By Emory Parker
In the film industry, first impressions are everything. So when an opportunity comes my way, I make an effort to show up early, be eager to learn, and be willing to offer my assistance before someone asks for it.
However, one big difference between the film industry 30 years ago and today is that those first impressions may no longer be made face-to-face. And while it may be convenient for people to connect through LinkedIn or even via text message, this also presents a larger possibility for error. This uncertainty may lead to giving a lousy first impression that may not even be your own.
I just experienced this when my friend gave my cellphone number to Laura Kuhn, the producer of a Web series for Weight Watchers, the popular weight loss program. Only, it wasn’t exactly my number; he was one digit off. So when Laura sent out the text message asking if I was interested in working on the shoot, the unintended mystery recipient wrote back, “Will there be any hot girls there?”
This was not the first impression I was hoping for. Luckily, Laura made the effort to continue to reach me and we both got a good laugh out of it. I was excited because this was no volunteer situation, I was actually getting paid for my work on this production.
On the day of the shoot, I took an early train so that I would have time to pick up the Starbucks order of a Coffee Traveler, fixin’s, milk, four waters, and 10 bananas. Laura had warned me about the large load and insisted that I take a cab to the shoot. But, once I walked outside in the rain, I realized that the location was too close and my arms were too full to hail a cab. Instead, I gingerly walked the three blocks to the restaurant, where they were shooting.
Arriving without spills, I was immediately greeted by a friendly cameraman. I helped him carry the gear upstairs to the loft where we would be shooting. Other than two Kino Flo Diva Lights and some C-Stands, there was actually not that much equipment to carry. All four camera operators brought their own Canon 5Ds and tripods.
While it is possible for a freelance filmmaker or production company to own all of this equipment, it’s becoming more popular for people to rent such gear. This trend is not only cost-efficient, but convenient. Rather than storing the gear in your apartment and schlepping it to the location, you can pick it up from the rental house and return it that same day. Luckily, our location was only one avenue over from one of New York’s most popular rental houses: Adorama.
We had an hour scheduled for setting up, however, it took far less than that. The crew was welcoming and enthusiastic, yet speedy and efficient. When the talent arrived, I was surprised to find that they were food experts, not actors, and that there wasn’t going to be a script.
The series is called “The Untrackables,” in which the experts try to determine the nutritional values of exotic restaurant dishes. The episodes are going to be posted on the Weight Watchers website and played at Weight Watchers meetings.
This episode focused on Indian food, which the women knew little about. Although they were not specialists on Indian cuisine and its ingredients, no one could tell because of their outgoing personalities and eloquence. The only part of the program that was planned out was the menu. The rest of the content was up to the ladies to create on the spot. As they tried each dish, they gave helpful tips, discussing ingredients, portion sizes, and flavors. Later, Laura sent the camera operators out to shoot the B-roll of the restaurant, the kitchen, and the food.
Immediately different than some student shoots I’ve worked on, I was pleasantly surprised that we stuck to the schedule and completed the shoot inside of three hours. Because the team had done five other episodes of “The Untrackables” prior to this shoot, they had it down to a science. I was particularly impressed with Laura’s ability to lead the team.
She recently graduated from New York University (2011) and is already a producer at the successful documentary production company called Flicker Flacker Films (www.flickerflacker.com). Ironically, she studied multimedia journalism in college but still managed to land a coveted job in the film and TV industry. Her training in communication is evident in the way she runs a set. Laura treated both the crew and the talent with respect, making the shoot a positive experience for everyone.
Although many believe that the key to success in the film and TV industry is networking, I have also noticed the importance of good communication and attitude. Gone are the days when a filmmaker could be introverted or egocentric. Laura took the time to clearly and politely communicate her plan to both the crew and the talent. The shoot was successful because each person came to set ready to work, knowing their purpose, and happy to be there. I was excited to be a part of it and thrilled to be asked back.
Flicker Flacker Films’ editor, Shane O’Neill, will be cutting each episode himself on Apple Final Cut 7. He has been on every shoot as the DIT, taking diligent notes and transferring the media from cards to the computer.
Emory Parker is studying film and television production at New York University. She began editing with iMovie at 15 years old and switched to Final Cut X at 15 when iMovie could no longer handle her projects. While she still uses FCP X from time to time, and hopes to experiment more with Adobe’s Premiere, at NYU she is being trained in Avid Media Composer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.