BLOGS: My COW Blog Adobe Blog Editing Technology After Effects Final Cut Entertainment

Mike Cohen's Blog

COW Blogs : Mike Cohen's Blog

A Year in Review

Getting a new phone is a great way to reset the clock on life and then use the photo gallery to remember events after some time has passed. About 1 year ago my phone died while on a trip. Somehow I managed to find my way back to the airport and home again, and a few days later I had a shiny new Android in my hands.


Spring is in bloom.

Off to Champaign, IL. Interesting drive through farm country. Live surgery and back home.

On the way to the airport I saw Frank Lloyd Wright's first Prairie Style house.

With nice weather it was time to fire up the grill and play with the dog.


Some new camera apps make for new forms of artistic expression.

I met up with family for my birthday.


Back to Illinois for some more medical education. Sometimes Chinese food in the hotel room is easier at the end of a long travel day.

Home again. A small DIY project, installing a new kitchen faucet required some creative plumbing connections.

Seeing 2001 in IMAX was incredible.


Yet another trip to Chicago for one of our annual conferences. Found some good restaurants nearby.

And then to Boston for, you guessed it, another conference. Late night drive home.


Fall is in the air, Winter is Coming


A quick trip to Florida to celebrate with the family, and some theme park fun, and the holidays.


Happy birthday to my dog.


Quick trip to NYC to meet with a client.


Spring again and annual trip to Miami. Great food, top notch AV and Mom's Matzoh ball soup.


Spring again!

See you this time next year.


Posted by: Mike Cohen on May 3, 2019 at 9:06:02 pmComments (1)

Saturation Wars: How Much Star Wars is Too Much?

When Disney announced that they would be making a new Star Wars movie every year for at least 10 years I was both excited and a bit skeptical. Back in the 80s it took 3 years for the next SW movie to come out. After Star Wars IV the world waited eagerly for the next one. Empire is now considered the best one for many reasons, and Jedi was anticipated mainly to answer the big cliffhanger questions posed by Empire.

Aside from some Ewok movies the world though SW was done. Then came the Special Editions. Though ridiculed in hind-sight as ruining the originals, these versions were done primarily to test the waters of digital filmmaking, prior to Lucas making the Prequels. While the CGI space battles were cool, the CG Jabba the Hutt and ROTJ musical act were goofy. Lucas, however, reminds us that these are kids movies partially made for "adult kids."

Anyway, it was exciting to see SW in the movie theater again and we only had 2 years to wait for Episode I. For each of the prequels I went to the midnight showing and was blown away by all of them. I will argue that Jar Jar Binks was needed to prove that a full CG character could work, and we have had many better characters since. For movies that have been highly criticized, they are also highly quoted by SW fans, both the goofy lines ("let's try spinning, that's a good trick") and the more serious (the story of Darth Plagueis, democracy dying with thunderous applause). Lucas has tried to call attention to current political events through his 6 films. In 1975 studios were reluctant to make Apocalypse Now, so Lucas took some of its themes and wove them into Star Wars. Likewise the Trade Federation of the Phantom Menace somewhat reflected the post-Soviet Union and emerging economies of the EU, in a possible war caused by economic conflict and a hidden puppeteer controlling everything.

So the Prequels came and went. Then we were treated to a Clone Wars movie and TV series, followed by Rebels. Both of these animated shows were more kid-oriented. However there are some key episodes in both shows that really help to support Episode II and III by filling in some of the plot holes that could have been better explained but that would not fit into a 2-hour movie. The last season of Clone Wars really sets up events of the original trilogy.

So now we fast-forward to 2012 when Lucas sold his company to Disney for $4billion, including his outlines of Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Disney and Co. decided to discard these stories and start over, and also discarded the extended universe of comics and books that millions of SW fans had grown to love. Adding JJ Abrams to the mix was icing on the cake for SW fans who have become critical of SW. Lawrence Kasdan was the saving grace, who wrote a script for VII that the original actors could get behind.

While there were trailers and spoilers online if you were looking for them, they managed to keep the actual plot secret and many found The Force Awakens to be a satisfying reboot and continuation of the Star Wars and Skywalker story. I liked it, saw it in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX, and numerous times on Blu-Ray and HBO. Many comparisons were made to the original 1977 movie, but it seems the Empire does not have many original ideas. They spent a lot of money on the Death Star and kept trying the same strategy, assuming that the Rebellion was not a threat. But like the American Revolution and other historic rebellions, and Sparta, sometimes the little guy wins or at least they go the distance. Never tell me the odds!

In 2016 the movie-a-year started, and one year after TFA we got Rogue One. There was some confusion among newer SW fans when Rogue One did not continue the story of TFA. Perhaps Disney could have explained the standalone movies better for those who are not lifelong fans. Rogue One was a $300 million experiment - can a movie that is not part of the new trilogy be successful? They hired Gareth Edwards, a relatively unknown director (yes he did Godzilla which was a blockbuster movie, but not much of note before that). Like with the original SW they used mostly unknown actors, plus Forest Whitaker in a minor but important role, and they digitally resurrected Peter Cushing which caused a debate about bringing actors back to life in speaking roles. They also included non-American and non-British actors in major roles and created anew witty droid. The film was subject to re-writing and re-shooting possibly with a new director, though that issue has not been clearly resolved. Tony Gilroy has stated that the movie was a mess and he was hired to fix some things. I read that Edwards didn't think Disney would allow the ending to go in a certain direction, but that is precisely what the re-working did. As a result, many shots and dialogue seen in the trailers were not in the movie. While many movies build re-shoots into the schedule, this one seems to have been re-worked rather than just tweaked. Overall I thought Rogue One was fun and a great 1st standalone movie. I have probably watched it 30 times.

This was also the first SW movie to have a new composer. While the original John Williams themes will always be used, they actually went through two composers on Rogue One. I believe the soundtrack fits with the feeling of Star Wars.

Without much time to digest RO, we next got in 2017 The Last Jedi (TLJ) directed by Rian Johnson. Many people were excited given Johnson's edgy indy movies Brick and Looper, and his Breaking Bad episodes. However going from JJ Abrams to Johnson was again a risk. They managed to keep most of the details hidden, but once the movie opened the legions of SW fans tore apart the plot holes and filler characters and declared TLJ the worst SW movie yet. I of course saw it opening weekend and felt that it was uneven and even boring in places, but it did its job of continuing the story. However TLJ did not end with a cliffhanger like many expected it to. It did show that the First Order has not yet come up with a new plan, and it further established the conflict between the two new main characters Rey and Kylo Ren. The whole thing with Finn and Rose and the space horses seemed like filler just to give Finn something to do. His story sort of ended in TFA. Luke finally got to speak and we saw him do some interesting things.

So now we are done until 2019.

No, actually less than 6 months after TLJ we get the next standalone movie, Solo. I am of mixed opinions on movies that focus on one character's story. Part of the allure of Han Solo, Boba Fett and Yoda is that they are mysterious and we don't know too much about them. Han is a smuggler who owes money to a gangster, takes a charter and gets caught up in the rebellion, and becomes a reluctant hero in the process, gets some new friends and a girlfriend/wife. His back story is not that important. We now know that Chewbacca participated in the Clone Wars and had some interactions with the Jedi, but we didn't know this in 1977. That being said, Godfather II was a great movie and gave us backstory on Don Corleone that we did not really need but it was enjoyable to watch and helped build the world. Also Coppola was suddenly a big deal and could make any movie he wanted. Not coincidentally Coppola and Lucas had co-founded a production company and supported each other and other new 1970s directors on new films. One of those films was American Graffiti. One of the stars of that movie was Ron Howard, who came to the rescue as the replacement director of Solo: A Star Wars Story. As someone once said "the circle is now complete - when I left you I was the learner - now I am the Master."

So we got the backstory of Han Solo, which opened May 25, 2018. Apparently the movie is not making the money Disney hoped for, but the movie comes a few weeks after Avengers: Infinity War. While AIW is the 18th film in the Marvel universe it set records at the box office. Perhaps the time for a Han Solo movie would have been in the 1980s when Harrison Ford could play the role. Solo the movie has new younger actors playing Solo and Lando and even a new 7' tall actor playing Chewbacca, plus Woody Harrelson and Danarys Targarean playing alt-Leia. I didn't know what to expect from Solo and I tried to stay away from spoilers and reviews. Overall I liked it a lot. It did its job establishing Han as a criminal who in fact fights other criminals but in the end he has a heart. He just doesn't know it yet. Interestingly we get a look at Lando's backstory also and see a different character than the guy we met on Cloud City. I would be interested in more of Don Glover's version of Lando. Maybe we'll see him the Star Wars Underworld tv series if that ever happens.

How much extra money did it take to re-shoot parts of Solo after the Lego movie directors were let go? Probably a lot. I will be curious to see some of the unused footage from the original directors. Apparently they did not comply with the tone of the movie set forth by Disney and Kennedy. Why they hired the directors of 21 Jump Street is a mystery. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller got Executive Producer credits on Solo - must have been some contractual thing.

So back to the headline, How Much Star Wars is Too Much? I think we may have learned that a SW movie every 6 months might be too frequent. The quality has thus far been high, but the audience perhaps does not have as ravenous an appetite as Bob Iger and Kathy Kennedy thought it to be. We now have 18 months until Episode IX: The Other Last Jedi. They do have a few big questions to answer and I hope JJ is up to the task. As for more standalone movies, the fans seem to want an Obi-Wan movie starring Ewan McGregor, but we might get a Boba Fett or Yoda movie, or none at all. And the Star Wars lands at Disney World and Disneyland are under construction as well as a SW hotel and probably some secret things we don't know about yet.

I will be at the theater on day one no matter what they make. For me, no amount of Star Wars is too much!

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on May 29, 2018 at 8:35:01 pmComments (6)

Eating My Way Around the USA...Part II: Attack of the Sushi

I have never eaten sushi from a gas station, and I never will. Pre-packaged egg salad sandwiches in a triangle shaped container are ok, however.

I occasionally will get sushi from a grocery store, as long as the person preparing the sushi is visible and/or the date packaged is the current date.

I have noticed that chain drug stores are building higher-end stores in touristy areas featuring fresh food, but I will not eat sushi from one of these establishments.

Of course the best sushi comes from a dedicated sushi or Japanese restaurant. I did not actually try sushi until maybe age 25. It just wasn't part of the steak, french fries, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and hamburger menus my family enjoyed. Thanks in part to my brother, who like me became a road warrior as an adult, I was introduced to sushi just as I was myself discovering a more varied selection of food in the world.

Sushi is used somewhat generically. Really you have "sushi" which is rice with or without raw fish. "Sashimi" is raw fish without rice. Sushi rolls may or may not be sushi, as they may have cooked or uncooked ingredients. I am not well-versed in terminology, but I am well-versed in consuming sushi, sashimi, rolls, tempura and miso soup.

When faced with a decision on what to eat for dinner, several factors come into play.

1 - am I with other people or alone? If alone, I look on my phone for highly rated sushi and usually find a place in major cities within walking distance. If with other people, I need to see if everyone in the group will actually eat something on the menu. Some people will not eat raw fish, and they are welcome to that practice.

2 - assuming all in the group are in, or I am alone, I decide upon a restaurant. If by myself in a major city I will observe if there are other people in the restaurant, check the google for negative reviews, and if all clear go in and order. By myself I like to sit at the bar so I can watch my food being prepared. Sometimes you can have some conversation with the chefs, assuming they speak English and can speak to you and keep all of their appendages.

3 - If with a group, we often get a chef's selection for the number of people we have. Some places will bring out a wooden boat loaded with all kinds of sushi products, and it is a race to see who will finish first. If alone, I often get a chef's selection of sushi, sashimi and a roll of choice. Sometimes, if the server is friendly and knowledgeable, I will ask for a selection of whatever is fresh and unusual. No eel, no eyes, no fugu, but I will try just about anything else.

4 - Non-sushi - some dinners come with miso soup, salad with ginger dressing, or a tempura appetizer. All good stuff.

5 - Other times I will order specific items off the menu, but it can be difficult to decide and to gauge how much food is enough food.

While I don't remember the names of the restaurants, I can recall some memorable meals.

Chicago - A group of us went to a place a few blocks north of the river, just off Michigan Ave, and got a sushi boat for 4. This was early in my sushi-eating days so I probably ate mostly rolls.

Santa Monica - The 3rd Avenue Promenade is a mixture of gift shops, chain clothing stores, restaurants and buskers. I found a little sushi place, got a small table outside, and tried my first Rainbow Roll. This is a sushi roll on the inside, wrapped with several kinds and colors of raw fish on the outside. It is very filling and an interesting mixture of textures and flavors.

San Francisco - last time I was there I found a well-reviewed place a few blocks from my hotel, just off Union Square. But there was a long wait, so I went to the next best place across the street, and had my usual mixture of sushi and rolls, and a Sapporo beer.

This would be a good time to mention a non-sushi related San Francisco story. In maybe 2003 we were walking to dinner with a group of maybe 6 people. We wanted some authentic Chinese food. Most of the popular places in Chinatown are what I call generic Americanized Chinese food, such as what you get at a strip mall in your home town. We happened to have a co-worker at the time who was born in China, so she made a quick phone call, had a short conversation in her native language, and we followed her to a non-descript glass door leading to a staircase. At the bottom of the stairs was a large family-style dining room serving authentic Chinese recipes. We let her order and we ate whatever was brought to the table. The ox tail soup was very good. The deep-fried duck tongues were...interesting? Maybe they are an acquired taste. Overall it was a fun experience.

LA - For a few years I worked a conference at the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Blvd. It is where the Governor's Ball is held following the Academy Awards. Attached to the Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theater is a Loews Hotel and a large outdoor shopping mall. There is a sushi restaurant in the mall that is very good and I have eaten there a half dozen times. I usually go with the "bring me some weird things until I say stop" method and have had some very unique cuts of fish. One time I was there some customers approached the table next to me asking to take photos with whoever was sitting there. I did not recognize him, but it was either Aaron Paul, Dustin Diamond or Michael Jackson. Celebrities sometimes are not very recognizable out in the world. On that same trip there was some event at the Chinese Theater, and I saw Seal walking out of the theater. I only knew it was him because someone called his name.

At the conference on these trips we had a special award given to a physician, presented by Edward James Olmos.

As the conference photographer I took lots of photos of him, had a few words about how much I like his work, and rode the elevator with him making small talk. Seems like a regular guy.

Moving on.

Miami - Sushi Samba is a unique restaurant that combines Japanese and South American cuisine. They do have Sushi but also some very interesting salads, skewered meats and other concoctions. My wife and I try to eat there every time we visit.

After a while good sushi meals seem to run into one another. Luckily I have not had a bad sushi meal and I hope that continues to be the case.

My dining companions cringe when I take out my phone to snap food pictures, but sushi tends to photograph well. Here's a little gallery.

Thanks for reading. I'm hungry, maybe I'll check the gas station on the way home! Just kidding, we have a convenience store.

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 17, 2017 at 9:27:33 pmComments (1)

Eating my way Around the USA

Hello fellow Creative COWs!

In thinking about how to start contributing to the COW after a long absence, I am going back to what I seemed to talk about the most - work-related travel. When I first started my career in surgical video, I spent the years crisscrossing the continental US doing 24-hour trips. These generally consisted of:

  • Wake up at 3am
  • Catch a 6am flight to some hub (O'Hare, Charlotte, DFW) and connect to a flight to some city that is not so easy to get to from Connecticut.
  • Get to a motel about dinner time, splash water in my face, and have a dinner at some roadside chain restaurant.
  • Wake up at 5am the next day
  • Find the hospital, park and meet up with my point of contact, or sometimes, just find my way to the OR.
  • Change into scrubs, go to the OR, and spend between 2 and 12 hours shooting video. Originally it was open surgery, then as the years went by mostly minimally invasive (or laparoscopic) surgery. My grandma would always ask if it was "laser surgery" because that is what was discussed in the local paper. I explained each time that laser surgery is not very common in the types of procedures I record, but eventually I just said "yes, it is laser surgery" which seemed to make her happy!
  • Pack up, and find the airport. There was no GPS or smartphone in the early days, and that map you get at the car rental place was hard to follow while driving a car. The Mapquest directions were not much better, and on more than one trip I found myself in the wrong part of town. Houston, St. Louis and parts of LA can get quite scary if you take a wrong turn. Thanks to GPS mobile apps that is generally not a problem, but a good rule of thumb when traveling by car is to have a decent idea where you are supposed to be. If you do find yourself on the wrong side of the tracks, just try to look like you know where you'd going. "Fly casually!"
  • Catch a 9pm flight home.
  • Get home about 2am.
  • Rinse and repeat.

As time has gone by, I started doing fewer 24 hour trips and more multiple day trips for conventions or longer duration video projects. Being on the ground for multiple days gives one the chance to catch a breath and hopefully have a few hours to explore the local area and maybe find somewhere to eat that does not have the word "olive" or "garden" in the name! For the record, my grandparents loved those breadsticks and salad, and we had a few meals with them.

Where to begin?


I grew up about 20 miles south of Boston, and we did have field trips and family outings a few times a year. When going to Boston with my parents the trip usually revolved around seeing a touring Broadway show (Cats, Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, to name but a few), with dinner at Legal Seafood. As a kid I did not each seafood, so this was wasted on me. As an adult I have discovered a love for most fish and crustaceans and we do enjoy Legals.

Visiting Boston for business travel is a little different, mainly being focused on whatever area of the city the hotel is located, although Boston is very easy to get around by subway or foot. As a kid we always went to Faneuil Hall which has about 50 walk up counters with every type of food from burgers to lobster rolls, ribs, french fries and ice cream. But if you go in the Summer you can barely walk, and there are better places to eat while seated.

My most recent trip to Boston in 2016 we stayed in Copley Square for a convention. One night I had sushi in a little hole in the wall place. If there are people seated, eating and no EMTs present, it is probably a safe bet. I usually get a selection of sushi and sashimi, and try to get something where the chef makes selections. If not I ask the server to bring me a variety of food with only a few stipulations: no eyeballs, no eel or sea urchin. I'll eat just about anything else.

Another night I met up with my cousin for dinner at a little Gastropub near Back Bay station. I don't recall the name or what I had but it was probably pretty good given the packed house full of 20-something customers.

The final night my wife and I went to our old standby Legal Seafood. The best thing on the menu is seafood casserole which has lobster, shrimp and scallops in a creamy sauce with a mashed potato crust.

On the drive home we took a detour up to Burlington where they have recently opened a Wegman's grocery store. As a kid living in Rochester, NY I remember my parents raving about Wegman's, but at age 11 I was not yet a grocery store expert. As an adult who really like good food, I walked around this store with wide eyes and a big appetite. After about 2 hours we checked out and were on our way home.

Ok, that was fun. Let me make a list and try to come up with some other interesting factoids before writing again. I'll try to add another entry before the next superbowl!

If you have a memorable city or dining experience please add a comment - I'd love to hear from you.


Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jul 24, 2017 at 5:27:17 pmComments (1)

Management 101

Working in production, I started out duping VHS tapes and going on shoots to setup gear and learn my craft. Years later, I found myself informally in charge of video production, while we had a sizeable multimedia department not really reporting to anyone - they were mostly hired for a couple of big projects, reported to the project manager, and then just sort of moved from project to project.

The time had come to have an actual production manager - me. Well I did not have any formal management training, and it was really trial by fire. Knowing what I know now, however, I'd like to offer some tips and tricks for others in the field who may find themselves in one or more of these situations:

1 - You are a small production business owner, and you suddenly find yourself managing a team while trying to get production work done

2 - You have a multimedia background, and find yourself in a management role, while working for someone else.

3 - Part of your job is managing others in your team, but you don't have actual management duties - you're more of a supervisor (some overlap here).

"Management" can mean lots of things, depending on the type and size of the organization:

  • Direct supervision

  • HR functions (performance reviews, discipline, etc)

  • Budgeting

  • Sales

  • Project management (like being a producer, but not always)

  • Business communication and etiquette

I'll address each of these items, and try to offer some personal experience, tips and tricks for each.

Direct Supervision

You may be managing one or more production folks - shooters, editors, artists, project managers, writers, other creatives. Regardless or job duties, you need to keep a few things in mind. These are people with lives outside work, families, etc. Be considerate of this fact when you schedule work. In our small group we tend to travel a lot. While I am supervisor I also do production myself, so when scheduling out of town productions I am careful to consider the human factors. If we have a shoot on a Monday in Cleveland, this probably means that someone needs to fly to Cleveland on a Sunday afternoon. While compensatory time is provided after the fact, we are asking someone to give up a weekend day. Then let's say we have a shoot on Thursday the same week. Best to schedule someone else, or myself. If it is a two-person job, I need to make sure to give this fact soon enough, to be considerate to my direct report, and allow him to make arrangements at home for his travel.

Push comes to shove a shoot can sometimes be rescheduled, or another resource can be used (freelance, etc). Usually we can work it out, because we respect one another. As I said above, employees are not robots, they are people with feelings.

Now supervision is more than scheduling. It also includes providing feedback - positive, constructive and occasionally negative. This again has to do with respect. The employee needs to understand that a manager's job is to critique work and provide useful comments. Better to say "this graphic is kind of bland - try using XYZ font and a gradient, or whatever" rather than "I don't like this, try something else." It takes more energy to provide creative direction.

Occasionally you may give feedback which should be obvious to the recipient, like "you have a few typos - check the script." The direct should be smart enough to check the script, or hopefully just look at it again and say "oh snap, I spelled pancreaticoduodenectomy wrong, obviously!"

Finally, it is important when supervising others to help people grow both professionally and creatively. You do this by giving people new challenges, setting goals, and letting them work independently on meeting or exceeding these goals, and helping them when they need help. Over time, a direct will know when to ask for help, but occasionally you as a supervisor need to offer a helpful manner!

HR functions (performance reviews, discipline, etc)

Another management function is human resources. Whether you are hiring freelancers, building a staff of employees or dealing with long term employees in your own or someone else's company, you sometimes need to wear the HR hat.

Annual performance reviews can take many forms. We've tried more formal numerical grading systems, but usually the best method is to write a summary of the direct's job performance, set goals and discuss the improvement plan...then revisit these goals at the next review, or sooner.

Occasionally discipline is called for. Hopefully you have made a good hire, but humans are prone to making mistakes, lapses in judgement or unpredictable behavior. If you do need to provide negative feedback, issue a warning or ultimately terminate someone, there is one key piece of advice...DOCUMENTATION.


Speaking for myself, none of the above topics were taught in communication school. Like many careers, you learn as you go. Same goes for creating budgets. Whether you are writing proposals or managing a budget for a project, you need to have an idea both how long tasks should take, and how much things cost (labor, direct costs, overhead). Perhaps smaller projects are quick 1-2 week efforts which have a finite scope. Other projects could be 6 months or longer in duration, and have the most potential to go over budget, behind schedule and as a result, further over budget. Learn to estimate costs and then review expenses as the project progresses to avoid surprises later on.


While bigger companies may have dedicated sales people, another job duty of a manager in a production environment is sales. We don't sell widgets, cold calls are not usually helpful - we sell services to companies whose managers may or may not be looking for these services. Thus sales is about building relationships, exchanging information, and keeping in touch. Some call this consultative selling.

If you are writing proposals, this connects with the budgeting topic above. You need to know how much it is going to cost to do the work, so you can accurately provide a bid. Every company costs jobs differently, so refer to your organization's methods.

Project management (like being a producer, but not always)

When you learn how to direct and/or produce a video, for example, you are essentially a project manager. When I first started doing PM work, I was more of a production guy managing my own work. This worked to a point, but the true nature of project management is managing the schedule and resources...making sure things are moving along the proscribed path, are done on time, on budget (may or may not be your responsibility to watch the budget, but if you are not watching the timeline, you'll need to answer for the budget!)...and not necessarily doing the work tasks yourself (but maybe).

Thus, project management can take many forms, from a simple spreadsheet, or elaborate work breakdown structure plans and weekly 2-hour meetings. A friend of mine used to work for a large manufacturer and he sat through, and ultimately managed, these long laundry list meetings. My style is more of a post-it note for small projects, or a 1-page word doc list of milestones.

However when a client has its own project manager, often someone with the PMP certification, it is a horse of a different color, and I always learn a lot about organization.

Be proactive - follow your plan and if you see trouble brewing, take the initiative to deal with an issue before it gets bigger. Customers appreciate honesty -- admit to a problem. Don't ever bury your head in the sand or be afraid to ask for help. Your manager is there to help you.

Learn to think on your feet, so even if you are caught off guard by some issue, you can take a deep breath and figure out some options. You can always say to a client or co-worker "allow me to talk to my team and get back to you."

Don't pay lip service - don't tell someone what they want to hear if you have no way of delivering.

Think like the customer. Manage expectations. This list of aphorisms goes on...

Business Communication and Etiquette

Finally, business communication needs to be formal enough to get the job done, but human enough to maintain productive relationships. Here in 2016 e-mail seems to be king, but you learn how each direct and customer likes to communicate. Some people will respond to an email with an encyclopedia, others give one-word answers. For the latter, best to ask yes or no questions by email, and get on a call for detail. For the former, be careful how many questions you ask per message.

Also need to be careful about copying too many people. If one person copies 5 others, and everyone hits "reply all" with every response, you can easily have hundreds of messages floating around.

Likewise, be cautious about attachments...especially things like spreadsheets. Any document with a formula is subject to corruption the more people touch it. And with Word docs, if one person fails to use track changes, it can be a long day trying to do version control. Just make sure you know who has your document and whose turn it is to work on it.

Some people love text messages. My rule is, once you pass 3 text messages back and forth, and you have not resolved the issue at hand, it is time to pick up the phone and talk by voice. Same for e-mail exchanges. Sometimes you just can't get the point across or the question phrased accurately without a ton of background information. Just pick up the phone and move things along.

Sometimes a client is on the opposite coast, or wants to talk at 8pm. I work with lots of doctors who work long days and travel a lot. An 8pm conference call is not unusual. But be honest in responding to requests - don't give up a soccer game, school play or game night for a conference call (unless the sky is falling - if the sky is falling you should ask for the call).

As for conference calls, be careful not to invite too many people, and have an agenda and a moderator. Otherwise you will find yourself in a "Who talks first? I talk? You talk" situation. If doing screen sharing such as Webex or GotoMeeting, make sure you only have the relevant applications open. That means close Facebook, Reddit and your music streaming service. If giving a Powerpoint, that should be the only thing that is open.

Finally, e-mail is not for emergencies. A few months ago I got an email at 2pm on a Saturday with the subject line "urgent, please call me" from a co-worker. Well at 2pm on a Saturday, looking at my email is not a high priority. Anything urgent, make a phone call. Or a text message (maybe) might get my attention sooner (unless I'm a mile into the woods with my dog). Anyway, I called her back and was able to help with Powerpoint pretty easily.


This article really only scratches the surface on management in the production world. Everyone's own job will be unique, and your duties may change over time. Being a creative and finding yourself assuming management duties often means you are becoming more valuable for your organization - and possibly moving beyond the technical or creative job that got you there.

A few resources that have helped me:

Manager Tools Podcast
Some of it is focused on some systems which may not be relevant to your organization, but the passion of the two hosts in discussing topics like I have discussed above is worth a few hours of your time

Accidental Creative
Todd Henry gives lots of great advice in podcast and book form about balancing creativity with on-demand work. And talks a lot about balancing work and life.

Talking with a mentor, relative or friend who does some or all of these jobs.

Creative Cow Business and Marketing Forum
A great group of regulars offer sage advice on business-related aspects of production. It was this forum, not the technical stuff, that got me hooked on the COW!

Good luck in your own career!

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 11, 2016 at 8:35:32 pm management

2015 Chronicles: Under the Dome

April began with a convention in Nashville, though not really. The conference was actually at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, known by most as the Biodome. If you have never been to a Gaylord, it is an interesting experience. Certainly an amazing structure. I know that they mean well, but these places are simply too big to be practical. But c'est la vie - you go where the business is.

This river reminds me of the Chocolate River from Willy Wonka's factory - I expected to see Augustus Gloop float by at any moment.

Here we had our exhibit booth and I also was conducting interviews for various projects. I did not get a hotel suite, so I moved furniture around and setup a basic interview space in my basic hotel room, which luckily was only a few min walk from the convention center.

The first night we ate at an Irish bar at the hotel, which had a nice duo playing traditional Irish songs.

Other evenings were spent downtown Nashville, where there is a great supply of entertainment and dining.

The first night we went to a generic bar which had a decent country band playing covers. My companions were enjoying all the hits by Garth Brooks and the like - I was not too familiar with any of the music, but it was well performed. Food was basic burgers and beer.

Next night we went to Pucketts, known for ribs, and saw internet sensation Tyler Barham (never heard of him either) but the ladies were swooning. Again, very talented.

Afterwards we walked back to the main drag and went to ACME Feed and Seed, a former feed and grain store now serving food and drinks with a great house band.

Final night was the big event put on by the conference, featuring a talent show by surgeons, and a party band churning out the latest and classic hits, not much country, a decent buffet. This was at the Wildhorse Saloon, a well known party and concert venue, also owned by the Gaylord group.

Next stop, 2015 Workation.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:30:47 pm

2015 Chronicles: Grand Central Surgery

The very next week after LA, I had a two day conference in NY at the Grand Hyatt, attached to Grand Central Terminal. I love this area of Midtown NY with the juxtaposition of old and new architecture, some of the most iconic NY landmarks and easy access by train.

Well, I didn't take the train. My wife came along so between our luggage and some gear I had to take, driving was the only option. Getting to NY is easy, but getting through NY is a challenge given the overly aggressive drivers, especially taxis who honk incessantly.

I was relieved once I dropped my car at Valet parking ($80/day) at the hotel.

It took forever to check in - it was also model UN week so the hotel had 500 students from around the world.

My wife got a room and I went over to the meeting room to work on setup. This event, the Global Hernia Symposium, included live surgery. We did some testing with the video bridge and figured out the workflow with the AV guy.

Most live surgery as previously mentioned, is point to point via satellite - one source, one destination.
This case however was multi-points of source to one destination, and over IP, not satellite. This takes a lot more planning, like months to get everything aligned. We use Intercall and Stratosphere, two NY based video conferencing vendors, to handle the bridging and video conference technology. My job is to get all of the participants aligned, and it is not uncommon for me to send emails with 15 recipients.

Fast forward 12 hours and it is the main event - we had 5 hours of live surgery from NY, Brazil and Colombia one two projectors and 2 80" LCD monitors, with real time Q+A from the panelists and audience. This was then followed by more traditional lectures and discussion until we ended on Saturday afternoon.

My job also included event photographer at the event, and on the dinner cruise.

There was not too much time for fine dining, but I found a couple of good sushi restaurants for takeout. Then on the way out of town on Sunday, my wife and I went to our favorite place to get all sorts of food, Zabars. I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

With a car full of appetizing, we could not wait, and stopped along the Saw Mill for a bagel, cream cheese (shmear) and lox picnic.

Ok that's it, it is now April!

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:14:59 pm event AV, live surgery

2015 Chronicles: LA Story

If you read my post about Los Angeles last year you can refer back to that - same basic deal. This time we used the in-house AV group, and they did mostly fine. Setup was done by about 8pm, leaving time for some sushi before bed.

The whole week, each night, Hollywood Blvd was shut down for filming a TV pilot called The Lucifer Chronicles, or some such thing. It was interesting to watch and char with some of the crew between takes.

I met up with my buddy Lando for a late night Falafel dinner on Sunset Blvd, and ate mostly sushi the rest of the time.

A new responsibility at this meeting was managing the distribution and collection of lead retrieval scanners, and I was once again stills photographer.

$50 cab ride to the airport, redeye home, rinse and repeat! The USAir terminal at LAX is a dump. Philly is improving, especially the newer regional jet terminal.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:52:58 pm event AV

2015 Chronicles: Surgeons of the Caribbean 2: The Magic Cave

If you read the 2014 entry on the Dominican trips, you will know that I document medical procedures performed by a group of US surgeons who travel to the DR. I had spent December and January preparing for this trip, including making sure everyone on the trip had booked travel and that we all had hotel rooms. Sounds simple enough but a 4 day trip with 7 people has a lot of details to keep track of. Not to mention meeting our driver at the airport and being totally unable to communicate. I should have paid attention in high school Spanish class. Sorry Mr Morales.

We all flew into Santo Domingo on a Thursday and met up at the hotel bar upon arrival. While Santo Domingo is a large densely populated city with a lot of poverty, we stayed in a pretty safe and swanky part of town in a relatively new Marriott.

The next two days, after driving past Land Rover and Bentley dealerships, we transitioned into the...less wealthy part of town to the hospital, surrounded by barbed wire. We were told not to wander. Inside, the hospital was quite modern for its location, with a state of the art cardiac cath lab.

For this trip we brought 5 Canon HD cameras, one Sony 4K camera, the trusty 7d and tried to limit our gear to two checked and one carry-on suitcase, and a backpack. We still had to do the customs CPB form going in and out of the US, but it was a lot easier with less gear. Not to mention customs at the Santo Domingo airport is a pleasure, as this airport is not as tourist oriented.

We are accompanied on these trips by a surgeon from the DR, who now practices in Florida. He helps with the ground transport and other logistics, and arranges dinners. On this trip we ate at an outdoor restaurant adjacent to the Christopher Columbus Palace...

And at Maison de la Cava, a restaurant built in a cave once used by pirates...

And then it was back to home base once again for post production...

Editing 6 tracks of video is somewhat of a challenge, so I synch everything up, setup the main camera as track 1, the fluoroscope as track 2 (always visible in 80% of shots), then did a PIP for the 4 other angles. You can't do a multi-cam for this since more than one track is in play in must cuts. This setup plays quite sluggishly, so I render the sequence as the next step. A 3 hour sequence of PIP effects can take 12 or more hours to render, so I took my computer home for the weekend and let it rip.
Next step was then to make basic cuts using lift/extract to cut time. Then final clean up pass to decide which shots to keep and hide the shots not being used. Then render out to MP4 for review by the surgeons, who then do the traditional method of sending time code selects for the next pass.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:36:44 pm

2015 Chronicles: The Big Apple

I kicked off 2015 with a 2 day trip to NYC to conduct some interviews. I expected a spacious hotel suite, I got a Residence Inn just off Times Square. While some Residence Inns have a lot of space, this one, not so much. I was by myself so I carefully moved furniture around, including moving the tv wall unit into the bedroom and placing the coffee table on the bed, to free up enough space for a three camera interview shoot and lighting. Worked out ok but it was a tight squeeze.

It happened to be my cousin's birthday, so I met up with him for dinner, but after my first trip to B and H Photo and Video. If you are every in NY, do yourself a favor and check this place out. Seeing the website and catalog come to life was pretty exciting. Just leave your wallet at the hotel!

Quick drive back home to get ready for the next episode...

Happy New Year.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:26:51 pm interviews

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


May 2019 (1)
May 2018 (1)
August 2017 (1)
July 2017 (1)
January 2016 (1)
June 2015 (11)
August 2014 (6)
January 2014 (1)
October 2013 (1)
April 2013 (2)
March 2013 (2)
December 2012 (3)
October 2012 (2)
September 2012 (1)
August 2012 (2)
June 2012 (1)
March 2012 (2)
January 2012 (4)
October 2011 (2)
May 2011 (1)
April 2011 (2)
March 2011 (3)
February 2011 (2)
January 2011 (1)
November 2010 (3)
October 2010 (2)
September 2010 (3)
August 2010 (2)
June 2010 (6)
April 2010 (3)
February 2010 (3)
January 2010 (6)
December 2009 (3)
November 2009 (2)
October 2009 (8)
September 2009 (5)


travel (16)
workflow (7)
business (7)
photography (6)
event AV (5)
teamwork (4)
organization (3)
project management (3)
pre-production (3)
video (2)
cow (2)
creativity (2)
sales (2)
marketing (2)
nature (2)
photoshop (2)
food (2)
filmmaking (2)
planning (2)
planning ahead (2)
3D (2)
effects makeup (2)
interviews (2)
show more
© 2020 All Rights Reserved