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With the promotional push for the American Lung Association’s (ALA) 2012 stair climb just about to get underway, and the ALA highlighting my video on their web site, it was time I got this belated post written up…
The American Lung Association’s (ALA) 2011 Fight For Air Climb was held February 5th at Boston’s Mellon Financial Center. My friend Jodi, who had volunteered for the ALA before, recruited me to produce a short promotional video documenting the Boston climb. It being for a good cause, I decided to volunteer my time and started pulling together a plan for the event.
It being a live event, I decided to go with 2 cameras (Canon 5D Mark II, and Canon 7D) to get enough coverage, recruited the help of Dennis Ganz to run one of the cameras, and set out to develop a shot list and some interview questions. I had interviewed Erin Hickey, the Senior Development Manager for the ALA in New England, in January, to understand what they were looking for from the video. From our discussion, the piece was needed to center on 3 things:
- First was highlighting the event’s mission component. This would involve offering insight into why people were doing the climb, i.e. their emotional or personal motivation.
- Secondly was to provide a balanced mix of all the participants, from the general public to the firefighters
- Lastly, highlight a few sponsors as well as the building itself in order to acknowledge them and their support
The day of the shoot was hectic. I hadn’t had a chance to visit the Mellon Financial Center, so Dennis and I had to improvise on where and how to shoot. We focused on interviews for the first 45 minutes, me operating the Canon 5D with a Rode shotgun mic attached interviewing participants and framing tight and close, while Dennis ran the 7D framing medium and loose.
Once we got a few interviews out of the way, we went our separate ways, shooting run and gun style to collect b-roll footage off our shot list. Mid-way through the morning, there was a slight interruption when the fire alarm went off and the entire building had to be evacuated. It was a false alarm, but good timing considering dozens of firefighters were starting to arrive for their part of the climb. Most of the filming took place on the main floor where people assembled and started from, and the 40th floor where people ended. There were a few rest areas in between offering water, but filming there was limited due to space and it not offering as much beyond some generic b-roll.
It was difficult finding the right balance documenting the regular climbers vs. fire fighters. One issue was the audio. It was pretty noisy, and relying solely on the Rode mic wasn’t the best choice in hindsight, which required some careful editing around the usable sound bites. The other challenge we had was, while we were busy interviewing climbers early in the morning, we missed people arriving in the lobby and setting up there. Fortunately, I was able to use the fire alarm evacuation footage of everyone marching back into the building as the “morning arrival” footage. Small cheat, but that’s filmmaking.
Music was difficult for this. I wanted something that could build off the excitement and inspiration of everyone’s efforts that day. I tried a few instrumental, as well as music by groups like The Album Leaf, but most of it came across sounding too somber or too slow paced. As luck would have it, I was watching one of Apple’s keynotes some evening where they premiered a commercial for the iPad 2 they were about to release. The instrumental music used as a backdrop caught my ear – I wasn’t sure what it was, but when I Googled around, I discovered it was Florence + The Machine’s “Dog Days are Over”.
I listened to the song, and the moment I heard the “run fast for your mother, run fast for your father, run for your children, for your sisters and brothers…”, it clicked for me. I bought an instrumental version of the song, looped it a few times to have enough to use as a backdrop, played with levels in between interviews for emphasis, and transitioned to the real song at the end for the mini-music video closure. It’s certainly an overplayed song, but fitting for the piece nonetheless.