GOOD

Make a Documentary—Starring You

With today's technology and a few expert tips, you can share your own unique tale like an ace documentarian.


This post is in partnership with Pepsi Refresh Project


Everyone’s got a unique story to tell. Why not pick up a camera and catch some of the amazing happenings of your everyday life on film? With today’s easy technology and a few expert tips, anyone can be an ace documentarian.

Pick a Topic

Look around your home, your neighborhood, and your workplace for inspiration. From household appliance parts to passing cars on the freeway to random collections, people are making amazing projects out of the ordinary things. “Think about your interests, your hobbies, your passions,” advises documentary filmmaker Alicia Ontiveros. Ontiveros won a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh grant in 2010 to make her film, Meet the Gulf, about how recent environmental crises have impacted Louisiana families. “You can tell a story about anything, from grass growing to the life cycle of a plastic bag, as long as it’s compelling and creative. You don’t need grandiose ideas.”

Choose Your Equipment

Don’t wait until you have cash to buy a fancy camera; use whatever’s close at hand. “It’s a trap to think you can start only when you have the perfect tools,” says photographer Mark Menjivar, who’s currently poking around in people’s fridges to record what they’re eating—with beautiful and thought-provoking pictures to show for his efforts. “It really doesn’t matter what you use. An iPhone, a film camera, a digital point-and-shoot, they’re all fine. Tap into your energy and curiosity, and get started.”

Same thing for film. “These days, film making technology is affordable and easy to use,” says Ontiveros. Get a few slip cams or a high-definition video camera, add a cheap tripod, and toss in editing software (she recommends Final Cut Express) and you’re good to go. As for all those pricey lights and high-end gadgets? Instead, be smart and think outside the box. Use the sun and a homemade reflector, google DIY equipment ideas, or make like The Blair Witch Project and turn wobbly shots and crazy angles to your advantage.

Try Different Techniques

Picking a process can help you get started. Instead of waiting for inspiration to hit, just snap a shot, and see what happens; some people take a photo every day to make sure something gets done. “Repetition of a constructed creative process is a great way to force you to produce new work,” say photographer John Cyr, who took a photo of the sky outside his bedroom window at 8am every day for 28 days starting on his 28th birthday and created an amazing montage of moving clouds and shifting light. Or pick a certain object and photograph that as much as you can (Cyr is currently taking shots of old-school gelatin photo developing trays). Also, add in other media. Menjivar includes writing and sound in his projects: he’s jotting down his diet for 365 days to accompany his fridge photography, along with audio recordings of people eating their favorite foods, which he admits “is fascinating, but totally nasty.”

Be Engaging

You don’t want to make your audience feel like they’re sitting in on a long therapy session. “Try to pretend it’s not all about you—even if it is,” advises filmmaker Doug Block, who has won numerous awards for his movies about his family. His latest, The Kids Grow Up, is an intimate look at his daughter’s life, yet he shows it sweetly and is considerate of her feelings. His biggest tips on not alienating viewers? “Humor is hugely important,” he says. “Poke fun at yourself.” And don’t give away family secrets without asking those involved for permission to film—unless you want to be shunned at Thanksgiving dinner.

Put Yourself on Display

Now that you have something awesome —share it, promote it, show it around! Post it on Facebook, talk it up on Twitter, and start a blog (Wordpress or Tumblr are both easy and free). If you have a film you want people to watch, post to a YouTube page or try Vimeo for a more creative types. For more in-the-know advice, go to Cinefile, a great site with forums, articles, and tons of industry news, where you can upload your videos and get thoughts from other filmmakers. “If you want online feedback, shorter is better,” says Ontiveros. “Keep your clips to two minutes or less.”

Ultimately, it’s all about personal expression and getting people excited about what you’re doing. “I love the medium of photography,” says Menjivar. “But my passion is about connecting with people.” So whether you’re shooting ants in your backyard or a series of toasters, think about what you want to say with your work or how you want people to respond. After all, you’re the artist – take charge of your art.

Read more from the GOOD Guide to Finding Arts and Culture here.

Articles
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture

In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News