In July 2016, Geraldine Convento was interested in planning an extended vacation, but she wasn’t sure where she should travel. Instead of speaking with a travel agent or browsing a travel website like TripAdvisor, the San Francisco Bay Area-based marketing expert and entrepreneur consulted an unlikely source – a Vedic astrologer named Prasannan.
The Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based astrologer (who goes by his single professional name, Prasannan) offers Skype consultations in Vedic astrology, particularly in “Jyotish,” the Sanskrit word for the “science of light.” During such a Skype consultation with Convento, he performed a locational astrological reading that determined the ideal places Convento should visit based on how the planets were aligned on her birthday.
“He just gave me a brief interview,” Convento said. “I just kind of trusted it.”
Prasannan determined that Convento’s ideal locations were Denver and Taos. In a conversation with The Taos News, Prasannan explained that people, unlike cars, are not born with user’s manuals, but astrology can help make up for the lack of direction that people might feel in their lives. “Astrology can get you 85 percent there,” he said, adding that it’s impossible to predict the future exactly.
The interview with Prasannan proved influential. Before speaking with the astrologer, Convento had never heard of Taos – and she had no connections to New Mexico whatsoever. Intrigued, Convento booked an Airbnb on Siler Road for the following spring.
Over the course of her March and April 2017 stay in Taos, Convento met and befriended 35 Taoseños. She fell in love with Taos. And she became inspired to create a YouTube video series that interviews locals and explores a side of Taos outside of tourist attractions like the Río Grande Gorge or Taos Ski Valley.
That channel is called “Get to Know Taos,” and it just launched earlier this August. Having interviewed eight locals, including Shari Ubechel of the Earth and Spirit Gallery and Nyna Matysiak of the OptiMysm metaphysical gift store, Convento plans to release two videos each week for the next month.
“I’m an extremely private person,” Ubechel said, explaining that she was initially nervous about appearing behind a camera, but found it comfortable to share her work with Convento. “Being on Geraldine’s show was like talking with an old friend.”
It isn’t Convento’s first foray into film, nor is it the first initiative she’s built from scratch.
“I’ve been developing websites since I was 13 years old,” Convento said. Her web marketing consulting firm, MeetGeraldine, employs 15 and helps develop and retrofit websites for clients.
Before she started her firm, she was one of the owners of a film production company called AIDO Group (Analog Imagination Digital Output), which was on the production team for Lynn Hershman Leeson’s 2007 documentary film, titled “Strange Culture.” The film told the story of Steve Kurtz, an artist who was detained by the FBI on suspicion of bioterrorism after his wife mysteriously passed away. Notably, the documentary was chosen to be screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
Convento also manages her own personal YouTube channel with 173 subscribers. Much of her channel’s focuses include personal vlogs (video logs), as well as tutorial videos.
“People would record videos 10 minutes long for something that takes 30 seconds,” Convento said, explaining that her initial videos were tutorials that were designed to be much more concise.
Now, she’s also working on a documentary called “A Take on Eczema,” inspired by her boyfriend’s struggles with the skin condition, about the psychological and sociological costs of the disease around the world.
For her project about Taos, however, Convento met her interview subjects through recommendations from shop owners with whom she visited. Without a car in Taos, she wasn’t able to visit Taos Pueblo or Taos Ski Valley, but instead wandered the town on foot for hours at a time.
“Ninety-five percent of the time I was there, I literally walked around and explored,” Convento said. Some of these adventures, at local restaurants such as 5 Star Burgers and Caffe Tazza, were chronicled in her vlog. In Taos, she also learned how to use fortune-telling tarot cards and achieved a level-one certification in Reiki, a form of alternative medicine that originated in Japan.
Convento characterized her video production process as “simple,” mostly using her GoPro camera and the iMovie video editing software that comes with Mac computers. While her vlogs can feature voice-over daily updates, observations and sometimes even her own grocery list, her videos in the “Get to Know Taos” series run for about five minutes and are comprised of condensed interviews with Taoseños.
Convento hopes that Taoseños will help build on the project she has started.
“My original vision when I started it [was that] the people of Taos will see these videos and submit to the channel as well,” Convento said, explaining that, as she doesn’t live in Taos, she won’t be able to continue the channel on her own without local submissions.
Whether the channel has a sustained longevity or not, Convento said that the friendly spirit of Taos made an impression on her and influenced her approach to life in Northern California. “I took that spirit and brought it back to the Bay,” she said.
“Get to Know Taos” can be found at bit.ly/taos-youtube. Convento invites Taoseños to submit video content by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.