“Rebels” Team

One of the reasons I like working on documentaries is the collaboration – the sense of team.
Of course, there are times when documentary preparation can be a solitary activity.
In the beginning stages, when you’re wrestling with the idea, you usually work by yourself – and are grumpy to your family.
In the research stage, most of the work is done alone at archives, at libraries, in homes where letters are still held.
If you’re lucky, you meet some nice people along the way – a helpful archivist, a friendly librarian, or a person with a good sense of humor.
Eventually, the solitude is over and you start to put a team together.
Working on a documentary in a university environment is very different from working on one in a professional production house.
Ken Burns at Florentine Films works with most of the same individuals in each of his documentaries. He even has a reasonable budget.
It’s different working on a documentary at a university.
First, there’s that pesky issue of budget, or lack thereof. Unless you have a grant (and even if you do), you’re borrowing equipment, pleading for a lower shooting fee, or searching for copyright-free images.
Second, you are working with students, who are still honing their craft. That means they make mistakes – and every mistake has to become an “educational moment.”
Third, students graduate. An undergraduate or graduate student starts the project, understands where the film is going – and then they’re gone.
But enough whining.
Let me introduce you to some of the behind-the-scenes team that is “Rebels on Lake Erie.”
Phase 1 – Fall 2010: Graduate student Keith Aukeman and UA Communication alum Mike Wendt shot all the interviews – up at Johnson’s Island and the audio studio. In September 2010, we got to Johnson’s Island before dawn so they could shoot in the “sweet spot” of the day. The beautiful fall shots are all their’s!
Phase 2 – Winter 2010/2011: If you’ve been following the blog, you already know graduate student Keith Aukeman and UA Communication alum Georges Yazbek were weaving their magic with the camera — Keith after a blizzard on Johnson’s Island and Georges on St. Patrick’s Day on Governors Island.
Phase 3 – Spring 2011: Graduate student Gabor Smith joins the fun – he’s the behind-the-scenes guy working with the narrator in the audio studio and doing the “lion’s share” of the scheduling.
Phase 4 – Summer 2011: We’re back at Johnson’s Island with a new team. Gabor is back and he’s brought Communication major/videographer Ryan Keeper, who is fearless on land and sea (you’ll read about that later). Chris Collins, an experienced Akron videographer, joins in the adventure.
Phase 4 – Fall 2011 and Winter 2011/2012: Our editor, the Emmy-award-winning Matt Rafferty, joins the party. We – Matt, Gabor and me – spend every Saturday in the Avid-editing lab in Kolbe Hall. Two things about working on Saturdays at the University of Akron – the parking lots near Kolbe Hall are almost always closed for some game (that means we need to drag our equipment and supplies across campus) and, in the winter, it always seems to snow. Gabor really is the assistant editor – and quite the audio expert. No more clunks in our documentary! Gabor also brings another Communication undergraduate into our mix – Katrina DeFord, a former music major. You’ll be reading a lot more about her later.

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