Saturday, November 29, 2008

school, and the beginning of post-production (editing)

Well, our week-long whirlwind of production (filming) transitioned quickly into a month-long whirlwind of school-related catchup - who knew that missing a full week of classes would be so difficult?
Nonetheless, editors Jon (pictured) and Charlie have stepped up to the plate, and have made great progress already. Charlie finished capturing the footage (transferring it from tapes to a hard-drive) a couple weeks ago, and Jon is about halfway finished cataloging all 19 hours, shot-for-shot.

After this, we'll probably write word-for-word transcripts of the most useful material (probably about six hours of footage). This tedious work will allow us to handle the content physically, separating it into piles and organizing it into sequences for a "paper edit." Right now we're still on track for a Spring Break completion.

So we've gotten a great start editing, but we've got a long way to go... stay tuned and hopefully we'll post some clips and maybe even a trailer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Well, Jon and I had an excellent week of production, and have returned to California as of early yesterday morning. This year's Texas Rose Festival went quite well, and was well covered in the local media. Jon and I shot about 13 hours of footage, and our friend Michelle shot another 3 hours of Camera-2 footage; we primarily covered the coronation (front and backstage) and coronation rehearsals, and we also got great material from the Queen's Tea and the Rose Parade.

We didn't cover my brother closely, the way that I thought we would. Instead we got a more broad span of many people, focusing primarily on the event rather than the people. My current thought is that I'll be using a voiceover narration in order to string it together into a cohesive story... at this point, though, it's still too early to tell.

My adviser Jamie Meltzer recommended spending a whole week away from the footage, just so that I can approach it with a fresh mind for editing. The editing process will last at least a couple of months, and I'll be greatly assisted by my friend Charlie. I'm looking forward to it.

Also, many thanks to East Texas production companies Tripwire and N-Ventive, for giving us access to inexpensive/free equipment rentals.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Flying to Tyler in Two Days

On Tuesday morning, my friend Jon and I will fly to Tyler from San Jose to spend 5 days filming some of the events of the 2008 Texas Rose Festival, themed "A Royal Tribute to the Rose."

After much deliberation, I've decided to loosely focus this on my brother, Michael Rogers, who is escorting this year's Rose Queen Sarah Clyde. Because I know Michael much better than any of the other people involved in this year's Rose Festival, I should be able to capture him in a way that adds more depth to the film, highlighting the humanity of the people involved in TRF.

And we'll see how it turns out. There's a small chance that this film will be just as much about the Rose Industry as it is about the TRF; If this is the case, then I'll need to shoot some footage of rosebush transportation in December...

This week will be very important in shaping the direction of this film, and I'm looking forward to every bit of it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

first footage

This is a still image taken from an interview with Sarah last week. Sarah is this year's Rose Queen, and I had the opportunity to talk to her on camera while she was in town for a photo shoot.
We talked about how crazy this summer has been for her, and about the history and future of the TRF.
This week I was also able to interview Jill Ramey, TRF historian, as well as the 5 children who are included in the Festival Court.
Next week I'll do two more interviews then head back to California for school. Most of the production will occur during/surrounding the festival in October, when I'll fly back to Tyler with my friend Jon, plus a camera or two.

Monday, July 14, 2008

beginning of a big week

This week is a fairly intense week of training and rehearsal, plus social gatherings, and I'm a little bit bummed that I'm missing great footage opportunities (for example, a shot of the Ladies-in-Waiting being trained in how to position their arms as they walk across the stage), but I think that it's ultimately for the best that I'm not shooting anything until later.

If I was to scramble for a camera at this point (when I still don't have personal release forms signed), then I would just be getting in other people's way and shooting material that isn't well thought-out... everything in its time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"I'd like to make a motion..."

Today I met with the TRF Executive Committee, to get the final permission to film the event (Backstage at Coronation + Coronation + Parade). They approved the motion, with a few things in mind. Here are the three biggest ones:
  1. They'll watch a pre-debut version and discuss it with me, before I make final edits. This is pretty uncommon in documentary, but it's somewhat necessary for this project. They want to make sure that I don't do anything distasteful, and I want to make this a film that they will stand behind.
  2. They have permission to re edit it for their own uses. For example, if they want to cut an 8 minute version to send out to prospective Duchesses, they are free to use the footage from my film.
  3. I won't sell it. I'm planning to submit it to festivals and eventually post it online, but I won't be selling DVD's. If I get a distribution deal later on (eg PBS), then it will be a different issue, but this is pretty far down the line (and really quite presumptuous). The most important thing to convey is that I'm certainly not in this for money.
Now that I've got permission, it's time to get to work.
Next week I'm attending rehearsals, where I'll meet some participants and make some connections. I'm still assembling my list of people to interview, and by the end of next week it should be fairly complete.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

funding and plot outline

After several months of application review and revision, Stanford's Undergraduate Advising and Research dept. has decided to grant me with $3000 toward the making of this project!

Much of the funds will go toward travel and living expenses, and a crucial portion toward supplies, rental fees and minor costs that add up over the course of the project.

As a part of my grant application, I had to submit a plot outline. This was a very important step for visualizing the film... but there's still a lot of room for flexibility, and I imagine that this outline will change significantly.

Here's how it looks now. It'll be interesting to watch it develop over time, and (especially if you're involved in the TRF) I'd love to hear your feedback.

"Texas Rose Documentary" (working title)
This film will introduce its audience to the Texas Rose Festival, a debutante-like event in which the social elite of Tyler, Texas celebrate wealth and beauty in extravagant fashion (27 minutes in full)
  1. This section serves as an introduction, the first act (6 minutes total)
    • opens with a Teaser shot (something visually/emotionally grabbing, from this year's footage) then fades out to show title (30 sec)
    • First set of interviews, quick-montage of characters if it works, introduces subject matter and a few important characters (90 sec)
      • This section may develop into a "The Rose Festival is..." sort of sequence.
    • Cut to archival, slip interviewee into voiceover. Shows previous queens, ladies-in-waiting, hopefully some younger photos of the characters being interviewed (4 minutes)
  2. This section brings us into the story-at-hand, once the viewer has been intrigued by the subject and characters. (11 minutes total)
    • Observational footage of people preparing for this year's coronation, potentially including footage of dresses, hair, designers, tuxedoes, presents, the script, the band, makeup, and the characters interacting with all of these "props" (8 minutes)
    • Another set of interviews, this time with a little more context, briefly mentioning the behind-the-scenes discussion of how the TRF is reacting to outside pressures of change (3 minutes)
  3. This act brings it all together (10 minutes total)
    • The event (8 minutes)
      • comes in with a shot that reconnects either to teaser shot or to the shot of the band warming up or of the person reciting the script
      • starts with a longish sequence that focuses on one of the women, then shows a montage of other women, then show longer sequences of the women that were introduced earlier in the film.
      • relies heavily on professional videographer's footage, then begins to tie in my footage backstage. Potential use of stills.
      • This section will be the most visually and emotionally engaging section of the film. The emotional engaging aspects will come from the viewers' ability to tie the ceremony to the characters behind the ceremony; the visually engaging aspects will come from the dresses, the glitter, the smiles, the applause, the music, the lights, the script and the interactions backstage.
      • following the emotional climax and relief, characters transition into the future, "Are you ready for the parade tomorrow?"
    • Parade/Credits (2 minutes)
      • Music is ideally an originally recorded version of one of the songs used during the festival (eg, if the band plays a sinatra song, the original sinatra song will roll over the credits)... this financial stretch will be considered more heavily during post-production
      • As credits flash on the screen,
      • we see shots of floats, attenders, families, children, parents, dresses, waving, waving back, applause
This July and August, I'll be in/around Tyler, connecting face-to-face with everyone who might be involved in the film. These weeks will be crucial for cementing relationships and giving people a role in forming this film-in-progress... because right now, it's just an idea, and ideas belong to everyone.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A little about me

"East Texas is a really great place to make films... as long as you want to be the director and producer."
-my dad

Growing up in Tyler, the first documentary I ever saw was Hands on a Hard Body, which depicts a contest that used to be held in Longview. I remember being bored during the entire movie, but surprised that it stuck with me afterwards, in a way that most movies didn't. I would think of the man eating the greasy hamburger or the woman who listened to gospel music on her portable tape player, and I enjoyed wondering, "What are they doing right now?"

I loved the idea that the people in the movie didn't stop existing, after the movie. They kept living their lives in Longview, while people all over the world were watching this movie...

And during my freshman year of college, I was empowered by films like Invisible Children, amateur documentaries that didn't try to appear professional. These movies helped me realize that I could make documentaries, too - even with my lack of experience.

So I started making movies.

The first film I worked on was a project for Roadtrip Nation, and later I helped make a short film about grape farmers in Lodi, California. I worked on some interesting projects for fun, with friends in Tyler, and I also worked on an intimate collection of films to connect my Guatemalan host family to their emigrant family members in Deleware.

I'm currently making a film about tower crane operator, which will be shown at Stanford this week (see below).

As for the Rose Documentary, I submitted a proposal for Stanford funding, and we'll see where it goes from here. At the least, I'll make something short and personal, and at the most, this personal film will grow into a larger (but no-less-personal) project, over the span of the next few months.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A little about the Texas Rose Festival

To someone who has never heard of it, I typically describe The Rose Festival as "much like a debutante ball," but this description is shallow compared to the story that can be told.

As an introduction, here is the official Rose Festival website, and here is a collection of articles and photos printed in the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Here is the wikipedia article, which is brief and descriptive.

Each of those resources is pretty good, but all three might be a little overwhelming. If you're just hearing about this for the very first time, I'd recommend looking at some of the pictures. They speak in volumes.

The film is progressing well: I contacted the Executive Committee, and it looks like they will be an instrumental part of the filmmaking process, which makes me very excited. Their participation helps to insure that the film will connect with an audience of people outside and inside the festival, which is one of my biggest goals.