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Choosing a Nonprofit Video Subject: 6 Important Criteria

  • June 14, 2018
International Development Video Subject

By now you know that videos are a highly effective method for promoting your nonprofit organization or international development agency's message. But not any old video will do that. We have seen that audiences engage only when the quality of the video is high. The foundation of a quality nonprofit video is built upon the people the video focuses on, especially your primary subject. Choose wisely and you've got a big asset for your fundraising efforts. Choose poorly and you've got a video that is dead on arrival. When it comes to the latter, no matter how stellar the other elements of the video might be — graphics, cinematography, music — nothing is going to help overcome a weak subject. We recently completed a international…

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Koyaanisqatsi: A Documentary Film to Blow Your Mind

  • June 6, 2018

Wow, 35 years! That’s how long it’s been since Godfrey Reggio’s seminal film, Koyaanisqatsi came out, challenging our beliefs about what a documentary could be. I watched it again last week while gearing up to make a new documentary here in LA. The story I’m trying to tell is more of an essay film, which demands more of viewers than a traditional narrative documentary with a conventional plot. That’s why I turned to Koyaanisqatsi for a little inspiration. How did it manage to blow our minds without a word of dialogue? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5aIPEcBtfA   Time-lapse, how I love you so During the first half of the film, I could only assume that the time-lapse shot was a true innovation back in 1982, because the long takes…

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Aerial Drone Video for Story (Part 3/3): 13 Shots Toward More Artistry in Aerial Cinematography

  • May 31, 2018

If you haven’t read them yet, check out part 1 and part 2 of this series. I left you at sunset in Haiti, maneuvering toward the mountainside shanties of the Petionville neighbhorhood. My trusty cheat sheet is taped to my Phantom 4 controller to help me optimize: (1) initial settings, (2) big-picture creative approaches; and (3) specific shot techniques. This post covers part 3: the 13 shots that have helped me try to be more artistic with my aerial cinematography. 1. Neverending Crane. This shot helps link an object or a location to a wider context. Check out this Bjork video, directed by Spike Jonze. The final crane shot is surprising, majestic, and visually conclusive. You can do similar things with your drone shots. Check…

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Aerial Drone Video for Story (Part 2/3): Where’s WALLDO?

  • May 23, 2018

So, I’m at my hotel in the Petionville neighbhorhood in Haiti, with the Phantom 4 in the air and the controller in my hands. [If you haven’t read part 1, you can check it out here.] My trusty cheat sheet is taped to my Phantom 4 controller. It’s been a lifesaver to help me keep my shots story-oriented and diverse. After all, my brain is fairly occupied just operating the drone, so it’s awesome to have a checklist for: (1) initial settings, (2) big-picture creative approaches to shooting; and (3) specific shot techniques. This post concerns part 2: WALLDO, which stands for Wide, Angled, Low, Linking, Depth, and Opposite. It’s a Cliff’s Notes for video production in the field, but I use it for aerials as…

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Aerial Drone Video for Story (Part 1/3): How a Cheat Sheet Can Free Your Mind!

  • May 16, 2018

A client from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) asked me last month to produce a video in Haiti. While we were developing story, we got on the subject of aerial cinematography. “It’s not special anymore,” he grumbled. “When I see aerial, I want it to have a purpose, to be linked to the story.” I agreed whole-heartedly. When I arrived in Port-au-Prince, I had half a day to kill, so I got my Phantom 4 out to scout the area. I've done a lot of drone video in Los Angeles, but this was my first time in Haiti. I introduced myself to the security guards in the hotel, then launched safely at the edge of the property away from people. (If you’re still…

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Recommended Documentary Film Viewing: “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes”

  • April 25, 2018

Documentaries seem to be less confined to rigid story structures than fiction films.  Without the ability to premeditate a script and shoot to it, documentary filmmakers must rely on available footage and what they have acquired along the path of story discovery. This often leads to creative and unusual storytelling techniques and structures. Such is the case with "The Prison in Twelve Landscapes," a documentary directed by Brett Story and released last month. Story describes the film as a non-fiction film "about the prison from places we least expect to find it." This includes a corporate environment, a forest fire, and a chess playing board in a park, among others. In each of these locations, Story seeks to uncover how mass incarceration has affected lives.…

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