Early in the year we were contacted by CODAC Behavioral Health Services of Arizona to create a series of videos to integrate into their new parent and teacher curricula on anti-bullying and suicide prevention. Bullying is serious problem with our youth, exacerbated by the relentless use of social networking sites that enable bullies to reach out beyond the typical schoolyard venues. We worked with the staff and councilors at CODAC to recruit real students with real stories. Over 100 students responded with written, personal stories of bullying. From that, the CODAC curriculum experts winnowed the selection down to 12 stories that would support the curricula and thus be recorded. Because confidentiality was key, we auditioned youth from Tucson’s Mansfeld Middle School to present the bullying stories while we worked directly with folks that would present their own suicide stories of friends and relatives. This was a moving and inspirational project; enlightening to work with so many dedicated adults and youth.
The bullying stories were simply told by one youth to another, in the storytelling tradition, literally read aloud from each student’s composition notebook. They appeared on camera, in front of our “Cove of Words”; a large dry erase board, covered with stories of bullying and suicide, written in the hand of those that told them.
For our suicide stories, we worked directly with youth and adults who wanted to share their own personal stories of suicide. This time, we employed the “Interrotron” of Errol Morris fame; basically, a two way teleprompter that allows the director to interact with the subject, all the while looking directly into the lens. The results were honest and powerful. No scripts, no actors, just real people with real stories, straight to the viewer.
Lighting and camera for the series was simple. I used a basic Kino Flo package with a bit of key side bounce fill. Our key was a 4′ four bank unit, but instead of running it horizontal or vertical, I played with a diagonal orientation. I found setting the low end nearest to camera, running diagonally up and away, gave an interesting wrap to the light. Sort of a low-angle fill progressing to a high side key. A “Croniecone” snoot was attached to our 2′ four bank back light, which helped to focus and control the hits on on our concave background. We used daylight tubes in our Kinos, as we shot with two Canon 7Ds which are particularly fond of daylight color temperature. Most importantly, our set was clean and clutter free so our non-actor “talent” would not be intimidated by any grip jungle.
A big thanks to Aimee Graves of CODAC, for trusting us with this delicate, intense, emotional subject matter and the folks that lived through it. Also a big thanks to our small yet tight crew that created the environment to allow the magic to happen: Sarah Sher, 2nd camera; Paul Stapleton-Smith, gaffer, Jake Sutton; Interrotron Operator and grip; Michael Cottrell, sound; and the amazing production manager, Therese Perreault.