We had three days to shoot four mini-documentary stories throughout Western Australia’s South West destined to be screened at the My Way Launch in July of this year (I’m a bit late in writing this blog). Despite rigorous scheduling it required multiple relatively short shoots each day, think on your feet filming and spending around half of each day in the car traveling between Busselton, Dunsborough, Margaret River, Cowaramup and Augusta.
It was a frantic and fun journey through which we met some very inspiring people. If you would like to learn more about the NDIS My Way model click here.
Interested in what goes into a production like this? Read on.
Pre-Production: Getting ready to shoot on the road
From the start we were lucky to have the very organised Kirsty Lawson (from DSC) who joined us for part of day one in Margaret River. She’s an experienced producer and is a big part of the reason why we were able to capture what we did in the timeframe. Organising people, locations, permissions etc. She pointed me in right direction to get up to speed on My Way as well as writing what was basically the main interview questions that needed to be covered.
One mistake which I made on this shoot was driving from Perth to Margaret River the morning of the first shoot. We still had a successful day of shooting, but we (I) needed a lot of coffee and we were shattered by the end of the day. The next away job I did which involved a short flight up North, I made sure we arrived the afternoon before. It made a world of difference.
Anyway when we arrived I only really knew people’s basic circumstances. I’d chatted to a few parents on the phone whilst I was scheduling but that was about it. I mainly knew they’d benefitted immensely from the My Way trial. So in the interviews which myself and Stephen Burge conducted (tag team) we needed to help them feel comfortable whilst we got to know them, their life, their story, what My Way has done for them, the role of their My Way Coordinator and more.
We had a crew of three. Myself on camera and conducting interviews, Stephen Burge assisting in all areas of production and conducting interviews and Daniel Purcell (Awesome freelance composer/soundie) on sound.
Luther’s video had us filming in the most locations on very short shoots (None more than an half an hour except for the interview shoot). He’s a very inspirational bloke and ended up talking to the 250 + crowd at the MyWay launch after the original edit of his video played (We later edited in part of the event at the end of his video). In a way it was the easiest video to make because he’s such a man of action (we had plenty of engaging visuals to work with) – he had all three of us on the back of his quadbike, he hit the gym, did rock-climbing… Amazing!
I’ve just been informed that he has completed his cert 3 in personal training with the Australian Institute of Sport. He’s the first person who uses a wheelchair to do this! His Mum Lorraine and MyWay Coordinator Leanne spoke very eloquently (despite us being rained out in Leanne’s interview which we shot in fifteen minutes) and formed the backbone of the narrative. My favourite moments are just when you see Luther and Lorraine poking fun at each other, they’re just being themselves and I’m so glad we could put those moments in the video.
I think there’s a lot that this video has going for it. Mainly Luther, his big grin and general positive outlook on life. But in a way we were very fortunate to have all the shooting opportunities we had (and we worked hard to fit them all into the schedule). It’s so important to get varied, relevant and quality B-roll (footage to cut with interviews). You can’t ever assume you’re just going to get it. Depending on the subject matter, story being told and people involved you sometimes have to plan much more rigorously for it.
Similar to Luther’s though perhaps not as action packed, we had visual variety when it came to our B-roll. (The footage other than the main interviews). We tried to make the most of each location for shooting as we didn’t know how it would all be edited together. (It was more of a case of finding the narrative in post).
We filmed Tenael’s Mum Trina in Cowaramup and captured some B-roll of Teneal around the property there. We also filmed at the shire (her workplace) and at Gath helmets where we were able to quickly shoot interviews with staff. We also filmed interviews with My Way Coordinators Jamie Ashton & Valerie Mansfield so we had plenty to work content/story wise in the edit.
Between locations we made sure we did some general filming around Margaret River and other locations and you can see some of that footage put to use in this video in transitions between subject matter and/or to set the scene.
Mr and Mrs Junor
These guys are a beautiful couple. It was a heart-warming experience hearing how they met, fell in love and got married. So we opened the video with a look at their romance before delving into how Lynne and Gordon (Mark’s mum) and Mr and Mrs Junor coordinate their My Way plan with Valerie. Unlike the other videos, we filmed Valerie, Lynne and Mr and Mrs Junor together. This created a very light, natural and unique feel to this video and also helped give everyone the comfort and interaction to say their part.
I think finding the right music was one of the keys to making the video flow and feel how it does. Of all the interviews, this was the longest as we filmed everyone together. It was about an hour in total, edited down to five and half minutes.
The b-roll is a mix of very quickly shot footage at Mr and Mrs Junors home (after the interview). Some shots from Artsability and footage of Mark and his dad Gordon at the Mens Shed. It came together pretty well. I’m happy that each video feels quite different. The people set the tone of each video which is as it should be.
Without a doubt this was the most tricky to shoot. The family we were originally meant to film pulled out at the last minute and Kirsty was able to (the morning of the first day in Margaret River) get Janice to come onboard for the production. I’m really happy with this video (especially) considering how quickly we shot it.
The first shoot was simply meeting the family at home in the morning before school. Spending ten minutes inside before walking to the bus stop three minutes walk away. We didn’t set any shots up, we were just following the action as it happened.
I’m pretty pleased with the coverage we got in such a short space of time. Daniel and I were sprinting (in the rain on wet roads) to get ahead of Lincoln, Janice and the family to be able to cover different angles and get as much useable footage as possible.
The footage doesn’t all directly relate to what is being spoken about, instead we we’re simply constructing a narrative (through shooting and editing) showing a bit of a day in the life for Janice and Lincoln and a look at part of their daily routine. So we are hearing the details of their situation and how My Way is working for them, but at the same time we are in a very simple way getting to know and hopefully connecting with the family through the visuals. I guess I’d call it a visual B-story and it’s something that’s works very well when you don’t have footage to exactly match what is being discussed.
The interviews were shot on RED but I shot the B-roll here on a Canon DSLR as I felt like I could move faster with it (and it was better inside for as there was not a lot of light). All the outside stuff was on a Zeiss 100mm. I didn’t have time to switch glass and it’s a stunning lens. Probably my favourite in our kit.
We went back to Janice’s place after school the next day. Quickly filmed her interview and then shot the boys playing in the yard before the rain started bucketing down and we began our drive back to Perth.
It’s Janice, John (My Way Regional Director) and Valerie’s interviews that form the backbone of the video (Kirsty actually interviewed Valerie and John in Perth a couple of days after the main shoot as Valerie had to leave for Perth). I can’t stress enough how important it is to know what you want/need going into a video like this. A little pre-production planning goes a long way. If I’m honest I know we got very lucky with our interviewee’s on this project because they all speak so eloquently in their own words. It’s very easy for videos not to turn out so well and for a lot more prep to be needed to get the same result.
We are finding ourselves doing more and more of this documentary / corporate video storytelling these days. As we keep shooting and editing I find myself appreciating and learning some of the subtleties, effort and craft needed to tell these stories engagingly, with poignancy and grace.