One of the most thrilling and frustrating elements of my job is filming documentary style. From 6:30am onwards the day moves at a rapid pace. As a documentary videographer, I need to be two steps of what is occurring in "real time" in order to control and frame my shots as efficiently and effectively as possible. Documentaries attempt to present a story as fluidly as possible, which will often obscure the fact that they are actually constructed products which result from excessive filming and careful editing. I frequently film the exact same shot repeatedly until I feel the shot was captured at the perfect moment (and as smoothly as possible with handheld panoramic shots). My old ballet teacher's advice reverberates in my ear, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." It is a style of shooting that requires steady hands, a keen eye, and a lot of patience.
My documentary skills were particularly put to the test this past week, when filming my friend Pete's surprise proposal to his girlfriend Jen - underwater. A marriage proposal is a moment that only occurs once. There is no "cut" or "re-shoot" if something fails. So, I had to be prepared to shoot at a moment's notice and capture the romantic scene. Preparedness in a shoot of this style is everything. It is incredibly important to set up a schedule, check equipment in advance, bring back up gear if necessary, and enter with a "plan of attack." There is no room for error. However, there will always be elements (weather, humans, fishes, equipment) that are completely out of our control. Ah, the thrill of documentary filming!
I was fortunate. The weather was beautiful, the interviews went smoothly and the dive conditions were lovely. Everyone was agreeable and comfortable in front of a camera. The shots flowed with ease and I felt creative and excited to make a video different from my daily Open Water videos. The nerves and excitement of the group were palpable under the sea, as we eagerly explored a new dive site and awaited Pete's proposal. I fought my usual tendency to go off exploring and stuck close to the group, waiting for a sign from Pete. Finally, towards the end of the first dive, the moment happened. Pete got down on one knee and proposed marriage. Jen could not have been more surprised! My battery didn't die! The lighting was perfect! She said "Yes!" Though my stress was none compared to poor Pete's, I, too, breathed a sigh of relief that we had both completed our separate tasks successfully. It was a lovely day to be with friends and I was so happy to be able to capture this once in a life-time moment.
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