You never stop learning 07/28/2011
I came to the realization today that even though I may be a senior, I will never stop learning new things. Recently I have been experimenting with a new way of capturing audio (a Sennheiser wireless mic hooked up to my Canon 5DMkII) that would allow me to quickly capture interviews without needed to sync the sound separately. I have been trying to capture a promo for my Kickstarter project with Joe and have not had very much luck with it. I decided to try my new way of capturing the audio because its an interview and we needed to shoot it quickly. The first time there was complications with the wireless mic and this time... it was my own operator error.
The wireless mic has a receiver where I can plug my headphones into it in order to monitor the sound. It all sounded GREAT throughout the entire shoot. I was very happy with the quality. When we finished shooting, I realized I missed one simple step. I could hear the audio great through my headphones, but forgot to plug the actual receiver into the camera to allow it to capture. To say the least, it was a dumb mistake, but a HUGE learning experience for me today! It is probably for the best that this happened because I want to get all of the little kinks and mistakes out before I am out in Montana with much more important interviews that we CANNOT redo. Joe and I will be able to reshoot the Kickstarter video on Monday before he leaves, which will be fine. It seems that each time we shoot, the composition of the frame gets better, the sound improves and the delivery of his lines becomes more condensed, clean and well expressed. We will have a good video for Kickstarter video put together soon and it will be worth all of our trouble. Joe and I have both learned a great deal during this process. We look at it like this... with all this practice, I am only preparing him for the bigger, more important interviews in Montana!
Tonight, my instructor, a classmate and I all worked out a few trials with the Sennheiser wireless mic hooked up to my camera. We wanted to make sure we understood each setting so we don't run into issues in the future. The camera I have is not meant to have external audio attached to it so a lot of trial and error is needed to make sure it works!
Also tonight, we discussed more about my story. The biggest issue I have had so far with my story is how to tell one year of one person's life in a short, 20 minute film. Its pretty difficult. I have to make sure that each scene/event in the story has true purpose and just like any classic narrative story it needs to lead the viewer from the beginning, to a climax and eventually a resolution. I am trying to find out the best place to put the climax of my story. My instructor gave me some very good advice tonight. He said, I will know where to put my turning point if I first figure out what my story is ultimately about. For example, if my story centers around his recovery and overcoming adversity than the turning point needs to be earlier on (say, maybe halfway through) The turning point would be where Joe flips a switch after viewing an inspiring documentary and starts to work towards his independence. He starts to work towards adapting all of his hobbies so he can enjoy them again. In order to give him time to build up to his independence and train for hand cycling (his first adapted hobby) we need to start seeing that early on so the viewer can feel how hard he is working. Another way I could approach it is by having him struggle, struggle, struggle throughout the beginning part of his recovery and have the turning point be really late in the film. That way we will be happy when he finally is able to get a grasp on his injuries and learn what he needs to do in order to become independent. I'm not really sure where I am going to take it yet, but this weekend I am going to spend A LOT of time fleshing it out. For the next class I have to have at least two scenes written out completely WITH dialogue.
Montana update!: Joe and Amy are leaving for Montana on Tuesday morning. I am still planning on going, but still need to find an assistant to bring with me. My good friend, Devin is most likely going to be joining me, which would be amazing and a tremendous help! I trust that Devin would be a great addition to the trip because it would be nice to have another creative eye out there! He has had two trips to New Orleans for documentaries so I am confident he knows how to work with limited gear and quick setups. I hope that he will be able to join me. We may be driving... we may be flying... either way, its going to be an incredible experience once we get out there! So excited to have footage from Montana in my film. It will add a lot to the flashbacks and the conclusion/resolution of my film!
Thats enough for now. More to come after my long weekend of script development.
It's official! 07/24/2011
That's right! I have made the final decision that I will be producing a short film on Joe. It will be an inspiring "biographical narrative" on his experience throughout therapy and his road to a new life. For the majority of the film, I will cast someone to portray Joe. I will seek advice from Joe on how my actor can properly portray a quadriplegic. In a meeting I had with Joe last week we discussed how he can easily tell when an actor is faking paralysis. It will be VERY important that my actor can successful take direction and appear accurately to Joe's various states along the recovery process.
Joe and I had a very nice meeting last week where we discussed things further. We discussed the entire route for the hand cycle ride through Glacier National Park. He also has interviews and meetings he wants to conduct with the nurses and doctors who stabilized him back at St. Patrick's Hospital in Missoula. We also discussed me going out to Missoula and Glacier with them next month. I would be going out there August 9th or 10th through the 17th or 18th. I am about 90% sure I will be going. I am still seeking out a second driver/assistant for my trip and the funding needed to make the trip. The main cost will be food, $450 for driving round trip, and then lodging will be cheap because we will be camping at various campsites along the way! It is going to take me away from school for about a week and I am going to have to raise money to do so, but I definitely think it will be worth it! I will be able to get footage of the hand cycle ride, b-roll footage for flashbacks, hopefully some speed flying rides performed by one of his friends and then the interview he wants for his own personal project. :)
I sent in a project proposal to Kickstarter last night. Kickstarter will allow me to receive funding from the general public for my senior film. I am only going to pledge a small amount since I only have two weeks before Montana. Crossing my fingers that they accept my proposal.
Today Joe and I are getting together to talk more and shoot a promo video for the potential Kickstarter project. He just received his new bike for the trip so we are going to film him on that!
To help aid in my research for this short film, I have watched two EXCELLENT films to understand my subject matter. One was "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" which was recommended by my instructor. It is about the editor of Elle magazine and his recovery following a stroke. He was diagnosed with "locked in syndrome" which is paralysis from head to toe. With no ability to speak, it showed him learning how to communicate through blinking. First with one blink for "yes" and two blinks for "no" and then eventually he learned to spell things through blinking. Despite this very difficult process, he was able to write, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by blinking when the correct letter was reached by another person slowly reciting the alphabet to him over and over again. Its an incredible story and it is shot very similarly to how I have envisioned my senior film! A lot of it is from the patient's perspective, which is what I am hoping to do as well. The other film I watched was "Murderball." It is a documentary about quadriplegics who play wheelchair rugby. This was a film that Joe recommended because it was a film that motivated him in his own recovery process. I can very easily see why it was so motivating for Joe. I learned a great deal about my subject matter through the interviews with each rugby player.
Along with watching the films I have been reading through his Caring Bridge journal from when he was in each hospitals. I copied it to a word document and I have been reading through 64 pages of his recovery process. I am highlighting different parts of it so that I will be able to accurately portray how he looked, acted and felt during each day. I am reading parts of it aloud to my mother, grandfather and brother who are all medical professionals. They have been explaining things to me very well and told me that his family did a great job regurgitating the medical jargon in the journal.
I am going to get back to reading the journal and will update this more after my meeting with Joe this evening. Cheers!
And so it begins! 07/18/2011
This quarter I am starting an exciting adventure: the production of my senior film! I will be spending the next 11 weeks on the pre-production of my film. Following pre-production, I will engage in producing and editing my film over the next 9 months. The next year is going to be an exciting time in my collegiate career. This project will give me the opportunity to take everything i've learned, and create a compelling short film that represents my hard work. Over the next year, I will be sharing weekly journals covering the filmmaking process, and I will also be using it to share things that inspire me along the way!
We are now at the beginning of Week 2 and we are already well into the process of constructing our stories. Last week we were able to listen to advice from the senior post-production students who have already gone through the preparation. It was very beneficial to hear what they had to say and what they would do differently if they had another opportunity. Last week we wrote up initial synopses for potential stories. This first half of the quarter will be the most challenging one for me. Although I may not the strongest writer, I want to push myself out of my comfort zone and write a script I can be proud of. I want to write a narrative piece so that I can further improve my scriptwriting abilities. I already know that I enjoy producing documentaries, so working on a narrative piece will be a fantastic opportunity to grove as a writer.
For many weeks I've struggled with what I could possibly write for my senior film. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting an incredibly inspiring young man. His experiences and hardships instantly gravitated myself towards sharing his story. I knew that I already wanted to produce a narrative, but when this great documentary opportunity presented itself, I could not pass it up. I really found this man's story to be inspiring, and I knew that others would be just as interested in his story as I was.
The young man's name is Joe. I met him through a mutual friend and when I met him I fell in love with his story. After two hours talking with him, I left feeling so inspired and eager to learn more from him. Last August, Joe was involved in a speed flying accident that was truly life-altering. This accident caused him to permanently lose mobility in his legs. He was diagnosed as an incomplete c-7 quadriplegic; a spinal cord injury that causes paralysis from the waist down.
Throughout his recovery, Joe has displayed the workings of a true fighter. As an extremely active man with a passion for the outdoors, he has had no regrets for the hobby that took away his ability to walk. He says, if he still had the ability to walk, Joe would continue speed flying. With four months in several hospitals, Joe responded very well to physical therapy and worked VERY hard to gain back his independence.
He is currently training to hand cycle 105 miles through Glacier National Park, which he hopes to accomplish before the 1 year anniversary of his accident. Along the way, he hopes to meet the people responsible for saving his life. He wants to show how much he has been able to accomplish within that first year following his accident. Most people in similar situations as Joe would still be dealing with the regret, and questioning why they were put in that position. However, Joe's attitude towards an otherwise debilitating and traumatic accident has been unique. Joe does not feel the need to dwell on the past, but rather wants to find out how he can benefit from the new life he has been given.
This is a remarkable story and I want to share it with a greater audience. It is people like Joe that not only help others appreciate the life they have been given, but motivate them to enrich their lives, no matter the situation.
This past week I decided that I would like to tell his story by writing a script that follows his journey through recovery. I want the film to showcase Joe's understanding of paralysis. I want to show him working through the recovery process. This includes, physical therapy, finding new ways to enjoy his life, and regaining independence. Joe's love for the outdoors kept him motivated throughout the recovery process. By constructing a narrative through conversations with Joe, his whole experience will give a true representation of a man overcoming adversity.
Tomorrow morning I am meeting up with Joe to talk more about his story. This time I would like to capture audio of our discussion in order to get as much insight as I possibly can. I will journal more about our discussion afterward.
Here is my journal where I can reflect on the creative process in the development and production of my senior film.