Wednesday, November 28, 2007

He built WHAT?

Some of us have been spending some pretty crazy hours at the mansion lately. Last night, I arrived around back in around 10:30 pm and headed upstairs to the East Parlor, where my office is located. As I approached, I heard power tools and smelled sawdust; for a couple of terrifying moments, I thought that one of my students had finally snapped, and s/he was taking out pent-up frustrations on the lovely hardwood floors or the VBC furniture. All I could think was, "Donna (our office manager) is going to kill me!"

Rounding the corner, I found that the ever-resourceful Blake was in the process of building a teleprompter. Yes, folks. Building. A teleprompter. A few days ago the TCOM kids worked up this incredibly brilliant scheme to make it look like folks were speaking directly into the camera while they read the text of Title IX; they inverted the text (backwards) on a laptop screen, which they then set up beneath the camera, and they used a mirror over the laptop (and under the camera) to reflect the words back to the subject being filmed. Apparently, that wasn't enough for Blake, who returned from Menards armed with enough materials to actually construct a base and frame to hold the laptop and the mirror.

Forty minutes later, Blake was calmly vacuuming up sawdust and the new apparatus was ready for shooting the next day. My point is simply this: that one of the best things about this semester for me is watching the students identify what they need, think through the problem, and then find ways to CREATE solutions. It's not unlike watching Dan and Adam match musical themes to bits of film, or watching the narrative team piece together a story out of a million jigsaw pieces of footage we have shot, or watching the students brainstorm ways to visualize an abstract concept that we want to convey in the film. I was just surprised that this time the problem-solving was so, well, tangible.

Given our struggles with finding an HD projector for the gala screening, I am half-convinced that I will come in tomorrow night and find Blake building one of those, too. . .

Voices in my Head?

It’ll come as no surprise to those of you who have been following our journey that we hold some crazy hours at the VBC mansion. Being part of a voiceover team, it makes sense for our meeting to be late at night so that we can see the chunks our editors have diligently worked on (and often are still tweaking into the wee hours).

So what do you think of when you hear we are working on voiceover? Do you think of the deep manly voice on trailers? Do you think of some stuffy voice droning on and on?

We had many discussions on whether we wanted it or not. Working on the voiceover, I realized how hard it is to write for a visual medium. It definitely reminds me of caption writing like you see for pictures in newspapers or magazines. It’s funny, because as an English major I’ll start rambling on about something I think is eloquent, and Aaron will give me a blank stare or Kecia will give me a "humor her" head nod and I realize I need to slow down and simplify.

Whoever the narrator is, we promise he/she/they won’t be hokey or preachy. I have changed from thinking of voiceover as intrusive and distasteful to more of a guide; someone summing up a two-hour game, or stating a fact, or setting a scene. The narration will also not be a book on tape, but instead concise, since a picture is already worth a hundred words. Our goal is that it will be smooth and seamless in the movie; you might not even notice it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Trip to the Archives

It wasn't much of a surprise that I was assigned (and somewhat volunteered) to research for our project. From the first few weeks I took it upon myself to research Burris as a school and know its history. This led me to the archives in Bracken Library. While to many people this process would seem dry and boring, but as an English Literature major, I am used to spending a lot of time in Bracken doing research.

On my first visit I learned that Burris was almost closed in 1982. After sharing this information with the rest of the group, it seemed like something everyone thought we should explore. Interviewers started asking members of the Burris community about this incident, and I started looking more into this to see what I could find.

Almost an entire semester has gone by, and researching is still being done. When asked by the shooters and editors if I could find newspaper articles about the 1982 closing, I went back to the archives. This trip was more focused, and I found many clippings about Burris during this time. I wrote all of these down in my handy dandy legal pad, along with exactly which file I found them in, and gave this sheet to the editors to shoot later in the week.

While this may not be the most glamorous part of documentary film making, it is something that has to be done. Without going to the archives the first time, we wouldn't have known so early on about the school being threatened in 1982, and wouldn't have known to ask our interviewees about this topic. I am happy I was able to use one of my strengths to help the project.

Keep on keeping on,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ups and Downs...and Ups again

As the semester comes closer to its end, I find myself looking back and evaluating my experience at the Virginia Ball Center. Coming into this semester, I was very excited to have an out-of-the-classroom learning experience. I was a bit nervous about the different type of semester-long project that cannot be finished by simply cramming at the library the last week of classes. I was also anticipating the diversity of the group of people I would be working with.

My parents kept telling me that this would be a very challenging experience, but completely worth the time and effort. I actually slightly disagreed with them because I knew we had at least 15 people in our challenging could it be if all the work was split up between us!?

The semester started off as good as I could have imagined. Our group got along from the start and soon developed inside jokes and positive group dynamics. I thoroughly enjoyed our class discussions that usually involved gender issues, which is one of my all-time favorite topics. I would leave our daily meetings feeling intellectually fulfilled.

As our semester progressed and we broke off into committees, the stress level of the project increased. It became my number one priority to work with the narrative committee. Many days I found myself feeling completely bogged down and full of stress from trying to develop skills and creative ideas to help produce a narrative for the film. At times, I would feel as if we were making tremendous progress...only to run into another one of the various speed bumps along the journey. Discouraging...

Finally, Finally! A skeleton narrative was produced which was followed by a storyboard. At this point, I could feel our project starting to really come together...there was an end product in sight and we would successfully accomplish our goal.

We have had to place together interview clips/voiceover, visuals, and narration to fit into our storyboard. This required the time-consuming process of going through each and every reel of footage (85 discs to be exact) and recording timecodes for each clip. When I saw the rough cut of the documentary last week, I felt very proud of our work... and thankful that I had been motivated enough to sit at my computer for 13 hours straight the previous day/night in order to give the editors more clips.

I saw clips throughout the documentary that I had personally chosen and it made me feel great inside. It really showed me that all of our hard work throughout the semester has been worth it. If I felt that incredible sense of accomplishment from seeing the rough cut, I cannot wait to feel the sense of pride when we show our final product on Dec. 6!

To sum up this semester in one sentence...
This semester has been the most stressful and challenging educational experience of my life thus far, but the development of skills and sense of accomplishment have been completely worth the time and effort.
Looks like my parents were right...again!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Today Kristen and I worked for about six hours on the Behind-the-Scenes documentary. Six hours sounds like a really long time; we got one segment finished. We decided to edit together the clip about the '82 reunion, because we thought this would be a rather easy clip to put together, we have a lot of footage, and Audrey gave us some great sound bites for it.

Putting together the clip wasn't necessarily difficult, but it was rather time consuming. After we started working on the clip we realized that a lot of the B-roll footage we had wasn't that great or wasn't what we needed. That was probably what took up a majority of our time. Finally, we decided just to watch the whole reel over again to see if we had missed anything good. We did. There was some good footage on the reel that wasn't captured. No biggie, we got it and used it. It made our little segment flow a lot better.

We also got the chance to learn a few new things about Final Cut Pro. One of the major things we learned that will help us in transitions, was the cross fade. It is exciting to learn about a program that you didn't think you would be able to comprehend! I love having that feeling of accomplishment when the day is done. After several hours of working you get to sit back and watch a three minute clip that you have completely dissected and put back together again, and you get to have a moment of pride.

I get so excited when we finish just a small clip, I can't wait until we actually finish the whole Behind the Scenes! To be able to look at something you once before knew nothing about and then to conquer it and produce a great (hopefully) final product is an amazing feeling.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Diamond in the Rough

Since our return from the University of Tennessee, we have been devoting our lives to logging, capturing clips for the storyboard, logging, editing and panicking. Did I mention logging? Our time has been spent locked in The Cave, dorm rooms and apartments at all hours -- throwing ourselves into our roles in the project.

The result, thanks to an incredible story board, was the beginning of a "rough cut" that took the story caught in 17 minds and placed it on one computer screen. We still have a lot of work to do, and I can't say how much I appreciate the editors and music boys being able to work with so little time and a crew comprised largely of non-T-com students.

Right now, our narrative script, which shows us the clips that will represent each frame of the story board, is filling out nicely and sequences are forming. Music is being mixed and placed into the film, and ambient noise is being modified.

Last night, the rough cut of the film so far was showed to members of Ball State's and the Center's faculty, and was followed by a discussion of the film's narrative. The outside opinions were helpful, giving us all a chance to step back and look at the film as, using a comparison of Fred Johnson's, a pliable sculpture. We were able to step back from the storyboard and look at new ways to shape the scenes and stories we are creating.

I think Thanksgiving break is going to be a real blessing for us. We'll be able to come back and look at the project with fresh ideas, after having days of isolation which I know at least half of us will use to stew over the project and think of new ways to use clips, new pieces of footage to include, new interviews that introduce ideas. . .

Friday, November 16, 2007

All Alone

I have a secret to share with you. No, it’s nothing bad, I just wanted to let you know that I just spent an entire week by myself in a huge mansion. Now, before you get to far ahead of me, let me just tell you that it was actually the Virginia Ball Center and I was alone because I decided to stay behind while the group went to Tennessee to film. Usually, I would’ve jumped at the chance to take a free trip to a place as great as Tennessee, but I felt that it was more important to stay behind and try and get some work done.

While I was alone, I made sure to set a clear goal for myself and try my best to accomplish it. For myself, as a T-Com major, I thought it was most appropriate for myself to get as much footage captured as possible. What capturing, you ask? Glad you asked; capturing is the process by which one puts any and all footage shot into a digital form on the computer. It seems simple enough and it actually is, but it's the time that it takes where one can run into problems. To cut up about five minutes of footage, it takes about 20 minutes to scroll through the entire tape, find the section you need, then capture it to the hard drive. It's a huge task when you realize that we have over 70 to go over.

Having my work set out for me, I tried my hardest to get as much footage captured as I could. It took many hours and lots of coffee, but I got really close to my goal and I have to say that I'm proud with how far I actually got. Before they left, the other T-Commers were doubtful I could finish all the footage and sadly they were right, but at least I got quite a bit done and made sure there was progress on the home front while everyone is gone. Did I enjoy myself? Certainly, but I don't know if I'd do it again; the mansion is scary at night!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sweet #11

Burris has done it again. Not that we weren’t expecting them to, it was just the icing on the cake. Two Saturdays ago, the Lady Owls won their 11th State Championship against Brownstown Central. For us, it was the classic ending that we had been anticipating from the beginning of the semester.

Way back in August, I was one that was hoping to be impartial the entire time we were filming. The game, the girls, the essence of what the school was and is – that was our subject. We, the Virginia Ball Center, were planning on doing a documentary from an indifferent stand point. No one was going to get “too involved.”

On November 2nd, I was the red-head with the “Owl Eyes” shirt on, screaming my head off (and loosing my voice a few times) because the refs didn’t know an “out” call from an “in” call.

As you can see my hope in the “stand by and watch” documentary was no more. I had become a fan, a fan of Burris volleyball. Not just the game, but the entire process of how it’s played the team members and coaches. I’d even gone so far as when someone would ask if Burris was going to win, I would say yes, and proceed to knock on wood.

The overall experience has made me realize that even when documentarians attempt to film their “subjects” from a bipartisan view point, it’s practically impossible. You have to completely take yourself out of the emotional aspects of everything that you film. Now we are in the process of putting the film together. Because it’s a “documentary” one would hope that we show a film that shows the straight facts, but I can say confidently, that the pride we have for Burris will shine throughout the film.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

filming, omg!

The tape count is now up to around 83. That is just over 80 hours of footage that I have helped capture with my fellow videographers. Coming into this project I had never shot any athletic event, let alone volleyball. I remember back to the Cathedral game early in the Burris Owl's season where I was trying to follow the ball and all of the action going on on the court, it wasn't easy. My skills behind the camera have definitely improved throughout this process.

I have been able to have my hands on a camera (an HD camera) any time I wanted. I have, by far, filmed more this semester than any other semester in my college career. From all the games to the interviews I have lost track of the amount of time I have spent behind the camera. The project has also brought experiences that I would have never received taking regular classes. Most recently, I had access to film the IHSAA State Finals match and be court side during a Lady Volunteers basketball game. I don't know too many students that get to be film that close during a high profile program's game. In fact, I really only know one, Blake, one of our other shooters. Even though the Lady Vols demolished their opposition by 61 points and Candace Parker didn't play very much it was still amazing to be down there (See below).

Filming for a documentary is unlike any other type of film. Although we have an idea of what we want, there isn't a script. Basically, it is essential that we are everywhere. We have to shoot as much as we can because that's where some of the most important parts of our story will come from. If we aren't there and if the camera isn't rolling we miss it and can't put it into our film.

There are around 20 more days until we have to show an end result and we still have more to film, but the major bulk of everything is done and the editing days are upon us. With that said I wonder to myself, "What were we thinking, why did we film so much?" Cutting 80 hours to around 1 hour seems daunting as I am sitting here, but we have made it as easy on ourselves as we can. We have been logging, transcribing, and picking out, from the many hours of footage, the best shots to be slipped into our editing software and eventually be cut together for a final project.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Every Rose has its Thorn

Now that you have all gotten to hear about all of the great and wonderful things that happened on our trip to Tennessee, I feel that it is my duty to shed some light on some of the more challenging and frustrating aspects of a trip, and a project, like ours. This is in no way intended to bring negative attention to the trip or anyone involved. It is merely a way for us to share our struggles in hopes that our mistakes, or even those things which were out of our control, can be avoided in the future.

The first thing that pops into my mind when I begin to list the challenges that we experienced is simply the matter of group dynamics and how those dynamics become amplified the longer a group is together. Anyone who has been on a vacation or trip with several people will immediately know what I'm talking about. I'm sure we can all remember those family vacations when mom and dad would threaten to "pull the car over right now" if those in the back seat didn't start behaving. Although our troubles were a little more valid than the childish pestering that goes on in most back seats, we still all have personalities and when they are forced to be together for five straight days they will clash. I don't know that there is really a method for handling this type of challenge because every person handles it differently. However, I feel it was the first and most important challenge that we had to deal with because it could have kept us from accomplishing our goals for the trip. The best way we combated this was to have moments when we could completely forget about the project and just enjoy being together. It helped us realize that our problems were not really with each other but stemmed from frustration and anxiety about the project.

The second challenge we had to deal with was the unfamiliar surroundings. My classmates have talked about the beauty of the campus and how impressive many of the campus structures and buildings were. However, when it came time to set up the camera and do an interview we weren't able to pick and choose where we wanted people to be or the places with the most photogenic backgrounds. Our interviewees were gracious enough to give us their time, so we wanted to go where it was convenient for them. In our main interview room we found ourselves overturning a table with the Lady Vols logo on it for our background. The sound was a whole other animal as the traffic and the campus' apparently robust public transportation system were always nearby. At one point a crew of men carrying leaf blowers walked right by our interview room at which point I began to suspect sabotage. However, in the overall scheme of a one hour interview, a few moments of train whistles and car engines won't ruin all of the footage.

The last challenge is time management, and it is one that we have been dealing with, not just on the trip, but throughout the project. However, as I said earlier, minor issues are greatly magnified when seventeen people try to travel together. With that large of a group, something as simple as going to the grocery store becomes a trip that requires five phone calls to plan. These little stresses really began to pile up over the course of the week along with the added stress of our ever-shrinking time frame. If there is one thing I learned this past week its that no matter how well you plan and communicate, something will go wrong, someone will not be informed, and you have to move on and just deal with it.

I think as a group we did an amazing job of rolling with the punches. Even if we knew we couldn't quite make lemonade with our lemons, we were at least going to get lemon flavored water. I think the fact that I am able to think back on the trip with such a humorous tone says a lot for our ability to overcome the challenges and obstacles that we faced. I hope to see you all on December sixth so we can fully share this semesters experiences with you.


Good Old Rocky Top!

Last week, our group spent time at the University of Tennessee and what a great experience it was! We were given so many opportunities to see what Title IX, along with a lot of hard work and dedication from the staff and students, can produce in a large university setting.

On Monday, we had the opportunity to tour UT’s athletic facilities. We were able to see the football stadium, softball fields, soccer fields, volleyball court, and several other areas. A definite highlight for me that day, and I know for several others, was getting to see the women’s basketball locker rooms, lounges, film viewing areas, and Pat Summitt’s office. Seeing these facilities really made me realize how far women’s athletics have come. It blew me away! From their stadium seating film area to their beautiful trophy cases (filled to the brim with National Championship trophies of course) and lounges complete with pool tables, leather couches, and flat panel TVs, it really became apparent to me exactly what Title IX, Pat Summit, and Tennessee’s commitment to women’s athletics has done for this program. Many of the other facilities we viewed had a similar feel.

We also were fortunate enough during our trip to be able to watch two women’s basketball games. One of the games was against the U.S National Team which included big time players such as Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, and Dana Taurasi. It was a great game and it amazed me how well Tennessee was able to compete with the national team, a team full of talent and experience. It just goes to show the caliber of Summitt’s program and how devoted these women are to being able to contend with the best.

During my time in Tennessee, I also visited the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It was interesting to see all of the old jerseys and photographs and read the stories of those women who pioneered the way towards the equality in athletics we are starting to see today. It was a fitting time to visit the Hall of Fame because Pat Summitt and Holly Warlick (two of our interviews) were all over the place. It made me realize just how valuable those interviews were because both of those women were and continue to be significant individuals in women's athletics, particularly in the sport of basketball.

Tennessee is an example school as far as support of women’s athletics. It is astounding what can happen when schools make the effort to hold their women’s programs to the same standard as they hold their men's programs. However, in the back of my mind throughout the trip, I could not help but realize that not every school is like Tennessee. It takes a lot of hard work and effort from a school to be able to support their women’s athletic programs in the way that Tennessee does. My trip to Tennessee was a great one and I learned a lot, but it also made me understand that, while support of women's athletics has improved greatly, many schools still have a long way towards equality in athletics and that the fight for Title IX is certainly not over …

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Summitt

Road Trip: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assignment: Interview Pat Head Summitt, star coach in the world of women's basketball

All seventeen of us who roadtripped to Knoxville walked into the Pratt training facility on UT's campus not really knowing what to expect. My heart was pounding; I thought it must be as loud as the basketballs that were bouncing all around me.

All of us huddled in our orange chairs in the corner, in awe of Pat Head Summitt. She commands a court of girls who know that on Rocky Top, academics come first and winning is expected at a level we can't even begin to understand. I sat in my chair with a continuous flow of people coming up to me, reminding me that Pat doesn't have time to speak with us, we only have ten minutes, questions have to be clear, concise....

And for a second I wasn't sure if I would burst into tears of laughter. I realized that at twenty, I could quite possibly be giving the biggest interview of my entire life. The list of questions I was staring at seemed trivial and completely unable to help me. Then she walked over.

After introducing myself and watching her return to the court, my mind goes blank. I know she came back and I know we talked. I know I asked her informed questions about Title IX and the success of her program. I know that I did everything I could to keep her talking and giving us as much of her time and knowledge as possible, asked questions hoping she would forget that she had a meeting in ten minutes -- we managed to get twenty-five minutes of on-camera interview time.

I wish I could talk more about the interview. Later that evening, I watched the interview and was completely amazed by my voice on the tape. I remembered Pat's responses, but was so engrossed in the whole experience that I couldn't remember any of the questions I had thrown at her.

I can't say how honored I am to have her respect our project enough to give us her time, and how honored I am that my class would choose me to conduct the interview. Having my classmates surrounding me and an incredibly talented shooter, Blake Brenneman, make the experience perfect and unforgettable. I thank the University of Tennessee, their Women's Athletics Department (especially Donna Thomas) and Pat Summitt for their time with us. The knowledge we gained and footage we captured bring our documentary to a whole new level in so many ways.