Winging it

 In A thought, film, Projects

I’ve said it several times, but I’ll say it again for good measure: there’s still so much I have yet to learn.

As I stumble throughout my life I realize there’s so much of it that I’m winging. From becoming the president of my high school theatre troupe after being there for only two years to becoming a bank teller with only barista experience, I feel like I’ve been able to figure many things out from just doing (often without knowing exactly what it is I’m “doing”).

I don’t want to admit that’s what happened when I got the job as CoogTV’s Life and Arts Producer, but I’d never been a producer before, so it’s certainly been quite an interesting experience. As a student-run organization at the University of Houston, CoogTV collaborates with all kinds of students to produce content for online distribution (and the TV’s on campus).

I take care of a branch that is focused on lifestyle content, documentary films, and other popular online media. Recently, CoogTV had the opportunity to visit the Texas Renaissance Festival with Media Passes to film episodes for two of our Life and Arts shows. We split up production crews upon arrival. CoogsTry (a show where Coogs…try things) was directed by CoogTV’s Executive Producer, while Shasta Docs (our documentary show) was led by myself and the Shasta Docs showrunner.

One of the festival employees guided us through the grounds to several interview sites where we spoke to a shop owner, an artist, a performer, and a media employee. Many of the individuals have been returning to the festival for several years, some even decades. It was an incredible experience to get this personal tour and hear the testimonies of such passionate individuals.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Still image from our interview with King Henry VIII

I remember returning home, my feet aching, thinking about how much we walked (gear in hand), how terrified we were with each interview, and how drained we were by the end of the day.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat, though.

Although it was miserable being in front of these wonderful participants with sweaty palms, clumsily setting up our camera, we were lucky enough to be interacting with such patient and warm employees. Each one of them gave us more thank-you’s than we gave them, and I was once again lucky to have winged such a unique experience.

Here’s what I learned from the CoogTV Ren Fest documentary:

1) Sound is hard. We didn’t want to put lavs on our strangers and didn’t think it’d be wise to carry boom equipment throughout the acres of land, so we mounted a shotgun mic on our camera… Although I can see (now) why this wasn’t the most effective method of recording responses from festival employees (outdoors… with thousands of people passing by and numerous nearby events taking place in every direction), I’m not sure what the right thing to do would have been.

2) Wear better shoes.

3) Be earlier. We thought we had a pretty solid plan going on, but we didn’t account for the amount of delays and difficulties that arose that morning.

4) Be thorough when preparing equipment. Although we checked our equipment several times before arriving on location, there were still some issues when gathering and setting up our gear.

5) Shot-list. I figured I knew the festival enough to be able to gather b-roll on the fly, but it was far to gigantic for us to figure it out when we were there, and we were far too inexperienced for that. We underestimated how long it would take us to get through interviews and gather the specific b-roll for each interview, that by the time we walked the remainder of the grounds to get extra footage, the sun was setting and it was time for us to go.

7) BTS. Because I was constantly occupied, nervous, or attempting to remain as professional as possible, I didn’t have the chance to get any behind the scenes footage, or even photos from the day.

6) Breathe. I may not have known what I was doing while filming this short documentary, but the moments I was able to calm down, I really enjoyed the experience. I feel like it would’ve been okay for me to be a little bit more confident in my abilities to pull it off and trust that the Shasta Docs showrunner and I would be okay.

I’ve said it several times, but I’ll say it again for good measure: there’s still so much I have yet to learn.

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