Film - Over the Bridge

When you fall asleep on the floor…

… you know it’s about time to take a break from editing and go to bed. That’s what happened to me last night. I like to set deadlines for myself, and yesterday I just really wanted to finish up the first cut of the documentary, so I stayed up a little longer than my regular 10 p.m. tuck-in.. heh, waaay longer. And then I figured I should probably do some backup of the work I had done in the past 12 hours — just in case my external hard drive decided to explode before I got to publish it, you know? (Yup, these are things a filmmaker worries about)

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This is what a sleepy film-editing nerd looks like at 1:30 in the moning.

Anyway, after a full afternoon, night and a couple of hours into the morning, I laid down on the floor to let gravity do its work on my sore back and shoulders — and then I suddenly woke up. So I must have fallen asleep for a moment (!) When I checked my watch I realized it was already 1:30 a.m. so I made sure the documentary was securely backed up, shuffled my way through the silence of the empty hallways and across campus before I crashed in bed  — very satisfied with the day’s effort. So now the film is actually done! Yay!

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Nothing like an empty hallway in EARLY Saturday morning.

Or almost done, we just have to wait for a cinematographer and a professional director to give us some harsh feedback, so we can do some final adjustments before the premiere on Friday.

Words like “premiere,” and “cinematographer” makes it sound so official, haha! But the truth is that it only lasts 15 minutes! God knows how hard Sarah and I have worked on making it that short — it would almost have been easier to make a full hour-long film, and we probably have enough footage for a mini-series, but we want to get the point across without any jizzjazz.

By the way, I want to give a shout-out to the talented, Rachel Johnston, who is in charge of the premiere event and did the design for our posters!

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The team: Sarah and Rachel
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Just a little excited about the design, haha!

Good night,
Maria

Why it takes time

Hey y’all!

I’m finally done with today’s events, and I can snuggle up in bed and watch a movie before I go to sleep — which doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Last year I’d watch about five to eight movies a week (yup I know that’s a little extreme) but ever since I started making the documentary in January, most of my time outside of school has been spent in the editing room.

But with just a few final touches left, the finish line is within sight, and our official premiere date is set to 4 p.m. March 11th in the Back Alley “Theatre.” I’ll get back to that later.

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A screenshot from the doc “Over the Bridge”

It’s been almost nine full weeks since Sarah Kocher and I started the process. Some of our friends seem to have a hard time understanding why a 20-minute long documentary takes so long to make, but let me try to explain.

When I decided to make a film about homelessness I wanted it to be accurate, credible and truthful. This is a real issue, with real people and real stories, so it’s very important for me to get it right. I could have made a two-minute news story video with some B-roll clashed on top of a couple of interviews, but then it would’ve been almost impossible to tell the stories with depth, emotion and atmosphere.

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Screenshot from the coldest day of shooting . -37ºC / -34ºF windchill …

Therefore, we have visited the different shelters and areas downtown a total of 14 times. We also discovered that it can be quite challenging to schedule appointments with people who don’t have phones or calendars, but we made it work somehow.

To my big surprise it’s been way harder to work with the public officials we’ve been wanting to interview, and they have both phones AND calendars… But luckily Sarah is a pro at leaving phone messages (like for real, you should hear her talk, I’m in complete awe every time!) so we got our interviews done, eventually.

Another time-consuming part is the editing. When you don’t have a script, there’s no way you can predict the direction the story is going before you do the interviews. So despite our efforts, precise questions and specific requests some people just can’t seem to get to their point without talking non-stop for 15 minutes first. Even then, they sometimes manage to avoid the question itself. That has left us with what appears to be two-digit number of hours with footage that we have to scan through in order to find that one minute where they actually did answer the question. That takes time, a lot of time!

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Then, once we’ve found all those snippets we’re able to use, we gotta put them in an order that makes sense, match them with the audio track, adjust the sound, color, light, quality, find a decent soundtrack that is royalty free or affordable (easier said than done), and even then it won’t end up looking perfect… because it’s documentary filmmaking, not movie making. 

In moviemaking you can re-shoot, tweak, enhance, adjust lighting, locations, scenery, props and even the people in front of the camera until everything looks perfect. But in documentary filmmaking you just gotta take what you get. If the lens is foggy or covered in ice crystals from the (frickin South Dakota) cold you just have to deal with it. If your fingers are so frozen they feel (and look) like weisswurs sausages and you can’t hold the camera steady, well then … deal with it! All that shaky, out-of-focus, grainy footage and bad sound quality makes my cinema heart hurt, but that’s what makes documentaries realistic.. I guess.

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Another screenshot from “Over the Bridge”

Anyway, that’s all I have to say tonight.

Sleep well all,
Maria

What’s new? We’re making a documentary!

Hello to all of you patient readers who’ve stopped by this exceptionally poorly updated blog over the past few weeks. I’m sorry I haven’t allowed you in on what I’ve been up to, but don’t worry — I’m back!

The reason for my absence is not caused by lack of inspiration or stuff to write about, because the truth is that I’ve rarely had this much to share with you all!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a new film project, and blogging just didn’t make its way into my priority list, I guess. But oh well, enough, back to the film project — I started planning it last year, but my commitment to track never allowed me to actually do it. But as soon as I got back to Sioux Falls this January, I contacted my dear friend and fellow journalism major, Sarah Kocher, and the process began. I have, since then, spent every awake hour outside of school either preparing, shooting, scheduling, editing or researching it.

For a while it actually felt like I spent more time with my interview subjects than with my own friends, but the fact of the matter is that I have, for the first time in my filmmaking “career,” had the pleasure of working with a crew consisting of my friends. There is actually a total of 14 people involved in this thaaang.

It’s called “Over the Bridge” and is about Indiana Avenue, which is the street of the homeless in Sioux Falls. More about that later.

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We’ve visited areas of the city we would otherwise never even have known existed, we’ve been yelled at, and we nearly got kicked out of a bus station (because of my not-so-discrete camera,) but argued our way out of it through the help of the First Amendment of the American law. GO FREEDOM OF SPEECH!

I can’t wait to tell you more about it, but at this point I can’t really tell you much more than that it is a zero-budget-documentary produced by NOET Productions that has me and my crew step way outside of our comfort zones.

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I have during the filming of this documentary, on multiple occasions, struggled with holding my own tears back as I listened to some of the people share their stories, dreams and hopes. But despite the discomfort and tears, I feel that this project has allowed me to be a part of something a little bigger than just myself and my passion for filmmaking. It’s not just about me showing off what I can do with a camera — but it’s about giving a voice to the people who otherwise won’t be heard.

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Photo: Sarah Kocher

Right now we’re in the middle of the editing process, but it’ll be ready in March and I’m excited to show you all what we’ve been working on.

So, how about the rest of my life? Well, I haven’t really done that much outside of exploring the city of Sioux Falls in the freeeeeezing temperatures. Okay, it hasn’t been that cold every day, but the one day we had to get up and shoot at 05:30 AM it was -26 plus wind chills, which according to locals, equals -37°C… no wonder our fingers felt like dead flesh by lunch time.

But besides school and filming I’ve done quite a bit of running, well enough to win me a T-shirt from Augustana’s Miles Club at least. Compared to actual runners I can’t say that I run a lot, but I sat a new personal best when I ran my 10km route last week! My foot where I had the stress fracture still hurts every now and then, but the doctors said it may never get completely pain-free… so there’s not much I can do about it. I’m just happy to be running again!

And despite the tight economic situation us Norwegians are experiencing over here right now, (stupid exchange rate!!) we’ve made sure to enjoy ourselves. I don’t exactly go to the movie theatre four times a week anymore, but we all meet up, order pizza and watch movies together on campus in the weekends — Kinda nice!

I’ve also been to the church a couple of times since last update. Never been much of a church-goer, but this one is actually so amazing I look forward to Sunday already.

I could probably go on and on in this post, but it’s time to stop and I hope you enjoyed my “comeback” into the blog world.

Bless you all,
Maria

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