After over a year, A Bird in Hand is online for all to see. I started this project during my film apprenticeship at Film Connection in late 2015 and now it is fully realized. I have known the Pitmans for over a decade at this point, and it was an honor to capture their story.
The first major lesson I took away from this experience is to be open to whatever happens. In October, 2016, when it was shot, I was as flexible as a rock. My friend Tal who was an enormous help in all areas, flipped his car a day before shooting on the way to Jekyll Island, so that freaked me out for all of production. I was on edge the entire time we shot, to the point where my arms were sore from being locked in the position I was holding the camera. This film meant (and still does) a lot to me and I was terrified of messing it up. I would argue that in a lot of ways I did mess it up, but it still turned out well. When I do my next film, I know I will be much calmer because I have grown as a person from this experience.
Overall, I am very pleased with this film. I hope that it brings the exposure that the Jekyll Island Banding Station deserves. I think helping nature (and by extension animals) is one of the most altruistic things you can do.
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!