Serendipity to the Max

So remember how I was telling you I needed ideas for a short documentary? Well I found an idea yesterday and am already done filming my short.
The way the idea/opportunity came about was perfect…
I was forty minutes early to my Marketing class, and already on campus, I decided to get a latte and sit outside on a bench to enjoy the beautiful day. I called Shiloh, one of my good friends who is currently living in Maryland, and we chatted for a while. It had been quite some time since we’d talked, and it was nice to catch up.
I got off the phone with about ten minutes to spare before class started. As I was headed into Price Hall, I heard music coming from the grassy area around the other side of the building. Obviously curious, I walked around and came upon an eight-piece band jamming out on the grass between Price and Wagner. They were fantastic. Their music was a blend of rock and folk music, and the eight of them looked like they were having more fun than should be legal. You could tell instantly that they connected with each other and were passionately in love with playing music.
I was hooked. I sat down on a nearby bench and listened to another song. The time ticked by. I really didn’t want to go to class, but I knew I had to, since it was an attendance day.
There was a pause between songs, and the guys approached the scattering of surrounding spectators, encouraging them to come out to the Deli (a local bar) to watch them play that night.
And then it hit me. And before I stopped to think of all the practical reasons why this might not be the best idea, I popped up from the bench and approached them. Immediately encouraged by their smiles and receptive attention, I told them that I was a film major and needed to make a short documentary by the end of the week. I asked them if they would be willing to let me record their show that night and document them.
Instant nods in consent.
I introduced myself to all eight of them, remembered half their names immediately (which is a huge accomplishment for me), and got the phone number of the guy in charge (Todd). Before I ran into class, I miraculously remembered to ask them the name of their band.
“The Giving Tree Band,” said Todd. They named it after the Shel Silverstein book by the same name.
I went to my Marketing class in a bit of a euphoria. I had a story!
Of course, by the time class was over at six, my stomach was in knots. I didn’t have a camera and I didn’t have any crew members. I certainly couldn’t do the thing alone, and I really needed at least two cameras to successfully film a live concert. On top of that, I had only three hours to round all this up, because the band started setting up at nine.
The next hour and a half was filled with frantic texts and phone calls to everyone who might possibly have free time, a camera, or both. My friends came through for me. I managed to round up three cameras and one fellow filmmaker to film with me. I also was able to find another person to drive me around to pick up those cameras and then take me to Best Buy to buy miniDV tapes and AA batteries. I have awesome friends.
I then spent another frantic hour or so google-ing the bejeezees out of the band. And I found a ton of interesting things about them. For example, they are an entirely eco-friendly band. They are all vegans, don’t smoke or drink, and drive a van fueled by biodiesel. Their last album was recorded in an entirely carbon-neutral building, and they camped out at a local state park nearby during the recording session, biking ten miles in and ten miles out every morning to the “studio” (and ultimately commuting over 500 miles on bike). Very interesting people, by the looks of their website.
So when nine came around, I was ready. Or as ready as I’d ever be. I was so nervous that my hands were shaking. I’d never filmed a live concert before.
It turned out to be a breeze. I haven’t seen the results yet (will log and capture my footage tomorrow), but I think it went really well. My friend Wes and I recorded The Giving Tree Band’s entire two hour set. During the “intermission,” we filmed them outside, chatting about their bus, how many miles they’d logged in the last few months, and that the bars in Oklahoma– unlike most other states– still let you smoke inside (and how uncomfortable that was on their lungs).
And forgetting the filming element, their concert was a blast. I absolutely love their music, and they have fantastic stage presence. More than once, I caught myself grinning at their antics. And just watching them up there, you can tell how much they loved what they were doing. These guys are living their dream.

After the show, we stifled yawns as we arranged to meet the next morning at 8:30am for breakfast. Brain spinning and ears throbbing (everything sounded muffled after the loud music), I headed home and stayed up late to compose my list of questions and to try to find an “angle” for the story.
This morning, I woke up waaaaay too early for having been out so late. Of course, I didn’t wake up early enough (I have no will power at 6:45am), and once I did manage to drag myself out of bed, a mad frantic dash ensued, as I rushed around my room to make sure I had enough battery power and miniDV tape space for the morning’s filming (since I’d apparently forgotten to do that the night before).
My wonderful roommate let me borrow her car for the morning, and I drove to The Earth Cafe, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant on Campus Corner. I wasn’t the first one there, and I chatted with one of the guitarists and banjo players while the rest of the band slowly assembled over the next ten minutes.
It was a beautiful morning, and we decided to stay outside to eat and film (there wasn’t room for us inside anyway). While I filmed them all one at a time, the rest ate their breakfasts of tofu eggs and soy sausage– an interesting breakfast. The “sausage” looked normal, but I’m pretty sure they just added a tacky yellow food-coloring to the tofu to try to make it look more like scrambled eggs.
The filming went well, mostly because the guys are awesome. They answered my questions perfectly– they’re articulate and interesting. And as natural entertainers, they were all completely comfortable in front of the camera. In fact, they really love to talk. So while I went in expecting to have to drag answers out of some of them, I instead started wondering how I was going to edit to pare down their answers.
The image looks great (thanks to the spiffy camera I borrowed) and the guys were interesting– I just hope the audio turns out. We filmed next to a street that ended up being toooooo busy, and I didn’t correct that. I should have just uprooted our little operation and found a quieter spot, but I didn’t want to go through such an effort, I guess. Now I know I should have followed my instincts. Oh well.
The sound recorder that we used is an expensive, fantastic little device that picks up absolutely everything. In fact, it worked just a little too well. So while it picked up the soft-spoken words of the guys, it also picked up (with annoying clarity) the sound of nearby doors opening and cars passing.
Overall, I think my two biggest challenges will be dealing with the audio (reducing wind noise, etc) and threading together a story that has some sort of conflict in it… because all good documentaries have conflict. As the band is made up of pretty peaceful, all-embracing kinds of guys, I had a hard time dragging from them any kind of frustration about anything.
And even if the audio is worthless and the story is a flop, I don’t care in the least. I made friends last night with people who know their passions and are living their dreams. They are funny, generous, and deserve to be ridiculously famous someday. I hope I’ll get to meet them again.

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