Thirty-six out of sixty-seven. That’s how many days we’ve spent in our champion white Dodge Caravan as we tour around the country sharing stories that are very close to our hearts.
On day thirty-six I woke up, like most of the days on tour, in the local Best Western at 7:30 sharp with 25 minutes to get ready, 10 minutes to head down to the lobby and snag some coffee (hoping to find something Fair Trade), and then a ride over to the workshop venue.
On this day though, as I woke up in Washington, something was off.
As I skimmed through my morning emails, a routine I imagine many of us share, I got email after email with the same sentiment. Friends, colleagues, industry manufacturers – all the same message.
‘Did you see their new website?’
‘Wow, did you catch that?’
‘Seems more than a little odd, no?’
Obviously curious I clicked on the link. And there it was.
The story will always be driving force of the emotional impact in your films. Here’s the thing most of us miss – the story exists beyond the first and last frame. Our approach, how we go about telling the story, is intimately related to what the audience will see and feel on the screen.
A ninja approaches filmmaking like no other.
A ninja is stealth, strategic, and always a step ahead. Over the next several posts we’ll discuss how to embrace your inner ninja to tell more authentic stories. Let’s start with the tools that every Ninja needs.
What exactly does that mean? Say you show up to shoot the story of a local baker who, you’ve heard, makes the most delicious and extravagant cakes out there. Think Willy Wonka, layered, with frosting.
When I first got into filmmaking, I’d spend the day with our baker following whatever they did, getting b-roll as they went through their process of making the batter, baking, and building the cake.
That works. It gets you coverage. It can get you beautiful shots too, but it’s far from telling a story.
The ninja, on the other hand, would approach this in a completely different way. The ninja would
- already know every step of the this bakers process
- already have listened to light to guide where they could shoot
- understand what motivates this baker and why he makes cakes
- the best ninjas know what the baker will do well before the baker even knows it
- understand the story they are telling so well that they could filter through what was actually important and what wasn’t.
Here’s the difference. Rather than following along and covering everything that happens, the ninja covers the 20% of what happens that contains 80% of the story. They’d be ready for every shot well before it happened.
And because they are so in tune with the story they are telling, and because they have so much less to try and cover, every time they roll the camera there will be so much more thought into the lens choice, composition, camera settings, use of light, and camera movement.
I don’t know about you, but I’d want the ninja on my team any day of the week.
There are three main things we want to learn from the ninja; how to be strategic, how to be stealth-like, and how to stay a step ahead. We’ll cover each core concept in it’s own post.
Let’s start with how to stay a step ahead – that’s the tools that allow you to be quick and nimble. When choosing our gear we often get so wrapped up in the shiny object and epic shots that we undervalue the importance of how the tool enables us to stay in front of the story.
To be a true ninja filmmaker, you need to choose tools that allow you to always be a step ahead of the action.
That Red Epic may have more dynamic range and a wider color space than our brains can process, but if it’s always trying to catch up with the story, I’ll take the Canon C100.