Baltic Summer University and the birth of documentarians…

Filming an interview

So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been teaching an intensive filmmaking class for the Baltic Summer University. The class itself had gone through various permutations, since this was the first time it was being offered (and so, it stands to reason, my first time teaching it). Originally, the plan was to have the students break into two groups, with half making a scripted film and the other half doing a documentary. With only 5 students, however, that wasn’t going to work. Add in that four of the five were really interested in documentary work and we changed plans on the fly, eventually deciding that each of them would make their own 5 minute documentary. 

So we spent the first week going over the basics of storytelling, looking at some of the mechanics of screenwriting and scene breakdowns as well as understanding the basics of documentary filmmaking. We also had a great hour-long Skype conversation with Hollywood editor Michael Yanovich, which did more for the student’s enthusiasm than could possibly ever be understood.

The second week was actual production, starting with taped interviews, then gathering B-roll and having far too much fun with a drone camera (Jasper, who did the “Words” film, brought it with him from the Netherlands). By the end of the week,


they were heavily embroiled in cutting and recutting, discovering that audio is the bane of the filmmaker’s existence, wishing that scheduling was easier,facing the pain of cutting sequences you love, and praying for more time to finish — you know, just like professionals.

Their works are below and to be perfectly honest, I am so impressed I can’t even crack wise about it. While some had a little bit of experience with some aspects of what we were setting out to do, these five, Ha (from Vietnam), Mei (from China), Maike (from Germany) and Jasper and Gaia (from Holland) went from 0-60 in no time, with a learning curve steeper than a Kaunas funicular. They were figuring out everything from interview techniques to camera operations to editing software, almost all of it on the fly as they needed it to complete a task. I am so proud of them!

So here ya go, when you have a few minutes, watch these little documentaries. The first, Nice to Meet You, was a special surprise from Ha, who made it to remind us all of the fun we had while doing this grueling work.

This next one, from Gaia, is all about the different aspects of what Home means to us.

Mei struggled to find a topic she wanted to invest her time in, but when she settled on taking a historical look at The Naked Man of Kaunas, she nailed it.

Ha’s actual piece, about the city of Kaunas banning the song Despacito, was funny and enlightening (especially since I’d never even heard this immensely popular tune).

Maike decided to have us Meet RavenJack, a Lithuanian rock band who have been doing a tour of Baltic prisons.

And finally, Jasper’s piece about Words, which morphed beautifully from an amorphous piece about learning the language to a focused story of one man’s love of the words themselves.

Can’t wait to see what all five of these folks do in the future, cause you can bet it will be fun and full of heart!

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