Just a Few Hours Left in the Crowdfunding Campaign

Less than 7 hours until my crowdfunding campaign ends.

To be frank this one has been tough. I put in more work setting this one up than any of the previous ones. I had the “large” donors set up to drop their donations in the first few days. And I had built relationships in communities that will be the target audience for the finished movie.

When the campaign launched, I had several large donations come in. But almost zero small donations. When I did the campaigns for my TV show I had lots of small donations and almost no large ones. A couple of the communities I was in were a bust. I don’t know what happened to the rest.

But a few larger donations have come in outside the campaign. I am under $500 away from reaching the goal.

It’s not likely that I will reach it, but I will have enough to make the film, and tell these stories. Later, I will try to figure out how I misread my audience so much.

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Why I Entered the Rode Reel Competition Even Though I Don’t Expect to Win- And Why You Should, Too

The Rode Reel short film competition is one of the largest in the world. Entries from 88 countries are all under 3 minutes long and must have been shot using a Rode microphone. In 2017 the prizes total over $500,000. If you watch finalists from previous years, many of them are just amazing looking, amazing sounding.

How can you or I, average independent filmmakers, compete? Why should we enter if we probably won’t win?

Perfecting your craft. Experience always teaches you. I made my first actual short documentary film. I learned a ton in the process and got to experiment with a new genre. Every project you complete has the potential to help you learn and improve. Do you think those Rode Reel finalists just woke up and magically were amazing filmmakers? No, they worked and worked. This is a chance for you to become a better filmmaker.

Exposure. We all have a sphere of influence. We have an existing audience, whether it’s just family and friends or something larger. But entering the Rode Competition will expose your work to potentially thousands of new viewers. Viewers who will meet you for the first time, who might find your social media contacts, who might subscribe to your channels. Viewers who could be fans of your work. And those viewers are available for free.

Free T shirt. And maybe more. If you’re among the first 1500(?) entries Rode will send you a nifty Rode Reel T shirt. Sometimes they throw in some of their small products. Who doesn’t like free stuff?

Deadline. Most of all, committing to enter places a real deadline in front of you. Talk is cheap. If you are actually a real filmmaker, what films are you making? A deadline puts a real goal in place. I wanted to enter last year, but I never committed. So I never entered.

So, want to see my entry?

You can watch it here: https://www.rode.com/myrodereel/watch/entry/3102 Hope you enjoy it. If you did, please take a minute and put in a vote for the People’s Choice award.

Before I submitted my film, I watched some of the finalists for that category in 2016. They were awesome. None of them were telling a story of an event. They were more like showcases, testimonies with nice B Roll. After completing my Rode Reel entry, I know why.

Trying to tell an actual story in 3 minutes, a non scripted story, is extremely hard. My film has a beginning, middle and an end. (Spoilers) There’s a mid point crisis and turn into the 3rd Act. But it all happens in 3 minutes. So it’s fast. I cut so much good stuff out I’m seriously considering an expanded version at a later date.

It’s not perfect, but it isn’t terrible either. And I can guarantee my next documentary will be better because of what I learned doing this one.

[Image courtesy of Greenleaf Designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

6 things I Learned Shooting My First Short Documentary Film

I’ve been working on a short documentary about my son’s last speech and debate tournament, specifically focused on the Team Policy debates in which he competed. It was a guerrilla style shoot. I had permission to shoot his teammate, but no one else. I could not disrupt the competition any more than any parent with a camera might. No extra lights. No extra people. Just capturing the event in real time with my Sony a6000, 3 prime lenses, and a Rode Smartlav+ microphone recorded into my phone. It was a true Run & Gun situation. Here are a few things I learned…

Story. Doing an actual documentary is different than most of the work I’ve done. I know how to shoot and edit a testimony video, but that’s not a documentary. Before the tournament, I spent time mapping out the structure of the short film. While I didn’t know what would happen, I did know the sequence of events, so I laid out the possible plan and tried to capture the actual events as they happened. As the tournament progressed, I could see how things would fit into my traditional story structure.

Pack Light. Because I was a one man crew, everything I needed was with me, all the time. I had gone through my gear, and left much of it at home. But I was still carrying around a medium sized camera backpack. And I still had gear I didn’t need. In order to grab my camera for a quick shot, I had to take off the backpack lay it down somewhere, open it up and pull out the camera. To downsize a bit more, and make access to gear a bit faster, I just ordered a camera sling bag. It’s large enough to carry a camera and a couple of lenses, etc… But smaller than a back pack and you can sling the bag around to the front, and access the gear on the run.

Invest in a zoom. Lens swapping is a pain. And real life doesn’t wait.

When shooting on a set, there is always time to swap out a lens. In between takes, you can switch over to a different focal length of the super fast prime you have. But in a documentary shoot, people aren’t waiting. Life is happening, the event is going on. Not only do you have a chance to miss the shot, but you might also disrupt the very event you’re trying to capture. During one debate round I was using my 19mm lens, and wanted a tighter shot. I was so nervous that opening my camera bag would be noticed by the competitors. I hope that didn’t happen, I tried to be so quiet. With a zoom, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Which zoom? On the Sony E Mount system, the reach and quality of the 18-105 F4 G series (SELP18105G) would seem to be a good fit. The longest lens I had with me was a 50mm, and I was wishing for longer options. It’s a constant aperture. I wish it was a bit faster, but it would only be a problem in the most dim rooms. I found that most of the time I was shooting f3.5 to 5.6. Of course the ISO was almost always at 1600 in the classrooms. Assuming I can continue to push the ISO that high, losing a couple of stops of light might be a decent trade off for the extra length. But at $500+, it’s out of reach for now.

Another option would be to adapt an older zoom of similar reach. You can often find vintage 35-105mm zooms for cheap. Just read the reviews on each one and make sure you have the proper adapter. Of course, you give up all automatic functions with these. I just ordered a Vivitar (Made by Koburi) 35-105mm f3.2-4 Macro lens for $26, shipped. I already own the right camera mount adapter. It won’t be as sharp or easy to use as the Sony 18-105mm. And I wish it was a constant aperture, but I’m hopeful it can fill the gap until I can swing the money. I’m sure I will still carry the 19mm and 35mm primes I have, but the 35-105mm could be my go to glass for future shoots.

A shotgun mic would help. Prior to the event I though I had worked out how to use a small shotgun (Rode VideoMicro) and record it into my phone. My goal was small footprint. I did not want to call attention to myself. I didn’t want to set up a full size shotgun with an external recorder. I tested the small shotgun, and would have sworn that I had the cabling worked out. But the day before the event I was charging batteries, and set up the mic to test it once more, and discovered that it was not passing signal. I needed a special cable to convert the TRS connection to a TRRS for the phone input. (Rode sells one: the SC7). I didn’t have time to get the proper adapter, so I punted. I ended up using the omni directional Smartlav+ to record audio. And, while it’s not as good as… pretty much any directional microphone at a distance, it was a lot better than the on camera mic. With some post work, some of the audio will be usable. But a shotgun mic would have been a huge help.

A camera with an audio input would help. My a6000 is a solid mirrorless camera. But it isn’t perfect, and one of the flaws is that it lacks an external audio input jack. While I would probably still use the Smartlav+ with my phone, having an on camera shotgun, recording directly into the camera would be good. Even if the small shotgun had worked, mounting the mic to my camera and then extending the cable to my phone would have been awkward at best. A much simpler solution would be to shoot on a camera that actually has the ability to record external audio. Of course the simple solution costs hundreds of dollars.

Get permission. I mentioned that this was a guerrilla style shoot. I got verbal permission from the judges in the room, and competitors. But the competitors are minors. So in order to actually use the footage I shot I cannot show any faces of minors since I don’t have permission from parents. They cannot be recognizable. I won’t identify the location, or even the organization. I knew that going in, so I shot accordingly. It would have been infinitely better to have the written permission from the event organizers, the location, and every parent of every student in each round. That wasn’t feasible for this project. In the future, I want to do more to get permissions, so I won’t be as constrained on the shoot.

As I’m closing in on the final edits of the project, I’m fairly well satisfied with it. Assuming I do similar projects later what I’ve learned with help make them even better.

[Image courtesy of Greenleaf Designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Court Stops Release of Some Parts of Anti Abortion Videos

According to the Associated Press (via MSN), a CA court has blocked part of future videos released by the Center for Medical Progress.

“The Los Angeles Superior Court order issued Tuesday prohibits the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video of three high-ranking StemExpress officials taken at a restaurant in May.”

A pro-life news site explains further:

The restraining order reportedly only pertains to the footage of the Stem Express employees, meaning that any other footage, including that featuring Planned Parenthood employees, can still be released as planned.

In an exclusive comment to LifeSiteNews after the release of the court order, Daleiden said that, at the end of the day, what happened in the courtroom may actually be a victory for the pro-life group.

“The ruling is very narrow, concerning only one specific meeting, and it is temporary and contingent pending further litigation,” he said. “The judge actually threw out completely the part of StemExpress’ case where they were asking to suppress the documents on their baby parts sales.”

“It was a much better day for us than it was for them and Planned Parenthood.”

The company claims that the videographers broke the law under California’s anti-wiretapping laws. The producers say they followed the law.

Here’s a statement from Center from Medical Progress:

StemExpress, a for-profit company partnered with over 30 abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood, to harvest and sell aborted baby parts and provide a “financial benefit” to Planned Parenthood clinics, is attempting to use meritless litigation to cover-up this illegal baby parts trade, suppress free speech, and silence the citizen press reporting on issues of burning concern to the American public. They are not succeeding—their initial petition was rejected by the court, and their second petition was eviscerated to a narrow and contingent order about an alleged recording pending CMP’s opportunity to respond. The Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work and will contest all attempts from Planned Parenthood and their allies to silence our First Amendment rights and suppress investigative journalism.

Regardless of your feeling on these videos, any time a subject of a controversial documentary film project is able to get any sort of injunction from the court, restricting any part of the release of that project, filmmakers should pay attention.

In this case, while Planned Parenthood has repeatedly claimed the information in the videos is false and “deceptively edited” (even though the entire interviews have been released) this temporary restraining order is not about that. It only pertains to whether the act of recording these people secretly was against the law or not.

Of course Stem Express doesn’t want more damning information shown. So they are using every means at their disposal to stop it. Planned Parenthood has set the stage already in their letter to news outlets. Part of that letter says:

“CMP gained access to Planned Parenthood facilities under false pretenses and filmed without securing approval from the Planned Parenthood staff being filmed or the patients whose privacy is compromised by this secret videotaping. The material should not be aired.”

I suspect Planned Parenthood to try some sort of legal action in order to “protect the privacy” of their patients.

As a filmmaker, I hope every legal effort to bar this content fails. Unless someone can prove that they knowingly put out false information, there is no reason this should be blocked. It would be a bad precedent for documentary films. So I want the video available.

As someone who is pro life, I want people to realize just how horrible these actions are. So I want people to see these videos.

[UPDATE: Here’s a post on the Constitutionality of the court’s actions.]

Gay Church: a biblical perspective on faith, worship and homosexuality.

{UPDATE: Obviously, years later, I haven’t made this film. But the idea is still here. I still haven’t let the domain name go. Still praying about this one.}

purple church
Would you watch a documentary like this:

Gay Church
A biblical perspective on faith, worship and homosexuality.

It’s easy for Christians to sit in our pews and take shots at people who live lives that are foreign to us. I don’t have a problem with standing on biblical truth against sinful behavior. I do have a problem when we church goers ignore our own sin in order to feel superior to those we have taken a stand against. We stand against those dirty people doing dirty sins.

I have to wonder, is our own life that much cleaner in God’s eyes? What does God see when he looks at my church and the gay church across town?

This documentary is about faith, worship and homosexuality.

Is it possible for a church that preaches that homosexual behavior is equal to heterosexual behavior to experience the presence of God in worship? What’s it like to be Christian and gay? What is the real difference between a gay church and my church?

The Bible is clear about homosexual behavior being sinful. This documentary isn’t about that. If you want to know whether homosexual behavior is wrong or not, this isn’t the movie for you. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. I am a licensed and ordained pastor. I went to a Southern Baptist seminary. And I think homosexual behavior is wrong. I also think that pre marital sex, adultery, and most cases of divorce are wrong.

A gay church is a church full of sinners. Of course, my church is a church full of sinners, too. I’ve never been to a gay church. The only difference that I know for certain is that a gay church openly discounts whole sections of the Bible. But just like the gay church, we have plenty of people sitting in the pews of my church who are in relationships that are sinful. They might give lip service to what the Bible says about their lives, but they don’t actually live their life any different. And we expect God to show up every single week when we gather for worship.

What is the spiritual life of a gay Christian like? Can you be a practicing homosexual and be a devoted follower of Christ? How does worship differ from worship at my church? How does a gay church handle divorce? Pre marital sex? Adultery? Does the pastor ever preach from Leviticus, or Romans 1, or out of anything else Paul wrote?

These are some of the very real questions I have about this issue. And in our ever changing cultural landscape, they are questions that every Christian should consider.

“Gay Church” will discover the answers to these questions. With interviews from clergy and laity from all sides and perspectives we will piece together a biblical perspective, and call for examination of our own lives as we move through moral and cultural issues.

I’m seriously considering trying to make this film. Part of it is just curiosity. Part is a need to address this issue from a biblical perspective. You can’t ignore this issue. The world is changing. Chic Fil A took heat because the owner affirmed traditional marriage. Louie Giglio got uninvited to the Presidential inauguration because of a sermon he preached 15 years ago. Christians who ignore the issue of same sex attraction will be ill prepared to live in the coming world.

Controversial? Without doubt. The fact that we do not honestly address these kinds of questions is one of the reasons that many younger people leave the church. We don’t need to be afraid of this issue.

So, would you watch a film like this?