After seeing the kids in the field the day before, he realized what he needed to help them with. The kids were focused on pointing the camera and shooting. They were ready to stage things and often they show signs of doing news casts. Documentaries, though, are what we are trying to create.
“Creating a documentary is not just about pointing the camera and shooting”, Drew said during our conversation. “It is about telling a story with the images and objects that are around you. It is about capturing personality, emotion, and feeling.” The goal for day 2 with Drew would be to get this across to them; to model it and then take them out in the field again to film.
Creating a scenario:
Drew said, “They have a video game there right?” I did see them playing video games in the house one day, so yeah, they do. He said, “Let’s have them video us playing a game.” So we planned an activity to use this scenario to teach them about how to make the seeing and the story interesting. The night before we brainstormed about how it would go. We listed questions that we would pose to get them thinking. We more or less scripted about what we wanted to do and then took the time to translate it in Spanish. Still we’d be without a translator for day 2 of workshop with Drew!
Contextualizing this activity:
Drew used video that Marcos took to contextualize the activity for Day 2 of his workshop. He put together a sample of how to take the pieces of what the kids record and then put together different angles and shots to capture the story in a compelling way. Here is what he shared:
As we watched the video, we asked them to critique it and tell us what they see.
One of the responses from Marcos was that it was bad that we could not see the face of his grandmother. This was an interesting observation and one that opened up a good segue to filmmaking. It is art. We have to keep reminding them that this is art. Art is a way of seeing things. Art is a representation of reality (in this case for documentary film making anyway) and it is a medium that we use to capture the audience. To get them interested in the story is part of the trip right? So when we see grandma sitting covered on the ground, she kind of creates a mystery or a sense of suspense. Then we focus in directly on her for the interview. So we are more interested in this covered figure. Who is she and what does she have to say?
This was a perfect conversation that transitioned us into the activity and to review the concept of a shot list. While we used storyboards to help the kids visualize how the director plans a shot, we also wanted to give them a tool of how to plan for a scene that they were ready to capture. The two tools have very different purposes in my eyes. The storyboard is more for scripting a movie that you will create. You organize the scene, you plan your compositions as a director would to manufacture the story and its props. The shot list is more open and flexible. You can use it to create a general foundation for what you need to capture, but it leave you more open to make adjustments in the moment.
For a documentary, I think the shot list makes sense. You don’t want to over plan for your scenes and you want to try as hard as you can to capture reality, conversation, natural occurrences, etc.
Next, it was their turn. We stood up and we walked out of the room that we were in. Everyone but me. I grabbed my ipad to set up in a corner where I would play a game.
Then Drew walked back in with them. What do you do? What shots do we need? Look around the room. Walk in the room and look for every detail. You need to figure out what is going on in this room. You are looking for shots as soon as you walk in the room. How are the objects in this room going to tell the story?
Paper in hands, they began to write and talk out loud about their shots. We couched them to think about long shots to get a sense of the scene; medium shots to bring us closer to the subject; and multiple closeups from various angles to feel like you are there.
Drew and the kids left the room again. He wanted them each to shoot their own video, but in the interest of time, they did this in pairs. Two, by two, they took their shot lists and they got to work.
The kids downloaded the films and Drew helped them to edit. Here are the three practice videos that resulted from the activity:
1. Shot by Catalina and Fabiola:
2. Shot by Marcos and Edgar
3. Shot by Emilio and Carmen: