Student Blog: Learning to Create a Documentary

Lights, camera, and lots of mistakes to learn from

This past project week I decided to apply for an off-campus project, in order to film a documentary at my uncle’s antique shop in New York City. Once my application was accepted to spend a week away from the Putney campus, I came to the realization that I was being given quite a bit of freedom. Once I made it to New York, I was giddy with my new independence. I was now able to create the film that I had envisioned; a documentary about the life of my Iranian, antique-dealing uncle.

The first two days were a mess of bad planning and logistical organization. What else could one expect for two amateur filmmakers in New York making a movie by themselves? We traveled around the city hunting down equipment for our obsolete HDV film camera from 2004. We took shaky footage with horribly mixed audio. We scuffed valuable antiques with our camera equipment. There was a lot of trial and error. In the end we were able to make a messy but truthful movie which we were both proud of. We spent hours in a dusty antique shop collecting video of my uncle in all of his eccentricity. We learned that you should not purchase standard definition tapes for an HD camera. We learned that you should listen to audio levels before recording. We learned to ask the questions that provoke interesting answers. All in all, I think it was the most I’ve ever learned in a project week. The response I received to my film was really reassuring, and I am now considering making my 20 minute short into a full feature.

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