“Thank you, Mr. Amos Lee”

12 04 2010

Screenshot of doc in progress: 'Steward of the bush'

Just realized today – again – the importance of music.  Some of you may know I’m putting together a mini-doc on a trapper from Northern B.C, tentatively called ‘Steward of the bush’, my last academic project. And funnily enough, it’s the one I’ve been sitting on the longest, and that I’ve had the most trouble putting together.

I shot the footage over one and a half years ago – which is a long time when you’re learning videography and storytelling at the rate that I am – and it’s been the most difficult project to date because I’m trying to compensate for my – er, rather interesting choice of shots. Mostly handheld, in the field, tromping through mud and ponds and forest, everything is pretty shaky, there are zooms and pans galore, and in the interview sequences the mic and my hand and what seems like half my arm is in the shot … it’s pretty hopeless technically.

But! There’s a good story there, and one that’s not often been told. After two rough cut showings to my doc class, I received feedback that they wanted to hear more, that it was interesting to hear about why we still need trappers. (There were requests for more viz of dead animals, which I don’t have. Thankfully.)

The message was they’d be willing to watch it – shaky shooting and all – for the sake of the story. If you know anything about journalism, you’ll know the story is everything. So far, so good. However, the glitch is I seem to have had editor’s block around how to set up the story. Maybe because it was shot so long ago, and because I’m missing story elements. So far I’ve put together about five versions of an intro, none of which satisfy.

The problem is in trying to explain my main character – Carl Gitscheff – and presenting him as a credible authority on wildlife, as well as a trapper. I need to set it up right at the start so we know that a) he’s been working for the city of Dawson Creek, getting rid of nuisance wildlife for 20 years, b) he’s not some deranged Mad Trapper in the bush, c) that he doesn’t kill for pleasure, but to manage the populations of species, d) that he feels the need to trap responsibly, for the sake of the wild, for his own livelihood and for the people of B.C., and e) that he’s not a monster for killing animals. It’s a tall order to fill in the first minute and a half when the viewer needs to understand where I am taking them.

Finally though, I have found my way through the intro to my story by using some music. I sat down this afternoon for a serious session and the thought popped into my head, “pick the music first.” I always find it easier to weave images around a narrative or a song than the other way around. So the first song turned out to the the winner and for the next few hours it was a cinch setting up the first minute and a half. Thanks to Amos Lee for “Black River”, a fantastic folksy song that has a real contemplative, acoustic, mellow feel to it that gives space for the viewer to think and absorb all this new information they’re watching/hearing. And to Dianne Waters for introducing me to him.

I hope you get to watch it one day, and enjoy it as much as I have putting it together.

May the music carry you through your day.

Tobi

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One response

15 04 2010
David Hicks

I love this idea. A friend said to me a long time ago, “I’m all for the fur trade. City people have no idea how they’re hurting remote villages with their boycotts and anti-fur campaigns. And they’re not the ones damaging wildlife — it’s the condo dwellers and suburbanites. You know, there used to be beaver in Richmond Hill.”

So when and where are we going to see your stuff?

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