Final Thoughts

By Benny Flora

When I first started brainstorming for my final project the only thing I knew was that I wanted to do a documentary. I had never been involved in the production of a documentary in anyway, so I figured this would be a good chance to spread my wings a little bit. I originally wanted to do a portrait of a teacher at my high school who quit to be a full-time rapper, but he never responded to my messages (I assume he got too famous to have time for me now). Before I was struck with my accordion idea, I was tossing around several other potential docs in my mind. Nothing was super exciting to me though, and I was feeling like I was going to have to settle for something I wasn’t truly enthusiastic about. Then one night I was laying my weary head to rest and it popped into my head: “last winter break I visited an accordion store in the city. Wouldn’t that be a weird documentary?” After that night I was super excited; I emailed the owner of the store, Mike, the following morning and he responded within the day.

In the week before the shoot I was getting pretty nervous. Knowing that this was my first documentary made me scared I wasn’t doing everything I needed to do to prepare: my shot-list wasn’t in-depth enough, I didn’t have enough questions for the interviews, etc. I kept asking my fellow interns what I should do to be ready, wishing that their response would free me from my anxiety. Come shoot day, I was pretty amped up, albeit still nervous. As soon as we got there, a very old man and his slightly younger companion (the details of their relationship weren’t entirely clear…) were waiting for Mike to open the store, accordion cases by their feet. They greeted us with enthusiasm for the documentary. Mike came and opened the store up, and pretty shortly after an argument began between the old man’s friend and one of the employee’s. I wasn’t really sure what the nature of the argument was, but I whispered to Alyssa and Brooke to roll camera and sound – I knew this was gold. What shocked me about this was that the people behind the camera weren’t even fazed by our presence, they didn’t try to act friendly or dial down their anger or ask us to stop, they just went on like we weren’t there. I was surprised, and that was absolutely my favorite thing we captured that day.

The rest of the shoot went smoothly, and I was really happy with all the footage we got. The weight of my pre-shoot anxiety was lifted! Watching back the footage, I saw things that went worse than I had hoped and things that had went better, but I guess the unpredictability of a shoot, doc or fiction, is just part of the game. Starting my edit was fun, but as the days went by I got sick of looking at my footage. The initial excitement dwindled and the editing process became strictly business. I had a cut that I was pretty happy with, however Justin gave me a lot of notes that required me to rethink my whole structure. I was really grateful for this guidance; by this point I had become numb to the contents of my short that I really couldn’t think about it critically. After several more cuts, I came out with an acceptable product and was ready to move on to color and sound-mixing.

My final product had things I liked and things I didn’t like. I was happy with the shape it was in and the story I brought to life, but even so there’s always some regrets that surface when finishing up a project. Even though these regrets are no fun to face, they are ultimately the reason we make these projects: to improve. I’d say that I always rush when I’m on set, and I think I can attribute that to the nervous energy I get when I’m directing. If I was more cool and collected, I could have got more of the shots I wanted. On top of that, I wish I took more risks with the stuff I shot. Towards the end of the day I was getting tired, and I was not nearly as pumped to get myself out there as I was at the beginning of the day when we filmed the argument scene. Going into my next documentary, I would say taking the extra step to get that money shot, even if it risks putting me in an uncomfortable situation, is the most important improvement I can make.

Overall I am super grateful that I got to make this project a reality. I couldn’t have done it without Alyssa and Brooke, and everyone at JTWO. This has definitely been a huge learning experience for me.

This project was created as part of the JTWO [INC]ubator Project. A semester long internship program built from the ground up to give young filmmakers, content creators, and all around hungry for a challenge individuals a place to stretch their creative minds while preparing them for the road ahead.

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