SHAUMBRA MAGAZINE: How and when did you find Crimson Circle?
PETER: I’ve got a long history as a video producer, editor and shooter, and I had been doing some freelance work. About two and a half years ago, Michael Conti connected me to some work at the Crimson Circle, where I started helping out as a video tech. After I did that for several months, it became clear that they needed someone to replace John Kuderka and asked me if I was interested. I jumped at the chance and was fortunate enough to get trained by John in all of his processes and all the workings of the studio that he had built. Then it was just working day-to-day to make everything happen.
SM: Most people find Crimson Circle based on the content. You came about it a little different way, but you’re exposed to all the content. How does that connect with you?
PETER: I was raised in a very religious Catholic family that really valued spirituality as an important part of our life. We weren’t really conservative Catholics, but we were serious about it, so that aspect of life was always important to me. Over the years, I’ve become less interested in the teachings of the Catholic Church and more interested in a sense of connectedness and wholeness within myself. I’ve been a regular meditator for many years, and as I started getting exposed to the Crimson Circle materials, a lot of what I was hearing felt really consistent to the things I had discovered myself, things about allowing and breathing and just being. Some of those basic foundational elements that underpin a lot of what is taught in the Crimson Circle are really coherent with how I’ve discovered my own sense of spirituality, which is more of a non-duality approach.
SM: What skills did you bring to the job, and what have you picked up?
PETER: My whole professional career is in video production. The biggest chunk of work I did was making educational videos about childbirth and parenting. I have extensive experience in not only the practicalities of production – how to shoot, edit, and produce – but also how to organize materials into effective educational tools. I also have a lot of project management and general management experience. So in addition to managing the studio, I’m also taking responsibility for the club and the storage area, looking at everything, making sure it all functions efficiently and that we have the staff and resources to not only put out the products but also host people and events at the studio.
I’ve done a lot of editing, and I bring those skills to the work we do on things like promos and intros. I love putting little pieces together that are compelling and engaging and communicate something that supports the product. It’s something that brings me a lot of joy.
I had less experience in studio production, so I had a lot to learn around organizing a free-standing 4-camera live-switched video production facility. Most of the work I’ve done in the past has been “run and gun” – one camera, going out, shooting, bringing back footage and editing it. I generally did not do multi-camera shooting, although way back in my earliest years I worked at Boston University and did some technical direction in their multi-camera video production facility. But the details of how to configure that type of system was a lot of learning for me.
I also hadn’t done a lot of webcasting or livestreaming, so I had to learn about how to manage the stream so that our viewers all over the world get access to the content, both live and also in the delivery through our website.
I’m also really aware of being surrounded by people who are so intimately connected to the content in a way that I am not. The content is paramount, and the production and delivery is all in support of that. I never want to make choices that distract from the content, and certainly I look to people on the staff to help me understand what’s appropriate. So, everything I bring is with that humility that I may have more experience in the technical aspects of the production, but in terms of the content I’m still learning.
SM: What does a day in your job look like?
PETER: Many days are different; they tend to fall into three categories.
On a shoot day, it’s about getting into the studio, powering up all the systems and preparing the space for the production. Then it’s managing the technology to make sure that we capture the content if it’s a recorded event, or effectively stream the content if it’s a live event. It’s a very focused day with a lot of little steps to make sure everything’s working, tested and running well. When the day winds down, it’s the reverse – shutting things down and putting things away.
Another type of day is the preparation days. I’ve really been enjoying working with Marc Ritter on dressing the stage and prepping all the gear, such as lighting, for the Shouds and other events. We’ll go in and figure out what’s the look we want, what’s the context for this presentation, and how do we make an environment that’s supportive. It’s more of an experimenting kind of day where we’re exploring and trying different things to come up with something that will work.
Outside of preparing and shooting productions, a lot of my work is around managing files. For all the content that we produce, I’m responsible to see that those files get processed, uploaded, delivered to customers, and archived. So it’s a lot of sitting at my computer, bringing in files, editing them – which can be anything from just trimming the edges and adjusting the audio levels to more extensive editing like creating an intro or switching between multiple cameras in post-production – uploading them to the server so people can access them and finally archiving everything.
Sometimes other things have arisen around improvements and special projects. We’ve had a number of improvements to the studio in terms of upgrading the cameras and lighting, which means taking everything apart and putting it back together again in a way that is more effective. Then, when we have a special event like we did in Santa Fe, there’s a lot of pulling gear apart and managing it so we have all the parts and pieces that we need for that remote production. It’s a mixture of very technical work and very physical work. Also, with what we’re doing in Hawaii with all the production gear we’re putting in the pavilion in Kona, it’s a lot of figuring out “how are we going to build this thing” and then bringing in all the equipment to create a production facility.
I like to do different things. I think of myself as a fairly resourceful person and enjoy facing different kinds of challenges, so I’m really grateful to not be doing the same thing every day. I’m glad that many of my days are different and I just have to meet them as they show up and do what’s needed to keep the whole process going. You often don’t know what you’re going to run into and there’s lots of particular details that need to be tended to, so you have to be willing to learn and be flexible and respond to situations as they arise.
SM: What do you like most about your job and what is the most challenging?
PETER: There’s a couple things I like the most. One is that I really enjoy the creative process of dressing the stage. That’s turned out to be a lot of fun for me and I like working with Marc. We work well together and it’s a constant process of discernment and creativity to try and make something that’s going to be esthetically pleasing and supportive to the content. I also really enjoy editing short pieces. We tend to do a lot of these little intros for products, or maybe a special promo for Keahak, a new Shoud series or a particular event, and I really enjoy trying to find an effective way to cut those things together. I enjoy finding an appropriate piece of music and finding images that are compelling and supportive, and cutting those together in a way that communicates something. That’s a real pleasure for me.
In terms of the most challenging, maybe it’s the systems I inherited. John was such a brilliant engineer and he had created a lot of manual systems that worked really well for him. I’m not that kind of person, so I find some of those manual processes to be a little tedious and unwieldy. Where technology is today, it’s not necessary. And where Crimson Circle is today, I think the manual processes are not really sustainable, so I’m looking forward to creating systems that relieve me of those more tedious tasks. Those systems are beautiful, and John did an extraordinary job of creating them and making them work in a very practical, effective, very affordable way. Outsourcing this type of work is not cheap and because he was so efficient at it, it was very cost effective. But at this point, from my perspective, our priorities have shifted, and the company has matured to a place where we’re ready to take it up another notch in terms of our efficiency.
SM: Any personal comments you’d like to share?
PETER: One of the things that I have experienced at this job is that Shaumbra are extremely generous and kind people. Every time there is an in-person event, Shaumbra are very generous to me and so appreciative of the work that I do, and so understanding when there’s a technical issue. At every Shoud there’s always a handful of people who say, “Thank you so much for what you do,” and every email as well. I’m very aware that the work we do is very valued by our customers and by our community. They really are super grateful for it, and it means so much to them, so I’m really glad to be doing work that adds value to people’s lives.
You know, there’s a lot of media out there, a lot of advertising, a lot of entertainment, a lot of crap, and it’s not assured that someone with my background in video production gets to do work that’s meaningful. I feel like the work that we do is meaningful, and I get to work with great people. I feel like our team is really solid and people are cooperative and kind. And, again, I find Shaumbra to be very generous, kind and grateful, so I’m really glad to get to work in that kind of environment.
I’m surprised at what a good fit it is and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do this work. It feels like a bit of a miracle how it all happened.