Case Study - Documentary Films with Phil
my abilities are slowly diminishing. So I'm like able to like adapt to each one. Some days I'm like oh I woke up like a couple months ago and I realized I couldn't let this finger anymore, just like oh that one's gone and that's weird that that finger would never go back every day is the strongest I'll ever be again. But also the weakest I've ever met. That's weird. It's really weird. Hey, this is Phil here and that was the intro to my short film, a short documentary about Anthony Carbajal. Someone in a film that I've talked about and used as an example throughout this course and in this lesson, I really want to just go through what I did for this film, how it came about and walk you through some of the creative process while showing you some of the shots. So I'm just going to go ahead and play this and then talk you through coming up with the idea and how we actually got it going. So I knew Anthony from college and he is a good friend. He was diagnosed with a L. S. Which his mom and g...
randmother had and he was only 26 when he was diagnosed and I just knew that I could use my talent as a filmmaker to help share his story because as someone who has a L. S. He's not going to be able to have a job anymore because he basically loses all the muscles in his hands and throughout his entire body. I'm going to pause here. I titled this film strongest I'll ever be because that's from a quote that he was talking about in the beginning in that clip saying how each day every moment is the strongest he'll ever be and he just continues to get weaker and weaker, which is, it's inevitable and it's so devastating. And the reason why I wanted to make this film though is not because it's such a devastating story, which can make a compelling film, but because he's so positive about it and he's an artist himself and he does photography. He was an award winning photographer. In the beginning of this film, he talks about being a photographer. So I'm just gonna zoom ahead just a little bit to see some of his work as a wedding photographer. And he was doing 40, 50 weddings a year, charging a lot for these weddings, winning awards for his wedding photography. And he wasn't able to do it anymore. After he was diagnosed, he couldn't use his hands to change the settings on his camera anymore. But over time he was able to figure out ways to take photos with his camera. So here in this documentary again, going back to the film, you can see that in the beginning, I used a lot of photos because in the beginning of the film, he's talking about his background, his story how he got to where he is today. And so that lends itself to using photos as b roll, there were photos of his parents, his mom, his sisters and his siblings And this is when he's talking about his mom being diagnosed and you use these things that's kind of be rolled to demonstrate and to add a a life and visuals to what he's talking about. I could have just stayed on the interview clip right here. We're using the rule of thirds where we placed him on the right side of the frame and he's looking right past frame at me answering questions, which is a typical type of setup for interviews. They're not looking straight at camera but looking right off the side of the camera at the person and asking the questions. And so in the beginning I was using a lot of a lot of photos. So anyways, let's just play through just a little bit more. And you can see this scene, one of my favorite scenes where we really got in there and got to be in an intimate moment with him and his wife who takes care of him and helps him shower. So let's go just play through a little bit more. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And it's just music right now composed by my friend Nick. There's no voiceover, Nothing really describing what's going on because the visuals speak for themselves. Combination of close ups with different cameras and also wider, more stabilized steadicam shots. Mm hmm. Mhm. It never crossed my mind that I would get this disease. And so this moment of him and his wife is just so sweet. And you can also see this this camera move tilts down to his dogs taking care of him. You know, his whole family around him. So you can see the different types of shots. We combine wide shots, close ups, you know, interesting compositions. Here's a shot I really like where Anthony was sitting on the edge of the bed just looking, you know, not at camera but facing towards camera. And then his wife comes around and helps him starts doing his hair. And we had two cameras rolling at the same time. The close up camera with a nice telephoto lens and then the wide camera that was that wide shot. So we didn't have to have him do this multiple takes. We just had two cameras rolling at the same time getting these different angles and that allowed us to cut together these different shots and that's something as a filmmaker, you have to, you know, pay attention to while you were filming. This is a film that we had a rough outline of what it was going to be. We knew sort of what was going to take place that day, Anthony was going to get ready in the morning. We were going to go out and do some photography. We wanted some scenes around the house and Anthony and his wife were just very comfortable with us. I think mostly because we knew them from from before I had gone there and met with them beforehand, of course I knew Anthony from college, so he's very comfortable letting us in his house, but that's something that you might not get right at the beginning of making a film. You know, this is a very personal story. This isn't like a corporate documentary or corporate promotional or commercial film or video. So it does lend itself to being personal and they them just letting us in a little bit more. But because of that, it turned out a lot better than if we didn't get these scenes, these personal, intimate moments of him and his wife. So the structure of this film talks about his background and then he goes through his everyday life and he or his current situation where he's being helped by by his wife, he's still able to do a lot of things, but it's really hard for him. And he talks about his wife really being there for him no matter what, which is one of the most personal and sad, but also beautiful things about his story is that his wife was there for him. So let's just skip ahead to some drone shots and I'll let that play out. She'll make a silly face and make me laugh and make me forget about all my troubles. You know, so long is a special woman and I'm so blessed to have her in my life, super fortunate and blessed and y'all weren't, I'm just going to pause here. The drone shots, not only are they just cool to have and they really upped the production value of this documentary, but it helps set the scene and it makes the documentary feel a little bit bigger than if it was just in his house the whole time. The backdrop of this documentary and his life is the town of Redlands in southern California and you can see the red lands, the mountains that look red here in the sunset. And being able to capture these scenes, these wide shots again, that's what we learned from the composition section. The wide shots tell us where we are. And then it's the close ups that tell us about the action. One of my favorite shots and I'll just pause here again is this next one coming up and I love the transition of these shots going from the pan up of Anthony and Loni, his wife in the hammock to these wide shots of the city and then this fades out and it's almost like a new scene, a new day. And then we have Anthony in his wheelchair driving up the street. The music changes the shot changes the tempo changes of the music and then Anthony starts talking about his photography. And so this is the third act of the film. The first was his background. The second was his current life and the third is sort of the future or what he is planning to do with his life. And it's focused on photography. So he's talking about how he put together his camera on his wheelchair and he was able to figure out how to do it so that he can still take photos using a an external shutter release and basically the basic settings of a camera without and using a lot of automatic settings. And then we go and we actually film him as he goes out into the streets and does his street photography. He's an amazing street photographer and it's um, it's amazing being able to show some of his his photos in this documentary, you can see some of them now. And I'm actually going to be updating this with some of his newer ones because he has some even more amazing photos. So again, combining both video with photos is something we did for this piece. And it's it just works well for this one a lot because he's a photographer. You know, you don't always necessarily have to have photos in your films. And actually sometimes photos takeaway from the film because they can feel a little too static, but for here it's perfect. You can see all of these shots, different angles, looking up Anthony with the sun with the flares coming directly at the lens. Not something you always want to do, but something that you can do here's a shot from his wheelchair. We've strapped a GoPro to his wheelchair and he just shot facing forward and I used some stabilization to make this a little bit smoother. But we see his silhouette or his shadow and his silhouette coming from the sun because the sun is coming from behind him. Another really interesting perspective closeups getting right in there in his face and his eyes to see see how focused he is and you can hear in his voice right now that he's so focused. You know, you're not listening to the documentary, but when you get a chance to watch it, once I put it up on online, you'll see and hear how focused he is on trying to do his photography. And so getting those close up shots to show that focus is what we were intending to do there. And you can start to see his facial expressions getting a little bit happier and happier and excited. So it's also good to cut back to that interview to see him talking, especially when he goes through something says something more emotional or powerful. You cut back to those shots to really show what he's thinking some more photos of his and at the very end you can see him start to tear up always great for documentaries. If you know it gets a little emotional, he's talking about how photography has really changed his life and he's looking forward to continuing to take photos. And this is another good time to have that iconic shot of them riding off into the distance into the sunset. You know that if you watch old western movies, that's an iconic scene that is used time and time again to show people, you know, at the end of the day riding off into the sunset and here they are continuing their journey together. And then I'll just show you one more shot. One thing that it kind of happened on accident, but it was a happy accident that I you know, just came about during editing. This shot of Anthony, the pullback of him. He's standing there in the middle of the street, no wheelchair just by himself. And this shot matches with the first shot of him going in seeing him in his chair. And really at the end of the day, his chair doesn't define him. And so that's why I wanted to use that shot at the end. It wasn't really what I was thinking when we filmed it, I was just thinking, oh, this would be a cool shot to have him standing in the middle of the street. And it's just like a creative shot looking at camera. But it ended up being a great bookend to this short film to show that his chair isn't what defines him. So using symbolism in the shots and the way we set up these scenes is something we were thinking about as as I edit it. So this whole project was a really, really great one. We're submitting it to film festivals now. The places that I've used to submit to film festivals are without a box dot com. Without a box dot com and Film Freeway dot com. Film Freeway dot com. Both of those are really cool places and some have more film festivals and others, some, um, times there on Without a box and not on film for Freeway. Sometimes they're on both. So you just have to figure out which one is cheaper. Um, or if you just want to stick to one platform.