WASHINGTON, DC, 27 November 2013 — Greetings! This Holiday Season give your friends and loved ones the power to connect, motivate and earn with video.
For a limited time only, we’re offering the ONLINE Video Journalism Workshop With Bill Gentile for $195.00 — a 50% discount from the ticket price.
Don’t wait. Offer good until December 31, 2013.
The ONLINE Video Journalism Workshop includes 14 lessons teaching how to use video for a more profitable New Year.
Order now at http://videojournalismworkshops.com and get the free PDF book, “Essential Video Journalism Field Manual.”
WASHINGTON, DC, 24 November 2013 — This is the poster prepared by a former student of mine announcing my visit to, and Video Journalism Workshop in, Uruguay in December. The trip is designed to support Valentina Quagliotti, who founded Ikusi, a non-profit based in Montevideo, Uruguay. Ikusi is dedicated to furthering the objectives of other, socially conscious non-profits.
In addition to the workshops, I’ll be giving a number of presentations to an array of audiences.
As do so many others today, Valentina understands that the methodology we refer to as “backpack video journalism,” or “video journalism” is an effective tool to connect with people and to affect change. Video is the new literature. Video is the way people gather and share information. Video is the new language. And it is video that Ikusi uses as its primary tool for connecting and for changing.
In fact, Ikusi’s slogan is, “We see. We tell. We change.” That’s what I’ll be trying to do in Uruguay next month. “Change.”
WASHINGTON, DC, 17 November 2013 – So you’ve finished the production stage of your documentary. You’ve got a pile of media in the hard drive. And you’re looking at a blank time line. Now what?
Every filmmaker devises his/her own system for the post-production stage of the process, but here’s what I’ve found to be most effective for me: Watch the material – in real time. While you watch, begin to pull material down to the timeline in the order that YOU THINK it will appear in the final product. Forget about transitions. Don’t worry about trimming the clips. For right now, just get the images down on the timeline in the approximate order that you think they should appear in the final product. Construct a visual story.
By watching and listening, you’ll find out what you REALLY have, especially regarding sound, in terms of raw material. I’ve come back from shoots to be disappointed with material I expected to be great. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how unexpectedly good other material is. So you don’t really know what you have until you see it and listen to it.
As you pull clips down to the timeline, put your most powerful images at the beginning. You have a painfully short period of time to engage your audience, either emotionally or intellectually, with your documentary. So put the best stuff at the beginning and then back into the rest of the story if you have to.
While you watch and listen, transcribe the material and begin writing the script and treatment. Transcribing the material gives you a much deeper sense of what you have than you would without transcribing. Writing the script forces you to match visuals with sound. If the script includes narration, this process forces you to articulate the story as you go along.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, can take the place of a script that you can read, edit, and understand what fits and what doesn’t fit. With a script you can see an entire paragraph of a character’s actuality. And you can decide, for example, which sentence to take out, if need be. You can’t do that without seeing a written document. Or at least I can’t.
Once you get through watching and listening, go back to the Controlling Idea. Keep re-visiting that idea, or construct a new idea if the old one doesn’t fit your material. Then work the material to your satisfaction.
http://videojournalismworkshops.com, WASHINGTON, DC, 12 November 2013 — I encourage students to conduct informal, on-the-run interviews with their characters as a means to connect those characters with their audience. The intent of these informal interviews is distinct from the formal, sit-down affairs that provide a character’s narration that we often slip under the character’s image while he/she is doing something on screen.
Informal interviews connect a character to an audience. Take a look at this piece, “Nurses Needed,” that I did for NOW on PBS. And see one of the nurses we featured (pictured above) tell the audience about her nursing career.
The key to the informal interview is what I call the “Three Magic Questions.” They are:
- “What did you just do?”
- “What are you doing now?”
- “What are you going to do?”
If you ask those three questions — at strategic moments — your characters will narrate their own story and engage your audience. For more on informal interviews, check out my blog post at my ONLINEVideoJournalismWorkshops.com.
http://videojournalismworkshops.com, WASHINGTON, DC, 9 November 2013 — This is Webisode #13 from my ONLINE Video Journalism Workshop series during which we teach you how to make documentary films. This video walks documentary filmmakers through the process of narration. I know that many filmmakers aspire to not use narration, and this is fine, providing you are able to lure the story out of your characters in a compelling and comprehensive manner. And we do this through formal and informal interviews. If you are not able to get critical and articulate information from your characters, then I think it is necessary to narrate.
You can watch Webisode #13 on YouTube by clicking HERE.
As I point out in this video, we use narration to explain, to set up scenes, to summarize, to build tension, to connect the dots of visual and aural information in the documentary film. If you decide to narrate, this video teaches you the proper way to do so. How to use your voice as an effective, informative and communicative tool. How to use pacing, as well as words, to deliver the Controlling Idea. How to use emphasis and pause for effect. It’s all in Webisode #13 of this 14-part series.
I also use narration to place my final stamp of deep personal authorship on my films. When my voice runs through the documentary, the audience knows it’s mine.
The Backpack Journalist, LLC
WASHINGTON, DC, 8 November 2013 — I routinely advise participants in my Video Journalism Workshops to maintain control — as much as possible — of their intellectual property. My latest film on the Cuban economy illustrates why. I shot the bulk of the story, which appeared this week on a new Caribbean news outlet, during my stay in Cuba in fall of 2011. And I’ve used some of the material in stories for other outlets. Because I own the rights to the material, I can continue to use it for future projects.
To see the story on 18degreesnorth.tv, click on www.18degreesnorth.tv, and scroll to the right for the second story in the show.
My re-use of this material, my intellectual property, would not have been possible had I sold all rights. So try to keep those rights as much as you can. When a contract says, “work for hire,” that means that you lose ownership of the material when you hand it over to your employer. And although I’ve done plenty of work for hire, I try not to do so anymore. We know, of course, that one of the key reasons that Robert Capa and a handful of his colleagues launched the agency Magnum, was precisely so that they would maintain ownership of their intellectual property.
This is just one facet of the information that documentary filmmakers must understand and manage on their way to success. And this is only a fraction of the lessons that I try to import in my Video Journalism Workshops.
Good luck and stay safe.
WASHINGTON, DC, 4 November 2013 — Take a look at the Six-Shot System on how to make documentary films. You can see the whole system by clicking HERE. This system is a fundamental component of what I teach in the ONLINE Video Journalism Workshops. And it’s a critical part of the documentary filmmaking process.
WASHINGTON, DC, 3 November 2013 — Check out these Rules for Interviewing as part of the documentary film making process. Click HERE.
WASHINGTON, DC, 6 October 2013 –One of the most frequently asked questions I got from the men and women participating in my recent Backpack Video Journalism Workshop in Tbilisi, capital of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, is: “What kind of camera should I use?” (See http://www.trust.org/item/20131003112356-8kley/?source=hpblogs)
And my answer in Tbilisi, or anywhere, is always the same: “Which ever camera best fits your specific needs and your budget.”
Earlier this year I took on an assignment for American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS). My task was to document the work of one researcher engaged in the Center’s project on religion and violence in the region. The researcher is Robert Brenneman, author of the highly acclaimed book, “Homies + Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America.” An Assistant Professor of Sociology at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, Brenneman returned to Guatemala in January 2013 to conduct a follow-up to his book-related research.
Sadly, Guatemala now is one of the most violent countries in the world. It’s a violence fed by staggering inequities that breed homicide, extortion and drug trafficking. It’s not the kind of place where you want to flaunt expensive camera equipment – especially at night when, by the nature of my work, I knew I would have to work.
So I took two cameras, a main and a secondary.
The main camera is the Panasonic AG-HMC150. (See http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/575992-REG/Panasonic_AG_HMC150PJU_AG_HMC150_AVCCAM_Camcorder.html)
This is a high-quality, hand-held camera with everything you need to generate professional, documentary-style films. With two XLR inputs for directional as well as wireless microphones, the HMC150 is versatile and easy to use. And unlike the Sony EX-1 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/758895-REG/Sony_PMW_EX1R_2_PMW_EX1R_XDCAM_EX_Full.html) it is easy to handle. And it costs about half the price of the Sony camera.
My secondary camera was the Sony Alpha SLT-A77 DSLR with a variable focal length lens. (See http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/817858-REG/Sony_SLT_A77V_SLT_A77_Digital_Camera_Body.html).
This camera was perfect for night-time shooting when sound was not a critical factor and when safety was an important factor.
I have two main issues with any HDSLR camera. The first is that they don’t have the sound-acquiring functionality that regular video cameras do. I know you can rig up special sound gear and two XLR imputs to these cameras, but I think this somewhat defeats the purpose of carrying around a compact camera in the first place. Having said that, with a small directional microphone mounted on top of the camera and some understanding of how to use the microphone to acquire decent sound, the camera worked just fine for me.
Check out the latter parts of these two films I shot on that Guatemala assignment. Titled, “The Gangs,” the first film includes a sequence at the very end showing a slum in Guatemala City that I shot with the Sony Alpha SLT-A77. I didn’t want to be running around a slum, where people are so poor and their needs are so great, with a full-blown video camera. The little Sony worked fine. You can see the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu2gRjMyacc
Same thing with the second film, titled “The Researcher.” Brenneman and I had to visit a church in a pretty sketchy part of town and I didn’t want to lug around a big video camera, especially at night. See the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3wnOfHQemY
The second issue that I have with the HDSLRs is that I find it difficult to get a smooth zoom out of them. Not that I zoom a lot, but when I do I want the zoom to look smooth.
Getting back to the original point, pick your cameras for how best they fit your specific needs and your budget. And never be in a big rush to buy equipment, because in six months it might be out of date. If you have to buy, make sure you have an assignment to cover it.
Good luck and stay safe.
6 October 2013
TBILISI, Georgia, 27 September 2013 — Participants in my Backpack Video Journalism Workshop pose for a closing shot after a successful, five-day marathon in the craft of documentary film making. Founded by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the workshop included participants not only from Georgia, but also from Armenia, Romania and Azerbaijan. What a great group!
(Photo by Bill Gentile.)