor with a pregnant wife and less than $2,000 in the bank. He wanted to start a new congregation among people who didn’t already attend church, but he had no idea where it should be located. “I figured I would go somewhere all my seminary friends didn’t want to go,” he told me. He spent the summer in libraries studying census records, phone books, newspaper articles, and maps. His wife was in her ninth month, and so every few hours Warren would jog to a pay phone, call home to make sure she hadn’t started labor yet, and then return to the stacks.
One afternoon, Warren stumbled upon a description of a place called Saddleback Valley in Orange County, California. The book Warren was reading said it was the fastest-growing region in the fastestgrowing county in one of the fastest-growing states in America. There were a number of churches in the area, but none large enough to accommodate the quickly expanding population. Intrigued, Warren contacted religious leaders in Southern California who told him that many locals self-identified as Christian but didn’t attend services. “In the dusty, dimly lit basement of that university library, I heard God speak to me: ‘That’s where I want you to plant a church!’ ” Warren later wrote. “From that moment on, our destination was a settled issue.”
Warren’s focus on building a congregation among the unchurched had begun five years earlier, when, as a missionary in Japan, he had discovered an old copy of a Christian magazine with an article headlined “Why Is This Man Dangerous?” It was about Donald McGavran, a controversial author focused on building churches in nations where most people hadn’t accepted Christ. At the center of McGavran’s philosophy was an admonition that missionaries should imitate the tactics of other successful movements—including the civil rights campaign—by appealing to people’s social habits. “The steady goal must be the Christianization of the entire fabric which is the people, or large enough parts of it that the social life of the individual is not destroyed,” McGavran had written in one of his books. Only the evangelist who helps people “to become followers of Christ in their normal social relationship has any chance of liberating multitudes.”
That article—and, later, McGavran’s books—were a revelation to Rick Warren. Here, finally, was someone applying a rational logic to a topic that was usually couched in the language of miracles. Here was someone who understood that religion had to be, for lack of a better word, marketed.
McGavran laid out a strategy that instructed church builders to speak to people in their “own languages,” to create places of worship where congregants saw their friends, heard the kinds of music they already listened to, and experienced the Bible’s lessons in digestible metaphors. Most important, McGavran said, ministers needed to convert groups of people, rather than individuals, so that a community’s social habits would encourage religious participation, rather than pulling people away.
In December, after graduating from seminary and having the baby, Warren loaded his family and belongings into a U-Haul, drove to Orange County, and rented a small condo. His first prayer group attracted all of seven people and took place in his living room.
Today, thirty years later, Saddleback Church is one of the largest ministries in the world, with more than twenty thousand parishioners visiting its 120-acre campus—and eight satellite campuses—each week. One of Warren’s books, The Purpose-Driven Life, has sold thirty million copies, making it among the biggest sellers in history. There are thousands of other churches modeled on his methods. Warren was chosen to perform the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration, and is considered one of the most influential religious leaders on earth.
And at the core of his church’s growth and his success is a fundamental belief in the power of social habits.
“We’ve thought long and hard about habitualizing faith, breaking it down into pieces,” Warren told me. “If you try to scare people into following Christ’s example, it’s not going to work for too long. The only way you get people to take responsibility for their spiritual maturity is to teach them habits of faith.
“Once that happens, they become self-feeders. People follow Christ not because you’ve led them there, but because it’s who they are.”
When Warren first arrived in Saddleback Valley, he spent twelve weeks going door-to-door, introducing himself and asking strangers why they didn’t go to church. Many of the answers were practical—it was boring, people said, the music was bad, the sermons didn’t seem applicable to their lives, they needed child care, they hated dressing up, the pews were uncomfortable.
Warren’s church would address each of those complaints. He told people to wear shorts and Hawaiian shirts, if they felt like it. An electric guitar was brought in. Warren’s sermons, from the start, focused on practical topics, with titles such as “How to Handle Discouragement,” “How to Feel Good About Yourself,” “How to Raise Healthy Families,” and “How to Survive Under Stress.” His lessons were easy to understand, focused on real, daily problems, and could be applied as soon as parishioners left church.
It started to work. Warren rented school auditoriums for services and office buildings for prayer meetings. The congregation hit fifty members, then one hundred, then two hundred in less than a year. Warren was working eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, answering congregants’ phone calls, leading classes, coming to their homes to offer marriage counseling, and, in his spare time, always looking for new venues to accommodate the church’s growing size.
One Sunday in mid-December, Warren stood up to preach during the eleven o’clock service. He felt light-headed, dizzy. He gripped the podium and started to speak, but the words on the page were blurry. He began to fall, caught himself, and motioned to the assistant pastor—his only staff—to take the lectern.
“I’m sorry, folks,” Warren told the audience. “I’m going to have to sit down.”
For years, he had suffered from anxiety attacks and occasional bouts of melancholy that friends told him sounded like mild depressions. But it had never hit this bad before. The next day, Warren and his family began driving to Arizona, where his wife’s family had a house. Slowly, he recuperated. Some days, he would sleep for twelve hours and then take a walk through the desert, praying, trying to understand why these panic attacks were threatening to undo everything he had worked so hard to build. Nearly a month passed as he stayed away from the church. His melancholy became a full-fledged depression, darker than anything he had experienced before. He wasn’t certain if he would ever become healthy enough to return.
Warren, as befitting a pastor, is a man prone to epiphanies. They had occurred when he found the magazine article about McGavran, and in the library in Texas. Walking through the desert, another one struck.
“You focus on building people,” the Lord told him. “And I will build the church.”
Unlike some of his previous revelations, however, this one didn’t suddenly make the path clear. Warren would continue to struggle with depression for months—and then during periods throughout his life. On that day, however, he made two decisions: He would go back to Saddleback, and he would figure out how to make running the church less work.
When Warren returned to Saddleback, he decided to expand a small experiment he had started a few months earlier that, he hoped, would make it easier to manage the church. He was never certain he would have enough classrooms to accommodate everyone who showed up for Bible study, so he had asked a few church members to host classes inside their homes. He worried that people might complain about going to someone’s house, rather than a proper church classroom. But congregants loved it, they said. The small groups gave them a chance to meet their neighbors. So, after he returned from his leave, Warren assigned every Saddleback member to a small group that met every week. It was one of the most important decisions he ever made, because it transformed church participation from a decision into a habit that drew on already-existing social urges and patterns.
“Now, when people come to Saddleback and see the giant crowds on the weekends, they think that’s our success,” Warren told me. “But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ninety-five percent of this church is what happens during the week inside those small groups.
“The congregation and the small groups are like a one-two punch. You have this big crowd to remind you why you’re doing this in the first place, and a small group of close friends to help you focus on how to be faithful. Together, they’re like glue. We have over five thousand small groups now. It’s the only thing that makes a church this size manageable. Otherwise, I’d work myself to death, and 95 percent of the congregation would never receive the attention they came here looking for.”
Without realizing it, Warren, in some ways, has replicated the structure that propelled the Montgomery bus boycott—though he has done it in reverse. That boycott started among people who knew Rosa Parks, and became a mass protest when the weak ties of the community compelled participation. At Saddleback Church, it works the other way around. People are attracted by a sense of community and the weak ties that a congregation offers. Then once inside, they’re pushed into a small group of neighbors—a petri dish, if you will, for growing close ties—where their faith becomes an aspect of their social experience and daily lives.
Creating small groups, however, isn’t enough. When Warren asked people what they discussed in one another’s living rooms, he discovered they talked about the Bible and prayed together for ten minutes, and then spent the rest of the time discussing kids or gossiping. Warren’s goal, however, wasn’t just to help people make new friends. It was to build a community of the faithful, to encourage people to accept the lessons of Christ, and to make faith a focus of their lives. His small groups had created tight bonds, but without leadership, they weren’t much more than a coffee circle. They weren’t fulfilling his religious expectations.
Warren thought back to McGavran, the author. McGavran’s philosophy said that if you teach people to live with Christian habits, they’ll act as Christians without requiring constant guidance and monitoring. Warren couldn’t lead every single small group in person; he couldn’t be there to make sure every conversation focused on Christ instead of the latest TV shows. But if he gave people new habits, he figured, he wouldn’t need to. When people gathered, their instincts would be to discuss the Bible, to pray together, to embody their faith.
So Warren created a series of curriculums, used in church classes and small group discussions, which were explicitly designed to teach parishioners new habits.
“If you want to have Christ-like character, then you just develop the habits that Christ had,” one of Saddleback’s course manuals reads. “All of us are simply a bundle of habits.… Our goal is to help you replace some bad habits with some good habits that will help you grow in Christ’s likeness.” Every Saddleback member is asked to sign a “maturity covenant card” promising to adhere to three habits: daily quiet time for reflection and prayer, tithing 10 percent of their income, and membership in a small group. Giving everyone new habits has become a focus of the church.
“Once we do that, the responsibility for spiritual growth is no longer with me, it’s with you. We’ve given you a recipe,” Warren told me. “We don’t have to guide you, because you’re guiding yourself. These habits become a new self-identity, and, at that point, we just need to support you and get out of your way.”
Warren’s insight was that he could expand his church the same way Martin Luther King grew the boycott: by relying on the combination of strong and weak ties. Transforming his church into a movement, however—scaling it across twenty thousand parishioners and thousands of other pastors—required something more, something that made it self-perpetuating. Warren needed to teach people habits that caused them to live faithfully not because of their ties, but because it’s who they are.
This is the third aspect of how social habits drive movements: For an idea to grow beyond a community, it must become self-propelling. And the surest way to achieve that is to give people new habits that help them figure out where to go on their own.
As the bus boycott expanded from a few days into a week, and then a month, and then two months, the commitment of Montgomery’s black community began to wane.
The police commissioner, citing an ordinance that required taxicabs to charge a minimum fare, threatened to arrest cabbies who drove blacks to work at a discount. The boycott’s leaders responded by signing up two hundred volunteers to participate in a carpool. Police started issuing tickets and harassing people at carpool meeting spots. Drivers began dropping out. “It became more and more difficult to catch a ride,” King later wrote. “Complaints began to rise. From early morning to late at night my telephone rang and my doorbell was seldom silent. I began to have doubts about the ability of the Negro community to continue the struggle.”
One night, while King was preaching at his church, an usher ran up with an urgent message. A bomb had exploded at King’s house while his wife and infant daughter were inside. King rushed home and was greeted by a crowd of several hundred blacks as well as the mayor and chief of police. His family had not been injured, but the front windows of his home were shattered and there was a crater in his porch. If anyone had been in the front rooms of the house when the bomb went off, they could have been killed.
As King surveyed the damage, more and more blacks arrived. Policemen started telling the crowds to disperse. Someone shoved a cop. A bottle flew through the air. One of the policemen swung a baton. The police chief, who months earlier had publicly declared his support for the racist White Citizens’ Council, pulled King aside and asked him to do something—anything—to stop a riot from breaking out.
King walked to his porch.
“Don’t do anything panicky,” he shouted to the crowd. “Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.”
The crowd grew still.
“We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us,” King said. “We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’ ”
It was the message of nonviolence that King had been increasingly preaching for weeks. Its theme, which drew on the writings of Gandhi and Jesus’s sermons, was in many ways an argument listeners hadn’t heard in this context before, a plea for nonviolent activism, overwhelming love and forgiveness of their attackers, and a promise that it would bring victory. For years, the civil rights movement had been kept alive by couching itself in the language of battles and struggles. There were contests and setbacks, triumphs and defeats that required everyone to recommit to the fight.
King gave people a new lens. This wasn’t a war, he said. It was an embrace.
Equally important, King cast the boycott in a new and different light. This was not just about equality on buses, King said; it was part of God’s plan, the same destiny that had ended British colonialism in India and slavery in the United States, and that had caused Christ to die on the cross so that he could take away our sins. It was the newest stage in a movement that had started centuries earlier. And as such, it required new responses, different strategies and behaviors. It needed participants to offer the other cheek. People could show their allegiance by adopting the new habits King was evangelizing about.
“We must meet hate with love,” King told the crowd the night of the bombing. “If I am stopped, our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us.”
When King was done speaking, the crowd quietly walked home.
“If it hadn’t been for that nigger preacher,” one white policeman later said, “we’d all be dead.”
The next week, two dozen new drivers signed up for the car-pool. The phone calls to King’s home slowed. People began self-organizing, taking leadership of the boycott, propelling the movement. When more bombs exploded on the lawns of other boycott organizers, the same pattern played out. Montgomery’s blacks showed up en masse, bore witness without violence or confrontation, and then went home.
It wasn’t just in response to violence that this self-directed unity became visible. The churches started holding mass meetings every week—sometimes every night. “They were kind of like Dr. King’s speech after the bombing—they took Christian teachings and made them political,” Taylor Branch told me. “A movement is a saga. For it to work, everyone’s identity has to change. People in Montgomery had to learn a new way to act.”
Much like Alcoholics Anonymous—which draws power from group meetings where addicts learn new habits and start to believe by watching others demonstrate their faith—so Montgomery’s citizens learned in mass meetings new behaviors that expanded the movement. “People went to see how other people were handling it,” said Branch. “You start to see yourself as part of a vast social enterprise, and after a while, you really believe you are.”
When the Montgomery police resorted to mass arrests to stop the boycott three months after it started, the community embraced the oppression. When ninety people were indicted by a grand jury, almost all of them rushed to the courthouse to present themselves for arrest. Some people went to the sheriff’s office to see if their names were on the list and were “disappointed when they were not,” King later wrote. “A once fear-ridden people had been transformed.”
In future years, as the movement spread and there were waves of killings and attacks, arrests and beatings, the protesters—rather than fighting back, retreating, or using tactics that in the years before Montgomery had been activist mainstays—simply stood their ground and told white vigilantes that they were ready to forgive them when their hatred had ceased.
“Instead of stopping the movement, the opposition’s tactics had only served to give it greater momentum, and to draw us closer together,” King wrote. “They thought they were dealing with a group who could be cajoled or forced to do whatever the white man wanted them to do. They were not aware that they were dealing with Negroes who had been freed from fear.”
There are, of course, numerous and complex reasons why the Montgomery bus boycott succeeded and why it became the spark for a movement that would spread across the South. But one critical factor is this third aspect of social habits. Embedded within King’s philosophy was a set of new behaviors that converted participants from followers into self-directing leaders. These are not habits as we conventionally think about them. However, when King recast Montgomery’s struggle by giving protesters a new sense of self-identity, the protest became a movement fueled by people who were acting because they had taken ownership of a historic event. And that social pattern, over time, became automatic and expanded to other places and groups of students and protesters whom King never met, but who could take on leadership of the movement simply by watching how its participants habitually behaved.
On June 5, 1956, a panel of federal judges ruled that Montgomery’s bus segregation law violated the Constitution. The city appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and on December 17, more than a year after Parks was arrested, the highest court rejected the final appeal. Three days later, city officials received the order: The buses had to be integrated.
The next morning, at 5:55 A.M., King, E. D. Nixon, Ralph Abernathy, and others climbed on board a city bus for the first time in more than twelve months, and sat in the front.
“I believe you are Reverend King, aren’t you?” asked the white driver.
“Yes, I am.”
“We are very glad to have you this morning,” the driver said.
Later, NAACP attorney and future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall would claim that the boycott had little to do with ending bus segregation in Montgomery. It was the Supreme Court, not capitulation by either side, that changed the law.
“All that walking for nothing,” Marshall said. “They could just as well have waited while the bus case went up through the courts, without all the work and worry of the boycott.”
Marshall, however, was wrong in one important respect. The Montgomery bus boycott helped birth a new set of social habits that quickly spread to Greensboro, North Carolina; Selma, Alabama; and Little Rock, Arkansas. The civil rights movement became a wave of sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations, even as participants were violently beaten. By the early 1960s, it had moved to Florida, California, Washington, D.C., and the halls of Congress. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which outlawed all forms of segregation as well as discrimination against minorities and women—he equated the civil rights activists to the nation’s founders, a comparison that, a decade earlier, would have been political suicide. “One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week, a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom,” he told television cameras. “Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders.”
Movements don’t emerge because everyone suddenly decides to face the same direction at once. They rely on social patterns that begin as the habits of friendship, grow through the habits of communities, and are sustained by new habits that change participants’ sense of self.
King saw the power of these habits as early as Montgomery. “I cannot close without giving just a word of caution,” he told a packed church on the night he called off the boycott. There was still almost a decade of protest ahead of him, but the end was in sight. “As we go back to the buses let us be loving enough to turn an enemy into a friend. We must now move from protest to reconciliation..… With this dedication we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.”
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re an established midlevel executive at a prosperous company. You’re successful and well liked. You’ve spent years building a reputation inside your firm and cultivating a network of friends that you can tap for clients, advice, and industry gossip. You belong to a church, a gym, and a country club, as well as the local chapter of your college alumni association. You’re respected and often asked to join various committees. When people within your community hear of a business opportunity, they often pass it your way.
Now imagine you get a phone call. It’s a midlevel executive at another company looking for a new job. Will you help him by putting in a good word with your boss, he asks?
If the person on the telephone is a total stranger, it’s an easy decision. Why risk your standing inside your firm helping someone you don’t know?
If the person on the phone is a close friend, on the other hand, it’s also an easy choice. Of course you’ll help. That’s what friends do.
However, what if the person on the phone isn’t a good friend or a stranger, but something in between? What if you have friends in common, but don’t know each other very well? Do you vouch for the caller when your boss asks if he’s worth an interview? How much of your own reputation and energy, in other words, are you willing to expend to help a friend of a friend get a job?
In the late 1960s, a Harvard PhD student named Mark Granovetter set out to answer that question by studying how 282 men had found their current employment. He tracked how they had learned about open positions, whom they had called for referrals, the methods they used to land interviews, and most important, who had provided a helping hand. As expected, he found that when job hunters approached strangers for assistance, they were rejected. When they appealed to friends, help was provided.
More surprising, however, was how often job hunters also received help from casual acquaintances—friends of friends—people who were neither strangers nor close pals. Granovetter called those connections “weak ties,” because they represented the links that connect people who have acquaintances in common, who share membership in social networks, but aren’t directly connected by the strong ties of friendship themselves.
In fact, in landing a job, Granovetter discovered, weak-tie acquaintances were often more important than strong-tie friends because weak ties give us access to social networks where we don’t otherwise belong. Many of the people Granovetter studied had learned about new job opportunities through weak ties, rather than from close friends, which makes sense because we talk to our closest friends all the time, or work alongside them or read the same blogs. By the time they have heard about a new opportunity, we probably know about it, as well. On the other hand, our weak-tie acquaintances—the people we bump into every six months—are the ones who tell us about jobs we would otherwise never hear about.
When sociologists have examined how opinions move through communities, how gossip spreads or political movements start, they’ve discovered a common pattern: Our weak-tie acquaintances are often as influential—if not more—than our close-tie friends. As Granovetter wrote, “Individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends. This deprivation will not only insulate them from the latest ideas and fashions but may put them in a disadvantaged position in the labor market, where advancement can depend … on knowing about appropriate job openings at just the right time.
“Furthermore, such individuals may be difficult to organize or integrate into political movements of any kind.… While members of one or two cliques may be efficiently recruited, the problem is that, without weak ties, any momentum generated in this way does not spread beyond the clique. As a result, most of the population will be untouched.”
The power of weak ties helps explain how a protest can expand from a group of friends into a broad social movement. Convincing thousands of people to pursue the same goal—especially when that pursuit entails real hardship, such as walking to work rather than taking the bus, or going to jail, or even skipping a morning cup of coffee because the company that sells it doesn’t support organic farming—is hard. Most people don’t care enough about the latest outrage to give up their bus ride or caffeine unless it’s a close friend that has been insulted or jailed. So there is a tool that activists have long relied upon to compel protest, even when a group of people don’t necessarily want to participate. It’s a form of persuasion that has been remarkably effective over hundreds of years. It’s the sense of obligation that neighborhoods or communities place upon themselves.
In other words, peer pressure.
Peer pressure—and the social habits that encourage people to conform to group expectations—is difficult to describe, because it often differs in form and expression from person to person. These social habits aren’t so much one consistent pattern as dozens of individual habits that ultimately cause everyone to move in the same direction.
The habits of peer pressure, however, have something in common. They often spread through weak ties. And they gain their authority through communal expectations. If you ignore the social obligations of your neighborhood, if you shrug off the expected patterns of your community, you risk losing your social standing. You endanger your access to many of the social benefits that come from joining the country club, the alumni association, or the church in the first place.
n other words, if you don’t give the caller looking for a job a helping hand, he might complain to his tennis partner, who might mention those grumblings to someone in the locker room who you were hoping to attract as a client, who is now less likely to return your call because you have a reputation for not being a team player. On a playground, peer pressure is dangerous. In adult life, it’s how business gets done and communities self-organize.
Such peer pressure, on its own, isn’t enough to sustain a movement. But when the strong ties of friendship and the weak ties of peer pressure merge, they create incredible momentum. That’s when widespread social change can begin.
To see how the combination of strong and weak ties can propel a movement, fast forward to nine years after Rosa Parks’s arrest, when hundreds of young people volunteered to expose themselves to deadly risks for the civil rights crusade.
In 1964, students from across the country—many of them whites from Harvard, Yale, and other northern universities—applied for something called the “Mississippi Summer Project.” It was a ten-week program devoted to registering black voters in the South. The project came to be known as Freedom Summer, and many who applied were aware it would be dangerous. In the months before the program started, newspapers and magazines were filled with articles predicting violence (which proved tragically accurate when, just a week after it began, white vigilantes killed three volunteers outside Longdale, Mississippi). The threat of harm kept many students from participating in the Mississippi Summer Project, even after they applied. More than a thousand applicants were accepted into Freedom Summer, but when it came time to head south in June, more than three hundred of those invited to participate decided to stay home.
In the 1980s, a sociologist at the University of Arizona named Doug McAdam began wondering if it was possible to figure out why some people had participated in Freedom Summer and others withdrew. 8.18 He started by reading 720 of the applications students had submitted decades earlier. Each was five pages long. Applicants were asked about their backgrounds, why they wanted to go to Mississippi, and their experiences with voter registration. They were told to provide a list of people organizers should contact if they were arrested. There were essays, references, and, for some, interviews. Applying was not a casual undertaking.
McAdam’s initial hypothesis was that students who ended up going to Mississippi probably had different motivations from those who stayed home, which explained the divergence in participation. To test this idea, he divided applicants into two groups. The first pile were people who said they wanted to go to Mississippi for “self-interested” motives, such as to “test myself,” to “be where the action is,” or to “learn about the southern way of life.” The second group were those with “other-oriented” motives, such as to “improve the lot of blacks,” to “aid in the full realization of democracy,” or to “demonstrate the power of nonviolence as a vehicle for social change.”
The self-centered, McAdam hypothesized, would be more likely to stay home once they realized the risks of Freedom Summer. The other-oriented would be more likely to get on the bus.
The hypothesis was wrong.
The selfish and the selfless, according to the data, went South in equal numbers. Differences in motives did not explain “any significant distinctions between participants and withdrawals,” McAdam wrote.
Next, McAdam compared applicants’ opportunity costs. Maybe those who stayed home had husbands or girlfriends keeping them from going to Mississippi? Maybe they had gotten jobs, and couldn’t swing a two-month unpaid break?
“Being married or holding a full-time job actually enhanced the applicant’s chances of going south,” McAdam concluded.
He had one hypothesis left. Each applicant was asked to list their memberships in student and political organizations and at least ten people they wanted kept informed of their summer activities, so McAdam took these lists and used them to chart each applicant’s social network. By comparing memberships in clubs, he was able to determine which applicants had friends who also applied for Freedom Summer.
Once he finished, he finally had an answer as to why some students went to Mississippi, and others stayed home: because of social habits—or more specifically, because of the power of strong and weak ties working in tandem. The students who participated in Freedom Summer were enmeshed in the types of communities where both their close friends and their casual acquaintances expected them to get on the bus. Those who withdrew were also enmeshed in communities, but of a different kind—the kind where the social pressures and habits didn’t compel them to go to Mississippi.
“Imagine you’re one of the students who applied,” McAdam told me. “On the day you signed up for Freedom Summer, you filled out the application with five of your closest friends and you were all feeling really motivated.
“Now, it’s six months later and departure day is almost here. All the magazines are predicting violence in Mississippi. You called your parents, and they told you to stay at home. It would be strange, at that point, if you weren’t having second thoughts.
“Then, you’re walking across campus and you see a bunch of people from your church group, and they say, ‘We’re coordinating rides—when should we pick you up?’ These people aren’t your closest friends, but you see them at club meetings and in the dorm, and they’re important within your social community. They all know you’ve been accepted to Freedom Summer, and that you’ve said you want to go. Good luck pulling out at that point. You’d lose a huge amount of social standing. Even if you’re having second thoughts, there’s real consequences if you withdraw. You’ll lose the respect of people whose opinions matter to you.”
When McAdam looked at applicants with religious orientations—students who cited a “Christian duty to help those in need” as their motivation for applying, for instance, he found mixed levels of participation. However, among those applicants who mentioned a religious orientation and belonged to a religious organization, McAdam found that every single one made the trip to Mississippi. Once their communities knew they had been accepted into Freedom Summer, it was impossible for them to withdraw.
On the other hand, consider the social networks of applicants who were accepted into the program but didn’t go to Mississippi. They, too, were involved in campus organizations. They, too, belonged to clubs and cared about their standing within those communities. But the organizations they belonged to— the newspaper and student government, academic groups and fraternities—had different expectations. Within those communities, someone could withdraw from Freedom Summer and suffer little or no decline in the prevailing social hierarchy.
When faced with the prospect of getting arrested (or worse) in Mississippi, most students probably had second thoughts. However, some were embedded in communities where social habits—the expectations of their friends and the peer pressure of their acquaintances—compelled participation, so regardless of their hesitations, they bought a bus ticket. Others—who also cared about civil rights—belonged to communities where the social habits pointed in a slightly different direction, so they thought to themselves, Maybe I’ll just stay home.
On the morning after he bailed Rosa Parks out of jail, E. D. Nixon placed a call to the new minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a little after 5 A.M., but Nixon didn’t say hello or ask if he had awoken King’s two-week-old daughter when the minister answered—he just launched into an account of Parks’s arrest, how she had been hauled into jail for refusing to give up her seat, and their plans to fight her case in court and boycott the city’s buses on Monday.At the time, King was twenty-six years old. He had been in Montgomery for only a year and was still trying to figure out his role within the community. Nixon was asking for King’s endorsement as well as permission to use his church for a boycott meeting that night. King was wary of getting too deeply involved. “Brother Nixon,” he said, “let me think about it and you call me back.”
But Nixon didn’t stop there. He reached out to one of King’s closest friends—one of the strongest of King’s strong ties—named Ralph D. Abernathy, and asked him to help convince the young minister to participate. A few hours later, Nixon called King again.
“I’ll go along with it,” King told him.
“I’m glad to hear you say so,” Nixon said, “because I’ve talked to eighteen other people and told them to meet in your church tonight. It would have been kind of bad to be getting together there without you.” Soon, King was drafted into serving as president of the organization that had sprung up to coordinate the boycott.
On Sunday, three days after Parks’s arrest, the city’s black ministers—after speaking to King and other members of the new organization—explained to their congregations that every black church in the city had agreed to a one-day protest. The message was clear: It would be embarrassing for any parishioner to sit on the sidelines. That same day, the town’s newspaper, the Advertiser, contained an article about “a ‘top secret’ meeting of Montgomery Negroes who plan a boycott of city buses Monday.” The reporter had gotten copies of flyers that white women had taken from their maids. The black parts of the city were “flooded with thousands of copies” of the leaflets, the article explained, and it was anticipated that every black citizen would participate. When the article was written, only Parks’s friends, the ministers, and the boycott organizers had publicly committed to the protest —but once the city’s black residents read the newspaper, they assumed, like white readers, that everyone else was already on board.
Many people sitting in the pews and reading the newspapers knew Rosa Parks personally and were willing to boycott because of their friendships with her. Others didn’t know Parks, but they could sense the community was rallying behind her cause, and that if they were seen riding a bus on Monday, it would look bad. “If you work,” read a flyer handed out in churches, “take a cab, or share a ride, or walk.” Then everyone heard that the boycott’s leaders had convinced—or strong-armed—all the black taxi drivers into agreeing to carry black passengers on Monday for ten cents a ride, the same as a bus fare. The community’s weak ties were drawing everyone together. At that point, you were either with the boycott or against it.
On the Monday morning of the boycott, King woke before dawn and got his coffee. His wife, Coretta, sat at the front window and waited for the first bus to pass. She shouted when she saw the headlights of the South Jackson line, normally filled with maids on their way to work, roll by with no passengers. The next bus was empty as well. And the one that came after. King got into his car and started driving around, checking other routes. In an hour, he counted eight black passengers. One week earlier, he would have seen hundreds.
“I was jubilant,” he later wrote. “A miracle had taken place.… Men were seen riding mules to work, and more than one horse-drawn buggy drove the streets of Montgomery.… Spectators had gathered at the bus stops to watch what was happening. At first, they stood quietly, but as the day progressed they began to cheer the empty buses and laugh and make jokes. Noisy youngsters could be heard singing out, ‘No riders today.’
That afternoon, in a courtroom on Church Street, Rosa Parks was found guilty of violating the state’s segregation laws. More than five hundred blacks crowded the hallways and stood in front of the building, awaiting the verdict. The boycott and impromptu rally at the courthouse were the most significant black political activism in Montgomery’s history, and it had all come together in five days. It had started among Parks’s close friends, but it drew its power, King and other participants later said, because of a sense of obligation among the community—the social habits of weak ties. The community was pressured to stand together for fear that anyone who didn’t participate wasn’t someone you wanted to be friends with in the first place.
There are plenty of people who would have participated in the boycott without such encouragement. King and the cabbies and the congregations might have made the same choices without the influence of strong and weak ties. But tens of thousands of people from across the city would not have decided to stay off the buses without the encouragement of social habits. “The once dormant and quiescent Negro community was now fully awake,” King later wrote.
Those social habits, however, weren’t strong enough on their own to extend a one-day boycott into a yearlong movement. Within a few weeks, King would be openly worrying that people’s resolve was weakening, that “the ability of the Negro community to continue the struggle” was in doubt.
Then those worries would evaporate. King, like thousands of other movement leaders, would shift the struggle’s guidance from his hands onto the shoulders of his followers, in large part by handing them new habits. He would activate the third part of the movement formula, and the boycott would become a self-perpetuating force.
1. Go Forth – There is no set path to becoming a cinematographer
I started The Wandering DP Podcast to get cinematography tips from some of the world’s best DPs. My career is just beginning and maneuvering through all the information out there on developing as a DP can be all but impossible. In every interview I have done one of the main points I take away is just how different people’s paths are to becoming successful cinematographers.
I have spoken with DPs who went the traditional film school to clapper loader to 1st AC to DP and I have also spoken to guys who just picked up a camera, started shooting, and then learned the rest on the run.
The truth is that there is no set path to becoming a successful cinematographer and that the only commonality between all the stories is that at one point or another every DP has had to decide they were going to give it a go.
So get out there are and start shooting.
2. Style – Being technical is great but having vision is what is important
The role of the cinematographer is both technical and creative. A good DP has to know both sides and be able to communicate in both languages if they are going to be successful but when push comes to show a DP is hired for their vision. Every DP has their own eye, which is influenced by the way they see the world around the, and it is their eye that people will recognize and want to use for their projects.
You have to know your tools but you also have to realize that without a coherent vision all the technical skills won’t make a project great.
Get out and find your style.
3. Finding Work – It is all about who you know
Finding work as a cinematographer is a bit of a catch 22. You have to shoot great work for people to take notice but you have to get on great jobs in order to shoot great work. The problem is getting started. How to get that first project that will turn into the stepping stone for bigger and better things.
The answer: Find people who are on your same level in your area. Find directors, art directors, producers, production designers and any body else that has an interest in film and start making things. These people are trying to make it just like you are and if you are hungry chances are they will be too. If they get picked up for a bigger job who do you think they are going to call? Someone they have never worked with before or you?
Even at the highest level, each DP I have spoken to gets the majority of their jobs from personal relationships with directors. They will either get repeat work from a director they have known from the past or they will get referrals from those directors to new directors or production companies. A good reel is great but a good relationship is better.
The film community is pretty small.
Start building relationships now.
4. Getting It Done – There is more than one way to skin a cat
Just like there are an infinite number of ways to become a DP there are also an infinite numbers of ways to get the job done. No two DPs light the same scene the same way. The trick is to find the way that you like to work and the environment and procedures that make you the most efficient and most productive.
I have seen lots of different lighting and shooting diagrams from tons of DPs and they are all vastly different. The best way to learn when starting out is to look at what others have done in the past, try it out and see what works for you. If you do that enough times and you expose yourself to enough ways of working over time you will start to recognize pieces of each DP that you can take, build upon, and morph into your own style of working.
Don’t get caught up in exactly how it was done. The truth is it doesn’t matter.
The better question to focus on is WHY it was done.
5. Stay True – Find out what makes you unique, then find people or brands that like that
Lots of DPs I have talked to have mentioned that when they first got started in commercial work they encountered a period where they were trying to make their commercials looks how they thought commercials were supposed to look. The idea that they may not have enough experience to be bold and have the confidence in their own abilities and style to bring a unique vision to the project was holding them back. In speaking with them now they all agree that this is a huge mistake.
You are hired for your vision, not your idea of someone else’s vision.
If the director or the producer wanted a commercial to look like someone else’s work they probably would have hired that other person. They chose you because or your work.
Be true to your inner voice.
6. Discovery – Learn so much you can forget it all
It is great to say that the technical skills aren’t as important as the vision but that isn’t entirely true. The cinematographer is a craftsman and a technician and you have to know your stuff to get ahead. If you don’t know the technical sides of exposure, lighting, capture, lensing, framing, and all the rest than you will end up a slave to mediocrity.
You want to learn so much that all those technical things become second nature. You have learned so much that it becomes subconscious. After learning all the ins and out of the science of cinematography you can then release yourself from worrying about not knowing the answer on set and focus on the vision aspect of a project. You don’t want to face an avoidable problem on set that creates production delays because you didn’t do your homework.
Work like mad to learn all the tech and then give yourself the freedom to forget it all.
7. Inspiration – Get a Still Reference Catalog started today
There is no such thing as copying, that is a direct quote I got from my very first Wandering DP interview. The cinematographer on the line told me that there was no such thing as copying as each project is different, each set up unique.
As a DP just starting out you should be building a library of stills and references to draw inspiration from. You don’t want to amass image after image of a style you want to copy but you do need to start to gather ideas, images, clips that you are drawn to so that you can find your own voice.
If you are new to build a reference catalog you can check out my post on the way that I gather and store my references.
A reference catalog is invaluable for sharing your ideas with a director and starting the process of developing a look for a project. Each DP I have spoken to has their own library of images that they draw inspiriation from.
Start building your style book today.
8. Be a Team Player – You are there for the Director
Film production, whether it is a low budget music video or a $100 million dollar Hollywood blockbuster, is a team game. The DP is responsible for a certain part of that team and the ability to morph and shirt your ideas to align with the director’s needs is a necessity.
The director is being pulled by so many people on so many levels. A good DP understands that idea and tries to make it as easy as possible on the director during production. How do you do that? You need to do your homework. You need to know everything the director knows so that you can become his eyes on set.
If you understand his vision and know the look and the feel he or she is going for than you can eleviate that point of stress. It is only a small part of the production stress on the director but every little bit counts.
Understand your role and that you are there to serve the director.
9. Communication – You are a Leader
As the DP you are responsible for a certain team within the production. You need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively with your team members. As you develop and work with the same crew again and again communication becomes easier and easier but in the modern world DPs are often on jobs with different crews.
Understanding how and when to communicate ideas and instructions to your crew is vital. Pre-production and being prepared can be extremely helpful in keeping things efficient on set.
Work on your communication skills and know what you want before you start.
10. Tech – The Latest Tool or Camera won’t get you more work
All the tools in the world won’t make your images look good. Stop focusing on the next great camera and stop making excuses on why your project didn’t look as good as it could because you didn’t have x, y, and z. Practice with what you have. Build a team of people who are interested in pushing things further.
Work and work and work to get better at understanding the basics so that when the right job does come along you have the skills necessary to seize it.
No one is going to hand you a great gig and let you run with it. You have to go out and work for it. No camera kit is going to do the work for you not matter how fancy it is.