"Why You Should Hire Me At Your Video Production Company!"...Or, I got sentimental and wrote this
I am so grateful for filmmaking. I was going over in my mind what it is I love about this field for the purpose of being ready for job interviews. And I’m feeling a little nervous about coming across as too cheesy or emotional. That’s something women are not advised to do. But I noticed myself suddenly looking beautiful, stunning even, in the mirror as I went over in my mind how I shot Homecoming footage at I believe the oldest high school in Virginia, certainly in Norfolk, and how into I was. I was talking with the kids, getting the cheerleaders to do their stunts for me, getting the soccer team to do their chant. As a video production intern at a place called Studio Center, I walked around with a handheld Sony and just got b-roll. And I was intent on getting the best, most exciting stuff out there. And that’s what I love about filmmaking. First of all, I am a performer. I love attention, especially when I am looking good. So I try to appeal to that same desire in other people, especially if I’m capturing a performance at a festival or somewhere where I can ask the performers to repeat what they’ve done, or warn them that I’d like to take a few minutes of them without them interrupting themselves. Sometimes performance troupes will put on an improvised bit, and it’s great because they’re into it and I’m loving it, so naturally I start moving to capture the best angles of what they're doing. I'm going with their flow. It's the same flow I feel in yoga or when vibing with friends. It's what the concept of improvisational acting is based on. It's taking as is, and throwing gasoline on that fire. Except, what it really is is capturing footage.
I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve been through a major rough patch in life, or if this is actually taught in reputable film production programs (I studied screenwriting at kind of a joke of a university), but there’s a surprising amount of what feels like vulnerability in capturing images, though I’m not sure if that’s just my anxiety about my technical skills. I have definitely captured terrible footage by not white balancing correctly. To be honest, most of my time in production has been lost at sea, walking quickly and often while carrying heavy equipment into the unknown. I had no idea what I was doing. I was handed a camera, and without an iota of knowledge, I was told to just start taking pictures. I have no idea how I faked my way into my internships, but I managed to do it. I’ve found in my lifetime, in my several years in and out of school studying all sorts of things with an expectation that I prove to understand at least 85% of the material in order to pass the class, that I can learn a lot of academic things. It would be very difficult and I would have to put all sorts of effort into it. But filmmaking felt harder to learn. I thought Theatre was terribly difficult. That might elicit a laugh from some people, but I sucked at it in undergrad. I had no idea what I was doing. It is the convergence of knowing other people’s feelings and your feelings. But how can you know how you feel about things if you’ve been sheltered all your life? How can you understand people who are different from you if you’ve never really had to get along with any of them for an extended period of time, and had to figure out where it is they’re coming from when they disagree with you? Or, worse...what do you do when someone you care about challenges you indirectly by being a walking example of all the things you were taught never to be, respect, or love?
Anyone can stick a camera in front of someone and ask questions. Coming up with questions you’d ask for an interview is a very 6th grade kind of assignment. Getting people to open and talking to you on camera is different. And if you’re interviewing someone about an organization that helps abused women, then you have to approach that client differently (and in my case, keep your mouth shut when one of them makes a statement about raped women that you strongly disagree with, and don’t believe should be on anyone’s camera anywhere...I really did not want that footage in the world, perpetuating that belief, but I also really didn’t think I had the power or the right to open the floor to a debate on rape culture during a shoot when I was an intern at another company).
I’m not the most technically proficient. You can find people who will work better than me. They can explain this. I can only give you the basic high-quality package I have available. The work will be solid, but it will be basic. I am a true junior editor. I really need to get better about aperture and frame rates, among many other things, when it comes to shooting video. There were things the guys on the set at the TV station I worked at would say to each other, and I’d write in my notes all the things that didn’t make sense. That list got pretty long, and I’d have to watch videos on one topic maybe three times before getting it. But what I do have is good enough technically. What I really have is the heart of a storyteller. I am a director. I am a teacher. My favorite job outside of production was teaching drama. I love the art and the energy that flows from the performer to me, and then me back to them, and we create a harmonious glow. And when you watch the footage you see something different, just like I saw something in myself in the mirror.
As a director and as a human, I have to get to the heart of someone and connect with them if they’re not opening up for the camera. Sometimes your job as a video director is to be the person who sets the energy and tone in the room. That’s your job. That’s your priority. Yeah, cameras and lights matter, but if you can’t get them talking, then you need to focus on that. Because you’ve got an anxious third grade teacher who won an award and is trembling and stuttering so much that the poor lady can’t get through her interview (didn’t help that she didn’t know that young female PA, me, was going to be attaching a microphone pack to her bra strap, which meant that she had to lift the whole thing up and expose her whole back to me...it’s the worst part of my job when I know that person is feeling extremely vulnerable, and I can be very awkward even though I try so hard to be a little debutante). Sometimes I would try to tell jokes to even out the vibe in the room. I’m generally reliable for the jokes. I did comedy for awhile, and really got into the art of writing standup comedy. But just like in that, my jokes bomb. Some shoots are just...weird. As much as everyone is trying to set a good tone, something is off. But I’ve also been on shoots where the director was really getting inside an interviewee’s soul. I was mesmerized, and that led me to having a very good conversation about spirituality and directing with him. (Though we disagree on religious beliefs, I will say he was one of the best DPs I’ve ever worked with in Virginia, and crazy enough, while having a drink in the Driskill Hotel during the Austin Film Festival, I met a filmmaker from Maryland who had worked with him, and agreed that he’s one of the best humans around. I don’t want to give away his name, but he works in Virginia Beach.)
I don’t know how to make sense of all of my feelings yet. I don’t know if because I come in with trauma, unrelated to my career, and have always naturally been an extremely sensitive person, that I am able to let people in and make them feel “at home” inside of me. I try not to get too intense, but somehow I have a way of getting people to open up. I’ve been too shocking the past few years and that trait definitely was low in supply, but I’m easing the dial back to zero. (“The world isn’t sex positive like you and openly able to talk about cervixes.” “Maybe it should be!” “Maybe you should get back to work and we can discuss this later.” That’s a real conversation that often goes on in my head.) But as I drift back and become less abrasive, I keep that openness. People had different experiences than I have had. Some of them were wild. My job is to take them in. Plain and simple, just take them in.
That’s what “capturing” really means to me. I am taking you in through a camera, yes, but that’s only for recording purposes. What I’m really doing, what my profession is, is getting you to give that to me. Let me take you in. Throw all yourself on me. And as we often have to say to clients, “No, you keep doing that, I will move around you. Just pretend I’m not even here.”
I have to cut this down for interviews, though. But thank you for reading.
Also, this is this writing as it was originally written, in its rawest form. I do that to preserve it for a bit and give whoever wants to an opportunity to poke at it. I tend to make things too long when I edit, because I don't stop myself. This isn't a paper or a writing assignment, this is just what comes out of me. So in that way, it's not vital for it to be polished like a proper writing sample on a professional writer's blog. It just needs to communicate a message, and be an opportunity for others to have a dialogue with me if they want to. I am here to engage and talk openly about these thoughts. I was in a particular place when I write these things, and going back too early feels like I'm desecrating it. Maybe I am too precious about all this. If so, I will gladly analyze it to see if that's a worry that can be deemed worthy or even necessary to fix in myself. Until then, let's see what I can get away with.