Word for word, day by day

May 12, 2008 — Today’s word is “or.”

Nathan Maydole is on the set of Fox 9’s morning show, waiting in the wings and unusually nervous for how not-camera-shy he is.

When it’s his time to go on air with anchor Tom Butler, he fidgets in his seat. He responds to questions with rapid-fire speed. It takes a little while, but he gets comfortable.

That’s because he’s in familiar territory now: having to explain what he’s done for the past 427 days, why he’s always putting his Canon point-and-shoot in front of him, why he talks to it instead of just smiling, why he asks others to get in the frame and collectively say the same word once, twice or three times over.

He’s not crazy. He’s making art. Telling a story.

Since last year, Maydole — he prefers “Nate” — has filmed himself every day saying single words that, when lined up, form sentences with a message. In mid-March, after 366 days, he finished his first chapter, splicing the words together to craft a 3:20 statement about a central theme, change.

Nate tells Butler all of this, tripping over his words in excitement. It’s infectious. And now Butler’s eyes get big. He’s about to be in one of the shots.

Nate gets out of his chair, leans into Butler and angles his Canon toward them.

“Or,” they chant together.

That’s word No. 61 of his second video. Just 304 to go.

March 12, 2007 — Today’s word was “I’m,” the very first of the project.

Growing up, Nate had an intense interest in graphic design. But as a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, his interests shifted as a result of film classes. He learned to shoot and edit video, and he learned its artistic value.

He was hooked.

Today, 25-year-old Nate is a creative director at 50 Entertainment, a music and media company based in Downtown. He travels a lot, currently helping to shoot a documentary in northern Minnesota.

Always surrounded by all that multimedia, it was inevitable he’d take it home, he said. In January 2007, he turned the camera on himself.

“I just started filming,” he said recently.

He began documenting his life on a daily basis with one-minute video clips. He’d talk about his experiences, what he’d seen or heard. He’d film anything he found interesting, such as a new design on a cereal box or the latest gas prices.

The goal, he said, was to create a snapshot of time.

A few months in, Nate realized he could take it a step further.

“I thought, ‘Since I’m doing this, I might as well do something more conceptual,’ ” he said.

The first step to his Word of the Day project was finding something to talk about. That wasn’t hard — one of the inevitable aspects of a time-lapse video is seeing change. Writing a script came naturally, too, he said. It took him a day.

He printed out the script, taped it around his camera and used a pen to strike out the words he already had said. The most difficult task was proving to people he wasn’t crazy.

His girlfriend, Danielle Schultz, said he got looks aplenty.

“Imagine being in Central Park, the middle of Chicago, a Twins game — anywhere there are lots of people — and someone takes out a camera and starts talking to themselves,” Schultz said. “Some girls would be embarrassed to have their boyfriends talking to themselves in public. Luckily, I have a sense of humor.”

Being creative with backgrounds wasn’t particularly difficult. In the video, he can be seen all over Minneapolis, in locations such as his Uptown apartment and his Downtown office. When the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, he shot the next day’s word in front of the bent steel and concrete.

He has shots with his parents, his colleagues, his girlfriend. Some days, he’d film the same word in different spots, just to get the best — and most interesting — footage possible. Other times, especially at the start of the project, he’d be in bed falling asleep only to realize he had not yet videotaped the word.

“At 10 o’clock, I’d think, oh man, I did something awesome today,” Nate said. “But I forgot.”

On March 11, at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, he filmed the last word of chapter one.

On March 12, he started chapter two.

May 19, 2008 — Today’s word is “to.”

Nate just learned his video was becoming hot property on YouTube. As a featured video on the website’s home page, viewership jumped from about 13,000 — mainly friends and family — to almost a quarter of a million in just a couple of days. More than 1,200 comments have been posted on the site.

All that, and Nate said he doesn’t even consider this the interesting film.

“This is more to get people to know I’m out there,” he said. The true goal is a collection of chapters spanning as long as he can keep it up.

“It’s cool now,” he said. “But it’d be really cool to do it in 60 years. I think it’ll be way more
interesting.”

About two months into filming “Chapter Two: Memory” — “What you remember, that’s what you live,” Nate said about his second theme — he’s much smoother at what he does.

He no longer has to strike out the words with a pen. His cell phone carries the sentence and reminds him every day what to say. Waking up in the middle of the night doesn’t happen anymore, either.

“[Filming] is just routine,” Nate said. “It’s like brushing your teeth or putting on your shoes in the morning.”

And getting stares from people? Those are mostly gone as a result of the slice of fame he’s achieved. Now he’s got footage with Tom Butler. His parents don’t raise their eyebrows anymore. Friends and colleagues ask whether they can take part.

To Nate, it’s just another stage in his long-term project. He mused that change could have an even greater meaning as he continues to film himself, day by day.

“Maybe the last chapter will also be change,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

To check out Nate’s video, go to www.natesword.com