Favorite Project Series: Mini Documentary


And Why It’s My Favorite Video

Many years ago my [former] boss was approached by a charity group, they asked him to prepare a video so they could show their largest contributor the difference his money made.

They had a meeting scheduled for Saturday, just days away, and our senior video editor was on vacation. The project fell on my shoulders. I had never worked on a project of this size and importance, and in the processes of meeting this crazy deadline, I also had to earn my boss’s trust.

The first day my boss spent filming stories, while I sifted through hundreds of photos and video clips the client provided of their trip to India. We were still using standard definition cameras back then, and as soon as my boss was done with the interviews, I took the tapes to log and capture the footage.

The next day, it was just a matter of putting everything together. I knew how to edit, how to use the software, and I knew exactly where I wanted to begin, but after that I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. When I came in to work that morning, a file had already been started and was left open on my computer. It was generic. Generic music, slow panning photos, boring, boring, boring. I spent at least half an hour trying to figure out what it meant–did my boss start it, so I could finish it? I decided to ignore it, and do my own thing. My boss came in to check on the progress every 15 minutes. If I wasn’t doing it his way, he wanted to see what my way. But that is never how I work. Instead of starting at the beginning and working my way to the end, clip by clip, I compare my process to a sculptor starting with a slab of material and whittling their way down.

Hours into it, I didn’t have anything to show my boss. I had a lot done, but not in a way he would understand. He had to wait.

Into the evening, I continued working, and finally brought my boss in to see the first draft. He watched it, and he had some comments. The quiet was too startling for him, but I resisted his effort to add music. And I will never forget the one point he stopped the video at, point out, “They’re talking about men promising these girls jobs, and then selling them into prostitution…but you’re showing this picture with these girls smiling and looking happy.”

“I know,” I said “I was imagining these were the girls being taken. They’re happy, waiting in the van, waiting to be given training and a job, but you know where they are really going…but if it doesn’t come across right, I will change it.” My boss instantly teared up, and demanded I keep it exactly as it was.

Come the big reveal, Saturday morning before their meeting, there wasn’t a dry eye in the office. Sadly, my only copy of the video comes from a file that I compressed until it was small enough to send through email, and the quality if very poor. If I was given this project now, there are many changes I would make to it, but the experience makes this video perfect, just the way it is.