“Cake Off!”

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I apologize for the post delay. Senior year has been extremely busy. Not only am I a full-time student, but I also have two internships. It’s been a great experience and I am learning so much. Needless to say, free time is certainly lacking. However, I do want to share with my readers a video I produced last semester for my “Introduction to Production” class. I’m very proud of the final product, a video that took a full semester of careful thought and planning to produce. My love of baking and film combine to form my video titled “Cake Off!”

I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave me comments (it is actually the preferred method)!

Let’s Bake! Samoas Bars.

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Well, it is finals time here at Duke University and we all know that means stress, lack of sleep and insane amounts of caffeine. Various students handle their workload stress through exercise, relaxation breaks and hanging out with friends. As we all know, based on my previous post B.A.A., I bake to help alleviate stress. This week was no different! I found this delicious recipe for Samoa Bars on “Love Veggies and Yoga,” just one of the many food and culture blogs I read (credit for this recipe here.) I love experimenting with cookies, adding different ingredients here and there to develop bold tastes. Though it’s not the girl scouts cookie season yet, why should we have to wait? These samoas bars combine a simple chocolate chip cookie with coconut and butterscotch chips to give them a little twist. They come out of the oven gooey, chocolaty and savory. This is a perfect study break snack. I documented the experience with photographs to accompany the recipe instructions so even novice bakers won’t be intimidated! Just follow this step by step process and I promise you will experience these baked goods extreme deliciousness! WARNING: salvation may ensue.

Step 1. Mix together 1 stick of melted butter, 1 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup white sugar until blended.

  Step 2.  Add 1 egg, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup shredded cocunut and ¾ cup all-purpose flour and stir.

Step 3. Fold in 3/4 cup butterscotch chips and 1 cup chocolate chips.

Step 4. Scoop mixture into a sprayed 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan.

Step 5. Sprinkle additional chips and coconut to your liking (which in my case is a lot!).

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Step 6. Remove from oven. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Cut and enjoy!

“Like Crazy” Film Review

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Take away all of the special effects, big budgets and star studded casts…I don’t need them. Just give me love, heartbreak and some drama please.

The buzz for American Independent film “Like Crazy” directed by Drake Doremus is spreading around town and for good reason. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and Special Jury Prize Best Actress for Breakout Performance (Felicity Jones) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Like Crazy” stole my heart in its simplistic, beautiful style. The film has been rumored to have a budget around $250,000, improvised dialogue (technically, there was no screenplay) and the lead actress did her own hair and makeup for the film. “Like Crazy” follows the admirable line of Grand Jury Prize winners including “Precious” and “Winter’s Bone.” Hopefully, this will bring the film good luck as these films both went on to surpassing their estimated reach by bringing in an expansive audience and generating Academy Awards nominations and wins. Though I’m not sure if it can achieve that type of success, “Like Crazy” is one of this year’s most romantic films and should not be missed.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the film, “Like Crazy” stars Anton Yelchin, as Jacob, the American college student in love, and Felicity Jones, as Anna, the British exchange student. In a simple love story, girl meets boy, boy falls in love with girl, and they both live happily ever after. But when girl overstays her visa and is prohibited from returning to America to be with boy, drama ensues. Can Anna and Jacob make it work across countries or will time and distance ultimately pull their love apart?

Doremus could have made a cheesy movie, creating perfect moments for the young lovers, but I think he realized that falling in love for the first time is awkward and usually not perfect. He drew on his own past experiences to create the general outline for the film, speaking with the actors about the pain and bliss love can generate. In one of the sweetest lines of the play, Anna writes a letter to Jacob expressing her interest in him and demurely signs, “please don’t think I’m a nutcase.” The film captures the essence of love in all its states. So often in movies, audiences are only exposed to the first moments when the couple meet and fall in love and also the troubles that create the drama. In “Like Crazy” drama came, ultimately, from outside powers that forced the couple to reevaluate their relationship. I also thought the film was extremely realistic in that it didn’t hide anything. A large reason for this is attributed to the authenticity of the conversations between Anna and Jacob. The camera showed its audience the life led by Anna and Jacob when they weren’t together and how each of them handled their own situation. In one of the film’s finest cinematic moments, Jacob and Anna reunite after their years of struggles to try to rekindle their romance. As the shower water pounds on their bodies, their remarkable acting shines as the film goes to flashbacks of their past love and their current emotional distance in their close, physical encounter.

This film has the ability to impact millions. This film still resonates in my mind days after leaving the theater. This film hit so close to home for me, as I’d imagine it does for so many others. Even the little things, like Jacob’s attachment to his career in designing furniture and sharing his passion with Anna by creating a custom chair for her is emotional. When Anna receives a new chair from a boyfriend later on in the movie, the audience can sense the tension that Anna feels. The movie is about connections and how easily it is to feel lost and hopeless when the connection disappears. The film also is unique in its use of silence, which actually speaks volumes without a word uttered. However, some people are currently reacting negatively about the film’s simplistic form. I read some comments that reviewers thought it was a “boring movie about boring people”.  Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but this movie takes its viewers back to their first love and heartbreak. We need to realize it’s okay to appreciate love in all its forms. This type of raw, real cinema is the type of films that I admire and I think should be as widely profitable and publicized as any other film.

Hosting Duke’s “Office Hours”

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Like I’ve written in the past, I’m continually amazed at the type of productions that go on at Duke University. Believe it or not, I was able to host Duke’s weekly talk show called “Office Hours” on November 17, 2011. “Office Hours” is streamed live on UStream every week Thursdays at noon and then uploaded to YouTube to be viewed at one’s convenience. “Office Hours” is mostly promoted through Duke Alumni Association, as well as Duke Media Services, but the audience is expanding week by week. Just as the name suggests, the purpose of “Office Hours” is to let students, faculty, alumni and parents listen to conversations that are taking place on Duke’s campus. Viewers can send in questions to be part of the conversation. The idea of my involvement with the show has been in development for many months and started at the beginning of the school year. I initially applied for a social media internship and though I didn’t get the internship, my interviewer referred me to more production-based work with the show “Office Hours.” I’ve gotten to know the staff very well and have watched the past five shows grow into its own audience and style. The episodes usually have a different interviewer and each interviewee brings to the table his/her own flair and knowledge. Afterall, each episode features an important, topical subject. Each week brings a new host and new guests. On my episode, I brought the student voice to the show and I hope that I represented my colleagues fairly.

The topic I dealt with on “Office Hours” was not a light topic. “Campus Mental Health Issues” are serious issues and it is real and prominent. I talked with Dr. Glass, who is the Assistant Director of Outreach and Programming for Duke’s Counseling and Psychological Services (also known as CAPS), throughout the show. The end result is posted below, and though I am extrememly satisfied with it, I spent many hours researching and gearing up for the show. I had two sessions with producers from the show to roleplay the conversation and tweak my script. However, once you sit down in the hosting chair – all script notes fly out of the window. As soon as the show began, my adrenaline overcame by body and all that was left was Dr. Glass and myself. Though I stumbled on my words here and there, I felt I did pretty well for my first time hosting a live long-form talk show (and it’s not an easy task)!

I learned a lot about mental health for college students while I was preparing for this conversation. A common misconception is that everyone is happy here at Duke, at least that’s what it looks like to outsiders. Students cheer on their beloved Blue Devils in Cameron, walk through the beautiful Duke Gardens, converse with fellow students with meaningful dialogue. Though this sounds ideal, this is unfortunately not the case for much of the student population. For example, in a recent study, the American Psychological Association reported a rise in depression and mental illnesses on college campuses. The percentage of students with moderate to severe depression has gone up from 34 to 41 percent in the past 10 years. The American College Health Association assessed colleges across campuses and published shocking statistics such as over the last 12 months, 26.9% of males and 33.3% of females felt so depressed that it was difficult to function and “40.5% of males and 56% of females felt overwhelming anxiety. At Duke, it’s an even more crazed environment, and the situation is often amplified.

Many students at Duke feel they have to follow this Duke mentality of “work hard, play hard” which is mentioned in the upcoming Duke Magazine’s November/December cover story titled “Pressures Beneath the Surface.” Many students believe everyone else is succeeding at balancing their academic and social life, while doing so effortlessly. However, Bridget Booher writes in her article, that in reality, many students feel alone at Duke and experience periods of isolation and this is actually the majority of the population (called the marginalized majority). The current generation of students often experiences a strong fear of failure. We hold ourselves to such high standards and create these ideal expectations because everyone else seems to be doing the same thing at Duke. This fear can turn into either self controlling behaviors (such as eating disorders) or avoidance (which can lead to alcohol abuse or other issues). Dr. Glass hits on these subjects throughout the interview.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the conversation, but we talked about some pretty serious and meaningful topics. Instead of going into more depth, I urge you to check out “Campus Mental Health Issues” that was presented on “Office Hours” this past week.

DEMAN Weekend 2011

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“Come as you are, leave inspired.” I remember seeing this quote printed on the t-shirts that the Duke Career Center handed out to participants of the “Fannie Mitchell Career Conference.” The Fannie Mitchell Career Conference is an annual event for Duke students and alumni to meet and network with each other in many different fields. I felt this way after my weekend at DEMAN. DEMAN, in its third year at Duke, aims to help students specifically interested in the Entertainment, Media and Arts industry. Needless to say, I was very excited for this event. Duke students often assume the university is mainly interested in helping those who follow paths in finance, consulting, law or medicine. However, this past weekend at the DEMAN event, Duke made it clear that the entertainment industry is just as important as every other career Duke students may pursue.

DEMAN was a complete success. The talented Kara DioGuardi kicked off the event and treated eager students to a wonderful, passionate speech. Her lesson for us all was the right of “freedom to fail.” I think all students should have been there to experience DioGuardi’s inspiring speech. Those of us who plan on following a career in the entertainment industry must remember that this is NOT an easy field to break into. Kara is one of the most successful Duke alums in the entertainment business, yet she struggled for many years to make ends meet after graduating from Duke. After all, in the entertainment industry every individual starts off on an equal playing field. Just because you may have a law degree, graduated at the top of your class from Harvard or maybe just ended a jail sentence – everyone must start at the bottom (whether that be as an intern, mailroom worker, assistant, freelance worker, etc) and work extremely hard to move himself/herself up the totem poll. DioGuardi is living proof of the importance of hard work and persistence.

On Friday evening, students and alumni participated in a panel at the Nasher Museum. Various successful entertainment alumni talked to their audience about the struggles, risks and rewards of working in the entertainment industry. I learned from John Harwood that print drives the media train and I learned from Brandt Joel that work ethic is more important than background. On Saturday morning, I attended a panel with Dave Karger and Jim Rosenfield. Both were open to answering student questions and helpful in sharing their experiences with the crowd. For example, Karger believes media is so niche oriented and one must think outside the box when applying to entertainment companies. When writing a review for Entertainment Weekly, Karger must use the third person critical eye perspective and not show personal bias. Rosenfield suggests students continue to find ways to make themselves “relevant” in the industry. Taking his own advice, Rosenfield is currently spending some time at Duke University to further develop his skills as a reporter and anchor.

One may think I’m naïve for being extremely excited about starting my career in the entertainment industry, yet I see it a different way. I’m eager to work on projects, meet people who are successful in the industry and I’m ready and willing to work long and hard hours. I want this career and I’m thankful Duke has given its students this source of knowledge that will help us as we step into the “real world.”

An Evening with Morgan Spurlock

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If you’re looking for a filmmaker that cuts through to the heart of an issue, who will do whatever it takes to go after an idea and won’t take no for an answer, Morgan Spurlock is your man. He has publicly tortured himself by eating McDonalds three times a day, lived on minimum wage, worked in a coal mine and locked himself up in jail each for 30 days at a time. Morgan Spurlock is an incredibly interesting and compelling person. I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite documentary filmmakers and I learned so much from him during the interview, and then later during his lecture at Duke University. Spurlock makes it his mission to educate our generation. Just by watching his numerous documentaries and TV series one will be impacted in some way from the productions. It was even more special listening and talking to him in person.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Spurlock, maybe “Supersize Me” will ring a bell? Spurlock always had a creative mind, but wasn’t always that successful. After graduating from film school at the prestigious New York University Tisch School of the Arts in 1993, Spurlock struggled to find his niche in the industry. He worked on movie sets and toured the country as a spokesman for ESPN and SONY, but knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. He started his own company, employed 6 fulltime workers and lived off his good credit for years. Eventually, debt caught up with Spurlock, who would have had to file for bankruptcy if he didn’t strike gold when MTV signed his pilot “I Bet You Will” to their company. After that show ended, Spurlock invested the profit from the show into his documentary film “Supersize Me.” In the film, Spurlock uses his own body as a testament to the evils of fast food and our food culture and the obesity we face today.

After “Supersize Me” went on to reach the highest box office success for a documentary up to that time, Spurlock had an easier time pitching and finding the funding for his next projects. Following the success of the reality-documentary “Supersize Me,” Spurlock filmed three seasons of the show “30 Days” and continued making compelling documentaries. This year, he has been on the road promoting his newest box office documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” The film takes a look at product placement by completely breaking down the barrier of subtle advertising in order to provide transparency for the audience. In the film, Spurlock overtly flashes products in an effort to completely finance his film thanks to these products.

Spurlock is a risk taker. He’s also an entrepreneur in the film industry. He will be the first one to try out an idea and be the first to fail at it (which he continues to avoid doing). Spurlock has such a wonderful personality and demeanor so people are willing to trust him to take the risks that some people only think about taking. A regular man on the street will more likely be enamored by Spurlock and go along with him then any average Joe (which may be the reason why his first show “I Bet You Will” took off).

The great thing about Spurlock is he is willing to share information he has gained from his experiences with the world. As a group of eager Duke students, many of us wanted to hear about his successes and failures he encountered thus far in his career. Spurlock shared a large amount of advice with his audience. My favorite anecdote he shared centered around the theme of “negotiating for success.” As part of the legal agreement Spurlock had with his sponsors, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” had to hit 600 million media impressions. Media impressions are a technique used as a PR measurement to calculate how many times some product appears in a form of media (website, news, talk show, paper, etc.). Before settling, Spurlock and his team debated whether they should add an additional measure of 1/10 of a penny after the 600 million media impression mark. However, Spurlock thought he set the bar high for his film and told his top endorsement (POM Wonderful) that they would settle on that number. Little did he know, only a week after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, his movie had not only surpassed the 600 million mark, but would eventually hit 5 billion media impressions. Spurlock estimated he would have made 5.4 million dollars had he aimed higher. “Always negotiate for success” is the motto Spurlock now lives by after losing this potential for a substantial profit. Going forward, he realizes that one should never sell themselves short. There’s a lot to learn from people like Morgan Spurlock and I hope you watch the interview and learn something yourself.

B.A.A?

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I may have an addiction and I may need to enroll in B.A.A. What’s my addiction and what does that stand for? Well, I know the first stage of recovery is admittance. B.A.A. stands for Baking Addicts Anonymous. Yes, I made this up (I think). However, I think I show all the signs. This weekend I spent over 5 hours baking in my free time. This is what happens when it’s a slow news week! I create occasions in order to justify the need to try a new recipe. I’m also known to be the first to offer baked goods in exchange for help with work and projects (such as if someone volunteers to be in one of my films or helps me edit a piece). Can baking really cure my problems or do I turn to baking and ignore my problems? Before we delve into my feelings (even though I am a Psychology major this blog is not intended for self reflection), I managed to put the baked goods to good use this weekend. My dad’s 56th birthday was on Saturday so I made him White Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Supreme. He loved them, I was satisfied. On Sunday I baked Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies to sell for a fundraiser to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Baking for fundraisers are my favorite hobby. Baking serves so many different occasions no wonder I love it so much. I figured why not document the experience and blog about my baking endeavors over the weekend.

There is no denying the fact that the basic Chocolate Chip Cookie is divine. Oozing chocolate chips, chewy soft dough and the heavenly smell is usually enough to keep me satisfied for life. However, sometimes the same chocolate chip cookie can become a bit of a bore. The thing I enjoy most about baking is modifying the ingredients. Baking is like sculpting– adding and subtracting different elements (ingredients) to make the most beautiful (and tasty) creation. It’s always fun to take recipes found online and modify them to one’s own liking. I took this recipe and created my own modified version:

“White Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies”

Ingredients:

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat eggs and vanilla extract into butter mixture. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop a heap onto ungreased baking sheets. Press down lightly on the dough to flatten. Leave about an inch space between each cookie. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown. Serves about two dozen.

Enjoy!

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