Daisy Mah — Land Park Gardener Retires — Part 1: Writing & Editing
A month ago I had a week and a half off. Time to rest the mind and think about things other than news and filmmaking.
So on the Monday morning at the beginning of the week Bonnie mentioned to me that a woman who tends the rock garden at Land Park, where Bon takes the dogs on most days, was retiring at the end of the month after working in the garden for 25 years.
“You should do a story on her while you’ve got the time off.”
That’s exactly what I was thinking I ought to do with my vacation — shoot a news story.
So I dropped by the park and met the woman — Daisy Mah — and told her I was with Channel 3 and would like to shoot a story about her final days on the job for the Sacramento City Parks Department. She readily agreed and I returned the next day.
I’ve wanted a small project that I could shoot with my Canon 7D DSLR and Zoom 4H digital audio recorder. Every day I read Philip Bloom and Planet 5D and EOSHD to find out what is new in the world of digital filmmaking — and that might inspire me to start making a new film. I had recently come to the conclusion that I should perhaps just focus on shooting news stories/mini docs with the Canon because I can run them on KCRA-3 TV and have a tremendous audience for my work.
On any given working day more people will see my worst news story than have ever seen all of my movies put together. This is a rare opportunity and I need to be taking advantage of it.
Also, I have done a miniscule amount of serious work with the 7D DSLR and I need to get some more experience under the belt if I seriously am thinking about maybe making another feature film.
So I went back the next day and shot the story, then went back a few days later on Friday when Daisy was having a retirement picnic lunch with her co-workers and around a hundred of her Land Park friends and fans.
I developed an awful lot of opinions working seriously with a DSLR in a news/documentary situation and will write about it in a future post.
I synched the 7D footage and the Zoom audio files with Pluraleyes, logged the footage and transcribed the interviews and sound. I carried these logs around with me for a week and a half or two weeks, looking at them when I could, trying to figure out what I could do to tell Daisy’s story. Quite honestly, I was completely at a loss as to how to put it together and what to write.
Finally, this week arrived — the week when we put together Common Ground, the KCRA-3 TV News magazine program where this story will be broadcast. Time to kick into gear.
When I was heading in to start the work week on Tuesday, November 19, I still had no idea how I was going to tell this story? What would I write? Or maybe I should just make it an all-natural sound piece? But those tend to be more feature-oriented and don’t carry the same weight as a reported & tracked written story.
But as I started driving in to work the anchor intro started flowing into my head. Then the first couple of tracks. By the time I got to work I raced to a desk to pull out my laptop and start writing. And–of course–my laptop was dead!!!! I hooked up the power supply and booted it up.
Almost always, by the time I cross the newsroom and get into the ENG Editing area I’ve gotten a text from the assignment desk to load into a live truck and see a reporter. But on this morning by 10:30 I still hadn’t been contacted. I had set up at a desk with a connection for the internet and was plugging my script in. I had the log sheets from the story spread out in front of me. The script was taking off and writing itself. This was going too good to be true! Then—my iPhone rang. It was the assignment desk. My fate was sealed. I was being told to head out in a live truck.
Melissa Chacon on the assignment desk: “Are you working on Common Ground?”
(Melissa can be psychic sometimes.)
“Good. Keep working.”
She hung up. This was amazing!
Got the script written in just over an hour—and this is for a 3-minute-plus story!!!!!
Common Ground producer Millicent Ozdaglar was in a producer’s meeting (she’s always in some meeting!) so I printed out my script, went directly into an audio booth and tracked.
I don’t normally do this. I always try to have Millicent review my Common Ground scripts. But I wanted to try and get as much of a head start on editing this story as I could before breaking news intervened.
Normally, I work in the seclusion of an edit booth. They’re more private & quite. Few distractions.
This morning when I got into ENG I just wanted to go to work. I plopped my back pack with my laptop down at the first place I came to and went to work—wanting to get as much writing done as I could before being sent out.
This desk used to be the operations manager’s desk, then chief photographer Mike Rhinehart’s desk. Now it’s nobody’s desk. It’s just a plain old desk with an AC power strip to plug into and an Ethernet cable for hooking up to the news system & Internet and whatever.
Once I had my audio track—and this was a long track because it’s for a 3-minute-plus story—I sat back down to the desk I was at, put the ear buds in, and started cutting.
I don’t know why it is but once I set up in one spot and start working, I don’t want to work anywhere else until I’m done.
I dived into the editing. Time was flying. As I sat hunched over Adobe, laying in first the A-Roll with my track and all the interview sound I would be using, then jumping in and filling in the B-Roll — people were passing by, going to stories, coming back from live shots, heading out to lunch, coming back from breaks. I just kept editing. I didn’t want to go anywhere until I had this story wrapped up.
It’s one thing when you’re working with a reporter or other people and cutting news, but when I’m working on a project that I did myself I feel added pressure from myself to make it work — to prove to myself, and ultimately the people who see the story, that I can do this.
By mid-afternoon Daisy Mah was edited. A Common Ground story that will run 3:15 (3 minutes-15 seconds) on KCRA at 6:30 PM after the 6 o’clock news on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.
The next post will be after the story airs and I will include it in the post, along with behind-the-scenes photos of shooting it with the Canon 7D and thoughts on DSLR for news/documentary.