by Da’el Clapperton, Mentoring Video Project Youth Producer
What is a documentary?
When I first heard the word “documentary,” I thought of a boring bunch of information that I could have lived without. However, through my experience at Wide Angle Youth Media, I have found that documentaries are one of the most underappreciated types of films out there.
A documentary is not only interviews and pictures. A documentary gives you information about a particular subject and uses interviews and footage to prove a point. You can be creative as long as you’re getting your point across, and before my experience here I never really looked at it like that. I think I can speak for all my peers and say that we were not looking at the bigger picture. All we heard was “documentary.” Thankfully we have such patient instructors here at Wide Angle Youth Media that slowly showed us to not just hear documentary but to hear exploration, experimentation, creativity, and knowledge.
I never really was the kind of person who could sit and analyze something; I like to just get up and go. But when you are working on something as precise as a documentary, you must have patience. From the treatment process, to the filming, to the editing, and to the critical feedback, you cannot make a successful documentary if you’re impatient and have your mind set on only one idea. There were many careful steps we took to make this documentary. Because when it comes to exploring a topic that is also serious issue outside of Baltimore, you want it to have a powerful impact on everyone it reaches.
A Documentary in the Making
First of all, we had to decide who we wanted to see our film. If we wanted an adult audience we would have to make it a different way from if we wanted a teen audience. We decided to make our film about peer pressure – a teen and adult friendly documentary.
Once we knew our audience, we started to work on what we wanted to include. Did we want interviews, scripted scenes, fun facts, information, and so on and so forth? Once we had a basic idea of what we wanted our film to look like, we began to go deeper in detail. We wrote and rewrote all our narration, we came up with countless interview questions, and we even talked about our own personal experiences. We wanted to add scripted scenes and yet still wanted them to be real. We had to open up and talk about one of our personal peer pressure stories to contribute to our video and we did. We used our personal stories, we scripted them down just as they happened to us in our own lives. I did not realize it, but doing that really made the film so much more personal to me and I wanted to it be perfect for that reason.
Another thing we had to figure out was who we wanted to interview and how would get in touch with them. The treatment process was very critical because we had to figure out everything – from when what music would play to when this particular b-roll would show up to our actual narration script.
When our treatment was over we began collecting all the footage we needed. We thought it’d be as simple as going out and filming, but when it comes to video production we always have to be prepared for the unexpected. You must be prepared to find actions, confirm a location, and coordinate all the details to accomplish your goals.
Finally when the entire shooting process was over we had to edit, which probably took the most time. We had so much footage and we had to squeeze it all into a set time. We also had to put in effects and music plus the credits.
Looking Back and Looking Forward
Making this film was much more than just making a film. First off, from the interviews I learned more about peer pressure, and how it can dramatically affect people’s overall life choices. Peer pressure has such negative effects on youth. Teens complain about how they don’t even know who they are anymore because they’re so busy trying to get an unrealistic acceptance from their peers. While setting up all the interviews, I learned that peer pressure can affect individuals differently because people handle things differently.
I also learned that what makes a good film is not the graphics or the actors, it is the emotion behind it. To me when you have a personal connection with your film, it shows. If you were to make a film and just completely not care about the idea, you are not going to care about how your viewers will view your film.
This whole process taught me how to come to agreements and listen to others. I was not alone on this project, I had a team and throughout the process we all had different roles and opinions. One teammate may have wanted it one way and I may have wanted it another. Making any type of film teaches you life skills that you will need in order to be successful in whatever you do in the future.
Our film hopefully can help youth and adults see the negative effects of peer pressure and how, in the long run, it is not worth it. It would be so heart warming if someone could watch our film and say, “today is the day I start being myself and stop being what people want me to be!”
Watch “Unoriginal Individual”
Da’el Clapperton is 15 years old and a home-schooled Sophomore. She will be attending CCBC in the fall of 2013 to pursue her Veterinarian training. Da’el has been apart of Wide Angle Youth Media for 4 years, and in that time has created more than 10 films. She has gotten awards such as Best Director and the James Lance Award for innovation. In 2012, she was chosen to be one of the fifty students from around the nation to Seattle in order to participate in the Seattle International Film Festival. There, she helped create a film in just 36 hours. Wide Angle has taught her multiple life skills such as public speaking and leadership skills. Even though she is a dedicated filmmaker, Da’el also loves sports, animals, and writing passionately. Some of her life goals are to publish a bestselling book, experience work life in the entertainment industry, and becoming a certified Veterinarian.