Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Murderball, etc.

For those of you who are just beginning to read this blog, or for those of you who have passionately read every letter and word and still have no idea what's going on, I thought I would take a moment and give a brief synopsis of what this project is all about. For those of you who would rather I skip the overview and just get to the meat of this post, be patient. I'll get there and the wait will be well worth it. I promise.

About seven years ago, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenbluth and I met and discussed the idea of putting together a short video for newly-injured patients with SCI (Spinal Cord Injury). We'd never seen a comprehensive video depicting all of the sports and recreational activities available to individuals with paralysis. We certainly hadn't seen anything that was high quality.

So we decided, then and there, to make the film ourselves.

Fast forward to 2004. Jeff and I enlisted the services of two videographers, Tyler Smith and Jason Ball, to shoot some preliminary test footage.

We shot canoeing, handcycling and swimming. And although we were happy with most of the footage, we felt that the project required something more. Something that said: "Damn, this thing looks amazing!"

That's when we decided to go High Def. The SD (Standard Definition) footage was scrapped, which killed us because so many people had donated their time and efforts. The footage became an experiment. A way for us to test the waters and see if we could really do this thing. Once we made the decision to go HD, the next step involved getting funding.

It took two attempts at applying for the PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America) grant, before funding was finally granted. Special thanks goes out to Jenn Piatt and Melissa Zahl for helping get the grant. The PVA stipulated that our project had to be completed within two years time. So, we immediately set to work purchasing equipment and coming up with a production schedule.

So, there you have it. I left a few things out, but you get the general idear. We're more than halfway through the project, with a November 1st deadline quickly approaching. So far, everything has gone extremely well and both Jeff and I are confident that our original idea will finally see the light of day. See, that wasn't so bad. And now... Murderball.

We'd originally wanted to shoot the Utah Scorpions, and even thrown around the idea of filming at the JCC. But some scheduling issues and team conflicts made us seek other teams to film. Denver came up and we were planning to fly out, but the practice facility wasn't conducive to shooting quality video. So we tried to figure out another alternative. All along, we had wanted to shoot an actual tournament. We felt that it would add a spectator component to the production. That's when we discovered that both Utah and Denver would be playing in a local competition. "Jinkies Scoobie!" That was perfect. So, after corresponding with the team, we marked the date on our calendars and set to work on pre-production.

The tournament ran the weekend of May 16 - 18. We chose to shoot on Friday and arrived early in the morning to set up equipment and scout the gymnasium. Utah was the first team on deck, so we shot them immediately. Jeff switched between shoulder mount and locked-down shots. Anytime you film a live event, there's no room for error and no anticipating where the ball will be at any given time. Luckily we had some practice with improvisational, guerilla filmmaking, thanks to the Wheelin' Jazz shoot.

The team was great to work with and allowed us to shoot from every angle on the court. We weren't able to actually get on the court, obviously, but I think we managed to get some great footage from the sidelines.

If you've never seen Quad Rugby in action, it's pretty baddass. Very rough and always entertaining.

For game two, we broke out the jib arm and set up camp near one of the goals. We had to swing the arm into the court, which was difficult because we didn't want to interfere with the game or its players. We certainly didn't want to smack anyone with the jib.

The tournament was held at Park City High School, which was perfect because the students were able to break away from class and catch a glimpse of something that they'll always remember. Any time young people can see disability in a positive light, it's a great thing.

After shooting some crowd shots, we moved up to the weight room/overlook to shoot some high angle footage.

After the second game, we decided that we had all of the footage that we needed. Both Jeff and I were very content with shoot. The team and high school personnel were very easy to work which made our jobs much easier. I was also very happy that we'd finished shooting the last of the team sports. Individual sports and activities are much easier to film than team sports because you have more control over the production. With team sports, there are so many factors at work: the location of teammates, ball placement, matching action from shot to shot. It's tricky. Improvisation takes a front seat. Everything is left to chance. Which means, the videographer has to nail their shots. And Jeff did just that. A perfectly captured pass here...a great jib shot of a scored goal there. Jeff caught moments of magic and Jenny (our sound girl) got some great audio. It was a lot of fun shooting and watching the teams go at it.

Okay, that's it for this entry. I promise to post the next update before 2011.

Up next: Time to Cut This Mutha!