A short film.

by John G.

We’ve managed to finish our little film for our New Media Images class. For best results watch on Vimeo in HD.

The three of us: April Kum, Yi Luo, and I really wanted to make something great, something far from anything resembling ’student work’. I think we had our fair share of mistakes and moments, but on most fronts things went well, we were lucky to get someone who’s rather comfortable in front of a camera and easy to work with like Drew. This being our first real view into what making a film is all about –albeit at a sliver of the complexity, it was full of learning experiences. Here’s a few:

Do your interview first.
This may be common sense to some people out there, but there’s a few obvious advantages to doing it this way.

First, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to have visuals support what the subject is talking about. Naturally, that means you need to know what he’s going to talk about before planning the shots.  We didn’t realize how critical this was until our 6-hour shoot didn’t match up with what our subject was talking about.

Second, you can have a reasonable expectation of the story you want to capture, how you want to portray the subject, but that can change quite quickly when you begin interviewing them and beginning to understand them more. We found that to be the case with Drew and it changed the whole presentation of the film.

Third, we found storyboarding a documentary to be a bit of challenge, we had a few key shots we knew we wanted to get but its hardly as linear as a narrative might be. Which is why being able to sit down with the audio, and take time to listen to what he’s saying is very valuable. You’re able to capture the essence of what he’s trying to get at, and arrange it accordingly giving you a clear idea of what shots you need and in what order.

Have someone that represents  your audience do the interview.
When it came time to interview Drew we thought that with my knowledge of the coffee business I would be the best person to create a dialog around coffee and yield some great answers. To a certain extent that’s correct and I was able to create a good dialogue however, after listening to the recording, we quickly realized our conversation was full of subtle jargon and simple things only people in the coffee business know. Even basic things like the term, “centrals” for Central American Coffees is a bit vague. After returning to redo the interview with Yi as our interviewer, his answers were naturally much more appropriate to our audience.

Unless you want the interviewers voice in the audio, make sure you have the subject repeat the question in some way while he answers.
Another reason our first recording didn’t work out.

Some thoughts on the footage.
I learned that as the cinematographer you really have to objectify what you’re seeing in the camera and not let the shot and emotion in it blind you from its flaws. There were a handful of really great shots that just got ruined from pans that weren’t entirely smooth, from the subject not being in perfect focus, from the exposure a step too high, and on and on. Having a little bit more experience helps, but you need to detach yourself from the moment and look at the frame a little bit more clinically before diving into it.

Quality wise, I’m a little frustrated as to why Nikon hasn’t been able to release a firmware update for the D90 giving me a little bit more control, especially the ISO. Although I was able to dramatically improve most of the shots with Magic Bullet Looks, at times there’s some significant bleeding and issues with the image. Should I do more video work in the future I’ll be lining up a Canon to shoot with.

Last thoughts
Want to thank Drew Johnson of Origins Organic Coffee again for working us into his busy schedule and letting us cruise around with tripods, lights, and gear for a few days. Also wanted to thank my cool partners April and Yi for putting up with me for the whole project and trusting me to shoot and edit the footage. Hope everyone enjoys at least one moment of the short, if not two.

Update
We had our viewing yesterday in the theatre at SFU and although it slightly dragged on (just under 3 hours) it was great to see all our classmates projects.

Here were two of my favourites:
The Walk – By David Yao, Marcus Su, ChungWon Yang
Pierce – Pantea Shahsavani, Justin Ramsey, David Holicek

JG