In times of breaking news

In times of breaking news

The two-week journalism intensive I am currently attending requires each student to write a blog post for the institute’s website. The guidelines are loose at best, and I was originally going to talk about the power of audiovisual stories, since we had just completed our video crash course.

Instead, here is what I submitted.

This blog post was originally going to talk about the power of video, since video is what we talked about today.

I was going to string poetic phrases together and try to capture how I think audio and visuals can sometimes be more impactful than words, how they add another dimension to a story.

Then I opened up Twitter.
Then I saw news of Manchester.

Some quick facts, as of 1 a.m. central time: An explosion outside an ending Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, left 22 people dead and 59 injured. Police are treating it as a terrorist attack and have confirmed the attacker was a suicide bomber. Transportation in the area has been closed.

Two hashtags have already sprung out of the attack: #missinginmanchester is to help reconnect those who may have gone missing in the confusion and #roomformanchester is for people to offer shelter to stranded concert-goers.

It’s times like this I remember why I want to be a journalist.

As I scroll through the twitter feeds of both U.S. and U.K. publications, refreshing for updates and new information, I feel a tug in my gut. I want to be there to help.

When news breaks, it’s the journalist’s job to get information to worried parents and friends. It’s our job to help protect the vulnerable by spreading the truth. It’s our job to make sure people know what is happening.

When news breaks, it’s our job to be there.

Being a journalist is more than fun feature pieces. It’s more than being paid in experiences or getting to travel the world. It means being first on the scene to crises like this. It means staying up all night waiting for the press conference, for the body count, for the number people can call.

Being a journalist means dedicating your career to serving other people.

Even as Manchester settles into investigation, it’s still our job to be there. To follow up and continually ask, ‘why?’” To see the story through. To provide information for frantic family; to facilitate truth.

Some quick facts, as of 1 a.m. central time:
22 dead, 59 injured.
Two hashtags, no transportation.
News is breaking. Be there.


Photoshoot: The River

As promised, the second installment of my all-day photoshoot.

We went out that afternoon after shooting at the lumberyard to find a dress for this photoshoot. Within twenty minutes of getting to the thrift store, we found this gorgeous, floor-length, dark gray dress. It fit like a dream and was absolutely perfect.

Although the shoot was originally going well, a thunderstorm soon started rolling in, and we had to cut it shorter than we planned. Despite this, we still got some gorgeous shots, even if there weren’t as many to choose between.


Photoshoot: Abandoned

I have never shot somewhere abandoned before, but I think it makes for some of the most unique photo locations. A local lumberyard near my house has been closed for some time now, and most of the buildings are starting to have that run-down look that I love.

Before I left for school, I was able to do an all-day photoshoot with two friends. We were only able to shoot in two locations, due to being rained out partway through the day, but we got some great photos before the storm hit.

The second photoshoot will be uploaded later, but enjoy this gallery from the lumberyard. And tell me: what are some of your favorite types of locations to shoot?


Young Adults

Shooting a movie was never really my idea.

I mean, it’s definitely been something I have always wanted to do, and I have been on some movie sets. But writing, producing, directing, shooting, and editing my own film? Not on my mind for the near future.

So when a friend’s and my causal jokes about turning some old nonsensical co-written stories into a movie turned semi-serious, I paused. Then plunged.

We decided to do the “movie” in a trailer format—a real trailer for a fake movie. This format allowed us to move quickly from plot point to plot point and not have to focus too much on character development (and having to find the actors able to play such roles). A coming-of-age road trip worked well with the story skeleton we had already sketched. A graduation present from my parents provided the equipment (one camera, two lenses, two lens attachments, and a collection of other items). A summer stay gave us the time to shoot.

Now all we needed was actors and a script.

Even with a skeleton to work from, script-writing is not my forte, so my friend—God bless her—handled the bulk of it. A few suggestions from me and we were on our way.

The cast she put together, too. I was visiting her that summer, and she knew who would be available and best for each role.

My off-camera role came mostly the days leading up to the shoot. While she drew up prop lists and schedules, I laid out each scene, shot by shot. A stack of index cards would be our storyboard for the day.

As shoot day rolled around, we worked to make sure everything would go smoothly. We gathered props, highlighted scripts, and made list after list. We had one day to shoot everything, and it all had to go smoothly.

We woke up early to make lunch for everyone (bagel sandwiches), finish packing (four different outfits, a home-made light reflector, two coolers, and a watermelon), and double-check everything (using roughly four different lists). The rest of the five-person cast and single-person crew arrived almost-on-time, and we were on our way.

I’ve been on sets before, but running your own is completely different. We had no mics, no lights, no professionals. Just a checklist, a stack of index cards, and a camera.

But it went beautifully.

By lunch, we were—somehow—ahead of schedule. By dinner, we were almost done. We actually had to wait around for the light to be right for one of the last evening shots.

Working from behind the camera as well as in front allowed me to wear an abundance of hats throughout the day. I played director, set up lighting, worked the camera, and even acted.

As far as self-run short films go, Young Adults was a great first experience. Not only did we get through all the shots in one day, but the everyone clicked incredibly well. It was a wonderful chance at cohesion with people who shared my interests and were willing to give themselves and their time to the project.

And did they ever give themselves.

Roughly half of the people involved had either never worked with film before, had never acted, or both. By lunch, though, they were suggesting extra scenes and improvising lines. They were having fun, and it was easy to tell.

One moment especially important to me occurred in the last half of the day. We were en route to our last location, and I was sitting in the back of the van with the actors who played Derrick and Brian. I hadn’t met either of them before the trip, and they hadn’t met each other until the day of shooting. Regardless of this, we were talking like old friends, discussing another topic close to my heart—education. It was a conversation that was more than just small talk, more than just the weather, or goofing off. It was something fulfilling, meaty. That conversation showed me how much we had gelled as a group, even in just a few hours.

Making a film, even a short one, even an amateur one, is difficult. It takes time, dedication. It requires a good team, good partnerships. When it all boils down, succeeding in anything is the result of the people who surround you, and with who you surround yourself.

I could have all the equipment in the world and it wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t have the right people in front and behind it.

Young Adults is a project that we threw ourselves into haphazardly, wholeheartedly. It is a movie about growing up, about loss, about friendship, about youth, about us. And, although it is scripted, the friendship you see on screen is what was in the air that day.

I am incredibly thankful to the people who gave up their time to help us. This first experience with leading and managing my own set gives me the confidence to continue creating.

Enjoy, and tell us what you think.