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Old February 26th, 2011, 09:40 PM   #1
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Need advice pre planing

let me first start out by saying i have really no official training i have been figuring things out on my own for the last few years film making is really more of a hobby.

For the past 4-5years I have been shooting and editing videos for my church youth group. I have really enjoyed doing this but i want to take it to the next level with more i guess you call it a documentary of what the group does during the week instead of a typical slide show/video type deal. I want to include interviews and more informative information. I have been trying I am really having a hard time coming up with ideas knowing how it has been on past trips. I also attached a link to the last mission trip video i shot and some other projects i have worked on to give you an idea of what i have done before

Mission Trip 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2u_2VaSMIE
Promotion for my machine shop class
YouTube - PMT Promotion 2
Capital campaign
YouTube - Capital comangin


I have a few nob type questions i hope you guys don't mind answering i don't have anyone else to ask.

when is the best time to shoot interviews? (mission trips are one week long)

Is it better to use the natural background of the location the group is at or shout i have a back drop set up?


Thank you in advance for all your help i greatly appropriate and advice you can give me
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Old February 26th, 2011, 10:02 PM   #2
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Re: Need advice pre planing

I forgot to mention it is going to be NO longer the 15minutes long
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Old February 27th, 2011, 12:50 AM   #3
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Re: Need advice pre planing

I don't do documentaries so I may not be the best person to dish out advice on this subject.

So, for what it's worth:

The best time to interview is when the subject is at his/her most emotional. It could be happiness, sadness or anything else, but it's the only time when the subject is natural and is most likely to deliver truthful material.

On a documentary, assuming you know the itinerary, try to figure out a schedule to interview your subjects based on past experience. You need to know your subjects well, have great observational and listening skills, and be ready on your feet. Sometimes you'll need to run the camera until the subject forgets it is there.

The backdrop/background is part of your interview. It's not a detached image without emotional impact. You need to figure out what the best backgrounds are for your kind of work, and try to keep them consistent throughout your documentary to give it a professional look. Watch television/reality shows to see how they deal with it. Having said that, some people might be comfortable in an intimate setting and some are at their best outdoors. Only your personal experience with your subjects can guide you on what to do.

Having seen your earlier footage, my suggestion is to let people be in their natural surroundings. Another thing, if possible: try to interview more than one person at one go. Two people play off each other and make it appear more of a 'team affair', as opposed to reality shows where they isolate subjects for votes. But be careful, if you pit an introvert with an extrovert, disaster is bound to happen. Don't be afraid to experiment. You can always edit it out later!

Another suggestion is to make your documentary part of the activity your group does. In this way, instead of being an obstruction, your subjects will feel they are part of the process.

Keep it simple, and make sure you capture great audio. Do not compromise on sound.

Hope this helps.
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Old February 27th, 2011, 10:31 AM   #4
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Re: Need advice pre planing

Hi Tom,

Remember that a documentary is a story that is supported by actual events and facts. The first thing you have to figure out is what you want your story to say or do. It is not a news story or a bunch of random shots and people on camera just talking about what they did or what they think. Think of your documentary as a three act story. There has to be some intro and presentation of the conflict, some development of the conflict, and a resolution.

To make a documentary compelling so that people other than those who were on your mission would want to watch it, you need to get your audience invested in the characters. In a 15 minutes piece this should be done within the first 3 to 5 minutes. I would use some kind of back story on one or two of the subjects that you will be featuring. Give the audience some reason to care that they are going on this mission. There should be some kind of conflict that the characters are involved in and it could be presented by interviews with them, their family, church members, etc.

The second act could start as they are loading and leaving for the week. That would seem to be a good natural end to act 1. Act 2 would consist mostly of what happens on the mission. You want to show the subject(s) journey and transformation. You'll want to capture how the mission is changing them and helping them resolve their conflict.

The third act would show the climax of your subjects dealing with their conflict and hopefully showing some kind of revelation. Then the ending could be them coming home or even showing them with their family and friends and highlighting how they have changed.

The first example video you gave would amount to the b-roll you'll need to be getting while on the mission. I would also consider any interviews you get on the trip as b-roll so the style of interview on the trip could be in a number of settings. If something dramatic happens (and as Sareesh mentioned, you have to be watching out for these moments all the time) don't get in the way of it and start interviewing people. You're job as a documentary camera operator at that moment is to become the eyes for your audience. Capture the emotion and action as it unfolds. Watching the events are always much more interesting than hearing someone talk about them. Before interviewing anyone, I would wait and let them digest what happened and think and reflect about it. That could take until night or even until the next day. If it were me, I would maybe get a few quick words from them later that night or early the next morning. But that wouldn't be the real interview, again this is still what I'd consider b-roll. The backgrounds could change and would need to fit the mood, so you'll have to go on your gut since I don't know what the location looks like.

For your real interviews, I would do two interview sessions. One before they leave. These could be in their home, backyard, the church, just someplace relevant to the subject matter of your documentary. Then I would interview them the week after they come back. That would give you a chance to really get some good questions formulated and you'll really know what your story is going to be. The key is to formulate your questions to help the person being interviewed tell the story you want them to tell. That way as you edit the documentary, you will be able to use the footage you took while on the trip to illustrate and reinforce the words that your audience is hearing.

Those are the basics for creating a documentary and I know it sounds like a lot of work but the fact is that it takes just as much work and planning to make a documentary as it does to make a fictional movie. A couple of good reads for you might be Documentary Storytelling by Sheila Curran Bernard and a standard for most documentary lessons is Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos by Alan Rosenthal.

Documentaries don't have to be long to take people on the journey. Here's a short 10 minute documentary that accomplishes this:

YouTube - RE:Invention

Some last basics, make sure you have solid camera work, try to avoid too much shaking. Some movement is ok on your b-roll shots but for your longer interviews try to use a tripod. Sound is huge. Capture the ambient sounds on your trip and make sure you have good clear audio for all your interviews. I would recommend investing a small amount into a handheld digital recorder and a lavalier mic so that you can use that on your subjects as you interview them. It will mean little more work in post production because you'll have to sync the audio but it will be worth it. A set up like that would cost under $150 but will be much more than worth it and you could use the hand held recorder to capture ambient sounds of things that are happening without being to obtrusive.

A lot of people think that shooting a documentary means going out and filming a bunch of stuff then just editing it together. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Documentaries begin life with a good outline and treatment. The story is already there, we just need to capture a voice to tell it. If as you say, you want to take the next step in film making, I'd suggest you try to find the story you want to tell.

Good luck.
Garrett
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Old February 27th, 2011, 01:20 PM   #5
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Re: Need advice pre planing

Thank you both of you. The information you have told me is great luckily i have until July before i start filming. i currently have a XHA1 and a HDR sr11. a decent manfrotto tripod as well home made steady cam and a home made jib (not sure i am taking it on the trip. So as far as equipment the I think I need to get a lav mic, shot gun mic, and some lights/Reflector.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 09:22 AM   #6
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Re: Need advice pre planing

I would also make sure that you have all your release forms ready as part of the pre-planning process. I would get them signed no later than at the end of the shoot. Having to go back and track down people for signatures can be time consuming.
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 11:00 AM   #7
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Re: Need advice pre planing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Lewis View Post
I would also make sure that you have all your release forms ready as part of the pre-planning process. I would get them signed no later than at the end of the shoot. Having to go back and track down people for signatures can be time consuming.
I actually make sure I have all the release forms signed before the day of the shoot. That way there are no problems with people saying they didn't like the way they said something or they don't want to have something that they said shown. It would seem especially prudent in this situation as you might be filming someone who's parent or guardian would need to sign the release.

If, for some reason you can't get the release signed ahead of filming, make sure you do it right after the camera turns off. Have an assistant standing by to with release in hand.

-Garrett
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Old March 30th, 2011, 08:32 AM   #8
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Re: Need advice pre planing

Sorry I'm a little slow at replying... this month has been a busy one starting a new shoot and re editing a video I did 2 years ago as a graduation project.....


I will have to look into the release forums I believe that every member had to sign a release forum. Out of the four years i have been making Mission trip Video I have never had a forum so I will go to the powers that be and ask them if they want one.
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