A few months back, I was invited to be part of a project – the making of an “It Gets Better” video. For those unfamiliar with the concept, these are videos where all sorts of people show their support for young gay/lesbian people. This particular group of teenagers and young adults are at high risk for bullying, which can lead to all sorts of problems in life, including depression, even suicide. All the videos carry the same message to those victimized by homophobes everywhere: It gets better!
This particular video had a story to tell based on an actual event, and it holds a secondary message to those who watch it regardless of sexual orientation: don’t accept bullying behavior, even if it’s not directed at you.
Essentially this was the collaboration between a bunch of nerds. The whole thing was the brain child of game designer Mike Selinker who shares the screen with online gaming legend Stepto. There is also a guest appearance by Paul and Storm.
My job consisted of the actual shooting and post processing of the video itself. Nerdwrangler Liz Smith made sure everyone knew what they were supposed to do when, and Thomas Ourada acted as production assistant on the shoot itself. It never ceases to amaze me how many people it can take to put together even a short and simple video, such as this one.
For those of you who like puzzles, Mike included one in the video. For more about that – and the solution – take a peek at his post about it on wired.com.
Sidenote: I got hit with a flu which meant I missed out on Norwescon, including the panel I was supposed to be on. If you were there looking for me, I am sorry to have disappointed you.
At the start of this month I put out the first “real” video shot with my new HDDSLR setup. Real, as in something more than a casual dabble. It was shot over two days, with no script or real story at first – only a want to document and celebrate my wife’s work, and try the new gear. Every month, Kelly Cline designs a new recipe for Blue Moon Burgers to use as their Burger of the Month. I like burgers, so this is already a great deal for me, but it got even sweeter when they let me film her working on the Bomb-Mi Burger, featured throughout the month of June.
About half-way through the first day, I realized focus was going to be on Kelly herself and her powerful presence in the kitchen and restaurant. She develops the recipe at home and only comes in to teach it, tweak it and let the others taste it. This forces her to take control when she comes in, and when she does that her passion for food really shines. Also, here was a rare opportunity to show her recipe development alongside her work as a photographer.
Secondary, and this was really cemented during the second day of filming, there was a pattern of reactions I noticed. Everyone who tasted it reacted with either an “Oh, wow!” or an “Oh, yeah!”. I thought that was funny and not a bad way to convey the flavor through video. So I emphasized this in editing.
Finally, the owner Charlie Olson is a bit of a goofball (I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying that, either), always good for a silly remark or a dirty joke. So I picked 3 short clips of him being silly, and put those in there as well.
Part of this test was to see how much goes into even a small production like this. I definitely see producing promotional videos for busines as a potential market, but it comes down to quality vs. price. I wanted to see how good I can make it without an assistant or budget, how long the editing would take and so on. This particular video ended up taking about 12 hours to make. Basic pre-production, like a shot list and a loose script would have probably added another couple of hours and would have streamlined the final result some.
I am working on the pre-production of a second video featuring a local business right now, as a second practice run. This time, I am going a little slower and paying more attention to detail, to see how much time that adds. Learning by doing, while hopefully building a useful portfolio.
During mother’s day weekend my own mom lost her battle with cancer. She passed away at the age of 63, a mother of four and a wonderful, warmhearted woman. Much of what I do these days, I do with her in mind. Losing a parent puts life in perspective, it tears away part of you that will never return but it also leaves insight behind. For me, my mother’s passing has motivated me to study harder. As a way of dealing with the grief itself (a welcome distraction) but also as a tribute to her. She put me into this world after all, and applying myself seems the least I can do to make it worth the trouble. I’m not going to go much more into my family’s loss here. This is supposed to be about studying the art of filmmaking after all.
As mentioned in my last post, I’m starting from scratch, with the writing. I thought I would share some more detail for those like me, who are also doing it on their own.
Reading is great but writing is better. Using sites such as The Script Lab, I’ve found and made a list of exercises that each practice different aspects of scriptwriting. I find more exercises in books and by trolling YouTube. I list 4-5 at a time (one example might read: Character monologue, 1 page, must reference childhood, showcase core moral value) and every day I complete one. Having a list of upcoming exercises plants a seed and lets my subconscious do its thing, so when I’m ready to start work the ideas come faster.
My wonderful wife, being ever-supportive, signed me up for an online class, HDDSLR: Moving from Still to Video. A perfect choice for me, given my background. This is an intensive workshop filmed and broken up into individual segments. Like the textbooks and the writing, I try to complete at least 1 segment every day (each is around an hour long). I’m fairly new to online classes and workshops, but this one at least is definitely worth checking out.
Lastly, I film a lot. Little clips, longer sequences, scripted (sometimes just in the form of two lines of scribbles) or unscripted. Then I look, sort and edit. Then I edit some more. It’s practice, mixing it up a little and constantly challenging myself. I re-read my own writing with a critical eye, hating most of it, and try to pick out lessons and details to work on. Sometimes I edit what I write, but often I move on to the next thing. I see progress in both writing and video but there is still much to learn.
The clip above is a 5×5 video, meaning 5 clips of 5 seconds each that tell a story. It’s one of my favorite exercises, because it forces me to look for the best 5 seconds every time, to help me tell that story in under half a minute. It’s a small enough project, that anyone can complete it in a couple of hours. You should try it, share it, tag your clip 5x5video and drop me a link. I would love to see it.
The upside to the homeschooling approach is that it’s fun, affordable and I can do it on my own time. The downside being the lack of direct tutoring and constructive criticism you get from having a mentor or teacher. It’s lonely work, too. I don’t have fellow students to brainstorm with or to assist with production. These are obstacles that can be overcome of course, and eventually I will need to pull on the expertise of others in one way or another. If you would like to work with me on one of my many projects, consider adding yourself to my personal talent pool. Fill out the form online to sign up.
That’s what my studying schedule looks like at the moment. It will change later, I suspect, as I move past these small exercises and begin working on bigger projects. But for getting started, the approach seems to work well.