Being a filmmaker I’m always looking for meaningful stories that are worth sharing and that are able to connect with an audience. This past fall I met with Hilde Stevenson and had the opportunity to tell her youngest son’s story. Justin was diagnosed with autism and his life was drastically improved by therapy provided by the Ministry of Children and Families in British Columbia. The goal of the video is to provide hope to families who have recently had a child diagnosed with autism. The project itself involved three days of filming. The first day we captured nine interviews. This was very ambitious as each interview required a quick tear down and set up in a new room at the High School (which I actually graduated from). The second day of shooting we spent at Justin’s house interviewing various family members and shooting B roll of Justin interacting with his family. The last day of shooting was actually a few pickups filmed four weeks after we had completed the interviews. By this time I had a rough cut and needed a few more shots to convey the story visually.
Most of the project was shot on my Canon 5DM3, Canon 6D and a Canon 60D, however, I also used a Panasonic GH4 and used the 96FPS feature for the slow motion shots of Justin participating in class. We used three cameras for filming the interviews...we had one close up, one medium and one medium side angle on a slider. This seemed like overkill at the time but in the edit it allowed me to cut up the dialogue and “get to the point” of what each interviewee was communicating. I then used Film Convert to grade the footage. I’m pleased with how all four different cameras were able to be cut together. This was my first project using the GH4 and I’m impressed with it.
I probably spent equal time editing the project as I did actually filming. I found myself with two hours worth of usable interview footage. How was I going to get this into a tight 7-8 minute minidoc? I started from the beginning and began organizing the different interviewees thoughts. Once I had the footage organized I began to cut out pieces that were not essential to the actual story. I found myself with a 1 hour cut, a 45 minute cut and a 29 minute cut. This is where the editing became tricky. From the beginning, Hilde and I knew we wanted a short piece that we could email/facebook/tweet. We both agreed 29 minutes was just too long. I kept editing and ran each clip/dialogue piece through one question: was this helping move the story forward? About a month later I had a 7:30 minute cut. I experimented with cutting it a bit shorter. I felt 7:20 was the necessary length to chronicle Justin’s journey with autism. Once I was pleased with the interview footage I then I worked on supporting the story visually. I used various shots of Justin in different settings...a classroom, playing in the jazzband and home videos of when he was younger. I then added music and began to cut the b roll shots to the music in order to give the piece an overall faster pace. I really didn’t want the piece to feel like 7 minutes or for it to feel like it was dragging on. Once the music was selected I used film convert to grade the footage.
I’m really happy with how the final result and the feedback from, not only our friends but also the Ministry of Children and Families, has certainly been uplifting. One of my friends who helped me film several of the family interviews recently had a friend’s young child diagnosed with autism. He was able to share the completed piece with them and provide them with hope for their child. It’s stories like Justin’s, stories that provide hope, that I really excited me about filmmaking and storytelling.