Monday, November 25, 2013

Caledonian Ball 2013 - The "Light into Europe. One Team. One Mission" Premiere

Well, I guess it’s been a while. Honestly right now, I feel this horrible need to take a long bath, with candles and some soothing music, because I am exhausted. Ok, lemme say that again. E.X.H.A.U.S.T.E.D. Is it big enough? I should also probably mention that I think I spread a toe. Hahaha It’ swollen and it hurts. Will see what changes occur until tomorrow morning, then will decide whether to see a doctor or not.

By the way this is Sunday evening. Even though I’ll post this on Monday. Unfortunately Monday means work so not enough brain left to handle blog and work at the same time. So... The Caledonian Ball and the big evening. And Mom’s birthday! Yeah... And to top it all off, somehow, the Caly Ball this year was one of the best, most crowded and rich I’ve seen in the past years.

Anyway. Thursday, Cristi and I had completed (almost) the first video. As in we had it all together, the image, the music but we were missing the text. A few key words and sentences here and there to emphasize on the filmed message. But we were happy with it. So I sent it the way it was to Camelia at the charity and midnight that night I got word she loved it. Next morning I heard from her son that in England they loved it as well. More so, they adored it. So I’m feeling positive enough to show it to some more of my trusty people. I mean I only had a day and a half before the ball where the video had to go on. Obviously a 40 minutes long documentary cannot play before 250 something people or they would die of boredom.

The videos are meant for bigger crowds, the documentaries for smaller ones. So I go to work and present my achievement and I get positive feedback on how the video looks but negative feedback on the message and length. Not that the message was unclear, but the video was pointing at the wrong audience. Indeed, my target wasn’t the audience at the Ball, it was the prospective volunteers, parents, teachers who need to be reminded the differences between us and the sight and hearing impaired children and attract them into our projects. It was supposed to be a touchy yet up-lifting and encouraging video. Something that shows you what’s wrong but that there is also a solution, a bridge to help overcome all these differences.  

So now they say – and they are right! – „Mela this is a good chance to make people understand the situation better from a statistically point of view. People need to know that their contributions, especially financially, help indeed and that things are done and bought and so on and so forth”. So, at first, I have to admit, I did not agree to the idea. I, and a dozen more of the people involved in this – have done this job for free. Because we believe in Light into Europe. Because I am in awe to these people’s constant efforts to make a difference. Maybe they can’t change the lives of all the impaired children but sure enough even if 300 of them get better living conditions, I think we’re on to something.

I am thinking everyone thinks like me. That just by witnessing the team’s efforts to change lives for the better is a good and strong enough motivation to make people contribute, from money to their time and attention and involvment into the projects. And I know this is a very idealistic way to look at the world, but it’s the way I’m built to think and it takes a little while for me to process that other people are not on the same page with me. And it’s only normal for that to happen; but Mela had not considered that, as Mela is functioning on a heart – mind mental set not the other way around.

Ok, I say. I’ll come up with a video that shows not only the problems these kids face but also that there is our charity to help them and what the charity has actually accomplished. At least for 2013. My only problem is, I have a day and a half to do it. And the clock is ticking. That afternoon I let Cristi know we have to come up with something totally new by Saturday. I am so agitated and so anxious about it that he felt the need to calm me down, pour soul, bless him – he’s beenh wonderful and extremely patient with me. He knows I am terrible (to not say a bitch!) when it comes to doing things, and doing things as well as I can.

To make a small note here: Cristi and I first met when I had my wedding. He was supposed to do the wedding movie. And for that i sent him two pages of pricise instructions of what and how and when I want everything filmed. That was in 2010. Two weeks after getting my email, he didn’t reply so I figured our colaboration had ended before beginning. Eventually he answered and said he was taken aback by the screenplay I had put together, because no bride had ever asked him that. Nonetheless, he took the challenge, probably thinking that during the actual wedding I will realize my scenario was futile and unrealistic as I would be too busy getting pretty and looking after our guests, that I won’t have the time to stick to the plan. He had witnessed many other weddings and he knew how things went down.

Boy, was he in for a surprise! Haha We filmed absolutely everything, except for one or two scenes. And I’m still in love with that video to the day. So I guess now, that I owe him some of the grey hair he’s grown, he knew what to expect. I have no words to thank this man, seriously. I should stop right here, otherwise I could say thank you for the rest of the blog.

So coming back to the video, I manage to find the music really fast by a pure struck of luck. It’s also cheap so I am able to buy it online. I am BLESSED! It sounds kind of dramatic, but I like it. Makes my hair stand up my arms. Makes me want to get up and do something. I get home from work and from about 8:00PM till 2:00AM the following morning we spend time putting images together, getting the beat right. I’m desperate to get the right words to go with the images. Everything has to connect. Every image and every text has to send out a message, on its own or together. Writing doesn’t come easy. Even if it’s just a few lines. Especially, when it’s just a few lines that you have to make a huge impact. I had to go the doctor that evening as well. And I felt like I was wasting precious time so I took my phone out and plugged my earphones to listen to the music I had chosen. I listen, I visualize, I feel, I write. It’s how it works. So ideas start pouring in and I grab a pen and some stickers from the reception to use as note pads and put the text down. Later on, as I am on the subway on my way home, I continue writing on my IPhone notes. I am so absorbed with the music and the writing that I miss my station and I have to go back a little. Haha. I don’t regret anything!!!

At 2:00PM that night, my eyes gave in and I left Cristi to continue working on his own until like 5:00AM. Next morning I wake up to see the first part of the video, 1:25 minutes. I love what he’s done with the images, the colors, the beat. The text is a bit messed up. But that’s not the main problem. The first part is way too long. Cristi loves it, I love it too. But with a second part waiting to be edited, the video would take too long and the rhythm would be lost. Cristi and I have a back and forth discussion over how much of how little we should keep. I simplify the text to the point where we risk losing the meaing of it all. Eventually I think I won only because I was the director and Cristi accepted my vision of things. But we are keeping his version as well. They are both good, only that for an event such as this, we had to think time-wise. If the first video, which was 3.50 seconds was too long, than this one had to be shorter.

We spend Friday cutting, trimming, adding, modifying images and text. Mom arrives as she’s going to join me for the ball but she has to wait for me to come from work. Then as I go home, Cristi and I are back on Skype sharing screens to work together. And we do so until 3:00AM. By that time, the video is put together, the music stays unchanged, the text is minimized to the last letters and words. Cristi is left to edit the images and the thing all together.

I wake up the next day, confused and agitated, knowing that if something goes wrong there is not enough time left to change things. We have to leave at 4:30PM in order to get to the Intercontinental before everyone else and try to the video on the equipment there, check on the sound, check how it’s heard in the room. Both videos will be played in three different locations: the lobby and two ball rooms upstairs. But only this video will be shown with sound at the beginning of the evening. With everyone’s undivided attention. AH!

At 4:30 Cristi tells me he is exporting the video and we have ten more minutes to wait.  I spend my time putting make up on mom even though she hates it just because I’m too anxious to sit or do nothing. And it’s done. Uploaded to be transferred. Downloading. I sit on the edge of the bed, all dressed up, make up on, my hands literally shaking and I press PLAY, knowing that if I discover something wrong, nothing could be done anymore.

2 minutes and 2 seconds. Longest two minutes EVER! My eyes roll over the images I’ve seen a hundred times, over the text I’ve changed a hundred times. I listen to the song I’ve learnt by heart, note by note. I literally pray with ever frame that nothing is out of place. Nothing ELSE is out of place, because Cristi did worn me that during export one image got deleted for some reason so now two texts come one after another. At the fast pace the song is going no one would even notice that. But I WILL. And I DID. Of course, Cristi is the marvelous professional I know him to be and he immediately finds the fault in the system and corrects the error.

I save both videos on two memory sticks; we jump in a taxi as we are running late. A few more phone calls on various other subjects with Camelia then I finally settle down for 10 minutes while holding the bag to my chest as if all my savings are in there. I look at the memory sticks in my hand. Our entire work, effort and struggle lies hidden in these two small items. It’s absolutely incredible the amount of pain stacking work one could to deliver two minutes of film. I am so afraid I’m going to misplace them or lose them that I cannot trust my inner zipped pocket of my purse to hold them, I have to hold them.

We get there and I literally throw my coat to the side, and plug in the stick in the laptop in the lobby. All goes well. I just have to find one player that can repeat the video continuously. Easy job. Done. Next I run upstairs and there I die. I realize form the number of tables that this year we’re going to have more guests than the usual. I see a stage and a big screen with huge speakers to the side. That wasn’t there last year!!!!! I see people with heavy equipment to the side of the stage: sound, lights. Damn it Mela! You’re screwed now! I thought my hands were shaking but I was wrong. Now I felt crippled with emotions. I am so grateful for that guy copying the video off the stick and onto his laptop because I couldn’t find the damn USB whole with my numb fingers, not in a million years. I go in the back of the room to listen to the sound and see what’s the „burning” point of the son so we don’t overdo it with the volume. The light is dim in the room and the place is crawling with waiters and hotel managers but I do not care. The black screen comes on. The text starts revealing before my eyes. No sound yet. And then, the song comes on. And that first note that convinced me to use this song in the first place, literally swipes me off my feet. It’s so strong it almost makes me take a step back and a new wave of emotion strikes me that I need to fold my arms around my chest to keep steady. It’s the first time I see it on such a big screen with this level of sound and it’s more than I had bargained for. I am marveled and pretty much petrified with a heart racing faster than a wild rabbit. I wish all the people seeing this video actually experienced things this way when they watch it. That kind of „hair raising” feeling. Well, I for one, am grateful to myself for being so in love with my own work. I don’t think it’s self esteem. It’s simply that gut feeling that tells you, you did a good job and you like it, so it’s ok.

Half way through the thing, someone gives me a huge unexpected hug. „You are my hero!” I glimpse back, uprooted from my day dreaming. It’s Mark Platt, the Light into Europe representative in England. I manage to mumble something I don’t remember. I feel stupid and shy when people say things like this to me. I feel people should appreciate my work, not me. That’s also stupid to say, considering I’ve done it, but hahaha... you get my point.

Cristi calls and says he’s fixed the bug and now we have the missing image back in the video. He transfers it again and I download the new version, verify it and give it to the people in charge with the technical part. Now I can relax. Right! I keep busy with greeting people and spending some time with mom, but secretly I watch the clock every 5 minutes knowing the time is coming for me to hit PLAY again and this time it won’t be just me. It will be me and 260 people. Out of which many whom I know, many whom I work with. Many who don’t know I do this kind of work. Usually I don’t care for that, but then again – usually – I don’t go public with stuff I do. I mean it took me many years before I came out with my writing. This entire screenwriting and directing deal is obviously new in my life as it is. So yeah...

6:30PM. People start gathering in the lobby. Eventually 45 minutes later they are coming upstairs. We are running a little late which only contributes to my high level of adrenaline and heart rate. My doctor would be proud of my blood pressure now, coming from a family history where we are a bit above being considered clinically dead!!!

Ok. It’s happening. Mark asks for feedback on how to introduce the video and I do not want him to say my name in there. He gets on stage and I literally lean against the pylon in the middle of the room because my left knee is acting like jelly pudding all of a sudden. I feel stupid twice. Silence falls in the room as Mark steps off the stage and everyone turns to the screen. Lights go off. Only the candles are burning. The black screen comes on. The writing starts to appear and I watch every word unfold as if I see it for the first time. And I swear, my hands are growing cold as I know that first note will come again and I’ll die again, like the total idiot that I am, because it does this thing in my head that I can’t control. And here we go. The song comes on with the same strength but somehow my brain manages to perceive a change in the sound and I realize the volume is lower. My hand automatically goes up and the technical crew sees my signal. Volume is up. Mela is up as well.

Mark comes at my side and hugs me again but I barely pay attention to the man. Such a sweet supportive guy and I’m so distracted right now. These 2 minutes are even longer than the two minutes I spent at home watching it. And then the 2 minutes are done. Black screen again. Lights on. But people keep staring at the screen. My God, it’s like their mesmerized, caught in it. Mark starts applauding behind me. I think I wanted to applaud as well but all I could do was raise my brow in an Ice Age squirrel kind of look: „hehe” right before the nut cracked the ice.

I can eat now. I can breathe now. I can do the raffle tickets now. And as I do, I gather feedback from people. They think it’s amazing. That it’s catchy. One tells me that except for 3 people at her table, the rest had remained staring even after the lights were back on. Other people ask me whether I do PR or something for a living because they thought it was exquisite. I blush as I write this now; imagine how I looked then.

I believe I could’ve done better. I always think there is room for improvement, especially when I have no training in directing and I continue to feel lucky and blessed to have worked with people like Cristi who helped immensely with the technical part. With our Light into Europe team who were on spot, on time, beautiful and warm and patient and understanding and made our work easy.

I know I sound like a kid, talking about exceptional feelings, too strong emotions and an almost breaking into crying kind of attitude. But it’s how I felt. And every time I watch this video, I get the same feeling. Perhaps it’s because I know the struggle behind it, but even more so, because I’ve been with all these people you see in there and know their story, their passion, their problems and can look at the images differently than you can. So I’m left to believe that I have transferred some of this emotion into the video so it rubs off on you. Because this is all that matters at the end of the day.

Before naming all the people who’ve participated in the making of both videos and the documentary, I will just say that in England, people watching the video have started making donations. WOHOO!!! It’s what this effort is all about.

So here are my heroes:


Stan Platt
Camelia Platt
Light into Europe founders

Andra Stan
 - suffering from progressive sight loss due to neurologic disease -

Anna Kingley
- Guide Dog Program volunteer from Australia -

Professor Florin Barbu
- hearing impaired -

Vali Costiuc
- severe hearing loss due to improper antibiotic treatment -

David Costiuc

Oana Uilacan
- double sight and hearing deficiency -

Andreea Vlad

Claudia Sandu
- sight loss due to deficient treatment in maternity -  

Petruta Constatinescu

Viorel Solomon

Anca Panait

Dan Antim

Lacramioara Pintelei

Petra Pintelei
- severe sight loss -

Camelia Horiceanu
- severe hearing loss -

Sandica Stoicescu
- severe hearing loss -

Razvan Mireuta
- total sight loss -

Stefan Ilioaica
- total sight loss –

Liviu Harasim
- deaf -

Metea Alexandra
- hearing impaired –

Klint and Max
- guide dogs for the blind –

Our two volunteers from Jerusalem and
the “evil gang” from the School for the Hearing Impaired shooting

Cristi Stan

Assistant to Cameraman
Denisa Velicu

Silviu Pal

Written and Directed
Melania Radutoiu


Give yourself a big round of applause ladies and gents. 
You have mine, until my palms go sore.
Because you deserve it!

Link to the video:

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