Behind the Prizes: Hollow

The impact of the social documentary “Hollow” is undeniable. But when Elaine McMillion Sheldon set out to capture the essence of a small town community in America through film, she had no idea how the final product would look. She only knew that she wanted to highlight the lives of people who came from areas of the country where the population had been decreasing over the last few decades. McDowell County, West Virginia, very near to where Sheldon grew up, is one of those places. (more…)

Producing A Documentary: The Personal Piece

What if the character in your next piece isn’t a stranger at all? What if it’s a family member? Could you interrogate your parents and get them to reveal secrets they’ve buried since before you were born? Could you delve into the personal accounts of people you’ve known your whole life? How would you even approach it? This is exactly what documentary filmmaker, Lacey Schwartz, had to do in order to produce her documentary, Little White Lie. Recently, Columbia Visuals talked to Schwartz about the process of producing a documentary and turning the cameras on her own family.

A well-edited sequence creates clarity and allows viewers to understand the action taking place on screen. In order to create a seamless sequence in the editing room, you need to understand how to capture all the necessary footage. We've put together a basic list of shots you’ll need in order to create a coherent sequence of action- it's a simple starting place if you've never shot a sequence before.

Anatomy of a Viral Video

Prior to entering journalism school, I interned for the digital department at an entertainment company in NYC. One main objective at this company was to create videos that had the potential to get lots of views, i.e. videos that would go “viral.” As long as the videos were entertaining and attracted lots of eyeballs, they were considered successful.

I began to understand what made these types of videos popular, but I wondered if the producers of videos that dealt with more serious topics followed the same guidelines. Was there someone in every newsroom video department saying things like, “Make that petty theft more entertaining, so it gets more views”?

There are some companies out there who are successful at getting more important stories to go viral – Mashable, BuzzFeed and YouTube are some of the better-known examples. In journalism school, we didn’t learn “the rules” of  producing viral news content. Do rules even exist?

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Four Steps to a Video Story

Last month, the Digital Media Associates– members of one of our fellowship programs at the Columbia Journalism school- produced the video above as a team. We wanted to share our process, because while it’s a short, straightforward story, the steps we took to produce the piece are the same steps we’d take to make a full-length documentary. We’ll walk you through the reporting, shooting, storyboarding and editing of a video that might be similar to the videos you’ll produce.

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