I am very very happy to share my most recent commissioned work! This short piece is a collaboration between myself and the Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute. For the unfamiliar, the Mitchell Institute was established by Senator George J. Mitchell in Maine, as a scholarship award non-profit organization. What is uniquely special is that it has become so much more.
The MI was formed in 1995, with the hope of providing one graduating senior from every High School in the state of Maine a 4 year scholarship to help ease the burden of financial responsibility. It was that simple, and that monumental. I was introduced to the MI as a high school senior in 2003, when I was applying for scholarships from my small town school, so I could go to the University of Maine in Orono. My father worked in a Navy shipyard, which meant I qualified for a pioneer award.
Towards the end of July I was asked to an informal afternoon meeting with two of their hardest working employees to explore the possibility of developing a video project to play as an opener during their annual fall gala. The write-up from this year’s 2013 event can be read via the Portland Press Herald. In 2012 they experimented with playing a video in front of some 500 attendees, which was a huge success, so this year the goal was to go bigger. Aware of my wedding video experience they contacted me, and we held a couple brainstorming sessions hammering overall direction and logistics. This last meeting before we hit the ground running was the closest to a movie pitch meeting I’ve ever had in a room with the people who ultimately had final approval.
The main film was going to focus on two college students who best exemplified the values of an ideal scholar. In my head I was thinking a hybrid 60 Minutes-esque biographical vignette with marketing appeal that communicates the core narrative “heroic journey” of our underdogs. From the get go I wanted real footage of Abby and Jeff (the scholars) in their authentic environments juxtaposing the academic and home town origins. Because all of it would be shot on location, nature was our one and only chief lighting source, and possibly the my biggest concern heading into every shoot. Thankfully, 75% of it was captured in ideal late afternoon sunlight.
Gear was kept as minimal as possible even though a double Canon 5D camera setup is always cumbersome to prep for, on top of recording audio using a boom pole + shotgun mic. I used a gorilla pod to attach a zoom H4N to the shotgun mic stand. Clipped lapel mics to them each time going into a Zoom H1 for backup. Carried every prime lens I own, in addition to 2 tripods, trusty monopod, and Konova slider.
These kids could already speak confidently in front of large audiences, but speaking on tape, with the exact mixture of conviction, eloquence, and humility, all without stumbling, takes some perseverance to do over and over again. I managed [worried] the technical aspects while a MI staff member conducted the hard hitting interviews with scholars and their parents, until we got everything we could possibly use. Then it was up to me to direct them for B-Roll recording. This meant making Jeff repeatedly toss bails of hay on his family farm, or Abby look thoughtfully in the distance while I captured her close up. I wouldn’t say it was all easy, but for the most part it was fun and exciting to branch out of the corporate and wedding video atmosphere, which had already taught me valuable transferrable skills I used for this project.