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Team strength and the interviewing process

People rarely think about the technicalities that go into filming a documentary. Film is tedious. You have to set up the camera and the sound equipment just right and then make sure that they sync up together in order to make your post-production process just a little bit easier. You have to make sure that if you’re filming in the same spot on a different day that you know where all the equipment was today so you can replicate the shot for continuity in the film. You have to take into account outside background noise that obstructs the sound quality of the interview. You have to make sure that you place the interviewer at the right proximity to the camera so that when the subject naturally looks at the interviewer during the interview, it will look like they are looking at the camera enough to be aesthetically pleasing in the film. These are only a few of the intricacies that come with filming an interview for your documentary film, and the strength group encountered all of them on their first day of filming.

The strength group dedicated their entire first day of filming to interviewing Trinity’s (one of the girls in the group) mom. Trinity’s mom is what the girls have affectionately deemed a “double mom”, or a mom who has raised her children all by herself and therefore has had to act as two parents. The Louis Pohl gallery was nice enough to let them use the space for their interview, and the girls spent a lot of time meticulously setting up the set. Being the first time a lot of these girls had hands on experience with filming an interview, a lot of the set up doubled as practice. The sound person practiced holding the boom mic just out of the shot while they tested the sound levels. The cinematographer and the producer discussed where to set up the shot and what angle allowed for the best lighting and offset of background. And finally, the interviewer (Trinity herself), practiced asking questions in a manner that would allow the interview to flow smoothly enough to be spliced together in post-production.

While production is only a part of the filming process – albeit a large and important part – it takes into account all aspects of the whole process. When you’re filming you have to make sure that you’re getting enough of the right material to be able to convey your original idea from the brainstorming process. At the same time you have to be flexible and take into account that a lot of ideas change shape throughout the filming process and you can’t necessarily hold out for one perfect ideal you have in your head. Then when you’re filming and dealing with the technical side of the equipment, you have to think about which course of action will allow the post-production period to be easier. Editing is long and arduous and frustrating when you have to deal with corrupted sound recordings or shots that are cut abruptly. Because of these factors, repetition in the production stage is key. Sometimes you have to re-record the same scene numerous times just so you have the audio and shot that you want. With a documentary interview, this is even harder because you are trying to capture an honest moment of storytelling from a person. If you have to film a person repeating the same answer too many times, sometimes the later shots lose the genuine feel that originally accompanied the story.

Overall, the interview was beautiful. If you ever get the chance to interview your mother, I would highly suggest it. Sometimes when you live a life so close to someone, you miss certain things they see and you rarely ask about it because you were there for a lot of it – just seeing the situation through your eyes not theirs. Watching Trinity interview her mother was a beautiful experience. Although both were very new to the environment, they put each other at ease, and the interview that came out of that was simple yet moving. Both laughed and cried, but they always looked back at each other.

Unfortunately, after the interview was already done, the team discovered some technical problems with the footage. Problems with the sound and the film recording ended up rendering the footage useless. This is another tragedy about the fickleness of the production process – sometimes things don’t go as planned. Due to planning difficulties, the interview couldn’t be rescheduled and ended up having to be cut from the film. Despite this setback, the strength team powered through and filmed other interviews with a variety of different people. Although they didn’t have Trinity’s mom’s interview, they still managed to illustrate their message about the strength of women in other ways, and Trinity and her mother will always have the connection they experienced during the interview.

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