Photo by ShareGrid on Unsplash

Confessions of an oblivious filmmaker

A mundane video edit just vomited a profound revelation.

I was recently hired to film educational videos. I made two sub-rookie mistakes: One, I let the *&$@ing camera run for 15 minutes. Fif. Teen. Minutes. And two; I failed to afford the client I interviewed the magnanimous blessing of — wait for it — a script. (How dare she struggle to perform, I tell you).

Yeah. The cinematic genius of it all.

Ahem. I digress. May the Wolf of Hollywood have the stage, please?

My poor client stumbled as I prodded her to “fly off the cuff” in order to capture “authentic” dialogue. She faltered under the pressure of my fancy equipment, and I did little to assuage her discomfort besides offering thinly veiled smiles barely cloaking my pretension.

Poor thing, myself thinks. As the professional, I need to show grace.

Yeah. Sure I know better.

Suddenly, an uninvited sound invaded my audio levels, so I left the camera to disquiet it. I assumed that because I, the “professional,” had left the set, all manner of situations involving the production would cease in my absence. I believed no intelligent decisions could occur without me being in the center of it all.

I bumbled on to quiet the unwelcome noise, with full expectation that my effort and my efforts alone would mark a pronounced moment in the filming, a breakthrough in my workflow.

Ok. Editing time. I’m reviewing the 15 minute long session (why didn’t you make use of the stop button, Christian … God bless the patience of a 64gb 150mb/s SD/XC V30 U3 memory card reading 4K).

When editing the footage, I arrived at the point where I left the camera to quiet the ambient noise. I scrolled away as my client began practicing her lines. Par for the course, I thought. But then (how dare she) my client began speaking with someone off-set (keep in mind the camera, God bless it, was still rolling). They began discussing how nice it would be to have the script outlined in bullet points just above the camera.

How dare they supplant my astute acumen.

About the time they reached this nefarious coup, my voice emerged in the audio track like a false prophet. I have arrived to save the masses from their ignorance. If you, reader, had no context, the ensuing audio would seem a blatant disregard for for my client’s needs.

And, in hindsight, it was.

As my client and the faceless apparition were commiserating over the helpfulness of a script I neglected to provide, I blundered in, mumbling condescendingly “Alright, let’s start from the top” (the top of what? I add in retrospect).

Doubtless, the usefulness of a script was obvious to my client and her co-conspirator when later I uttered “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s write an outline and place it above the camera.”

My client politely obliged. The co-conspirator continued her work off-set.

Keep in mind the camera was still rolling. Nonetheless, I patted myself on the back for being an astute filmmaker. After the introduction of a script board (which I believed was my idea), the project ensued with alacrity and efficiency.

Only with the reflection afforded by editing did I realize my fatal flaw: When I walked away from a task of which I assumed total control, everything regarding it faded from my consciousness. If I was no longer at the helm, all matters regarding my enterprise would cease.

I didn’t consider for a moment that something beyond my perception might be pulling levers, levers that undeniably needed pulling. The show was going on when the ring leader left the stage to take a crap. And I didn’t acknowledge that.

When I came back, I marveled at myself for conjuring a solution which my client, in hindsight, had already resolved in my absence. The only difference was she had the humility to remain trustingly silent.

Dear reader, I implore us: Never assume the show won’t go on in our absence. Refuse the impulse to believe progress is solely dependent on our “professional” blessing. The world will go on, and we must acquiesce that we have something profound to learn from the moments that ensue without our knowing.

And for goodness sake, don’t let your camera run for 15 minutes.

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Christian Wayne Yonkers

A Michigan-based journalist and photographer creating content for environmental and social change.