When my friend Sal Masekela decided to make a record, I had no idea that it would lead us on a journey to create our most inspiring project to date.
We first met in 1998. I was working as a writer at the US Open of Snowboarding in Vermont, and Sal was hosting ESPN's X Games and the Sports and Music Festival for MTV, as well as Board Wild for FOX. Immediately, a friendship began that would eventually lead to a successful business partnership and brotherhood for life.
I secured a development deal at age 20 and shot my own pilot entitled Urbanomix, a mix of hip-hop music, street culture and extreme sports. I insisted Sal partner up on the project with me and he agreed. We shopped it around but couldn't sell it, but each time I heard the word "no" I pushed harder.
Courtney Holt and Andrew Mains of Interscope Records viewed my reel and recognized my passion and drive, and soon hired me to direct music videos and shorts for many of the label's top artists, including Gwen Stefani, Busta Rhymes, 50 Cent, Lady Gaga and Nelly Furtado.
Gwen Stefani, Harajuku Girls
50 Cent Yuck Truck at the X Games 14: 50 Cent delivers vitaminwater and burritos to X Games 14 crowds courtesy of vitaminwater.
Music videos for Nelly Furtado
While I was off building my career as a director, I remained in contact with Sal and we continued to dream up ways we could work together again. We started a film company in 2005 called "Berkela," a combination of our two names. We shared a common vision to make films that would embrace action sports stories that focused on the human experience, but our vision quickly expanded from making movies to distribution. We funded, marketed, and advertised films ourselves.
Our first was Disposable Hero: The Brian Deegan Story. It not only showcased Deegan's moto career, it delved into the ups and downs of the man's life, and won an award for Best Biography at the XDance festival.
Soon after that, we acquired the rights to Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker Than Water, which was the highest grossing documentary in Australia's history. Written and directed by members of the Bra Boys surf gang, and narrated by Russell Crowe, we were able to help it make waves here in the US.
The Cast and crew of Bra Boys at the April 7th, 2008, LA premiere of 'Bra Boys' held at the Directors Guild of America - Arrivals Los Angeles, California. Credit: Rachel Worth / WENN.
Bra Boys Trailer -- A film about the notorious surf gang from Syndney's beach side suburb of Maroubra - The Bra Boys.
From there, we financed Switch, a snowboarding film that's also a racy love story filled with sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. We hope to release it in the next year. The ability to say "yes" to our own projects was a dream come true.
About five months ago, Sal told me he wanted to make a record. He enlisted the help of his cousin, Sunny Levine, a well-known producer who had worked with artists including Pete Yorn and Happy Mondays. I was already a huge fan of Sunny's, so I knew it would be good -- but when I heard the work in progress, I knew that this was something very special.
Sal in the studio with Sunny Levine
I told Sal we should document the entire process. My plan was to use the extra footage as a promotional tool after the record was released, but when I started getting into the interviews, it began to take on a life of its own.
People knew the Sal Masekela from television, but no one knew the Selema Mabena Masekela whose South African-born father is an inspiration to people around the world. Sal had never talked about his father with me.
In fact, my own father once told me, "He's probably related to Hugh Masekela," to which I responded, "Who?" He nearly slapped me! Hugh was not only a famous trumpet player, but a powerful voice against apartheid, slavery and oppression who had touched so many people with his music and his message.
In 2010, ESPN invited Sal to South Africa to serve as a correspondent for the FIFA World Cup. They also featured Sal in a video series they created called Umlando: Through My Father's Eyes, where Hugh brought Sal to places in South Africa that have been important in Hugh's life.
When I saw this, I knew that this was a story the world needed to hear: the amazing journey of a child of South African heritage who found his way to the epicenter of the action sports scene in San Diego, only to return to his roots and discover himself.
I plan to take this project to all the major festivals next year as a short film. Gaining the attention I know it will, I'd like to then expand it to a full length feature.
What began as a traditional profile piece became a series of stories that spanned many years, and stretched around the world. It is the culmination of Sal's life until now, and a chance for me to tell every kind of story that I have wanted to tell.
AS COMMITTED TO US AS WE ARE TO THEM
Our third partner, Cole Angenendt, joined forces with us to create UX Entertainment, an all-inclusive one-stop shop from the inception of the creative concept to post-production and beyond. We recently produced music videos for Kate Vogel, Neon Hitch, and Blink 182, and our corporate clients include Vitamin Water, Coca-Cola, and MovieTickets.com.
Jason Bergh on location for MovieTickets.com
Finding the right tools to execute our projects is key. I've been working on Apple Final Cut Pro since the first version came out. Being able to edit well is crucial in story-telling, and FCP helped me realize, "Okay, I can do this!" and I've run my business on FCP for the past ten years.
This summer, I was introduced to the new FCP. I quickly realized that, for my needs, FCPX was more like Final Cut "Amateur." If you were great at iMovie before you switched to FCPX, then I'm sure it's an upgrade, but for us, things began to unravel. I was unable to open old projects and with a new OS that wouldn't even let me run the version that had been making me money.
Jason's work for blink-182, Hearts All Gone
blink-182 "Hearts All Gone"
blink-182 Hearts All Gone
To produce Sal's record Sunny was running Pro Tools on an HP Z800. I was shocked, since he had always been a Mac guy too. He told me, "This thing is rock solid -- it's not giving me any of the problems I used to have on Mac because the programs weren't talking to each other. The Z800 has been a dream."
I then began re-investigating technology. I found things to like about Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere. Media Composer is seriously professional and most of the freelancers we hire are familiar with it. With Premiere you can drop in all sorts of files and it recognizes them, the H.264 from our Canon 5D and 7D cameras, as well as the ARRI Alexa and the RED MX and RED EPIC.
We could be running either of these programs on Mac, but after seeing these HP systems blazing away, rendering and exporting fast, working seamlessly at speeds we've never seen on a Mac, I thought, "Okay, it's time for me to really think about the future of my business on PCs."
I'm not concerned with the cost as much as making sure my trusted editors can transition over. We started with one HP Z800. I told them, "Here's a fast, beefy machine you can get dirty with before we get into a really big project with a lot more media and work flow that we have to pretty much re-figure out."
At the end of the day, I need to run a business and know that the tools I'm using are going to allow me to sustain my existing business while growing and innovating. I need my hardware and software partners to be as committed to me as I am to them. As a first step, we're transitioning toward having the power and reliability of HP behind us.
Moving forward, we want to be part of a community of production professionals that includes our vendors. We want to work with people who are loyal to those who actually work with their systems. We are excited about the future of UX Entertainment, and feel confident having the support of HP to take the ride with us.
Producer/director Jason Bergh -- Vitamin Water / Winter X Games