Andrew Roddewig brings much more than his media expertise to Sixty Inches From Center. An artist in his own right, Andrew is a master with a camera and in the early days of the organization he generously stepped up to be our Media Director. The videos produced by his company, Clarion New Media, have been central to adding an exceptional edge to the documentation efforts that our organization was founded on. The following is part of our series of Sixty on Sixty interviews which give our readers the chance to learn more about us by turning lens towards the people behind Sixty Inches From Center. Somewhere between traveling across the city to film everything from live performances of all kinds to interviews with lawyers, educators or business owners, and PB&Js at the Boiler Room, I asked Andrew a few questions to get a better understanding of the man behind the camera.
Tempestt Hazel: What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?
Andrew Roddewig: I actually love the attitude. I feel like Chicago is a place that constantly has a grudge and something to prove–still kind of a rough town with fine taste. I like to think about the city as a woman who just won a fist fight and is celebrating with a glass of champagne. Carl Sandburg did a pretty good job summing it up in all it’s dirty and pretty glory.
TH: What made you decide to dive into the visual arts more deeply with Sixty?
AR: I think the thing that really attracted me to Sixty–and remember I was there pretty, pretty early on– was how different Sixty was going to be from everything else going on in the arts.
TH: What have you discovered about Chicago’s art scene in the past year while working with Sixty that has intrigued you and that you maybe didn’t know before?
AR: I think the generation gap is pretty interesting. How differently shows and events that are for and or by millennials differ from shows and events for baby boomers. Gen X’s don’t have a place and that’s sort of what being a Gen X-er is all about. Also interviewing and speaking with the two generations they have completely different approaches to what “Art” is, should be, can be, who can do it and who can’t. The two generations are so different. I see it really as two completely different groups. The “Art World” of the Baby Boomers, and the “Art Scene” of the Millenials.
Sometimes they overlap. Mostly, I think they don’t. But this is purely observational. I don’t really have any evidence to support this thesis.
TH: That’s a very interesting point. Have you ever entered in a situation where these two generations are in conversation with one another–or overlap, as you said?
AR: Not off the top of my head. My observation comes mostly from doing the Chicago Artist Month videos. I was asking 12 artists basically the same questions. Sort of vague open ended questions that were meant to lead to a conversation about specific topics that I could then pull sound bites from. And from then re-watching those conversations in the edit, I noticed some differences between the way the two generations discussed their work and the Chicago Arts community.
Generally what I noticed is the younger generation was more interested in process and materials, experimenting with methods. Older generation was more concerned with the message, what the piece means to them, what it might mean to the audience. Now that could be because older generation has already experimented and found the materials that they really like and no longer worry about those things. Or it could be that the younger generation thinks that all that “modern art” mumbo jumbo is a load of crap. I don’t know.
TH: That’s true or it could really be a generational shift in approach. I’d be curious to see what other people’s thoughts are on that or if anyone else has noticed that.
AR: Mostly though I just notice how different the events are. Younger events have beer you often pay for or “donate” for. The older generations have wine that is free–maybe even a cheese thing.
TH: About the work that you do as a videographer–how did you develop your shooting style?
AR: That’s a pretty good question. Warning: I may get a bit nerdy here.
With all of my projects that I’m known for, recently, there are two opposing elements to the style. The narrative and the aesthetic. And my style kind of derives from trying to get the best of both with limited funds. The narrative style I typically employ is through interviews. I hate when people read things, either off a teleprompter or voiceover. It lacks Authenticity, and feels dishonest. Some people can do it, and make it seem legit. Actors can do it, good PR people can do it, and generally charismatic people can do it.
I don’t typically have the luxury of choosing who is going to be featured in my projects so I had to find a way to make people get excited about a conversation and use the interview not so much as a question answer for the final product but a guide for my narrative. My style for narrative is very quick sound bytes that are taken out of a longer conversation, but a conversation that was sort of planned around the goal of getting that sound byte. All those little sound bytes usually around 5-15 seconds get chopped up and blended back together over a minute or two.
The second element is the aesthetic style. And that is driven by budget and speed. Usually we have no time and no money to get things done but we want it to look as good as possible, and carry along with the narrative and feel really fast with out being disorienting. I do a lot of shoulder rig shots with a HDSLR. A 5d mark II for the kids in the know. I like the bigger sensor over the 7d. And with shoulder rig or anything I try to get really close to illustrate things, and use the narrow depth of field to call attention to deatails. I also try to get smiling faces for crowd stuff. A simple smile really sells an idea. I think that’s probably enough on style. I don’t want to give away any trade secrets.
TH: Of course not. In your experience, what is it that video communicates for an artist that maybe other static forms don’t or can’t?
AR: Well first I should say video can be risky. If not done right it can make you look worse. Video has the potential to do certain things very well that other media can’t. The big thing is share personnel experiences. It’s a way to speak directly to your audience and let them judge whether or not you’re full of it. I think about it as the most efficient way to have a conversation with everyone who may be interested in your work, or what you do. Now the catch is that if you are a fraud you could become exposed. Not in a caught you red handed sort of way, but in the way that people just get a vibe from you.
TH: Is it really a conversation, though? Isn’t it a bit of a monologue?
AR: It’s one sided sure. If your audience can see you, and see your body language with your words it has more potential to be seen as genuine, if it’s genuine. And false if it’s false. All those little signals we pick up from someone when having a conversation are there. And the majority of communication is non-verbal.
TH: Of all the things you’ve documented while working with Sixty, what have been your top 3?
AR: The recent Wood Worked Show at CUAS was pretty impressive. It had a wooden MechWarrior so that get’s big points in my book. I really enjoyed the project I worked on about Hebru Brantley. I spent a lot of time in his studio, so it gave me a bigger appreciation for his work. And lastly would be Nathan Pecks video paintings really blew my mind.
TH: Great choices. Finally, if you weren’t running your company, Clarion New Media, what do you imagine you would be doing with your life?
AR: Probably sleeping on a park bench or millionaire playboy. It probably depends a few outside factors. But definitely one or the other. A millionaire playboy or homeless.
TH: I’m thinking not the second one…