“How It Happened One Night” has been an interesting project. It started one day when I was talking to Rowland Publishing creative director, Larry Davidson. Larry was casually mentioning that a photo essay story was coming up in a future issue of Tallahassee Magazine that would send photographers all over town to document what happened during a typical evening. That instantly piqued my interest and I immediately suggested an idea I had sort of pitched a while back.
That idea was a spin-off of my work at Sports Publishing where I had worked on five DVDs called “Beyond the Book.” These discs were packaged with five books and featured interviews with the celebrity authors. The interviews gave viewers a little more info than what was in the book and came straight from the authors themselves in the interviews. I had pitched a similar idea to Rowland Publishing. I figured some stories could benefit from going more in-depth in video format. And that content could be posted online. Online video is booming and is fairly inexpensive to produce.
So, what became “It Happened One Night” seemed like a good story to get more in-depth with. The magazine feature was still being planned so my plans on how to approach the evening of the shoot were constantly changing. Finally, the teams were established and a schedule was mostly set in stone. Not really having a vision for what the final product would be, I plotted out shoots I thought were interesting and also tried to meet up with each of the seven teams at least once.
I finally settled on 11 locations to go to. I attended the kick-off meeting and shot video then shot while everyone departed the Rowland office. My first stop was to join up with the team shooting a parade float construction work session. Ultimately, this footage was not used in the final project because there was nothing interesting about this actual shoot.
Next, I met up with Chuck at a tattoo parlor. I spent some time with him waiting for someone to get a tattoo. Then more waiting as the prep time for getting the tattoo seemed to stretch out for quite some time. I had to leave before actually witnessing the tattoo being given. But some fun footage was shot and it was off to the airport.
There I met up with Erica and Nikki and shot them as they prepared to ride in the Leon County Sheriff’s helicopter. I stayed out there for quite some time and was ultimately in charge of locking the place up as I was the only one there who didn’t go up in the chopper. My next scheduled shoot was to meet up with Robert at the sorority house, but I opted to stay and get the second helicopter taking off.
The next couple of shoots were pretty straight forward. I met up with Larry at the movie theater and then Ashley and Esra at a radio station. I went back to the office where there was food and drink and caught up with some of the teams and got some stories. Everyone had fun telling their stories and this was maybe the first hint I got of what the finished project could be.
At around midnight, I joined the team that went to shoot Perpetual Adoration at the Blessed Sacrament. They have a group in the chapel praying 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have done this for eight years. Got some good footage and after that, Robert, one of the writers, was no longer stuck with a still photog and was able to join me for the remainder of the evening.
We went off to Bullwinkles, a local college bar. That was my least favorite shoot of the evening. Crowded, smelly, loud, and dark. But, it did turn out to be one of my favorite stories in the finished product. We then, smelling like smoke and alcohol, met up with Nikki and Erica at the maternity ward and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. To make that shoot, we had to skip the 24-hour diner which would have been a continuation of Bullwinkles.
At TMH, we actually ran into Kim Howes who was in labor. She is the COO at Rowland and it was pretty neat to run into her that night. Being there brought back some memories from about three years prior when my daughter was born. From there, it was to the final shoot at the local CBS affiliate, WCTV. There we followed morning anchor Triston Sanders as she went through her early morning routine. My college background is in news, though I have not pursued it. It was interesting to see the changes that have been made over the last decade.
With three hours of footage in my hands and a night of fun experiences, I was still at a loss for what the finished project should look like. At one point, I figured that I would just do nine short clips showcasing the events I went to. But so much more happened. And I couldn’t see the narrative in that.
I went into work that afternoon for a bit and some others who had been up all night came in, too. And everyone in the office seemed mesmerized by the stories that were being told. And the story-tellers had fun, too. It was then that I saw a picture of final project. I would reunite each team and bring them in to tell their story of the evening.
There were five teams of two and then two single photogs. I first set up an interview with the self-proclaimed “Team A,” Nikki and Erica. For an hour, they talked about their evening. I was also able to get interviews with Larry, Ashley & Esra, Chuck, Jason & Scott, and Greg Springs. Greg had been the guy at home base all evening. He played a vital role in the execution of the photo shoot. And he had the unique perspective of being able to hear all the stories as people stopped by or called in.
I attempted to set up an interview with Ayanna and Jose, but I was never able to get that to work out. I also opted not to ask one of our other photogs drive over to Tallahassee from Panama City again just for a 20-30 minute interview. But, I had some footage from the evening that allowed those two teams to be represented.
I’ve never edited a project quite like this and this large. Some work I did for Sports Publishing was similar, but not nearly as in-depth. My first goal was to get as much laid out as possible. I called it the “skeleton.” I started out with a 90 minute cut. I cut that down to a 70 minute cut. Then I started dropping in more of the video and motion graphics.
I got to a point where I could not longer objectively watch it. I felt that 70 minutes was too long, but I could not longer figure out what to cut. I asked some impartial friends to come over and watch it. They gave some great tips and from there, I was able to trim about 20 additional minutes out.
In the end, I have a nice 50 minute documentary about a really fun evening and a very neat project. I enjoyed putting it together, but I would be dishonest if I said that was enough. I’d like to see this project and feature in the magazine gain some recognition and be successful enough to merit publishing a larger book. I’d like to see the documentary in DVD form packaged with the book. I’d like to see if we can get the documentary on the air some where or maybe at a local film festival. I’d like for it to be successful to merit doing something like this again.