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Behind-the-scenes of Black Cloud.

First Person Filmmaking

I think about Black Cloud an awful lot. It's probably not healthy, really.

See, I want it to be great. Not good. Not interesting. Great. I want it to be in textbooks. I want it to win awards. I want it to change peoples' lives. 

Will it be great? Probably not.

I don't mean I don't have confidence in myself. I feel good about my abilities as a documentary filmmaker, in fact. I've got a lot of hours of experience under my belt, after all. No, the odds are simply against me. Very few things are great. Most things, by definition, are average. 

It's an uphill climb. My way of trying to make this thing great is to think about it all the time. A part of me believes that if I think about it long enough and hard enough, it'll be the difference between making a good film and making a great film.

One of the things I think an awful lot about are the aesthetics of the film. Now, look, story is king. It doesn't matter how your movie looks if your story is great. Plenty of films prove this. I mean, Hoop Dreams isn't a great looking film but it is a great film.

I think about how I want Black Cloud to look almost to an obsessive degree. My natural inclination as a shooter is to make everything look as cinematic as possible, and that was my initial plan with Black Cloud. I was looking into shooting the entire thing on a gimbal so that the whole thing looked like smooth Steadicam shots. I was thinking about getting a drone so I could get really pretty, cinematic aerial shots.

I'm not saying I won't still do those things. I might. I find that type of cinematography hard to resist. But recently I realized that to support the story that I'm telling I might have to abandon those ideas.

See, this is the story of the medics of Austin-Travis County EMS as seen through my eyes. In this case I'm taking this personal angle because I, or more accurately my girlfriend Alex, has an extremely personal connection to ATCEMS. This makes the story stronger. It makes the impact of these medics that much more human and relatable. It's one thing to tell someone that EMS saves X number of lives a year. It's another to put yourselves in the shoes of a man who very nearly lost the only woman he's loved who loved him back equally, to think of how this man would've been crushed by his grief, how this man would've drifted alone for probably the rest of his life if not for two paramedics.

Not only is this being told from my perspective but I'm the one actually filming all of the footage. When you see the camera zoom in on a certain detail or you see it linger on someone's face, it isn't some anonymous camera operator. It's me, the narrator who's leading you through this journey. It is, in essence, a first person film.

There's a reason that my interviews are being shot the way they're shot - center framed and with the subject looking almost directly into the lens.

 

Yes, it's an homage to Errol Morris but it's also because the camera is me and I'm the one interviewing them. 

Does that make sense? Or have I gone off the deep end? I mean, let's face it, no one watching it is going to be thinking about that stuff.

The point is, I think about this film a lot. Some might argue that I'm overthinking it. To them, I say, "Well, no shit." Of course I am. I've been an overthinker my entire life. I'm not going to stop now! It's basically my religion at this point.

It's an uphill climb. And this is the only way I know of making it to the top.