I believe in constantly exploring new ideas, new ways of telling stories and new ways of producing content. It’s a belief that can be challenging at times though always inspiring. You just need to be patient and willing to experiment beyond your comfort zone and look beyond the genres with which you’re most familiar.
There’s a lot to learn from the way sports, nature, cooking and investigative reports craft and package their stories. You just need to take the time to study them and become familiar with the language they use, the camera angles, distances, pans, people, etc…
I’ve developed this patience over time, accelerated nearly two years ago when Andrea and I packed our two daughters (then seven and nine) into a car and drove south for eight hours to spend six amazing days with some of the biggest names and fresh newcomers in the children’s book industry. I had originally planned the project to be strictly audio. The day before we left we realized the opportunity we were being presented to get visuals of original artwork and creative processes. So, with roughly 12 hours before our planned departure, I ran out and bought a hand held digital video camera.
The extent of our video planning was limited to some conversations en route to Connecticut. Andrea would be the videographer and I would be the sound recordist. Together, we’d work to capture the amazing stories of the creative people behind amazing children’s books. Otherwise, Andrea had already done hours of research about our guests and compiled an amazing package of information and suggested interview direction.
When we arrived home, we had 13 hours of video, 25 hours of audio (13 overlapped with the video) and 1,200 ‘keeper’ photographs.
I was certain I wanted to do something for the children’s book industry that had never been done before. I spent several hours researching online videos and interviews of authors and illustrators and discovered most of them were pretty subdued, talking head discussions — many seemed scripted. Our footage was raw, real and spontaneous — if poorly lit and a bit on the shaky side at times.
I spent hours studying my documentary heroes Ken Burns and Ira Glass. Then I branched out, looking at music videos, sports segments, National Geographic videos (the ones that study airplane disasters). I finally landed on a hybrid style of Ken Burns meets MTV meets Mark Blevis. My plan was to inject the energy into children’s book media coverage that was sorely lacking in the history of promoting these amazing resources and the people behind them.
To make a project like this happen in a reasonable time frame, you need to give up a lot of sleep. By the time the final video was produced, three months had flown by in a flurry of production hours… 330 to be exact. When you work on a hobby project of that size, you have to know when great is good enough, and perfection is something to keep in your sights.
Rock Stars of Reading seems so long ago. The 21-part series was published beginning March 31, 2009. To this day, the project fuels me and serves as a great reminder that with passion, creativity and a lot of patience, we can learn and achieve almost anything.
Video and audio projects involve repeated review during the production process — you can fatigue yourself out of the need to watch the results after hundreds (or thousands) of views to get to the finished product. So, it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any of the RSoR installments. Having said that, I try not to rest on my laurels. Each project should be in service to the next.