Anthropologist, photographer and film maker.
Hey Daniel, love your LAV on the shoulder technique, I'll definitely try it out.
I film solo, every single time. I carry my camera, minishotgun, tripod, shoulder rig, small led panel. And that's it. I do a lot of interviews. Sometimes I know the person and have talked to them in depth, but sometimes I just met them. I perch the camera on my shoulder, or if we're sitting just mount it on the tripod really close to me and start talking. I don't ask too many questions, I let them wander, go back and forth, drift away from the subject. I really like having a peek inside a persons mind, and that process in which they come and go, remember stuff, get angry, get resistant, deflect, get sad, happy, and come back to subject...that's why I do this! I really believe that being able to witness that stream of conscience is the closest you get to a true testimony. And by true I don't mean that they say things that are 100% true, but they are being truthful to who they are.
Having the camera on me also helps naturalize the situation, and eventually people just asume that those things are some extra weird limbs I have, and not a camera and a mic :)
Great interview, valuable insight, absolutely inspiring for us young minimalist documentarists out there. Thanks!
This past January I have been shooting a documentary on my own in the Middle East with a DSLR. Being a young white blond woman has been an extra challenge, on top of all the things that Vanessa so sharply points out. I definitely concurr on the no-shoulder-rig thing: I brought a steady cam (albeit, a minimalist one) and ended up almost not using it. My new found favorite technique consists of hanging the camera around my neck with a discrete strap, tilt the screen, and just wonder around, looking for stuff that are about to happen. When something comes up I just follow the action, checking ocassionaly on my screen. I shoot long (very long!) takes, not touching at all the lens (maybe just adjusting focus here and there). This had a learning curve as well: I totally identify with not being able to use the first days of shooting because of the frenetic panning and zooming :)
In my case I also had to do interviews, so I brought along a lightweight travelling tripod, and a on camera zoom mic (yes, I interviewed without lavs). Also I had no extra light, but happily my original experience in analog photography has helped me a lot in quickly measuring and taking advantage of natural/environmental lighting. Being alone helped me A LOT. No explanations, absolute liberty, great personal and non invasive interactions, no inhibitions because of avoiding making mistakes in front of others :)
I'd say my biggest allies were my neck strap, extra bateries, and a balanced mix of confidence and caution. I matured a lot through the process!
Great to see this can be done with success. I'm still stuck in post, so now I have hope. Thanks Vanessa!
This is a great article, I love the sincerity and boldness of the advice. I'm doing some follow up shooting of a piece that I started working on a year ago, and this has inspired me and got me excited about what will come up in the editing phase. Thanks Gregory, and congrats on your work!