Best of 2015: Videos

The Statesman video team looks back at its favorite work from the past year, including historic beginnings, the end of an era and ... flying tacos.

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'It’s not often you get the opportunity to produce a video of flying El Chilito tacos'

There’s two things that Austin does best: Tacos and keeping things “weird.” The Fun Fun Fun Fest Taco Cannon nails both.

FFF Fest co-founder Graham Williams and Director of Brand Marketing Ian Orth were guests on Episode 87 of the “Statesman Shots” podcast in November to discuss the festival lineup and talk about the piece of eccentric artillery that Williams describes as “a drunken joke idea.”

Days after the podcast recording, I met up with the FFF Fest crew to shoot video of how the taco cannon sends delicious ammo through the air and into crowds of festival-goers.
It’s not often you get the opportunity to produce a video of flying El Chilito tacos and use a metal version of “Also sprach Zarathustra” (famously used in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”). Then again, this is Austin.
— Alyssa Vidales

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'I wondered like so many others — how did it get there?'

I had seen it a million times, and I had never seen it. Like a traffic sign or a tree, the “I love you so much” sign scrawled onto the side wall of Jo’s Coffee had blended into Austin’s urban landscape.

But on this particular hunt for caffeine on South Congress, I noticed it. And I wondered like so many others — how did it get there? A Google search, a few phone calls and a few weeks later, I got the story.

Liz Lambert and Amy Cook. It’s their love story that created one of Austin’s most iconic murals. Lambert is co-owner of Jo’s Coffee. Seven years ago, in the middle of a lover’s spat, Cook spray-painted those words on the wall of her girlfriend’s coffee shop in the clear light of day. It was many things: a brief and giant love letter, an inside-baseball reference to the same sign they had seen in New York City years before, an end to their fight.

Since then, the wall has been vandalized and repainted a few times. The sign lost its period. Letters thinned and uncurved. Like the city around it, the sign was changing, and so was its ownership.

At some point, “I love you so much” became a part of the city rather than an anecdote in a personal love story. On Saturday afternoons, lines of people wrap around the coffee shop, each waiting to take pictures in front of the sign. Of the people I interviewed, none knew the original story, but it didn’t seem to matter. Because now, for a brief snapshot in time, it belongs to the people in front of it, declaring to each other and the world, I love you so much.
— Reshma Kirpalani

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'It really felt like I was witnessing history'

The cliché of photojournalism is that you are a “witness to history.” On the days when you’re photographing the outside of an office building or looking for an artfully lit stand-up paddle boarder, the concept feels a little abstract. But after the Supreme Court made the decision to allow marriage equality – and same-sex couples started flooding the Travis County clerk’s office – it really felt like I was witnessing history.

It was difficult to hold back tears as so many people became overcome with emotion and joy. The video I produced that day is one that still gets a reaction from people who watch it. I felt privileged for the opportunity to document something so historic.
— Kelly West

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'The reels he receives from the studios are the last of their kind'

I work in digital video and photo now, but as someone who studied traditional photography, developed rolls of black & white Kodak Tri-X and made prints in the darkroom during high school and college, I've always appreciated film.

I began producing a story on projectionist John Stewart just as the Paramount Theatre's classic film series was winding down for the summer. This year is the Paramount's 100th anniversary, and I knew I wanted to do some sort of coverage about what goes on behind the scenes at the historic theater, which still shows 35mm and 70mm films.

When people go watch a movie (especially now as most theaters are digital), rarely do they think about the person in the projection booth at the back of the room, switching the reels, checking the mechanics of the giant projectors and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Stewart says himself, the reels he receives from the studios are the last of their kind, which is why he takes such great care of them. At the end of the day, he doesn't see it as something special; he's just a guy who loves his job and wants to help preserve this art as long as possible.
— Tina Phan

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'They set out to tell the story of the heartbeat of the building'

The news came in April of 2015. After printing its own newspaper for 144 years, the American-Statesman would be outsourcing its press and packaging operations. Over 100 people would lose their jobs.

For those of us who work here, it had a very personal impact, but the news was bigger than that. It is a sign of changing times and an evolution of information sharing. The printing press was something that had been a part of the human experience since the Roman Empire, and we were becoming part of an important part of history.

Reshma Kirpalani and Kelly West were tasked with something far deeper than producing a news clip. They set out to tell the story of the heartbeat of the building. More than a machine, the operation breathed and lived; it had a personality all to itself.

What the videographers came away with is an important document of our time, an homage to our craft, and they brought us closer to the people who lived and sweated and bled with the production of the paper. This project is for the press and packaging workers, and stands as a bookmark in time for where we have come from, and for where we are going.
— James Gregg, deputy director of video and photography

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'...within inches of the slithering creatures'

Every year members of the Sweetwater Jaycees bring about a dozen Western diamondback rattlesnakes to the Capitol to promote their “World’s Largest Rattlesnake Round-up.”

I’ve photographed the event many times, but this year I had a new GoPro and I was eager to try it out. I attached the little video camera to the longest thing I could find — an 11-foot light stand — and moved the camera within inches of the slithering creatures to get unique, close-up video like I never have before.
— Jay Janner

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'She keeps going at a time in her life when most people have retired'

The Season for Caring video of caregiver Rosa Pennick resonates with me because Rosa is an inspirational character. She keeps going at a time in her life when most people have retired. She brings warmth to the relationships with the people she cares for. Because it is a little more complex than the other videos I have worked on, it is encouraging to feel a sense of growth in this newer skill I have adopted.
— Laura Skelding

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'The team learned that there are more important things in life than winning'

In the midst of a state baseball playoff run, when you think that the pressure of winning may take over a team, I was introduced to Jared Friemel, the baseball manager for the Georgetown Eagles varsity baseball team. Yes, the team was focused and determined, and like any other team they wanted to win. But with Jared’s passion and love for the game, the team learned that there are more important things in life than winning. It was one of the highlights of my year, meeting Jared and sharing his story.
— Rodolfo Gonzalez

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'I met someone that didn’t think they would ever become homeless'

The people I met through this story left an impact on me when they momentarily let me into their lives. I had a much different view of homelessness in the Austin area. This assignment helped me understand more about the daily struggles of being homeless, the will to survive and how they masked their pain. I saw how a human being could die slowly, how something as simple as a clean place to sleep could result in such happiness, and how people who don't have a lot could still share so much with people who had more.

I met someone that didn’t think they would ever become homeless. And I met someone who knew that their life would end on the streets of Austin if they did not get proper health care or food. The average person may take these same things for granted, and this story helped remind me of how some Americans are just one or two paychecks away from living on the streets.
— Ricardo B. Brazziell

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'It’s nice to meet people who keep this town a little weird'

Sometimes it pays to drive down roads you don’t normally take. I was taking a shortcut through my neighborhood when I happened upon Gary and Jessica Patton setting up an epic (and hellish) scene in their front yard. The couple take their Halloween decorating seriously, and so I came back a few weekends later and documented their commitment to frightening the neighbors. It’s nice to meet people who keep this town a little weird by continuing the old Austin tradition of front yard artwork.
— Deborah Cannon