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Shooting Documentary Short Films

Lesson 15 of 16

Final Film & Conversation w/ Editor Steven Cervantes

Griffin Hammond

Shooting Documentary Short Films

Griffin Hammond

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Lesson Info

15. Final Film & Conversation w/ Editor Steven Cervantes

Lesson Info

Final Film & Conversation w/ Editor Steven Cervantes

But I think it's time to take a look at that film I've been talking about all day long, so I should bring in stephen come right down he's been locked away editing this twenty four hours a day less than twenty four hours he had to work on this. Really? Yeah, it was I do not envy him, although I've been that boat a lot. Now that I'm in television news, there is this desire, teo like, oh, you shot yesterday, can't that be on the website today? It's tough because you want to work hard on something on I want to be a perfectionist, I want to spend months, some things, and now I'm kind of finding that balance question going back to the couple size that you have the talent release, does that not cover you for what you were talking about earlier with j cuts and the al cuts regarding making up people saying certain things, does that not cover like you being participating in the film? Whatever you say or I can cut it however I want, I think it does pretty strongly protect me from that. I mean, th...

e way it's worded is kind of like, you allow me to film you and I'm allowed to do whatever I want with this footage, but I mean, I imagine you could still make a good libel case against someone if you if you felt like you were portrayed wrongly you know if I if I completely changed your words like I bet you have a case against me what percentage of your revenues was from international good question I'd have to look try to remember from video I mean it's I think it's in the ballpark of like ten to twenty five percent so I mean it's it's significant international film festivals I did show it a couple I didn't go to them but I don't think that I doubt that drove the whole lot traffic film festivals abroad but definitely just like making sure that it's available and that's a choice you have on itunes is do you want this available all over the world or just in the u s so people do just very localized releases and I just thought I wanted to be a there was many people will see it unfortunately we translated the film into a lot of different languages in thai vietnamese spanish portuguese german dutch it was helpful to be on video because I could see and on kickstarter I could see where my audience was coming from and when video told me they're willing to spend some money to translate the film we just looked at the list of where the audience was coming from that's just great about digital it's like I know who's watching the film and we just said, okay and he's being portuguese because that's pretty high up there and it needs to be in dutch I don't know you would have to be in dutch but I actually have a pretty good dutch audience ana so we did that hey, steven, how you doing? Klapper steven steven did so much yesterday and today because all of the behind the scenes videos that you saw today you shot stephen seems shot all of us he spent all day yesterday yesterday with me following me around filming when I was filming and then we also gave him the unenviable task of editing in a very short period of time hole of this gave too much footage I'm sorry. No, I mean it's good if I had the time definitely definitely. So you you actually didn't have too much time to work on it yesterday you spent a lot time this morning just like right up like, the entire time we've been in here. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I mean yesterday like you said we went to go film the stuff that you guys just saw and we started early. I think by the time we got back to the studios it was like a ten hour workday, so I got some sleep yeah, uh and started editing this piece this morning and like he said, there was a lot of b roll at a lot of footage and it's, nice to have the time to piece together the story and listen for audio steaks and then get the story with b roll. And by the time I put everything together, I had to turn it in. And when I re watched it, I'm like, oh, man, this is the rule would have been great here or it would've been over here. So, um, I'm sure you didn't have timeto look, I imagine there's no way you could have picked up the best sound bites because just give me thirty minutes material. There are fifty five minutes of material. Yeah, yeah. Condensed down, teo, I think bride down to, like, three minutes. So that was said to flying like, scrub through some beer on me like this. Looks okay. Yeah, I was watching everything at three times the speed. I mean, I was listening to people talking like chipmunks piecing together, but I just want to chime in quickly. Steven, we had one of our highest voted questions was from mark crown. Thirty. People voted on this and I want to get your take because mark says griffin, I find the hardest part is after I filmed the footage once I get into the editor I tend to feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of footage and where to go with it what are your suggestions as to where to start once you get into editing so I know you're just kind of touching on it getting all that footage how did you start like, what is your advice for somebody like that when you get all that footage is dumped on yeah, I mean, if if I had like the time and what I would you normally do is I would I'd create folders for the b roll that I have seen so in this particular piece I would make a folder for all the machinery, all of the close up shots all of the plastic parts that are made kind of just organized everything so well when I bring it into whatever editing system I have I have folders right there, so I'm not just going through I think like hundreds of clips what I was this morning and I was just literally clicking in my bin just trying to find the right b roll clip way interested here today it was such an overwhelming amount of footage that just like when I'm like hey let's go look at that shot of my weight problem you run into yet that's why organization is so important yeah definitely yeah let's let's watch this thing now I'm sure that I have some notes hee means yes this is our first pass of this thing so let's take a look and we'll talk about what looks good on what we could change and how we could make this thing amazing. I'm one of the owners of a mack plastics we make plastic boxes they're boxes you find in retail stores throughout the united states they just really beautiful little boxes they're part of the permit design collection of the museum of modern art in new york we've been using mostly the same equipment since the seventies really mostly machines we have out there the company that made them went out of business twenty years ago so these air really old machines but we're still able to find part for them sometimes well fabricate parts for them it's really fun to be able to keep these things alive that's not to say that new machines wouldn't be good but we've been able to do a lot with a little here some of our molds we've had literally since the nineteen sixties where there were they're well past where any respectable molder would keep running them but we have an amazing crew out there that figures out ways of keeping him going george is a really critical bridge and from one generation to the next and there's a whole middle level of guys in there thirties, forties, fifties, even sixties it's like a it's, a lost generation of engineering knowledge. So george places critical role in helping us transfer that knowledge to this new generation of makers. We have a mold that, uh, hasn't been used for a while. And then when we fill it with plastic park stuck way have to pick the mold apart and take the cavity where the plastic is. Take that all out and clean it off and re polish cavity so the plastic doesn't stick inside the mold. We have to be careful with it on. We tried teo maintain it with the idea of line longevity well, is able to repair a mole that they thought was, uh, they're repairable so that so I I improved it, um, so actually and improve their production fifty percent that's the satisfaction of a job, I think more importantly, he's starting to instill within our whole staff this notion of self sufficiency, the idea that we can create we can take what we have and create new possibilities and it's very empowering to our employees. Mo makers are guys that cuts over a tiny little things, a lot of unusual things it's, detail orientated senate, the bench and I can polish until a scrap minute little scratches are gone. A mac is design company way think of ourselves as a company that designs and manufactures beautiful products the way to do that is you have to be innovative if you have to be thoughtful about what the technology and what new technologies come bring to the table george plays an important piece and helping us understand how we could take that you know, existing technology and create things that are really beautiful and by helping us all build that our confidence is going to make a huge difference to this company uh just said here to, uh good basic mold practice had been neglected because they didn't have the manpower to do that. So just referring to some solid basic principles that math itself is be very productive that's the difference between making parts and not making if the mold is dirty won't make parts even if it's brand new my generation I'm like building things and that's why I've been in this uh forty some years building things way don't see that I don't see that a lot of young men doing that any more they're not builders like we were so companies that want to do manufacturing shorty fellows that wanna build things e to repeat the thing you just told me, all right? So we were watching I mean that that I think the third time I've actually watched it and I mean, I just started slapping b roll on the but you, you just to get it doesn't yeah, time crunch is just like exactly what I love is, like that's, a great starting off point, because there were these you just you created these chunks that are really nice, like you could just feel how there's a part where he would show steve's face. And then you have hidden all of these great edits to get him to say something pretty concise. We're seeing all those b roll and then you will finish off this face again like, yeah, you have these moments that are great building blocks. I think all we would do is we go in and we we'd make sure we didn't know we had all the time in the world. We'd make sure we didn't miss, like the most important in every clips. And, uh, and but I think, like it's, like halfway there and that's. What I love about filmmaking is that it. It doesn't even really come together until the very end, like once we add music. Once we I think we could probably add I understand why you did this. You turned on and that sound on the b roll clips because otherwise it would take forever. Yeah, get those right. It would be great to have, like, little little transitions of I mean, I think when we were on location, you talked about it. I put that be roll clip in there where he had that little block and you blew some air on that. That would've been good in that sound. Yeah, maybe start throat somewhere somewhere. There, I think what you can you do with the pacing after you have something like this. And this is what all of my stuff looks like after the first passed through it is. Then you start thinking. Okay, well, where can I mess with the pace a little bit? Where can I take a breather from the talking heads and put in in that sound break? And we're kind of the music ex well, and have a moment where we experience something. So you add some music had a few more that sound breaks you bring up the net. Sound on some of the b roll just feels natural way have such a audio difference between two interviews yeah, we'd have to go in and do some smoothing of that in and out I think we do some more jnl cuts to make the cuts feel natural but that's why it took me eight months to make thirty three minutes documentaries go spend all his time perfecting it and I think it's great where he's watching it just made me cringe um, you know, the only difference is like the b roll like that didn't make sense right there but it is what it is that's the first that's what like deadlines are teaching me? Is that now that I'm in tv news like sometimes you just can't get all the way to where you want it to be and you just have to find a place to cut yourself off and be done because it needs to go on air and even with the documentary you got to be around thanksgiving out in two thousand thirteen I was finishing it up and I felt like it was ninety percent of what I wanted as a documentary and I could keep pushing one hundred percent but it's that law of diminishing returns that I'm gonna need to spend eight more months to get this thing to one hundred percent as a valuable lesson to know that it's better to have a finished thing then not at all and so like in a perfect world we continue to work on this for five months in a really world we probably need to have this done tomorrow you know, for our client I think this is this is a great piece it's a great example of, like weird documentary and corporate video interact because this could be just a cz much a documentary that we went in and we were curious about a mac or this could be we were hired by a mac to make a film about what they do and this is like the nexus of you want to be a filmmaker or you wanna be a freelancer like you can do both and kind of make a similar product like you said there's so much footage and so many other questions that we ask that you could push it either way yeah yeah how valuable was to have him there with you and have two pairs of eyes and shooting and then come back if you like you just handed him the footage and say, hey, good luck he was you know, so that must have been quite, you know, um and an added benefit yeah must have I mean, I think during the day we were talking about kind of like the parts of the story that we want some even right after the interview was like, oh, that thing where george talks about builders in america like and you know, it's it's funny like I know that I'll be such a such a stronger sought when there's swelling music underneath but I mean, you have the power to manipulate your audience a little bit with music you choose and how it let it breathe so it'll be a very powerful moment it's like we we wouldn't have you there was no way you would have known what? Yeah there's no way I would have been a will do that I mean, yeah, I was there I was I was filming him filming the interviews so I knew exactly what was going on that's why I was able to do everything at three times the speed and yeah, it was really funny was really met because you're reading my stuff and your stuff is being added by something that being said about music though uh is music something that you figure out after you have a rough cut do then determine the mood of the music or is the mood something thatyou the mood of these like something you already know before going into the edit? It's funny I don't know about you, steven, but hasn't ever I really like to edit to music? Yeah electric start before exactly which was a challenge on the structure documentary because I had a friend of mine compose music like so the opening scene of it uh just pull it up quick he uh my friend kept saying like hey what do you like what do you uh what you want me to write do you have any footage I'm gonna write to and I kept saying well actually I really like that it's a music so if you could just write something then I'll lend it to it and we just kind of kept going back for things like how about you give me something and and so finally I gave him like a really rough and it kind of just put the shots in order and I was like this will be a lot quicker I want like match your beats and stuff but really I'm just looking for like a driving force kind of like a uh I just need a beat because the machines that are working in the structure factor I need that and so he had this idea and I gave him a rough edit and then he came up with something and then I did this to this to his music no way ah but building way adds flavour whatever it is you thank you for making the world's greatest sauce the amazing thing about the composer roy magnusson is that he had an idea I guess in his mind about what this song would be and uh but he didn't write anything down and he just I showed him the clip like I was literally with my laptop like a recording space with my silly here's what it looks like he was like ok? And he just like, played the piano and his wife shani plays violin they promise just improvised together for like, three minutes and all I had to do in the everything was like a loop a couple spots because like I knew I needed to be a little bit slower for a little bit longer because I wanted that build to happen when I was going up the escalator of peppers and then he ended very gradually kind of like went out it was like actually needed to go boom title so really he did one take and then I was like, can we just do a little boom any previous was, like, played into that and that was it. We sat there for ten minutes looking at footage he's amazing. So yeah, for me it's a combination, but I understand that composers would really love something too, right? Tio and I know that what you have now in a timeline is a great place to be because like we do, you'll find a good song and then that song will lend itself like who this would make a really good intro like maybe we don't need to hear from steve right away let's get some establishing shots in there and then and then we like when the music breaks we like start to hear from these characters and then we we let the characters get too emotional part one and then we bring up the music and you know we could play with it and then the ending musical drive a lot of our decisions I think I mean that struggle that I had because we had talked prior to the edit and incorporating music and I thought about, you know, doing some kind of intro what's the music and how many songs do we do way had a budget of one song so it was do I bring it up in touching moments find a touching moment or do I throw the track on throughout the whole video? And by the time I finished with time and that's where I find myself a lot in television is that like, all I have time for is like I found a song that matches and music is so powerful you could take that exact same clip we just had put a track of music under it and it will be twice a week citing toe watch music just does that and so there's just having it there is pretty powerful if you have all the time in the world then you edit to it but sometimes I'm just like track go because he's going here right now uh yeah that's kind of I mean, you can also beat your head it until it's just goes down, you reach your tipping point and it's like, you're just messing it up. Yeah, so wonderful. I, uh, I'm so thankful that you did that, because I I'm thankful it made it, and you guys can see it. It's a relief now, because I think I have these dreams that I was goingto be able to play around footage. A bunch would be able to give you some better examples today of, like, jnl, cuts and stuff, and I really like just didn't have time like you had. You did that. I appreciate that so much brought it to life. Thank you very much.

Class Description

Today’s media landscape is largely made up of regular folks who know how to spot a good story and use basic gear to document the world around them. Find out how you can join their ranks and make compelling, marketable shorts in Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 

Griffin made a name for himself with the ode to an iconic hot sauce, Sriracha. In this class, he’ll teach you how to identify, shoot, and share documentary-style video. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize and tell a good story
  • Capture high-caliber footage with low-budget gear 
  • Incorporate all the essentials for online and TV news
  • Produce corporate work clients love
  • Find your audience and monetize your work

Griffin will share tips on lighting, framing, and interviewing subjects so you walk away with lots of usable footage. You’ll watch as Griffin shares clips from a one-day shoot and you’ll learn exactly what it takes to turnaround a complete documentary-style short on a deadline.

You’ll also learn a handful of helpful editing techniques and get insights on the ethical and legal responsibilities of documentary filmmaking.

If you want to learn how to tell meaningful stories that look great and sell, while working on a shoestring budget, don’t miss Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 


Bruce Gruenbaum

First off, if you have not watched Sriracha, go and do that. The techniques that Griffin used in it are pretty incredible. This course expands on those techniques and what really surprised me about this course is how simple the setup is that he uses to make some absolutely amazing documentaries. The quality of what you can produce with the most basic of equipment is really mind-boggling. Some of the most interesting stuff was about B-Roll and how to use it to create a visually interesting presentation. The idea of a lot of small clips that show specific information is invaluable. The techniques he uses to create shots like the one where the camera was placed on top of a cart and pushed down an aisle was amazing. More than anything else, the ideas and tips I came away with have helped me find ways of making my own videos much more interesting.

a Creativelive Student

Griffin is a great storyteller and I was hoping to learn a LOT from this class. But I didn't. I'm an experienced corporate video editor/shooter who's always dreamed of doing a documentary. About half of the class is the very basics of video production (b-roll, rule of thirds, good audio) and the other half is interesting content that seems to cut off just as it becomes engaging. I'm not sure why Creative Live edited it that way other than to extend the number of segments? Although the next segment doesn't seem to pick up where the previous left off. I've never felt that way before about CL, but it seems like every segment is cut right as it gets to things I'm interested in. It did have some great information about revenue streams for a short form documentary, but I was left wanting to learn more. If you're just starting out... this is a great resource to learn the basics of non-fiction filming. If you already work professionally in the field I would pass.

Tim Greig

This is brilliant. Griffin is such a generous, self-deprecating filmmaker you just can't help but love him. He goes into great detail on just how he makes his documentaries and other work and is so inspiring, mostly because he is a one-man band and produces such interesting and wonderful videos. Thank you Griffin and CreativeLive for offering this.