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The First-Hand Adventures of a First-Time Filmmaker Part 4: Burnout, Hang in There

1 Feb , 2000  

Written by Lorre Fritchy | Posted by:

Filmmaker Lorre Fritchy continues her adventures on her 'Spinumentary' in part Four of 'First Hand Adventures of a First-Time Filmmaker.
Even with the most spirited of human beings, it’s bound to happen: burnout. Not my burnout, but my documentary subject’s burnout. After a grueling tour from Arizona to Florida to Michigan to Illinois and back again, professional basketball entertainer and clinician Sandy "Spin" Slade arrived in New Hampshire for a physical education conference on her last shred of energy. Add to this the fact that the accommodations and scope of the conference did not match expectations — and that she had a camera in her face every blessed moment — and you may start to perceive the exhaustion Slade succumbed to during my third official "Spinumentary" shoot in November.

Prior to this, I was able to document Slade’s airport arrival (for some quick B-roll illustrating her constant travel) as well as her workshop with Phys Ed teachers. It was productive for the most part, but when things started to catch up with Slade, well, these are the times that try filmmakers’ souls. Do you reschedule the shoot, or do you push it and take the risk your subject will be so unlike herself that you lose the reason for doing the documentary? Slade made that decision pretty easy for me; she shortened her trip.

The schools I had planned on following Slade to were rescheduled from November to February. Therefore, photography extended longer than expected, possibly pushing edit and completion dates back as well. To see Slade perform is to realize the excessive amount of enthusiasm it takes to do what she does; her energy is part of why I chose this documentary. Could I have followed Slade to her next gig and completed the shoot earlier? Perhaps. Is it worth straining the interviewer-subject relationship by pressing that hard? Not if I didn’t absolutely have to. As documentarians, we must be prepared to deal with these realities while maintaining our drive and integrity. I am not making an exposé on what happens when people get tired from doing their jobs. Slade needed a recharge. I needed to remember what my story was, and know enough to back off to protect it.

I decided to take those few months to review what I had in the can and get a feel for what might be missing. Upon purchasing the Sony TRV-900, I was warned that the tapes were prone to dropout; that it was a damage-risking danger to shuttle through the raw tapes. I made timecode dubs early, but I wonder how urgent this warning is, especially as I consider capturing stills from those original videotapes for the upcoming Web site. Any experience with this problem? Seems to me we should already be at a solution and prevention level for this issue.

Meanwhile, I am researching video-editing options to compose a short fund-raising tape for potential investors. I have already received serious inquiries for more information when the documentary is finished. Not one to squander opportunity, I have implemented a database of these interested parties for when the marketing and distribution phase kicks in.

With 20 hours shot — about five of those hours being sit-down interviews with Slade and

others — I have had plenty to bounce around. The most important issue for me now is looking at the video and discovering the story as opposed to deciding on it beforehand. By the time you begin editing, you’ve got a different slant on the story than you started out with, which will most likely change yet again after editing. The sweet challenge is to preserve the heart of what it was that caused you to rest that camera so firmly on your shoulder in the first place.

If you've missed any part of 'First-Hand Adventures,' please check out the complete series below. All Parts to the Series: Part 1: Starting Out Part 2: On the Set Part 3: Wireless lavs.  Editing choices. Airport redtape. Time code hell.   Must be your first film. Part 4: Burnout -- Hang in There Part 5: Back in the Spin Part 6: Post-Production and the Discomfort Zone Part 7: Happy 'Adventures' Anniversary Part 8: From Gigabytes to Soundtracks Part 9: It Ain't Over Even When It's Over -- From Music to Film Festivals Sandy 'Spin' Slade: Beyond Basketball is now available on video at