Scott Ramsey, Home Town Documentary (2017)

We set out to create a documentary film about youth summer opportunities in Batesville. We had seven film camp students and access to two different summer enrichment programs that were happening at the same time as our camp. Most of our students were around twelve years old. A couple of students were older teens. Two of the campers had participated in the documentary camp last year.

We began our time with a day of film basics and interviews of the students. We set up our camera in our workroom and discussed framing and composition, lighting and exposure, as well as sound. We were able to experiment and see and hear the effects of our different choices while discussing reasons we might choose different shots or lighting. After some practice we began choosing different locations in our building and recording interviews with each of the students talking about their film camp experience.

We watched a few examples of other work and discussed different styles of documentary films. We talked about content and style and discussed what shots we needed to be sure to capture to make our film.

One of our students from last year was still one of our younger campers, but he really took ownership of the project and demonstrated that he still remembered a number of the things he had learned last year. He was instrumental in organizing our thoughts and our plan as well as offering valuable input as we began filming interviews.

After just a few hours of training and discussion in the morning the students did a great job of recognizing good and bad places to conduct the interviews. They were aware of potential lighting issues and did a great job of setting up to take advantage of available light sources after deciding not to use our light kit. The students each took turns playing different roles on the crew as we spent the rest of the day capturing interviews and some b-roll.

We were fortunate to have one of last year’s older students return to serve as an assistant for the program. He did a terrific job of relating to the students and allowed us to tackle different tasks in our large space to more directly engage each of the students. He was very helpful guiding the students and answering their questions.

This group of students was quirky and eccentric. They were all very different from each other and all commented on how their favorite part of the program was making new friends. They were open and generally comfortable being themselves and allowing/encouraging their fellow students to do the same.

We spent our second day filming interviews and b-roll at an art camp down the street and at a kids program at the local community college. We ultimately changed our story from being one focusing on the opportunities for young people in Batesville to a more autobiographical film about the students’ experience working on this documentary project. For such a young group they were well-behaved and diligent in their work. They were committed to learning and trying new things.

For our final day, we reviewed footage and logged footage. We talked about how our plans had worked out as we imagined and dealt with the changes we had been forced to make along the way based on what we could reasonably capture in our production timeframe. The students outlined the film and selected the footage they wanted to include in the finished film. We tried out some basic video editing and talked a good bit about free and inexpensive tools available for them to carry on with their own filmmaking after camp.

The students were a lot of fun. They worked hard and cooperated well. They demonstrated flexibility and asked a lot of very practical questions. It’s always a privilege to work with students who engage in the project and are willing to try new things.

Movie Camp Vids Library