The Mini-Documentary

MelPrax01Creating a documentary is all about strategy. In my previous article I emphasized the need for organization and preproduction.

This includes pre-interviews, writing questions that require detailed responses and digging into the character. Staging shots, creating a plan for the portrayal of the character, and emphasizing the depth of stories revealed.
 
The topic of my personal profile is “The Life of a Mountain Biker.” I originally stumbled on the idea of this sort of documentary, as my new hobby has become mountain biking. My friend who had originally helped me is my main subject. Therefore, I have some background on the sport in general which especially helps when it comes to actually filming/production phases. Also, the sport of mountain biking isn’t familiar with the general public, and it would be an interesting sport to present and watch with a lot of movement and action.
 
Day: 1 (of filming, YES!)
Location: Killington, Vermont
 
Meet Robbie Galloway the subject of my documentary. He’s been mountain biking for three years.
MelPrax02My documentary involves some extra traveling. This isn’t always the case, but expect to go farther, put more effort in, and work harder in order to come out with a good result. The shots I got in Vermont portray my character differently; it shows his dedication for the sport since he travels regularly to New England states for better biking. This was my main idea of portrayal of my character.
 
Day: 2 (editing)
Location: Media room at my school
 
I automatically began editing. Later, I can weave in other footage, but I also am on the lookout for good music that will set the mood. Of course, not all documentaries will need music, but mountain biking is such a fast paced, up beat sport and music really adds some dimension.
 
Day: 3
Location: Vultures Knob
 
Probably the best part of my documentary is all of the places I keep discovering.  Races are fun to go to and filming is even better.  One thing I have to keep a look out for is bikes while filming.  With all the rough terrain, bicyclists have a high potential of falling, and I am always trying to keep a good distance and still get good shots.  There are always those moments where risking it is necessary.
 
Day: 4
Location: Seven Springs
 
It was a three hour drive to the resort in Pennsylvania where I would be filming the next race called The Gravity Series.  This time it’s a downhill race (the other race at Vultures Knob is considered a cross country race which includes some climbing and not as steep drops instead of only downhill with technical areas and “rock gardens.”) Literally they bomb down a rocky, bumpy mountain and see who can go the fastest.  Prior to the race, everyone boards ski lifts and are sent up the mountain with bikes on their laps.  I started hiking up the mountain with bikes up the mountain.  The bikers bomb down the course as many times to practice the actual race run.  It just so happens the subject of my documentary and main idea involves a fast paced sport and skinny “single track” trails. (A single track is literally as wide as a mountain bike tire.)
 
Day: 5
Location: Robbie’s House.
 
Before and after the races and practice runs I made sure I got pre and post interviews.  Now I just need some voice-overs and post race thoughts from the comfort of his own home, which gives it a realistic, natural feel. This will also add more to his shown personality.
 
Day: 6
Location: Media Room
 
Finishing up the editing including cleaning up the audio and overall color of the personal profile.
 
While this is a very minimized version comparatively to the actual process, the idea remains the same. Realize that there is going to be a lot of footage.  One of my races I got a little over an hour of footage which I had to pick the best shots.  With a lot of diversity of shots gives you the option to have a vast area of selection.
 
Lastly, have fun with it.  Choose something you’re going to be passionate about it.  The entire time I was filming and editing I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get in the media room and review my footage of a practice day or some race b-roll.  You’ll be surprised how good your product comes out with a lot of planning, filming, and passion.


Melissa Prax is an active student and athlete. Her introduction to film and editing began when she took an Interactive Multimedia class at Grand Valley High School/ Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School. (See Grand Valley's Profile ) Her involvement in the class led to her election and win of SkillsUSA northeast Ohio regional president. Every few months she writes a student column for her local newspaper, The Star Beacon. After high school Melissa is looking forward to double major in broadcast journalism and nutrition.