Is there a particular video, film, campaign or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?
Lauren Greenfield’s “Like a Girl” ad for Always really struck me when I first saw it. I also really like the Square “For Every Dream” campaign video series.
What motivated you to make your impact video?
We wanted to create a video that showcases The Red Door Project’s unique participatory process as they staged a series of monologues called “Evolve,” which tackles the fraught relationships between communities of color and law enforcement. They wanted a video that would inspire funders by demonstrating that their process works.
Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.
We used a Sony FS7 that our DP carried with the help of an Easy Rig. As a secondary camera, we used a Sony A7, I believe.
Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your impact video to help tell your story.
I loved mixing verite scenes (from back stage and the audience ‘talkbacks’) with footage of the actors performing their monologues. The necessary thread holding it together are the interviews from the different perspectives.
How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?
The Red Door had done monologues from the perspective of Black Americans (a show called “Hands Up,” and then from the perspective of the Police (a show called “Cop Out” – but the EVOLVE show was the first time they had combined monologues from the two perspectives onstage. Our intention was to follow people from both perspectives who hadn’t seen the show before and interview them before the show, immediately after they saw the show, and then again a week or so after the show. We abandoned that construct because it didn’t work logistically, but I think we were able to convey a stronger story because we abandoned that idea. The story is better than I thought it would be, mainly thanks to our producer, editor and DP!! They brought ideas to the piece that made it come alive in a way I never could have anticipated. Also, our client kept wanting to include more and more interviews. Usually, that’s hard to accommodate but for this, we were happy to make it happen and I think those late additions helped tell a fuller story.
Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this impact video.
The most rewarding thing was working with the actors and seeing how our DP was able to ‘dance’ with their movements on stage. I usually work on documentaries or with performers using a teleprompter – I’d never worked with actors in this way! It was eye opening to realize they were working from memory, and able to bring the necessary levels of emotion up at a moment’s notice. They could start anywhere you wanted in the script and then skip parts and start again a few paragraphs later. They were incredible. All of the stage stuff was filmed in one day, and we only had an hour or so with each actor so I really appreciated their ability to hone in on the most impactful parts of each monologue.
What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?
I tell people starting out in this pursuit to just make stuff. Don’t make it perfect, just make it, finish it and get it out there. Your work is how people find you. They won’t notice or can overlook imperfections, but how can they see your ideas, or how people react in front of your cameras if you don’t have anything finished to show them?
I also tell people to be able to justify every decision you make – even if it’s one they regret, there should be a reason they did it!
What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?
I love collaborating with people, I like the camaraderie of a crew and meeting fascinating people we’re documenting. I love handing the footage to a good editor with some notes and a direction, and seeing what they come up with.
What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?
I bring a little kit with all my production essentials: AA batteries, chapstick, blue painter’s tape for hanging “shhhh” signs, a lint roller, extra pens, highlighters, sharpies, white board markers for slates, chargers for all kind of devices… the most important thing to me though is my clipboard with a bunch of gaff tape stuck to it. People listen to a person with a clipboard, and the gaff tape is useful for everything from covering logos to hanging signs to fixing equipment in a pinch.
Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:
The August Wilson Red Door Project is not just any theater production company. Their mission is nothing less than to “change racial ecology through the arts.” In the face of seemingly insurmountable conflict, they took monologues drawn from law enforcement perspectives as well as from communities of color and put that conflict on stage. The video captures the hard work and deep consideration that actors, directors, and even audience members suffuse throughout the show.
From their website: “By providing a framework to witness lived experiences and engage in courageous conversations, [Red Door] productions enable participants to connect with their common humanity across differences, discover shared values, take on alternative views, see multiple truths and understand what it might feel like to be someone else.”
What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?
This piece was made in 2019, before the racial reckonings spurred on by the murder of George Floyd. In 2020, The Red Door Project was working to pivot their productions online and expand their reach nationwide. The middle ground is getting smaller and smaller so I hope that this group can help expand it by showing people around the country the truth of structural racism and the potential in our common humanity.
Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video.
We filmed multiple performances of the show. During one monologue, the actor asks the audience to put their hands up with him for more an intentionally uncomfortably long period of time. It’s a powerful piece because many in the audience have never been in that position before. The second time we filmed the show, we knew we wanted to film from behind the actor while he was putting his hands up, so we could see the faces of the people in the audience. We didn’t want to disrupt anyone’s experience of it but we really wanted that angle so viewers could see the faces and expressions. Our DP thought he could make it work because the lighting was only illuminating the actor. In the break between monologues, he got into place on stage, behind a piece of the set – it was completely dark back there and he was impossible to see. He waited there until the crucial moment right before people’s hands went up. As they put them up, he moved out from behind the set. It at that point that the lighting changed and the house lights came up. We’d forgotten that lighting cue (which was so people in the audience could better see each other with their hands up) and our DP was suddenly very visible onstage behind the actor. To his credit, we got the shot (and it made it in the edit!), and to the actor’s credit, not many people in the audience paid attention to a random guy with a camera who popped out on stage. Our producer apologized to the stage manager profusely while the DP and I found other places to be for the rest of the evening!
What do you want audiences to take away from this video?
I would hope they audiences gain more familiarity with the middle ground. This might not change their mind about anything, but it might help them see that other people experience the world in vastly different ways based on their race or class. The Red Door targets their shows at audiences full of law enforcement reps, DAs, judges, and others in criminal justice. My hope is that this show positively influences the American criminal justice system so it is more just, thoughtful, and results oriented.
Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:
– This was filmed in 2019 in Portland, OR. After the racial reckoning in 2020, things are more polarized than ever, especially between police and communities of color. Can productions like this help cause productive change now?
– Should post-performance discussions like the ones in the film be more common?
– If you could summon an audience for this theater production, who would you invite?
– What questions would you have for people who appeared in this piece? The actors? The police representatives? The director of The Red Door Project? The filmmakers?
– The mission of the Red Door Project is to change racial ecology through the arts. Is art able to do such work? If so, how?
Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?
In the wake of the racial awakening prompted by the murder of George Floyd and so many others, the Red Door Project is continuing its work and is actively staging (or presenting virtually) the EVOLVE show to criminal justice audiences. https://evolvereddoor.com/
What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?
Interested people can contact Red Door to donate to their work, book The Evolve Experience for their own group, get updates or contact leaders. https://evolvereddoor.com/
To become involved in other Red Door initiatives, check out their website. https://reddoorproject.org/
Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:
The Red Door Project- https://reddoorproject.org/
Evolve Experience Website- https://evolvereddoor.com/
PBS NewsHour: How Portland’s Black community and police are sharing their stories through theater- https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-portlands-black-community-and-police-are-sharing-their-stories-through-theater
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