Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Ambassador!!!

The main purpose behind traveling to Holland was to learn how to create a documentary. Day 5 of this learning experience began bright and early like all previous days. We boarded our bus to finally gain insight into the life of an ambassador. We started with an hour and 15 minute drive to the city of Hilversum. This city is home to the American company Nike. Upon our arrival we were greeted by Paul ten Hag, the public affairs officer. He assisted us in receiving guest passes for the day and then instructed us on the morning schedule. As per the request of Ambassador Hartog- Levin, Nike executives met with her to discuss its position as one of the top 'green' companies in the world. She later expressed to us her gratefulness for Nike and their role, as well as all their hard work. As her private meeting began, we were taken on a tour of Nike. We learned from Bill Bowerman about Nike's green campus and how it achieves this initiative, along with the many benefits Nike employees receive.

Our day continued at NOS, Nederlandse Omroep Stichting. NOS is is one of the broadcasters in the Dutch public broadcasting system. They have a statutory obligation to make news and programs - ranging from current affairs programs and children programs to economic and sports programs for the three Dutch public television channels and the Dutch public radio services. We learned that they have satellite offices in Brussels, Belgium and Washington D.C. We were briefed by foreign editor Rutger Mazel and walked through a few departments, viewing many people editing their stories, preparing and researching stories, and setting up for a live broadcast.

After enjoying our tour of the studio, we grabbed a very quick lunch and headed back to our hotel in Scheveningen to change for afternoon tea at the Ambassador's residence in our honor. Professional and sophisticated looking, we exited the hotel dressed in our best and headed to Hague. Tobias Asserlaan is the name of the U.S. Ambassador's residence in the Hague. Upon our arrival we were greeted by Andrew Wright the residence manager. We all were escorted to an exquisite dining room to set up our equipment before heading through the foyer to the living room where tea and delicious treats were being served. Ambassador Hartog-Levin warmly welcomed our group and introduced us to documentary filmmaker, Renee Sanders and Professor of Oral History Selma Leydesdorff. We also enjoyed the company of our new friends we met yesterday from Leiden University. This true learning experience can be described through many adjectives. We are truly honored and appreciative for being given this once in a lifetime opportunity.

During our exclusive interview with Ambassador Hartog-Levin, she described many aspects regarding her role. She gave us insight into her life, her reaction to the phone call when she had been selected to this position and what it was like presenting her credentials to Queen Beatrix. She also pointed out the gold inscription over the fireplace in her living room. The words were that from a letter written by John Adams to his wife. It stated:

"I Pray heaven to Bestow
The Best Blessings on
and on All that shall hereafter
inhabit may none but Honest
and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof."

This text first appeared in marble over the fireplace in the State Dining Room of the White House. To honor John Adams as the first Ambassador to the Netherlands, the same text was put over the fireplace at the Ambassador's Residence by Ambassador Philip Young. He was Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1957-1960.

We interviewed Mr. Daniel Levin, Ambassador Hartog-Levin's husband, Andrew Wright, and Wouter Pors, head chef at the residence. Being able to continue our education through "real world" experience can only be described through one word: *INCREDIBLE!*
As this busy day came to its conclusion, we all learned a great deal on ways to react to spur of the moment changes, buses being canceled, changing hats on the fly, building communication skills between our team.
Needless to say, the knowledge we have gained about documentary production has been incredible.

Tomorrow our adventure will continue with the Ambassador and her staff meetings.

Our thanks for all involved in making these past few days and the others to come possible.
Words cannot describe how truly grateful we are.
Stay tuned for our last day in the Hague and our final days in Holland.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 3 - Peace, Students, and Leiden

Today was an awesome day!!! We started nice and early with a brief meeting with Ambassador Hartog- Levin at City Hall. She met with Williem Post and Astrid Bronswijk to discuss relationships between the U.S. and the Netherlands. Once their meeting finished we were able to sit with Williem Post and get his take on recent events. He was very insightful and knowledgeable about current and past relations and very open to discussing recent events.

After we finished speaking with Williem Post, we headed by bus to Leiden University. This is the oldest university in the Netherlands, as well as one of the oldest universities in Europe. Upon our arrival we were welcomed by Bas Broekhuizen and 14 Communication Masters students from Leiden who showed us around their university and city. (visit their Student Blog) We were taken to see the "Sweating Room." This famous room is where students wait to hear if they have passed their finals exams and are entitled to signing their autographs on the wall before graduating. Some famous signatures on the wall are that of Queen Beatrix, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill. After a quick lunch and walking tour we continued our day with an afternoon at the Peace Palace.

Welcome to the Peace Palace.

The Peace Palace in the Hague is home of international judicial institutions including the International Court of Justice or World Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the renowned Peace Palace Library, as well as Hague Academy of International Law.

This icon is one of the most photographed landmarks in the Hague and is the property of the Carnegie Foundation. The building's foundation marked a pivotal point at the end of the 19th Century. Andrew Carnegie donated $1.5 million of his own wealth to the construction and establishment of this palace. It opened in 1913 after six years of construction.

When you walk inside the high arched ceilings, magnificent stained glass windows and surrounding gardens giving off a classical manner. Due to its size and architectural quality, the Peace Palace is by Dutch standards a building of uncommon grandeur and that was precisely the intention. Its purpose was not just about housing a judicial organization; it was the embodiment of an idea. It fits perfectly with the dream of World Peace as cherished by the First Hague Conference and thoroughly explained in detail by Steven van Hoogstraten, general director of the Carnegie Foundation.

We received an exclusive invitation to sit inside one of the international court rooms where Mr. van Hoogstraten himself spoke to us about the history, the buildings significance, as well as current events. He even informed us that the United States is no longer an active member of the International Court of Justice. It was an awesome learning experience and an extreme honor to speak with him.

We topped off our afternoon with an arranged guided tour of the Peace Palace. During our tour we viewed numerous gifts donated by countries from around the world. There were marble floors, cast iron gates, statues, paintings and even a tiled floor consisting of 12 million pieces. We finished our tour in the lobby with the motto of the Peace Palace, "Sol Jvstitiae Illvstra Nos," Sun of Justice Enlightens Us.

As we experience history in the making, we can only say "What an honor!"
Our day was amazing - it was educational, fun and yes - even enlightening. Many of us have already grown to love this beautiful country. We can't wait to continue our journey creating this documentary, experiencing a day in the life of an American Ambassador.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Preview Shots of our Documentary!!!

The Hague

Day 2 ~

Our second day in Holland began bright and early. At 9A.M. we took a tour bus into The Hague. Upon our arrival we walked over to City Hall meeting up with Martijn Kuiper. He greeted us and welcomed us into his presentation for the "Welcome to the Hague Program." After his speech and question / answer section, we viewed a movie clip and followed with a walking tour around City Hall. We were able to go on top of the roof of the City Hall taking panoramic views of the Hague. He pointed out the Department of Justice, the Peace Palace, the ministry and the official logo for the Hague.

We walked through the streets avoiding the treacherous bike paths to the Queen's Working Palace. The palace elegantly sits behind iron gates with a flag flying high. We learned that the flag symbolizes that the Queen is present at the palace. Although the Queen is technically out of politics but she still has a strong opinion regarding current matters.

We toured a very historic and wealthy section of the Hague well known during the Golden Age. There still stands a house known as Step Gables. It is 400 years old and in the original shape from the 17th century. We learned about what changed the way Dutch architecture grew. A new style based on French and Dutch influence flourished increasing this area's wealth.

Later in the afternoon we boarded the bus and traveled to the U.S. Embassy. After going through security we were greeted by Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin. We all exchanged brief introductions and we were invited to attend her meeting with Maria Andrews. Marie Andrews role is Commercial Counselor in the Ambassador's Office. Following that meeting we proceeded to the conference room for a briefing with John Kim. Originally from California, Mr Kim is the Counselor for Legal Affairs in the Hague. We learned about his role and some of the trials he has seen since he relocated to the Netherlands.

After that we enjoyed a presentation by American astronaut Steven Smith. He joined the NASA team 20 years ago working with Human Space Flight alongside the European Space Agency (ESA). Recently they have finished the International Space Station (ISS) infrastructure and explained how dangerous flying shuttles into space can be. He communicated his presentation to all audiences including the children present. He finished up repeating that NASA's main goal and purpose is the (1) take care of our 'island,' our world and (2) world peace.

We completed the day with the quick trip through The Hague and will continue into the night logging the video we shot.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We have Arrived!!!!

Day 1 - We spent our first day in Amsterdam!
We are staying in Scheveningen, the Beach area of The Hague, where Queen Beatrix's residence is located... we took the Tram and the 40min train ride into Amsterdam.

We were taken on a guided tour throughout the city, to learn of various locations and the history that accompanies them. During our tour of the city we took plenty of B-Roll to include in our Documentary. (Some were so focused on shooting that they were separated from the group and were lost for a short while.) We learned of the great impact the water levels have on the city, as well as how the canals separate the different areas of town.

Even though Professor Kleager warned us "DO NOT WALK IN THE BIKE LANE!" we had to learn it the hard way.... bike, trams and streets are off limits to pedestrians. As we learned more about the culture and the surrounding area, such as the upside down Cow Gift Shop, and Brown Bars (aka local Pubs) we immersed ourselves in the excitement of beginning our documentary.

One of the last stops of the day was the Anne Frank House, where we were able to reflect on the impact a small girl had on a world after the Holocaust.

Check back tomorrow for more!!!
-The Graduate Students

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Almost There!

Hello All,

I hope everyone is packed or busy packing, because the Holland trip is almost here! Please remember to bring the tip sheets and various documents we have compiled that will help aid us in shooting the documentary. Also, keep up with Holland news, so we are prepared for all current events once we arrive. We will be shooting lots of great b-roll and interviews, so be ready! We are going to visit many amazing sites and experience fascinating events. This really will be the trip of a lifetime.

Monday, March 15, 2010


When we arrive in Holland, things are going to be very exciting, and extremely busy. We will be in a new, fast-pace setting, so everyone should be prepared. In terms of cameras, everyone will be shooting at one point or another, so be ready! Take everything you have learned from class and use it in the field. Simple concepts, such as slow pans, slow and few zooms, different angles, and holding the camera steady can and will make the final documentary solid. Also, while shooting, have a plan. We do not want three cameras all shooting the same thing, at the same time, or in the same fashion. The cinematography we use will not only make post-production easier, but will also help us catch the true beauty, and live action of Holland.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Clock is Ticking...!

We are now coming down to the wire, we have two and a half weeks left to prepare for Holland.

I must say as a group everyone is doing fantasically, we are trying to iron out all of the kinks now so that we do not have to worry about it later.

Going over the itinerary for the trip and the shooting schedule makes it feel as through we are really doing this! Excitement is the only word that comes to mind.

We will be blogging while we are in Holland, and make sure you check out our photos along the way!!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Welcome to the wonderful world of BLOGGING!

So.... Welcome to the wonderful world of Blogging! It's a first for me! This is a great way to share our thoughts, research and our accomplishments with the group. I'm very excited to talk with all of you on Wednesday. We have a lot of work to do before we are off to HOLLAND!

A few thoughts.... Imagine how you would like the final product to look. Think about how you want to structure your film. What do you want to start with? How are you going to build your film? Write down your ideas....This will give you a blueprint for shooting. But remember that in documentary filmmaking, unlike fictional filmmaking, the footage informs the final structure of the film.

See everyone on Wednesday!

Courtney Novak

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Turning Ideas Into Reality

I posted this as a comment earlier, however, I felt that this may be a good discussion topic. While reading the many posts throughout Black Board, I can see that everyone is doing wonderful research. There are many ideas flying around, which is great for pre-production. As we begin to go over equipment and shooting, I think it's important for everyone to start thinking about how to film what we need to make our ideas a reality. In other words, how do we transform our vision into a physical video in documentary style? From establishing shots to extreme close-ups, we will need everything. But how do we do this? Establishing shots can be gained from high locations, even if it's looking out of the window of a building or even a plane! Non-moving close-ups can be great, such as close-ups of flowers. (Let the wind move the flowers!) Beauty shots are so important. Rack-focus anyone? It can be tricky, but if executed properly can be an amazing shot. At this point it's important to start thinking about these types of shots, and what we must do in order to bring back what we need to create our masterpiece.

Holland couldn't come sooner!

Hello Bloggers and Followers!
My name is Lauren and I am one of the grad students who will be heading on this adventure to Holland. I am really looking forward to this opportunity to work with many talented classmates and learn a great deal from both the trip and directly from interactions with Fay Hartog-Levin (US Ambassador). I believe as a student in a media communication arts program this trip will be vital because in a previously published news article from the Huffington Post in 2009... the US Ambassador was originally a consultant from a politically connected public affairs and media relations firm before being chosen for Ambassador to the Netherlands which I found to be very intriguing.

As a part of this learning process I also can not wait to venture outside of the country's borders to see what else the world has to offer. There is so much beauty, history, and culture to be absorbed. I really am looking forward to this trip. It couldn't come any sooner.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What would you like to see?

Hi all its Caity again...
I am going to put it out there and ask anyone and everyone!
What would you like to see while we are in Holland?

While in Holland we will have access to just about everything really... and I would live to have feedback, let us know if there is a topic we should consider talking about with the Ambassador, a place we should visit in The Hague, or in the immediate area.
I along with the other Grad Students will be documenting the entire trip with small video clips and photos and as well as our postings so please feel free to comment!

Graduate Students:
Caity, Lauren, Matt and Courtney