In the business they call it Run & Gun filmmaking. There’s no script. There’s no schedule. There might not even be a Director. There’s just what’s happening and you have to capture it on video / audio to the best of your abilities. It occurs mostly on documentary productions, news reporting, live television, and reality shows. You can’t be sure that you’re in the right place at the right time because there really isn’t a right place or right time. If it looks interesting then you stay on it until something else looks more interesting. You just “catch as catch can” and hope that what you captured pans out in post. Let me tell you, it’s a lot of fun.
I got to do some running & gunning on a little documentary about healthcare providers and healthcare recipients. A New York City film crew came out to our little hamlet to shoot this short doc and hired me as a local gun. It was a lean crew, just four of us total, which allowed us to fit into some tight spaces and get great shots. There were a lot of interview setups in small medical offices which were challenging. Then there were several large gatherings of healthcare providers & recipients where we had to run & gun it. They also needed general around-town shots of our community so we often pulled over to the side of the road and just started shooting stuff. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.
They brought their own gear which included a Sony PMW-F3 camera (so popular right now that stores can’t keep them in stock), some Kino Flo Diva lights, and a Sound Devices Mixer/Sennheiser Boom Mic package. And I got to work with all of it. I love it when that happens.
Tip: a small crew is essential for documentary filmmaking. Bringing a large crew into someone’s house or a working environment is just not feasible. Also, having conspicuous crew members hanging around the production will alter the documentary subjects’ behavior giving the footage a falseness. Having a light crew footprint will allow you to get some great candid footage that will make for an interesting documentary.
This is a short science documentary that I created in 2009 while interning for the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center which is located within Point Reyes National Seashore.
I shot it using an old Canon GL2 which was owned by the park. Remember taped-based cameras and mini-DV tape? Did I just date myself? Well, it was a good camera none-the-less. It had a 20x zoom which is pretty long. But you need long lenses for nature photography because often times the animal is very far from you (and it won’t let you get any closer).
Yes, shooting this was a lot of fun. I had to hike in over hills and across streams to where the elk herds were roaming. I had to keep down-wind of them so that they wouldn’t smell me coming. Then I’d hide behind a bush or rock and try to get footage while remaining unseen. If just one elk happened to see me then in less than a minute the whole herd would be staring at me with tense nervousness. Then they would slowly walk away from me, and keep away from me. That’d be a wrap for the day. But boy, what fun days they were.
FYI, hiking “off trail” to photograph the Tule Elk is illegal unless you are a Park Employee, and the Park Service takes that rule very seriously. I don’t want anyone to get into trouble.