“Shut Up and Shoot”: Documentaries for Dummies

If I ever decide that I need to make a full length documentary on any subject, Shut Up and Shoot will be the instruction manual I reach for. It’s a one-stop-shop guide to how to produce film, and how to do it well. I gained a lot of knowledge regarding the details of the task at hand–our video projects–and I gained that from just two excerpts of the text. I can only imagine what the entirety of the book could teach me!

The first excerpt was more technically focused, and gave a good guide on the basics of pre-production and filming itself. There were in-depth sections regarding genre, “characters,” camera work, and just about anything else that is related to filmmaking. Some of the pre-production steps that were outlined in Shut Up and Shoot don’t really apply to us–we already know our content, our “characters,” and (on some level) our goals. Along with that, the checklist about what an “ideal interview subject” was like and how to choose your subjects was also sort of irrelevant for our filming process–we weren’t really given a choice in who we get to interview, as Danita decided for us. 🙂

However, I do think the checklist, and other aspects of the text that don’t necessarily seem helpful now, will come in handy when it gets down to choosing footage. We can determine which of the individuals we interviewed will be most captivating in film, and produce our video accordingly.

The most valuable thing (from my eye) in the reading regarding technical aspects was the section on cutaways. As someone who aspires to be a writer (though Scott would probably argue I already am), I always try to put things into perspective of the writing process. Cutaways are the transitions of film. In a piece of writing, if there are not smooth transitions, the reader usually feels uncomfortable. It isn’t pleasant to read something choppy and unsettling. Clearly, the same applies to film. Using cutaways allows for transitions to be smooth and easy. Unless you’re Alfred Hitchcock trying to terrify his audience, you probably want your film to be “easy on the eyes.” Refraining from using cutaways seems like a surefire way to produce something that is less than enjoyable. Just like writing, filmmaking has elements that can have emotional effects on the audience. It’s important to think of things rhetorically as well as aesthetically when it gets down to creating your film.

There was something in the text that allowed me to see a clear thread connecting this reading to the rest of the course as a whole: the concept of narrative. If this class has taught me anything, it’s that narrative is one of the most uniting things for people. In my First Year Seminar, we read a book called The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall. That text discussed the different qualities of stories that cause humans to be so captivated by narrative. It’s just interesting to me that this is something that has connected my entire first year of college. Narrative is not only a source of entertainment, either, which I have learned in this course. The Nonprofit Narrative emphasized the importance of using narrative in nonprofit marketing, which is something that has been on the forefront of my mind this entire term.

“The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human”–the book I read in Dr. Soulis’s FYS

Overall, the readings from Shut Up and Shoot have been incredibly helpful in giving a foray into what to expect with the film project. No, we are not creating full length documentary films; in fact, I think what we are doing might be more difficult. We have to take three and a half weeks worth of experiences and knowledge about the Community Action Council and distill it into a two minute (ish?) video with good quality and rhetorical clarity. My biggest concern going into this project is doing the CAC justice. I want to be able to create something for them that is satisfying, but also useful. It’s hard to believe that we’re coming down the home stretch of the course, but alas, it was inevitable. Good luck to all as we begin the scramble of over-perfecting our projects in the next few days. I can’t wait to see what all we end up with!

“Shut Up and Shoot”: Documentaries for Dummies

Reflection in Presentation: How to Filter Reflections

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Dr. Whiddon say something along the lines of (and correct me if I’m wrong, because I had to dig around in my mind for this), “Thinking without reflecting is dangerous. Reflecting without thinking is pointless.” This was on my mind a lot when I delved into the Yancey reading.

Academic reflection had never been something that was pushed for me to do before I came to Transy. In high school, most of my experiences were “Write this thing. You’re done? Good.” However, in just my first year here, I’ve been asked to not only write “things,” but think about them in a way that reflects upon my processes and feelings regarding the piece. In this time, I’ve learned how important it is to reflect on your work.

When reading the Yancey text, I had some questions that popped up, particularly regarding the moment in the text when he discusses the “requirements” for reflection. From an educators standpoint, I can understand why putting guidelines on assigned reflections could be necessary; however the idea of restricting the expression of thoughts and feelings kind of bothers me. Who is to say what the appropriate process of reflecting is? Well, educators can. It’s sort of a double edged surface. I understand that giving requirements for an assignment is important in order to properly evaluate a student’s work, but in the case of something as personally centered as reflection, it bothers me to edit the process for students.

What makes one type of reflection better than another? I understand that limits make things simpler, but reflection is a personal process in my mind. I guess this is where the “in-presentation” part of the concept comes in. Reflection seems like it would be more productive if the individual reflecting is allowed whatever limits they wish; if they want to write a poem about how they see their past experiences, it should be seen as legitimate as a more structured academic text, because reflection is a personal, individual experience. This is a topic that I just seem to feel some hesitancy with, but I respect the thoughts of the system in regards to it.

The key to effective reflection, in my opinion, is honesty. In the text, Yancey included an example of a student reflection where the writer stated that their essay was “perfect in every way,” and had been from the beginning, pretty much. This is ridiculous. Writing, or any art for that matter, is never perfect in the first run. Being dishonest in reflection not only makes the writing seem “schmoozy,” but it also hinders the process for the writer.

Reflecting dishonestly leads to nothing productive happening for the writer or reader. Honesty is key.

Reflection in Presentation: How to Filter Reflections

The Cheapest Marketing Platform Around

It’s fair to say that a good majority of the world is familiar with social media. People use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and all of the likes to stay connected with their friends, family, and acquaintances. Thanks to the widespread nature of social media, several corporations and organizations have turned to social media as a means of marketing and branding themselves. It’s quick, the message can be reached by almost anyone, and best of all: it’s free.

So, naturally, social media is the best option that nonprofits have to market themselves.

In The Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine set up the means with which nonprofit organizations can utilize social media to “drive change.” Networked Nonprofit is a term used to identify nonprofit organizations that have taken to social media and social networking as a means of spreading their influence and reach. In my Introduction to Sociology class in the fall, we learned about all the terms and definitions associated with a social network. Kanter and Fine’s book also covered the sociology around the term social network, creating a clear image of what the network looks like. Basically, a social network is a web of connections between individuals, groups, and larger societies. Having a large social network full of positive connections can allow individuals or organizations to gain social capital. Social capital translates as “who you know” in networking situations.

So how does social media allow for social networks to grow and create capital?

In order for someone to gain capital, they have to be known. The rise of social media has created a culture in which you can know almost every aspect of someone’s life without ever meeting them. I can tell you what Kanye West was feeling during his first fashion show, because he tweeted all of it.

@kanyewest: “All we have are our dreams, and you can step on our dreams and ideas all you want, but we won’t stop fighting”

The platform that is created by social media is so widespread and influential, which is why it is crucial for nonprofit organizations to take advantage of it as a platform.

As we move into our web-based projects, I think it is important to remember how influential social media can be on the social network of organizations. Our projects will directly affect the success of the Community Action Council on the web, and I hope that our efforts can allow them to create a strong presence. It’s important for us all as individuals and groups working on our projects to remember the CAC and their needs as well as our own wants and creative engagements.

The Cheapest Marketing Platform Around

Project Log 5/3/1

So far in this term, my experience with the CAC, my group, and the class as a whole has been incredibly interesting and engaging. When I came into this class, I did not know what to expect. I was optimistic that I would be learning skills that were applicable to the real world, and that I would get to do something worthwhile–work with a non-profit. As we began the process of starting the projects, I felt a little uneasy and somewhat lost–I was unsure of what would be expected of me, and what I could do to help the CAC. After our initial trip to the CAC training last Monday, a lot of my confusion was still present. However, after our class discussion on Tuesday and the assignment of the projects, I started to regain some of my footing and excitement for the term. I mean after all, all of our work is going to help the Community Action Council to spread their message and needs. Even if the process is stressful, being able to help this organization is an incredibly worthwhile way to spend my first May Term, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Deans’ Process

Reflecting on it now, the original cycle of feelings that I expereinced when beginning this project strongly connects back to the first reading we had, the chapter on workplace writing by Deans. A process of settling into workplace writing and the difficulties that one might experience was laid on in the chapter as follows:

  1. High Hopes: Being optimistic and entusiastic about the task at hand
  2. Disorientation: A feeling of “crisis” as the project begins to take off; losing a bit of the original control that was felt
  3. Resolution: Coming to terms with the project; settling in and feeling comfortable with the task at hand

I can definitely see where my experience fits into this pattern. Luckily, my disorientation didn’t last too long, and it was helpful that the entire class was in this together, and were able to work out the kinks along the way that lead us to producing our first set of publications.

The Project So Far

Working on these projects so far has been really interesting. After discussing the needs of the CAC with Ka’Sondra last Monday, my group and I met to draft our part of the Letter of Understanding. With help from the Deans chapter, we were able to contribute our part of the document that we remixed as a class on Friday. After we all met as individual groups, we came together on Tuesday to discuss and assign the different print projects. My group opted to do the series of posters on the individual aspects of the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program. We decided to meet the next day in the DArt Lab to begin work on our documents.

I’m not a very technologically advanced individual, sadly, but I wanted to be as helpful as possible when it came to my group’s productivity. While others in the group had more skills on the creative process of the project, I was able to help in collecting information and photos. Most of the design choices were made as a group, and it was really fun to make decisions on the document as a group (even if it was something as tedious as fonts). I learned a lot about design and aesthetics from this. Learning from my group members about the importance of style and attractiveness, in conjunction with information, on projects such as this was not something I had done before. I’m looking forward to seeing what other skills I will get to learn from working with my group members on further projects. My experience with technology is greatly increasing thanks to this class, and due to the emphasis on media in our society, I am thankful for this.

Making our posters was a really cool process, and we were all really satisfied with our products. After our workshop on Thursday, we made plans to do revisions on the posters. This took place today, and I’m even more satisfied with the results now!

The Next Step

While it felt like we were over the hill and done for a bit, Friday opened up and showed us that there is still so much more to go on these projects. The irony in the flood preventing our class from visiting the senior social proved a lot of what Scott and Kerri have been telling us regarding working in a “real life” setting during the term: it’s unpredictable. With the Chales Young Center nixed, we made our trips to the Head Start Centers instead. Getting to go to these centers and see the direct results of the work of the CAC volunteers was really enlightening; the children were really cute, too. Along with seeing who we were really helping and getting our hands dirty (literally–I was covered in paint), we were also able to get some great footage. We can turn all of this around into the projects for the CAC throughout the term. Friday was by far my favorite part of the term so far. Being so hands-on with the project and the individuals involved allowed me to feel more connected to our work, which I think is important in moving on. As we move on to begin our web projects this week, I hope to keep this rekindled enthusiasm and directly engage it with my work.

One of the foster grandparents with some of her children at the CAC Headstart Center
One of the foster grandparents, Mrs. V, with some of her children at the CAC Headstart Center
Project Log 5/3/1

Narrative Marketing: Using Stories to Promote Non-Profits

Whenever I think about non-profit organizations, I usually think about volunteers, advocacy, and the like, as well as the more unfortunate aspects, most of which stem back to the lack of resources available to these groups. Writing For/With Non-Profits stood out to me as a course for May Term because of my interest in a career with non-profits later in life, as well as the opportunity to have a new experience. I anticipated learning about how to work with community organizations and how to market them to their proper audience. However, I didn’t realize how complex the marketing strategies can be. I have no background education in the field of business, but I never thought about how strategic marketing needed to be for non-profits. Dan Portnoy’s book, The Non-Profit Narrative, provides some great insight into the process of creating a story to present to the audience of different organizations. He covers all of the bases, and basically creates a step-by-step guide on how to successfully promote a non-profit organization.

The title of Portnoy’s book points out what he feels is most needed when marketing an organization: narrative. Humans are inherently storytelling animals, and we react best to emotionally engaging and entertaining narratives. I had never thought of sharing stories as a way of marketing, but Portnoy makes an excellent argument for the method. He suggests a need for clear characters in the marketing: a protagonist and an antagonist. The hero and the villain of non-profit stories need not only be individuals. In fact, most non-profits are not set up to combat the work of an individual, and instead are focused on fighting a social issue, such as the Community Action Council’s work to reduce the effects of poverty. Using the literary terms to characterize the concept of “who is fighting and what are they fighting” is a creative way to inspire individuals in their marketing work. Though I have never opened or operated a business, I feel like Portnoy’s model is realistic, easy to follow, and has the potential to be successful.

Reading this book has allowed me some insight into what to anticipate when working with the Community Action Council. I can now go into this experience asking “Who is the hero?” “Who is the villain?” and “What are their stories?” I can’t wait to begin our work as a class with the Council, and I hope that I can apply what I have learned from Portnoy and the Deans chapter into our publications.

Narrative Marketing: Using Stories to Promote Non-Profits