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About this courseTravel with our video team as we trace the footsteps of the Apostle Paul through Greece and Rome and explore how one of the most influential figures in the Christian Church dealt with overcoming boundaries.
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We finished shooting yesterday at the St. Paul Cathedral in Rome. I have bittersweet feelings about finishing production. Relief for one. It’s stressful shooting on a day to day schedule, never able to prepare more than a couple hours in advance, but I am also sad. We have all come a long way since day one of production and it is so much fun to shoot with the amazing group we have. The first day it took our crew about a half hour to conduct the first interview. On our last day we did two in 25 minutes. We worked well together and everyone did their job quick without sacrificing quality. It’s been difficult for us to be working under a timeframe of another class but I think it has taught us how to work fast and deal with seemingly impossible circumstances. To finish out the trip I thought I would go through what a day in the life of our class was for the past three weeks. As assistant producer, my day is slightly different than others but you still get the idea.
- Research site and read passages in the Bible pertaining to this location.
- Night before (if we’re lucky) but sometimes en route to location I meet with Seth. He goes through the general outline of what Bob Yoder and David Sparks will say in their interviews and the schedule for the day. We briefly brainstorm where we should have each of them stand.
- Inform crew of assigned role and make sure they have all their equipment.
- Once at site brainstorm camera position with the director
- Prep interviewees by talking through their topics and formulating questions to prompt them with (while I do this the crew is quickly setting up the camera, figuring out lighting, and setting up audio)
- Conduct interview. This can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
- Tear down and pack up gear.
This may not seem like an exponential amount of work to do, but what is hard to adequately explain is the time crunch we are on. The Bible class’ tour in Greece was slightly more flexible but we move from one site to the next pretty quickly. We do our interviews when the Bible class gets free time at a location so if they don’t get free time we have to work extremely fast or we are holding up 50 people. Things get even more stressful when we have reservations to make. All of this would be difficult for any documentary crew to handle but the fact that our crew has handled it so well is incredible. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive going into the trip with three freshman on a crew of only nine people but they never acted like freshman; everyone rose to the challenge. This trip has been an excellent learning experience for me in producing and I loved every minute of it. I feel honored to have led such an awesome crew and to be supported and taught by Seth and Kyle. I’m proud of the footage we got and am excited to continue working on the video over the summer.
On Sunday we went to a Presbyterian church and had the rest of the day free, so what do film students do with several hours to kill in Greece? Go to see a movie of course! We’ve been in Athens for five days and have more than explored all of the shops in the area so Jake, Sammy and I decided to see the Avengers. We’d wanted to see it for some time because it’s been out longer here in Europe than the US. So we asked for directions to the theater and braved the metro by ourselves. Thankfully we didn’t get lost, and when we weren’t sure what street to exit on we simply followed the tweens who led us straight there. We figured out where to buy tickets, clarified multiple times (poor Village Cinemas info lady) that the movie was indeed in English, and got a cheap yet delicious dinner at the food mall. They had Taco Bell but I am a firm believer that TBell is gross in every country so I chose a Greek chain and pointed to a picture of what I wanted. It was a delicious sandwich but I have no idea what it was called so unfortunately it was a one time thing. Anyway the food is not the point of my story here. But it was a really good sandwich.
Back to the Avengers. It was awesome. Witty, action packed and just really entertaining. I saw lots of movies while I was in Guatemala but I forgot how much fun it is to see a movie in a different country. While we may not always think about movies theaters as a communal experience, it really is. You laugh together, cry together, gasp and jump together. Watching a movie with a big crowd can make a movie better than it actually is, or worse if you have a crazy old man yelling “die!” (Cabin in the Woods….there isn’t enough time to get into the psychological analysis that experience requires) But whether the crowd is good or bad, for two and a half hours we are all equals because we are all experiencing the same thing. And then the lights come on and we all go back to reality, but for a short amount of time Jake, Sammy and I weren’t tourists in a foreign country. We were the same as everyone else in the theater and we were all watching men in tights save the world and looking great while doing it.
This experience reminded me how film can transcend cultures. To some people, going to see a movie while I’m in the beautiful country of Greece is a waste of time; I can see a movie any old time. A part of me likes that my 12 euros went to the struggling Greek economy, but it’s more than just how I spent my money. I came out of the Avengers, not only thoroughly entertained (and ready to take on any threat to the world), but excited because the career path I chose is capable of reaching across so many cultures. And that’s inspiring to me.
As a film person, I often find myself attempting to capture every experience through a lens of some kind, whether it be film or photo. I thoroughly enjoy being creative and more often than not I come out of that experience with great photos. But you can only see so much with a lens and it’s easy to worry so much about getting the perfect shot that when you look up the moment has passed. Often times I come out realizing that I didn’t take the time to truly experience whatever it was I was trying to capture. Balance is something I tend to struggle with and I need to remind myself to stop taking pictures and be in the moment.
On this trip I have to constantly remember to experience first, capture next. We are traveling to so many beautifully breathtaking places that it simply isn’t possible to do justice to all of them. We will always have our video that we are working on (incidentally it’s looking fantastic) but memories are stronger than pictures or video in a way. A photo can’t tell you what the flowers of Delphi smell like, or the feel of the wind coming down from Mt. Olympus. It doesn’t show you of the taste of fresh olive oil and feta or how it feels to touch ancient Greek engravings on the temple of Apollo. There are some things a lens simply cannot capture.
That all being said, the way the moon reflects off the ocean, the beautifully built houses of Delphi, the sun setting over a castle in Kavala and friends experiencing Paul’s journey together are things that a lens can do justice to. And those moments are so much fun to creatively capture.
Authors Note: It is important to keep in mind that I am writing this blog from the perspective of a Canon Powershot owner. Perhaps if I had a 5D Mark III I would feel differently……Kyle.
One thing that I can’t help but notice here in Greece (and I assume most of Europe) is the juxtaposition of old and new. I’ve primarily noticed this with the cities because the modern cities are built on top of the ancient cities. Walking down the street last night in Thessaloniki we came across a small, old church just sticking up, a level below the street. It’s odd to see such a historical building sitting among the bustling metropolis. Yet somehow it not only works, but is beautiful.
I really enjoy this contrast between the old and the new. Too often I feel that the new is made to replace the old. For example we are in a small town at the base of Mt. Olympus and as I sit and write this I look over a cobblestone street where a row of Mercedes Benz are parked. There’s a certain charm to seeing the contrast that seems to coexist perfectly well together.
Yesterday was our first day of filming for the trip. All things considered it went pretty darn well. We arrived at the agora (market) ruins and the Bible class embarked on a detailed tour, the film crew rushed to get in filler footage, and I listened to our trip guide, David, and began piecing together interview topics. We have a young crew but they are more than willing to work hard and the only issue we faced was set up time. Setting up for an interview can be stressful because there are multiple people doing multiple jobs all at once. The director of photography and the director are setting up the shot, lighting personnel is attempting to manipulate the sun’s light, sound is tinkering with the audio and setting up the interviewee with a mic, the producer is preparing the interviewee for the questions, and Seth and Kyle are running around helping with anything and everything – usually doing three different things at once. Not to mention we have about 15 minutes for all this.
As you can see it gets rather hectic and stressful. But what I was reminded of today, in regards to film, but also to life in general, is to slow down. Film takes time, and while we may be pressured to shoot this video in a small amount of time, we cannot forget to do our jobs well. We are in this amazing, beautiful and incredibly historical place and to rush through the interviews would be a disservice to Thessaloniki, our audience, and ultimately ourselves. I struggling with efficiency and sometimes I am too quick to sacrifice quality for the sake of time. That is something I need to remind myself of. It doesn’t always seem like it should, but film takes a lot of time. More often than not that may mean we are holding back the rest of the group but that’s just how it works sometimes.
Thinking about my patience (or lack there of) I realized that I can relate this back to my life. It’s important to not rush through life, but to slow down and appreciate where we are, what we are doing and most importantly, who we are doing it with. For me, I am in Greece, eventually Italy, traveling through some of the earliest places of humanity, helping to produce a documentary…..with some of Goshen’s finest students and incredibly knowledgable and skilled professors. What more could I possibly want out of life at this very moment?