Here is Cloud River Academy’s Katherine Valentine-Johnson talking about her students experience in working with the Nickel’s First Takes School Tour! This is where we went around Newfoundland and mentored students in making a documentary on the topic of their choice! These documentaries will be screened at the Nickel festival in June!
I recently went on a school tour sponsored by Reel Youth and The Nickel Independent Film Festival. We went to 4 different schools in central, western and norther Newfoundland to be film mentors for students making documentaries.
These films will be screened as part of the Nickel Film Festival in June so stay tuned for updates! I will be editing one (maybe two) depending on my schedule and if I can squeeze it in! Take a look at some of our behind-the-scenes photos. Some were taken by the students themselves!
Out of the Fog is a local tv show produced by Rogers TV and I was asked to be a guest on it last Tuesday!
I chatted with Jason Piercey about my documentary Flight of the Fisherman which has won 2 awards so far! Fun fact: when I moved home from Prague after graduating from film school I volunteered at Rogers doing their switch board and graphics!
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Take a look at this video shot in June 2016 on our DJI Phantom 3 drone! It was shot in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Canada. The east coast of our province (including St. John’s) is appropriately nicknamed “Iceberg Alley” because we get so many of them here travelling down from the Arctic.
Icebergs usually pass by our coast around May through to early July and it’s quite the thing to see as these massive blocks of ice are over 15,000 years old and can weight anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes!
Editing was originally “a woman’s job.” It required a lot of patience and acute attention to detail and as gender stereotypes were pretty strong when filmmaking began, most production companies sought out women for the tedious task. They would sort through all the footage and work side-by-side with the directors to bring all the pieces together and create a movie.
For anyone that has ever edited a video, big or small, it can be a daunting task. Whether it is film or digital, people that work in post production have their work cut out for them. Literally. (Excuse the pun).
When celuloid film was used, it had to be developed and then pieces were literally cut with scissors and put back together on a reel side by side. Today most films are shot digitally and editing software mimics the old ways of editing and often uses traditional editing terminology, editors still say they are “in the cutting room” and so on.
Editing is known a the second phase of directing and so it makes sense that directors tend to develop a close creative relationship with their editors that sometimes lasts throughout their careers. Both the editor and director need to be compatible and compliment each others styles. Oftentimes directors say that their editors know what they are thinking before they even know themselves.
This is an artistic collaboration so sometimes directors and editors don’t always agree on what should be cut or not. Editors often don’t go on set so that they aren’t influenced by how much time, effort and money was put into a particular shot or scene. For an editor, it’s simple: if it doesn’t fit, it will be cut. Directors can spend weeks on a scene so they can feel conflicted when an editor thinks it should be removed all together. In the end, both the director and editor want what’s best for the film so they need to know when to listen to the other’s opinion to find out how to get the film in its best state.
In the video below jump ahead to 3:21 – 4:02 to hear Spielberg talk about working with his editor, Verna Williams, on Jaws. She went on to win an Oscar for her work on this film.
A lot of famous directors have and editors they work with on all of their films, some other famous editing/directing duos that still work together today are Clint Eastwood and Joel Cox, Woody Allen and Alisa Lepselter, Tim Burton and Chris Lebenzon, Roman Polanski and Herve de Luze, David Cronenberg and Ronald Sanders and more. These editing/directing duos have stood the test of time and have made some great films together and will continue throughout their careers.
Unfortunately there are times when great collaborators are split up against their will. Such is the case of Sally Menke and Quentin Tarintino. Menke died from heat stroke in 2010 while hiking in California. The news was a shock to Tarintino and the people who were close to the famed editor. Tarintino’s directing style is very unique and his films are known for their non-linear editing style that was very ahead of its time. He is a self-proclaimed perfectionist and would have movies play in his head before he even shot them so finding the right match for his personality and directing style was not an easy job. Fortunately he found Menke and the two worked very well together in the time they had. Tarantino was said to be very devoted to his editor, he would sometimes get crew members to say hello to Menke in the camera so that months later she would come across it while editing and it would cheer her up as she worked.
To this day Tarintino still mourns the loss of his right-hand woman in the cutting room. His only film since her passing has been Django Unchained. At the moment he is writing for the series From Dusk Till Dawn and he is set to continue with Kill Bill Vol. 3 in the near future with another editor.
So there you have it! These are just a few examples of directors and editors who work together on various film productions. The next time you are watching a movie, take a look at the credits to see if you start to find pattens.
Lighting is so important in ensuring a quality picture in videos. On film sets, there is an entire department dedicated to designing a light setup and they work under the direction of the Gaffer, who works under the direction of the Director of Photography.
In smaller productions (documentaries & videography) you have to be a bit creative and use whatever light is available. Smaller light sets can be used but depending on what you are doing and where you are, they may not be logical (i.e. shooting out in the woods). Generators can be used but the more equipment you have the more crew you need to lug it around and set it up so there are other ways around it if you don’t have the money to pay for the extra crew members for your video production.
Reflectors are great. These are just two sided pieces of fabric stretched out over a flexible oval/board frame. They are great because they compact, lightweight and cheap. Reflectors don’t have a huge amount of power and they need light to reflect so they are great for just filling in shadows on faces or lighting up details that can be lost when the lighting is too low.
Clip on LED lights. I like these sometimes. Rarely though. I have them but I don’t tend to use them much. The reason being is that they are like a giant flashlight accouncing what the video camera is shooting. I tend to capture a lot of candid video so I don’t like when people know I am shooting them because they will act differently and having a light in their face takes them out of the moment. I understand this and I myself do not enjoy being in-front of the camera, trust me. They are also like a spotlight, so everything around the subject is dark but the subject is well lit. This can be a nice effect if that is what you are looking for but for me I generally avoid it.
Interior lights in houses. These are not usually very flattering. Tungsten lights are usually fairly yellow and come from above or from the side on a lamp so they are low light and can sometimes cast shadows on faces. If you want a dramatic yellow shadowy face then great, but other than that I am not really super fond of them. Fluorescents look green on a video camera so if you are in a room with both tungsten and fluorescent lights then you will have to be creative. I usually adjust my white balance accordingly and then find one that has a good distribution and shoot around it. Sometimes I will turn certain lights off if they are contrasting other lights in my shot.
Natural light. This is the bees knees. While natural light can be a bit problematic (clouds going over the sun) you can use it to your advantage to create a clear image in your video with the right amount of shadow and light. I love the way it shows up on camera without adding anything extra that needs to be removed in post production. Playing around with different angles of natural light is fun too. Typically people are told to shoot with the light on their backs to it lights up their subjects but if you actually do the opposite you can have a really night lit background with some fun lens flares shooting through. My cinematography teacher in Prague didn’t like that look too much but I personally love it. Natural light changes with the day so it’s always a good idea to know when and where the sun rises and falls so you can work with it instead of fighting it.
There are of course many many more types of lights to use in your video so explore and experiment and see what happens, that’s the best way to learn!
Take a look at this video by Nacho Guzman on how different colors and light angles change this woman’s face:
These are some notes I give to my clients before their wedding day. These will help you get the most out of me for your video, but overall the best thing a client can do for me is to be happy in the moment and enjoy their day. I love candid shots and when I get genuine happiness and emotion caught on camera, they are always my favourite clips (as well as my clients).
(Feel free to pass these notes along to your parents, MOH and Best Man as they will be your right-hand people on your wedding)
Less is more for locations. It’s best for me to have about 3-4 locations that are relatively close to each other. Sometimes couples want to go to numerous places for a quick shot or two, this doesn’t really work well for setting up video so if you want the most out of me, try to keep it under 3 locations.
Try to have rooms where you will be getting ready clutter-free and relatively clean. Wedding weeks can be hectic and usually friends/family are visiting so it can be tough to do this. Most rooms that have space and good natural lighting will work.
No chewing gum on the day of please.
Ignore the video camera and try not to look at it. Just act like yourself and have fun!
Brides: Try not to store handkerchiefs or anything in your bust area, it can be distracting if caught on camera 🙂
Please ask at the ceremony that nobody take photos/video. It is very easy to ruin a special photo/video of your ceremony by someone jumping in front of the camera or even just having someone in the background with a device lit up. There are cute signs on Pinterest that are cheap and easy to make that say “we want to see your smiles, not your camera/phones” and other variations of these. If you are afraid of sounding like a bridezilla or a groomzilla by asking this from your guests, feel free to tell them it was by request of the videographer (me)!
Close the church doors. It looks great when the doors are closed after the maid of honour reaches the front of the church/ceremony, reopened to reveal the bride, then closed as she comes down the aisle.
Ask your bridal party and close family members to keep cell phone/camera/ipad usage to a minimum and to just enjoy the day as it happens. Sometimes we have family members and bridal party members that are often taking photos or texting and it is hard to get natural shots of them. We’ll make sure you get great footage!
Plan food for your bridal party after the ceremony. They often get hungry then or during the photo outing and you don’t want to have to take time out of your photo session to feed them. Pre-made sandwiches are great and can be eaten anywhere.
Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Do what you can to prepare for unexpected hiccups. Have a emergency wedding day kit just in case (sewing kit, tide to go, pepto bismol etc.) If anything goes wrong on the day of though, just roll with it. At the end of the day you will be getting married surrounded by your friends and family and nothing compares to that so don’t sweat the small stuff 🙂
I have worked with animals on film sets, promotional videos, television and weddings. It is often said that children and animals are the hardest to work with in film and I can definitely see that. They have a mind of their own especially with a lot of new people around in a fast-paced environment.
When I worked as a 2nd assistant director on Save My Pet, we had animals ranging from ferrets to cats and dogs. The day would be about what you would expect but we had excellent animal wranglers who seemed to do the impossible when it came to over-excited fur babies. The one thing that most wranglers seem to do is limit the attention to the animals by crew members. You can’t have 30 different people coming up to a dog and playing with it while you are trying to calm it down for a scene where it is supposed to be calmly sitting by its owner. Also, the animal was only ever on set when it needed to be. When shots were being set up, the animal was put back in his/her quiet place so they wouldn’t get scared from all the noise/commotion of changing lights/camera setups.
For weddings, I usually don’t even attempt at getting a shot of a dog or cat until the novelty of me arriving has worn off but I always have my camera ready just in case. This is because animals move around so much when they are excited and it is near impossible to get a focused shot of them.
Dogs and cats love to sniff every piece of equipment so I usually let them do that then try to get them in a nicer background without equipment in it. It is great to get a shot of them acting normal in their own environment but I will be completely honest, what I often end up have to do is going to a room alone with them and dangling a treat behind the camera as they stare at it then I get a good shot before they start drooling. This is the “magic” of working with pets haha. They just get super excited when new people are around so if you get a chance to work with them before everyone arrives then that should work well for you. Most dogs are very hyper with all the wedding commotion but not all, so you kind of just need to play it by ear. Having the bride and/or groom around for a shot can be really cute too so I recommend getting them in the shot if you/they have the time.
Now for cats. I absolutely love cats but they are much harder to get a good shot of at weddings. Cats and dogs were not domesticated the same way so they have very different personalities and they interact with their owners in a much different way. Dogs were domesticated by humans for work and companionship, they are naturally people pleasers and are devoted to their owners.
Cats are not quite the same. Humans did not domesticate cats, they domesticated themselves. Cats started hanging around humans because of the rodents that followed humans around. It was an opportunity to get food. Humans benefitted from having cats around so they eventually began to take them in as pets in their communities and homes.
This is not to say cats don’t love humans, they just love them in a different way. Like dogs, cats have individual personalities. I had one myself that had the personality of a dog and followed me everywhere and would never scratch anybody no matter what you did with him. His name was Sir Francis Poe Hufflepuff, see his handsome picture below, he was as soft as he looks :). I have also been around cats that will allow you to pet them but then out of nowhere will take a good swipe at you with their claws out because they felt like their petting time was sufficient (thanks Meowth).
I definitely find that cats take time when you are trying to shoot them on video. Unlike dogs, cats very rarely get happy excited around people because their environment is being upset so they will tend to hide. You really just need to take your time with them and also use treats when possible. I would suggest also going into a separate room with them and let them rub their scent on your equipment so they feel more empowered (it works I swear). I also find that it works better with cats if you stay in one place and just point your camera at them versus chasing them around the room. If all else fails, just get one of the owners to work his/her magic and pick up the cat so you can get a shot of it being still in his/her arms. I love the shots of owners and their pets so this is one I will usually try to get anyway but it’s also nice to have a shot of the pet on their own just in case.
That’s it so far for my advice on shooting animals on film sets and in weddings. I am sure I will come across some more tips, so I will update this blog when the time comes!