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January 19, 2004

"Fetching Roy"

Posted by Mike on January 19, 2004 12:19 AM

As promised, a documentary of our trip to retrieve Roy from the vet:

"Fetching Roy" (5:49, Quicktime, ~20MB)

There's also a smaller version: (5:49, Quicktime, ~10MB). It's much lower quality but it's pretty viewable.

There were two challenges.

The first was the straightforward issue of dragging a camera into a vet's office, getting enough footage to put something together (though I imagined something in the neighborhood of two minutes, max), not getting yelled at by a nurse and not failing at the real purpose of the trip, which was getting the poor beast from the vet's without traumatizing him worse.

People don't like cameras, and the vet became addled when he realized I had one. Fortunately, the camera has a fold-out screen, and that made it easy to just hold it in my lap and appear to be staring at my hands while I got the shots I needed without being too obvious about pointing the camera at anyone in particular. It was useful to have the constraint of sitting in one place and just living with what was in my field of view, because it allowed me to revisit several subjects several times instead of catching every single customer/pet who walked through the door.

The second issue was turning what ended up being a forty minute wait into something like a story using the meager filmic vocabulary I have, which amounts to "fade, cut, crossfade, and cut-in" (of which I only used two), with a vague nod at the idea that parallel editing is, you know, desirable.

Fortunately, once I realized we'd be waiting around for a while, I remembered to grab the same shot of the clock every five minutes or so, which gave me a backbone to work with. Several of my subjects cooperated by fidgeting with a little variety in a narrow time frame, which allowed me to edit them into something approaching a "portrait of someone waiting ... a lot."

In the end, I boiled about 65 short takes down into just shy of six minutes (with credits and title cards). Nothing was posed or scripted, though Al was prompted to narrate a few times and I edited out me prompting her.

No idea whether it "works" or not as a real documentary. It's an exercise in taking a bunch of raw footage and seeing if I could convey a story with it more through editing than scripting and dialogue. Since there are title cards, it isn't a complete success on that score. On the other hand, since one of the initial screening audience seated around Michael's laptop said it was obvious that I've seen a lot of documentaries and that I adequately captured the tedium of waiting in a vet's office for forty minutes, it's successful enough.

Please note the download size if you're on a slow connection. There's no real way to shrink it any further, so if you embark on a download over a dialup, go enjoy a sandwich or something.


Wow, what a leap from the duck video.

Godspeed, Roy.

Posted by: Cristina at January 19, 2004 1:52 AM

I think the clip was a great foray into making a documentation. Great sense of an annoying wait and you couldn't make a cat more pitiful unless you also dumped poor Roy into a tub of cold water at the end...

Posted by: Michael Burton at January 20, 2004 1:28 PM

Careful, Michael, or I'll end up having to have an ASPCA rep on site at my next shoot confirming that I didn't pinch or torment Roy when the camera wasn't rolling.

Posted by: mph at January 20, 2004 2:27 PM