In September of 2016, I shot a documentary short about bird banding. A whopping NINE months later, I now have a cut that I like.
When I completed the production of the film, I had a Dell laptop with an Intel i7 processor, 8gb of RAM, and a subpar graphics card. The screen couldn’t even do 1080p. Fast forward to the present and I’m writing this on an iMac with 12gb of RAM, a Radeon HD graphics card, and a screen that can display a little over 2K resolution. I also didn’t have the full Creative Cloud either.
Equipment doesn’t make films, people do. However, equipment does dictate when your film is going to come out.
I shot the b-roll for the film on the Canon C100 Mark I and the interview portion on my trusty Nikon D3100. My little laptop can handle my Nikon and most DSLRs more than adequately, but the C100 shoots in AVCHD which is larger than the MP4 files of standard DSLRs.
Editing a documentary is difficult. Everyone says that, but until you’re in the trenches, you don’t quite believe it. I didn’t believe it. I had a vision for what I wanted, but the film itself, had different ideas.
You are trying to represent these people’s lives as accurately as possible. It is an immense responsibility. For me, since I was so close to the subject, I tried to view it as an outsider and just show it objectively. As humans, we are innately biased, so being truly objective is pretty much impossible. What I did to combat this, was assemble a focus group of sorts. I got someone who was there to view it to see if it was a fair representation of the events, someone who helped me develop the idea to see if I was conveying what I was trying to convey, and someone who knows nothing about it to see what I was actually conveying. The most important question to ask each individual you show your film is, simply, “What is wrong with it?”, or, “What didn’t you like?”. We all appreciate praise, but it is rarely constructive.
I think I’ve grown a lot as a filmmaker and a person since the production of this short. The most important lesson I’ve learned through all of this, is to never give up. Thoughts of all of this footage on my hard drive would keep me up at night. Not only for my own sake, but for the subjects too. When I locked the cut into something decent after all this time, it was like a gigantic weight had been lifted off my shoulders. All the the doubt, anxiety, frustration, and work paid off into something. It was tangible.
I will keep you all updated on the film as it progresses. I wanted to share my excitement with you and let you know what I have been doing. Also, there should be a new video next week about a certain political event happening in my state. I will be filming it tomorrow. Stay tuned!