Keeping Track of Your Story Ideas
organizing in building your story for motion. Um, we've talked a lot about story for stills. I've talked. Oh, story is really, of course, the driving factor in all things. But building a story for motion is a long process. It's not very obvious on how to go about it. It's not a simple is just sitting down and writing a script. For some people, it may be that simple. But when working in nature, I think you've got very complex dynamics at work. It could be very tricky. Teoh. Bring all the elements together, and especially when you're in the field and you encounter certain situations, it's very important to, uh, toe keep a record of those things. Write them down. Try to remember the feelings and emotions and all those other elements that you're probably capturing on film. But you might have the words as well to put to that, um, as a nature film maker. As a nature documentary filmmaker, um, as any kind of documentary filmmaker, I think it's always a wise idea to keep a journal, to keep you...
r thoughts in a place and to start to figure out how to organize those things you know, even though you're capturing it on film, I can't tell you how many times I've sat down and watch the film or looked at my photos and cannot remember what it was I was feeling. We're thinking exactly in that moment, other than maybe a couple of little frames, a couple little shots. So building a story is very challenging. I think building a story for motion is is exceptionally different. I'm really what I'm talking about here, in many ways, is is the script, the words, the elements that will come together and how the picture will support all of that. So this class in the boot camp is all about that And with, uh, with that, continue in Teoh the steps. And I've got a lot of really cool things in this particular class because very fortunate in that I keep everything I keep absolutely everything from every journey that I take, and I bring all those things, um, together. And when I started to think about how to put this together, um, I decided I was gonna base it mostly around the midway film. So in the class, talking about drones were ableto screen a, uh uh, I think it was, Ah, a couple minutes preview of the larger 40 minute film called Midway Edge of Tomorrow. Something I've been working on for 18 or 19 months or so. Um, it's actually just in its final few days. Right now, it's in the final last step, which is color correction. All the graphics air done well, the clearances air done. A lot of the stories have been written, edited and stitched together, and it's just finally almost there. And so it's a lot of fun. As I put this together to think about, Where did it begin? How did it get from Originally was supposed to be just a short film. Few minutes long were supposed to be like no more than eight minutes long, were supposed to have a little body of stills and motion that could be put together and could help show people the importance of this. This a toll so far out in the middle of Pacific, pivotal in American history at world history, really cause a World War Two in the battle of Midway 75 years ago, um, supposed to tell that's right and turned into a much larger project and kept evolving. It kept growing, and there been all these little elements along the way. And because I kept everything because I kept all my notes and all my feelings and interactions and and ideas, I've been able to bring that story together. So first I want to talk to you about how I do that. Keeping every idea in one place. I typically have a running document in the cloud that is just ideas, notes, words, phrases or anything else, really that encounter in the course of my adventure, whether I'm writing the script or not as a firsthand account will be vital to creating this story. This is important, and there's a few different things going on in here. 1st 1 talk about keeping it in the cloud. The reason I do that is because I have lost my notebooks in the past that lost one wants and it was devastating. I had all these ideas that had kept in there was a little one, and at the time I was Ah, I guess I don't have as many ideas as I had hoped, but I had a lot of them over years otherwise would have filled them up and I would have had it. Still, Um, I had a lot of things in there that when I lost that it must have fallen. I almost know exactly where it happened, fell out of a car, landed in the water, and I think it just floated down into a into a stream as I was crossing the stream and I got out to take a picture. And so what I do now is I try to either take pictures of my notebook or more often than not, what I do is actually write down the things that I put in the field. If they're not in my phone already, a lot of times already know because it's easier in quicker to do. And you can also stick other things like receipts or papers or any other little pieces that you can tape in there. It's just a lot easier to kind of collect all of that for your memory. But, ah, lot of times what I do is I take the notebook, I sit down and then I just start entering and I use Google drive. I'll create a doc. I'll name it the name of the project, and I'll just enter them in own embellish. I won't add. I mean, I'm a but probably not. I won't Mellish on ad. I'm literally just transcribing all of those things into there, and the reason I do that is because you don't want to lose it. That's the reason we write him down. The reason why we pulled them together when they come, just get them down, get them down quick. At least for me. It's important to do that. So I se notes, words, phrases or anything else that I encounter. In the course of my adventure, I've seen things written on walls. I've written them down. I've seen great quotes that were pulled out part of museum exhibits. I've written down who said it and what it waas. I've seen, you know, other types of just random visual elements. I remember there was a backpack I remember saying of Ah, a little girl and in Hawaii and it said Blue heaven on the back of it. I'm like, Wow, that could be kind of a cool name, you know? And it was like this, like they're clearly like a very surfing oriented family. I wrote that down. You know, you just don't know how those things will resurface as you start toe, bring the structure of your story together. So this is a big one for me. And in the cloud is, uh is an important step, and I'm gonna show you actually what my documents look like that I aggregate over time. Whether I'm writing the script or not is another important piece, because these notes, you know, maybe not The random list of just one off words are not gonna be helpful. They may be, but having sentences, thoughts, encounters, journal entries and stories from the field, whether you're going to be the one to actually write this down or not are going to be helpful to the person who will. Because on Lee, you are the one out there Onley you potentially. I mean, maybe you're there with crude, but really, you're the one in charge. If you're the one driving this project, if you're driving, whether it's your still story or your motion's story, your experience cannot be replaced. And that is an important component because it's the first hand account off somebody who was there. So even though I'm not a script writer. I don't consider myself a script writer, even though I don't consider myself a script writer. I know that I'm the one who spent 14 days on this remote island. No matter how much somebody of research is it. No matter how much somebody watches are raw footage or looks at my photos, will they ever truly understand what it's like to be there and to be listening to birds for 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 14 days or whatever it is that you're there for? And then what does that mean? How does that play into the story? You know, what is it like to see certain things or encounter with them on a daily basis and be reminded of that? That's not something someone can anticipate. So your firsthand account is absolutely important, and it's important to write it down and make it either available to yourself or if you decide to bring somebody else in to help right to make it available to them. Um, it's vital to creating this story. Having a physical journal is a good idea. Um, I don't like to just rely on phone, especially if I'm in the fields filming because a lot of times I'm using my phone. I actually flying mostly with my phone on the drone. So I run the battery down. I forget to leave it on. I don't want to be limited to just that. There's something nice about having the physical journal to write things down. You know, you don't need to have a big one, but I think it's great. It's also great, you know, Wake up in the middle of the night and I have an idea. You know, they come at all hours of the day. I've really trained myself to think about story all the time and make it a habit. When I have an idea. I'm even with them with friends like Stop. Hang on, Leon. Let me write this thing. Danny, I got this. You know, something we were saying in this conversation gave me a really good idea. When, right down e mail myself, all the time, having people email themselves ideas. Yeah, exactly right. You know myself more and I get emails from people these days, but a physical journal really helps. I think it's also great to write a journal every night. Especially if you're on, um, expedition type of journey. That's very long, Like, 14 days. Um, you know, or even a couple of days. You know, I'm not saying dear Abby, You know, I I feel sad today. I'm talking about writing down what happened, What took place and, you know, thinking about what elements? A report for the story. I'm not talking about writing, writing, writing an actual like, uh, maybe it's maybe it's emotional, of course, depending on what the project is. But in general, you want to write every day because you don't want to postpone it because of that day. It's the freshest. That day you're gonna have the, um, you know, the most relatable experiences they can put down and answer these questions. Who, what, where, When and why, right? I mean, that's the basic of any good story. Have to have the information. Today we went out. Who's way, you know, today I went out with Alice and we filmed on the north side of the island. The north side's always windy. Every time we get out there, it's windy. But every time we get out there is where the most the greatest number of birds are. Well, why were they there? Because they can cruise in the thermals, Bubba, Bubba. But you can just keep going on and on and on and on. But it's great to write down every day, make it a habit. Um, you know, I found actually, one of the best inspirations for me in telling the story has been a pair of headphones and a great soundtrack or two may be instrumental, something like that where I can help visualize. Um what? My story might finally come together as sometimes I'll sit in my room and read it out out loud and maybe actually try and write like a little voice over section to get a feel for it. Where is it going? Where's the momentum going? You know, try and got those things down. Having attempt track in the field is something that I do. I've heard other people do it as well. I like it a lot. It can be really inspiring. Um, you know, when I was thinking about World War two and walking around on a Midway Island, I had a lot of movies that were World War two movies or television Siri's and I play those soundtracks and they'd be kind of, you know, patriotic but reverent. Well, that reverent sort of feeling gave me a lot of ideas of how to go into the ruins of these, build things and show respect and think about history and how would reflect that history and bring all those pieces together. The music really helped inspire that, So that's a real good tip. It's also a great tip when you're writing in your journal every night. If you're writing these things down, you know, maybe you have a sound check that you refer to. Um, you know, I found that those were really great ways to do it. Whatever your subject matter is, I find that the music will inspire because ultimately it's gonna get put to music anyway. So you may as well have some sort of temp track. We edit to temp tracks. You know, we had we had the film ultimately scored, but we added to attempt track, get to stock library music that we may be able license. Um, so it's helpful to have that it lays a little bit of a groundwork for you to start getting a feel style of rhythm as well. Like, what's the pace of this scene? You know, one of the things that you're thinking of. How did these things go together? So these were my notes, these air, these of the notes in the ride. And I read it this stuff for this class, this is I just exported him as a PdF from the cloud. Um, they're literally just clumps of words and phrases. I wrote the the opening of this film like, five different times, five different ways. And until we finally got to the end and I saw all of the different scenes put together that I really commit to one. But, you know, I'm talking about like, fractures. I'm not gonna go through this whole thing line by line. It's it's seven pages long, off typed up ideas, But like, this was one of the main phrases I kept coming back. This is a story of transformation was always about transformation about history and how it went from history to natural world. This idea kept coming back to because it would influence a lot of the other pieces. Um, you know, the opening old This is the opening that I didn't work. This is the one I didn't go with. The one you watch in the drone class. That's the opening of the film. Right now it end up evolving and changing into this very dramatic, dreamlike sequence that starts with a World War two veteran. But originally the idea was to have an old military cinema real open a propaganda film from showing these birds Don't look at These guys are goofy, Aren't they Know, Bubba Bubba Block, kind of showing the real and then spoon very dramatic ends in opens his beautiful scene of a modern island. Um, you know, very, very beautiful. Could still work, but ended up scrapping it, but doesn't mean it didn't make the cut in my notes because everything goes in here every single idea because that idea ended up showing up 3/4 of the way through the film slightly different as the ending of one scene in the intro to the next. And that got us out of the 1942 era and into the modern era of ah of the a national wildlife refuge. What it is today eso Sometimes it's very script e slow fade up from black blob of a block. Fine voice over Hawaiian culture. You know this section. Footprints don't last long in this tiny stretch of sand, but our footprint garbage does in the final script and ended up talking about how some footprints disappear while others do not. It got summed up very simply, and it was literally that footprints on the sand and then a cut away to one of the dead birds with stomach filled with plastic. So this wasn't really concept was the idea of these two kinds of footprints and the way that they impacted the island very, very early on. This is me. Page One is probably, you know, day one or two, right when we think of the skies being filled, that should be albatross and not the bombers. Sounds of planes, visuals of birds, right, just scattering and smattering of ideas teaming life everywhere. You don't just go to my midway. You don't just get in your car, can't get on a boat. No planes are allowed land that didn't make it in the script, but it was a question that I asked a lot of people who I interviewed and said Well, what's it like? Do you just go to Midway? No, you don't just go to midway. Of course not. It's far, it's remote and you start to get them to talk about why you don't just go there and they start to illustrate that story. So it's a matter of trying to take these things, These ideas. We're all thinking of him. We're all capable of great ideas. We're all capable of coming up with these different concepts and bringing the strips together. The other thing you'll notice is I asked myself a lot of questions. Um, the film, any good film in any good story should ask and answer certain questions. Even though they're not necessarily clear as questions in the film, they have to be conceptually clear, crafting the story. So the question we're answering at and answer the question we're asking enhance Oring is what happened to Midway since the battle. That's ultimately what we're trying to get to. That's the pay off. That's the thing I'm trying to do with this film. Is it reclaimed by nature and with our help, it's important to show that we can't blend wildlife and a sense of Pedrag duty tied to military service? Um, yeah. Does that really work? Does it not? Right, So those are the kinds of things obsessing through. You know, dolphins was another big thing thing of love and relationships. I created themes and all kinds of ideas Mysteries negative, double negative. Then I started. This is this is a feathered metropolis. I heard somebody in the island say that I love that I'm like, That's pretty cool Feather Metropolis wrote it down, going in the script one hour story beats. So I started to piece together in the field as well, some sort of structure. So Onley, after I started to bring things together, was able to say, OK, I've done this interview. I knew I was interviewing this guy. I knew I had these pieces. You know, what is the structure? It ended up changing significantly, but it gave me a framework from which to shoot. So this story as a shooter is very important. So if somebody is not writing it for you and you want to bring your work to the motion picture place or motion place, you want to create a three minute film, An eight minute film, 40 minute film or to our film, you're going to have to rely on that story just like a photographer on assignment. Four. Magazine has a story. If God a writer, you're not just going out and being told Hey, go shoot mount whatever or National Park Ex. Even when I got sent to a national park, I was told. Okay, the focus is search and rescue. Here's the characters that were most interested in developing Baba Baba ball. You have to have some sort of character development, some sort of structure, and you have to bring people through it. Um, and so this is my process again, there's no right or wrong way. I'm just taking inside this scary place, my brain. So I did a five extraction structure here, Uh, and then I started doing like interviews. I wrote down questions, you know, and then so if I knew the questions that can kind of anticipated, the answers are plastic garbage. Anticipate how much of that footage I needed? I started doing teaser scripts. Then I actually had a trailer. I had a temp track, which we actually already licensed, and then we actually use in public right now. online in a being the very one I liked very early on, um, stuck with his deep blue ocean sleep in peace, ended up canning in the final cut, went with a completely different direction but was used in previews. So all these different little pieces end up getting used in different ways. Um, and different, uh, and different style. So we go back to the Kino. I want to show you where these the genesis of a lot of these ideas actually was. I scanned in pages of my of my journal for this is my little chicken scratch here so literally, you know, memory card constantly learning more every year. Things revised up. I e the age of Birds, right? And so I literally wrote script ideas because my journal also has, like, you know, my my checking account on the next page, It's like I just use it for any kind of scratcher, whatever that I've got to do. So you know, script ideas. And actually, I think a lot of this stuff made it into the final. So dolphin sound underwater like a school. Your school yard full of kids, Clearly fun and playful, but unable to make out a single word eventually revised. That added the sounds of dolphins, you know, made it sound like like like a school yard. It was fun from a distance or coming in ended up adding instruments and layers. I'll talk more about that, but anyway, so I write everything down, you know, dolphins. Only a handful of places in the world where you can see this in the wild. You know, we jumped in with dolphins and swam with them. Mysteries of Midway did not make the cut. Always like the idea. Never had the footage to really Teoh support it. Here's more of my journal. You know, this is me sketching out What is the what is a trailer look like? I want to get home on the throw this together, send it to the client, get it into the marketplace. A great battle forgotten history of agree about a wrong idea, right? So I just kind of worked this work, this work, this work this, you know, here's my key themes. Learning something new love, friendship. This is This is what I wrote when I was there. This is I was actually very funny going through this and seeing at all, um, in reverse engineering this process, you know, the albatross dance, you know, have we have a section of I think it's like, 30 seconds long or so 45 seconds long. And it's my for my favorite, if not the favorite part of the film. They do this thing where they bob their heads and they talk under their wings, and I've actually kind of mastered the dance myself. But, um, maybe that's the dance Ideo Ken is always talking about the dance. Could you imagine we start like that under this wing Under this way, you can Maybe I'll start a trend. All right. Anyway, social, bird loving birds, Um, you know, all that comes into this I mean, the just beautiful, beautiful creatures that I had no idea where so, so incredible on. So it really defined, um, a lot of this film and the way it came together, and I was getting a lot of people also detracting from it. I was talking to network executives and other creatives, and they're like how birds never sell. And then people started watching the scene, and they're like and it's because you know, I found that story stuck to it. I knew that the powerful story of love and monogamy It's actually, I think, scientifically it's the most monogamous creature in the animal kingdom. 100% loyalty. They've never seen an albatross, not oil to another to its may, except in death that they separate. So is this in a very powerful story of these birds? And, you know, I wanted to make sure it was reflected cause you get home. Next thing you know, they this was like birds. Or if I were the hand off all my footage to some other writer, he wouldn't know that from looking at it. You see them nuzzling each other, raising their young, But do you really know that? Do you talk to the scientists to understand? You sit there first hand and watch them for hours and hours and hours a day, so that plays a very vital role in keeping the story going. So, you know, islands challenges. These were things that needed to shoot the Japanese memorial. Bubba Bubba, Block, energy, future, just key themes and stuff like that. This is one of the early concepts. These are some of the images provided by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is one of the earliest concepts and ideas I liked was then and now. And that man as a shooter, a za motion shooter and especially somebody who was gonna be flying their drone over the island. I wanted to be able to. And this is not now either. This is that this is then and then. But this was the We hadn't had been there yet, and there weren't a lot of images. And so we were able to use some of these images to pull together some concept ideas of, um of showing where we should the drone fly. We want to fly over the runway. We want to go over here. I want one of the ideas were showing the approach of Japanese aircraft as they came in, looking at that and then, you know, maybe showing some of the black and white footage or photos and then matching them against our photos as well, because it was shooting for more than just a project or shooting for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and wanting toe show how the islands footprint has evolved and changed over the years and how it's edged. So you know, these early concepts are very, very important. It's important to have visual elements as well. Um, they really do play a big role in, um in tying all these things together.