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.
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!