Over the couple of weeks, our lindy hop documentary has taken over most my my life. Luckily, with the exception of some technical problems with our hard drive, Sarah and I are really enjoying the experience.
We continue to stalk Jenna and James around Chicago. Our newest shots include:
1. Jenna and her boyfriend, Jeff, in her home.
2. Jenna and James hanging out at a bar
3. James DJing at a popular lindy hop venue
4. Two practices in preparation for the American Lindy Hop Championships
5. A performance and teaching gig at Northwestern University
This Saturday, we will be shooting James when he takes his daughter Lucy to play in the park. We also hope to get footage of James, his wife and Lucy hanging out at home. James and his wife met through lindy hop, so this highlights the idea that lindy hop is more than just a hobby to some people. For James, it helped give him a family.
Jenna’s story also continues to evolve. I feel hesitant to blog about it, but I will say that dance came into her life at a sad time that affected her whole family. The more Sarah and I learn, the more passionate we feel about producing the film and about having Jenna as our main character.
The editing process is very slow. We have hours and hours of footage and narrowing it down to a sensible story ark will undoubtedly be one of our greatest challenges. While it’s daunting, I am really excited to see how everything comes together and I am actually looking forward to spending most of my weekend working on it.
The process of making a documentary is different than any other type of storytelling I have done. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Time with your subjects: Of course, this varies from project to project. To make Dark Days, Marc Singer moved underground to the abandoned New York City subway tunnels to capture the life of the homeless people there. While Sarah and I can’t claim to be this involved, we did shoot at four separate locations over three days last week with Jenna and James.
2. Sense of responsibility: Your participants literally sign their rights away. With the release form, they give you permission to put everything you capture on tape on a giant screen in front of hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe millions of people. And, even though I always feel responsible for telling a fair and accurate story, the connection I am developing with Jenna takes this emotion to a new level. We sat at the bar for 45 minutes after I stopped shooting on Monday night, talking about our families, experiences with religion and our shared love for dance. The more you bond with your subject, the more the pressure builds to tell their story as best you can.
3. People lay it all out: The trust you build with your subjects means they will open up to you, even in front of the camera. Once again, the sense of responsibility builds.
4. There is a lot to remember: You need more than a pen and notebook. Before you go, empty your SD card and charge the batteries to your camera. Once on site, attach all the cords to the camera, make sure your character (who may be running around or, in our case, doing some sort of dangerous aerials) is wearing her microphone, focus, white balance, check for sound. And I’m probably still forgetting something…
5. Carrying things around is a real hassle: If you don’t have a car, dragging 50 pounds of equipment from place to place in Chicago is a royal pain in the ass. Our 1.5 hour commute to Ukrainian village with our camera, massive tripod and lights meant we took up more than our fair share of space on trains and buses. Our fellow commuters were not amused.
This coming week will be the last practices before the big competitions the 11th – 13th. We will be filming like crazy almost every day of the week, so stay tuned…