The Watershed Project responded to my email. They’re excited to work with me. Their 20th anniversary is coming up, so the timing of my pitch was excellent. It’s a bit of good luck-- but one’s odds improve just by playing the game. Ain’t no luck sitting on the bench.
I had coffee with the Executive Director of the Watershed Project. We’ve known each other for years (she was hired on staff when I was on the board of directors), but were never close. We talked concept for the video. For the 20th anniversary they wanted to emphasize how the organization touched people across the lifespan. We wanted to focus on people’s stories, so the video would consist of quick interviews. And instead of having people introduce themselves by name, we’d have them say how old they were. The questions would be designed to elicit how the Watershed Project had opened their eyes to their community.
My first day of shooting. At an elementary school. Whoa, Nelly, that was a handful. I captured some good background footage of the classroom and instructors, but the conditions were a disaster for interviews. I got 12 kids at once. In an outdoor hallway. They were nine. (In the end, only one clip made the final cut.)
After the elementary school I filmed student interviews in a classroom, interviews in the field, three school field trips, five staff on site. As you can imagine, the hours for this pro bono project racked up quickly. What quickly became apparent is that I didn’t have quite the right gear—especially in the audio department—for this type of on the fly, one-man shooting. I needed wireless mics (I ended up purchasing the budget Saramonic), and a faster system for set-up.
What I didn't know was that the creation of this video would take 10 months due to a variety of reasons, some of which included my own distraction. That taught me a couple of lessons as well: First, these types of shoots can (and often should) take several months; don't try to rush it in a weekend because it's a freebie. Second, commit to your pro bono projects with the same integrity that you would for a well-paid gig.
And I learned on my feet about the craft of story-telling, the quirks of my camera, how to get better footage on the fly, etc., etc., etc.