My Personal Toolkit

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 12.23.08 AMSo this may well be the most random blog post I’ve ever written here. But I was thinking and thinking and thinking about it, and thought the medium makes perfect sense.

Where to begin? As you read this, I am working toward my masters degree in digital journalism and design from the University of South Florida. It’s a 100-percent online program and one that—thus far—I’ve genuinely enjoyed. I’m pursuing this for two reasons: 1. To avoid becoming as obsolete as my grandpa’s typewriter; 2. To, ultimately, teach full-time at a college or university.

Anyhow, one of my courses is Digital Media Technology, taught by Casey Frechette. One of our last assignments of the semester is to, in his words, “assemble a collection of tools and services you anticipate using to complete your final project for the Digital Journalism & Design degree.” My final project is to produce a 15-to-20-minute documentary about the role authors play in promoting their books. I’m genuinely excited about this one.

I digress. Casey asked that we compile something of a digital scrapbook of resources and tools that will help complete the assignment, then post it somewhere to be shared with the course.

Hence, this blog entry.

Hence, this list …

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 2.00.31 PM• SOFTWARE/HARDWARE I WILL USE:

1. Kodak play-touch camera: I purchased this for $100, at the suggestion of two of my A/V-oriented students at Purchase College. The camera actually shoots with high-res quality, and (for an additional price) I’m going to buy an external mic (sound quality is OK, but not dazzling) and a small tripod.

2. iMovie: There are certainly better digital editing programs out there, but I’ve been using iMovie for years now, and feel very comfortable with the myriad nooks and crannies. Also, I want this film to feel organic and rough around the edges. It’s not supposed to be smooth and charming. The idea is to infuse it with grit.

3. GarageBand: I’ve been recording my Quazcast podcast interviews with GarageBand and—like iMovie—feel very comfortable doing so. There will likely be some voice-work done here. GarageBand is perfect, especially when coupled with Bria 3 as a backup recording safety.

4. This is neither software or hardware, per se, but I’ve partnered for several years now with one of the nation’s great underground hip-hop artists, MC White Owl, who has written themes for the Walter Payton and Showtime books. What rhymes with Book Whore? The list is limitless … 🙂


Well, to begin with, back when my last book, Sweetness, came out, I did a bunch of mini-promotional spots, called SweetSpots, that inspired this idea. They received reasonable play and certainly helped with book sales. Here’s an example of one …

I am also inspired by the following pieces, which feature different elements that will (I hope) be mirrored …

• Obviously this is a really serious subject, and heartbreaking—but more inspiring than sad. I like the usage of music in the background, to sort of help guide the interviews along. It’s understated, yet beautiful. How stories should be told, visually.

• I thought this one got a bit dull, but it’s a great idea for a topic, and the way the interviews are conducted (tight, closely cropped) is exactly how I want to do my interviews with other authors.

• This is the one I actually like the most—key person (in this case, Eminem) addressing the viewer, voice overlaying clips. I’d like to do this, too. My handing out the fliers, explaining why over the footage.


• Well, Twitter and Facebook, obviously. And—if you’re not running your own documentary on your own site, something’s off. is the world’s greatest book site, and a place that features author interviews and projects. is a great spot for authors that offers tons of tips and essays and videos on how to promote a book. Seems like a natural landing place.

• I would certainly pitch the finished product to sites like the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog,,, etc—places where I’ve contributed that like creative content.

• INSPIRING SITES:—Great place for thousands of documentaries of myriad ilk. Not just professionally produced work, but amateur material as well.—Also a wonderful place for amateur documentaries trying to find homes. I’m really not trying to find a home, per se, but some of the work is outstanding.—Official site of the Raindance Film Festival that offers many tips on how to create a documentary—and what mistakes to avoid at all costs.—Awesome site that offers thousands of tips and insights (technical, content, etc) on documentary film making.—In particular, site offers Confessions of a Documentary Producer that’s outstanding. A big key—use your own music. Oy.