Filmmaking Amateur | Pre-Production (Day Four)

by Scott U
(Georgia, USA)

Today was spent planning an upcoming shoot with the Fuller Center for Housing, a non-profit housing ministry. Each year, to honor the Fuller Center's founder Millard Fuller, The Fuller Center for Housing holds a week-long event building and repairing scores of homes in one community. This year's event will be held in Minden, LA. I spent the afternoon in the offices of The Fuller Center meeting with event coordinators and communications staff in preparation for the big build.

As with any large event (or small ones for that matter) pre-production meetings hold the keys to success when shooting in the field. Understanding which homeowners and volunteers have compelling stories helps to more easily facilitate what is shot and who is interviewed during the build week. For this year's event, we will be doing short stories each evening recapping what was accomplished that day. In addition to creating short "this is what happened" videos, we will be producing a longer 5-7 minute video to be seen by all volunteers, sponsors and homeowners at the end of the build week that recaps everything that happened. And, in addition to that, The Fuller Center wants to make sure we focus on sponsor and donor support videos as well. The Fuller Center would come to a grinding halt were it not for the support of those that make donations. Ensuring that donors and sponsors feel appreciated by creating videos that highlight their specific work usually helps to ensure that their funds keep coming in after the build is over.

I've been playing around lately with our Panasonic DVX100A camera. It's a bit outdated at five years old, but it's still a fine camera. While in The Fuller Center office, we practiced uploading (digitizing) footage from the Panasonic to The Fuller Center's Mac. It's a good thing we did this practice run as we had problems getting the footage from the camera to the computer. Nothing would be worse that shooting video that ends up stuck in the camera. The pre-production meetings are vital to the success of the stories that will be told and it is equally valuable in making sure all of the equipment is compatible. We've still got some kinks to work through with the latter, but tackling those issues now, a month before shooting begins, ensures that we are as productive as we can be in the limited time frame we have to produce videos for the event.

My approach with documentary filmmaking is to let the story tell itself. Sure, we come in with ideas and directions on what we will focus on and how it will be recorded, but we are documenting an event, not scripting an event. We will not be making a movie where we can ask the volunteers (actors) to do another take because we weren't ready with the sound. This means that we will have to be on our toes to make sure we don't miss any of the important stuff.

Although I did not have much time today to work on my own editing or shooting skills, we did accomplish a lot by simply laying out what we'll be focusing on during the event. These meetings and the others we'll have before we get to Louisiana will be critical in making sure we stay focused (all the while being open to stories as they develop).

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