Not a How-To Post on Documentary Filmmaking

In order to spark conversation, I thought I’d take a quick run through my process of making the documentary film, For the Love of Books. I invite questions, requests for more of an explanation, and most of all suggestions for improvement.

documentary filmmaking, how to, step by step

  1. As a longtime fan of documentary films and a writer of scripts, the catalyst that sparked me into action to try and make my own film came as I attended the Rhode Island International Film Festival.  
  2. While watching a block of shorts, I saw a film called Two’s a Crowd. It was about a Manhattan Jewish couple who had maintained separate apartments during their marriage but because of economic circumstances, they’d decided to finally move in together. I remember a line: “I can get married or move in together, but I can’t do both.”
  3. Two brothers made the film. I thought it was funny and interesting about relationships. I turned to my sister and said, “We can do this.”
  4. A plan was hatched to do a short film about my father and his morel mushroom hunting buddies. (now in progress)
  5. I have a MacBook from St. John’s University I use for work. My wife has one too. I decided I would be an Apple guy and that I would look for a camera that worked well with Apple and the company’s software program, Final Cut Pro X.
  6. I purchased an iMac with the largest screen possible. I purchased their video editing software Final Cut Pro X. 
  7. I might use the wrong computer jargon here, but I’ll do my best and correct me if you find mistakes. You’re going to need a lot of RAM. I think of this as working memory.  The iMac often comes with 4 GB of RAM. I have since upgraded to 16 GB.  It was very easy to do this myself. Just involved a few screws. Apple charges a lot for their RAM. Buy it and install it yourself.
  8. You are going to need an external hard drive. Final Cut Pro X will work much better if your video is stored on an external hard drive so the desktop processor is free to run the video editing software.
  9. Sometime after I bought my computer and before I bought the camera, I started to think about the crazy costumes of the Pulpwood Queens. I thought they’d look great on camera. I emailed Kathy Patrick and asked her if I could bring my camera down to Jefferson, Texas and film some of the events.

my camera: the JVC GY-HM150U

  1. A couple days before my trip to Jefferson, I purchased the JVC GY-HM150U from B & H photo. I purchased memory cards, a bag to carry the camera in, and an extra battery.
  2. I read Anthony Q. Artis’s book, Shut Up and Shoot. It gave me a lot to consider before I began shooting.
  3. I thought a film needed a through story, something a viewer could watch from beginning to end. The only story I could think of (maybe the only story I had access to) was my own story of being nervous and travelling to Jefferson for the Pulpwood Queens’ party. 
  4. I decided to shoot at 24P. I kind of wish I would have just shot in HD.  I may not have even described this right.
  5. I did what I could to shoot footage of the journey. This included still photos and video of airports, my rental car, the state line, sites along the way, and the “Jefferson” sign as I entered town. Except for when my battery ran out, I videoed everything that happened at Girlfriend Weekend.
  6. What story are you telling? How can you “show” it? I tried to feel out a story as the weekend passed. I knew I had to have an ending. I was on the lookout for it.
  7. It wasn’t long until I wished I’d bought a tripod. 
  8. Other mistakes? forgot to white balance the camera, didn’t know my camera had a “stabilization” button, ran out of battery in the middle of great footage, and I once had the mic facing the wrong direction.
  9. As you fill up your memory cards, where will you put the video? I had a MacBook and an external drive that I put footage onto at night. The files are enormous.
  10. Kathy Patrick introduced me to the crowd as a documentary filmmaker. I had a camera. As far as anyone knew, I was a documentary filmmaker. I tried to start acting like one. I focused on trying to capture the experience of the Pulpwood Queens’ Girlfriend Weekend. The more I filmed, the braver I got and the more I was willing to stick my camera into the action. I asked people questions and filmed their answers. 
  11. I wasn’t determined to make a documentary film. I wanted to learn to use my camera and get some experience. My experience with the Pulpwood Queens motivated me to see the film to completion.
  12. Having been introduced as a documentary filmmaker,  (rather than a guy who bought a camera) I was approached by Brooklyn-based photographer Natalie Brasington.  She offerred her still photographs to the film. I believe this is one of the key events that allowed the film to be completed. 
  13. I connected via Facebook with my old high school basketball rival and friend Jeremy Vogt. He offerred his music to the project.
  14. I took Apple workshops on Final Cut Pro X  at the Apple store on West 14th Street in Manhattan.  It was during these courses that I also learned about Larry Jordan and his book Final Cut Pro X: Making the Transition.  
  15. I essentially wrote an essay about the Pulpwood Queens. I cut it in half and read the first half of it to open the film. I used Natalie’s photographs to illustrate it. I added Jeremy’s music. I did the same for the end.

Hope this gives you an idea of my process

Love to hear questions and suggestions

Thanks for reading!

Phenom Film Festival Edition

My sister Anne and I discuss Ed Epstein’s Hollywood Economist, Tom Cruise INC, and the Phenom Film Festival on this week’s podcast. Some good news: the documentary For the Love of Books was awarded the festival’s Audience Choice Award for a feature film.  The trophy is pictured as the image on the podcast player below. Press play to listen or check out the podcast on iTunes by typing “Prof. Torg’s Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club” right into the spot where you’d type a song.

http://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/2061928/height/325/width/325/autoplay/no/autonext/no/direction/forward/thumbnail/yes

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To get to the film festival, Anne came via Burbank and me White Plains, NY and we met in Dallas. We rented a car and made the 4-5 hour drive to Shreveport / Bossier City for the Phenom Film Festival. On the way, we stopped off in Jefferson, Texas to see the star of my film, Kathy Patrick. Here’s a pic of Anne and I out front of Kathy’s Beauty and the Book hair salon.

film festival, great book, audience choice

Anne and I out front of Kathy’s Beauty and the Book

Epstein’s Hollywood Economist got Anne and I talking about how often we go to the movies.  I think Anne’s an oddball! Just about the only way she sees a movie is in the theater.  How about you?

 

<a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/6527398/”>How often do you go to a movie theater?</a>Want to read along with us?  We’re going to get together again in about two weeks to discuss Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.  You can get a free copy online by clicking here.

 

Are you willing to receive a personal email from me?  If so, enter your email into the box below.

The Movie Poster is Out! by Natalie Brasington

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I’m excited to share with you the movie poster created by photographer Natalie Brasington for the premiere of our film, For the Love of Books.  It will screen as part of the inaugural Phenom Film Festival in Shreveport, Louisiana at the Bossier Civic Center on Saturday, September 8th at 6:00 PM.  I’ve heard rumors that Kathy Patrick is planning a party.  I’ll be there!

documentary film movie Kathy Patrick John Berendt Robert Leleux film festival William Torgerson St. John's University Love on the Big Screen Horseshoe

pictured from left to right:  author John Berendt, a close up of Robert Leleux, Kathy Patrick with a pretty hat on, Wade Rouse in a tie, and a chapter of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club

Can you help me out and let me know which Pulpwood Queen chapter is pictured?  If you’ll enter your email into the box below, I’ll write you a note and say hello.  Thanks for checking out the site!

Movie trailer can be viewed here.

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