You have just been asked to cover an earthquake, which has taken place a few hours back causing massive destruction and death. On reaching the spot you find lots of shots to be taken. Your Cameraman is on a filming spree. He films whatever he sees. On the editing table when you return you find lots of footage - many repetitions. But some important shots and crucial sound bites missing.
Questions that can help your reach the answers....
So how does one overcome this problem? The answer is planning.
Three vital questions:
Just before you go out to shoot, give some time to yourself to plan for it.
There are three vital questions which when answered will help you in planning your story. viz.
i) What is the story?
ii) What are the Sound Bites needed and from
iii) What are the visuals needed for the story? What is the story?
Some times the reporter may get lead time to ponder over these questions... however, most of the times he is in a hurry to cover the event. In order to still ensure that you get the right story.. there is no option but to think and resolve these stories at the back of your mind even as you travel to the location to shoot.
The answers to the other three questions actually make newsgathering a possibility.
What is the story?
This is one of the most basic and important questions that helps in carving your story. The answer to the question focuses the Reporter to what he should be looking for. However, the skill of knowing what the story is comes mainly with experience. Before answering the question the following aspects should be kept in mind.
a) What kinds of stories are welcome in your programme?
b) Who is your audience and what is their awareness level?
c) How many minutes can your story be?
A news story generally is between one to two and a half minutes long. Whereas, a story for a Current Affairs Newsmagazine can be 5 to 10 minutes long.
An example: An earthquake story could be any one of the following or perhaps a mixture of some of them:
Story 1) Reporting the event i.e. where and when it happened? What was the intensity of the quake and enormity of damage? How many were killed or injured?
Story 2) What causes an earthquake? What is an earthquake prone zone and which areas are more prone? How safe are the buildings in the areas etc.
Story 3) Was enough done as far as relief is concerned? What about rehabilitation?
Remember the “Simplify and Exaggerate” principle. These stories have been simplified. And now think of the various elements of the simplified story. You can go one step further here and block the stories into various segments.
In the Second story for instance:
Block 1: The information about the latest earthquake
Block 2: Why does an earthquake occur?
Block 3: The seismic zones
Block 4: What can be done (Safety to buildings etc.) and why it was not done.
So before starting to work on the story be sure of what your story is and its various elements? If you are a fresher- I would suggest discuss your story with a senior to get focussed. A clear answer to this question will automatically tune you to the next two questions.
If you know what your story is, you can also figure out the various elements associated with it.
What are the Sound Bites needed and from whom?
If you know the story you are doing, it's easy to think about who the right people to interview are and what sound bites you require from them. Framing the right question will get you the correct quote.
If it ishttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif not an interview where you are cornering someone, you could tell the interviewee in advance about what you are looking for. This will also reduce the amount of footage used for the interview. Thus, reducing the amount of time spent in previewing the tapes.
Be objective: Interview both sides, Give equal importance to both sides – in terms of time given, interview frame etc.
Example: I once covered a story on child labour in lime stone kilns. This was a story for a newsmagazine and hence the story duration was 15 minutes.
There wehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifre various elements to be covered for the story
a) Child Labour,
b) The physical dangers involved while working in the kilns,
c) Pollution and health hazards and
d) Low wages.
Let's take one aspect at a time and see what sound bites will be required for each one of them:
a) Child Labour:
i) We need sound bites of the children about hardships in the kiln
ii) The parents on why they are sending their children to work?
iii) The owners of the lime kilns on why they require children to work there?
iv) The Labour Commissioner on what action he has taken?
b) The physical dangers:
i) A Child's case study on how he fell of the kiln stairs. (The kilns have unprotected stairs - 20 or 25 in number. If they slip they will fall a good 10 -15 feet down) Another child can also talk about how he got burnt.
ii) The kiln owners on unprotected stairs.
c) Pollution and health hazards:
i) The children about their health problems.
ii) The parents explaining about the respiratory ailments of their kids.
iii) A doctor in the area talking about common health problem to kids.
iv) An environmentalist on pollution levels in the area.
v) The pollution control board on what action they have taken.
d) Low wages:
i) The children's sound bite on how much they are paid.
ii) Owners on why they are paying a pittance.
iii) The Labour Commissioner on what is being done on the low wages being paid there.
On doing this exercise you would find that even now there are more sound bites planned than required. Aim to get all of them as they may come handy when you are scripting. In the story I used brief bites from all of them.
The sound bites themselves should not say or cannot say the story- you require supporting visuals. In the next lesson we talk about how to plan for shooting visuals.
What are the visuals needed for the story?
If you have researched your story or under taken a recce to the area you would already have planned what shots you would take. However, if you haven't done it use your imagination and note all the ideal shots required.
Think about the various elements of the story and the ideal shots to portray them. Bring out the director in you and even think of the creative shots.
The various kinds of shots viz. Long shot, Close up, Pan etc. will be explained in the chapter on visuals.
An Example: In Andhra Pradesh, a southern state in India an on shore Oil Well caught fire. The fire raged some 20 metres high and kept burning for nearly a month. It could be seen for some few kilometres.
Trees in the neighbourhood got destroyed and the nearby villages had to be evacuated. There was a deafening sound because of the gushing gas.
The Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) was involved in trying to cap the well and put out the fire. A foreign team was also invited to help in putting off the fire. On the basis of this description pen down on a piece of paper the visuals that you can imagine.
Exercise : ( Write the Visuals down and then proceed)
Then compare it with the actual list of shots taken, which is given below.
1) An extreme long shot of the fire taken from one kilometre distance. This shot will establish that it could be seen from kilometres away.
2) Shot of the fire from various distances and angles.
3) Close up of the mouth of the well from which gas is gushing out
4) Burnt trees in the vicinity.
5) Empty villages.
6) Close up of empty houses
7) ONGC men trying to put out the fire.
8) These men used to drench themselves with water before they neared the fire. Shots of that. Both long shots and close ups
9) Water was used to keep the surrounding cool. Shots of water being sprayed.
10) Shots of water evaporating.
11) Sophisticated machines brought there.
12) Earmuffs used to keep the deafening sound away.
13) The nearby school, which was the temporary accommodation for the evacuated people.
14) Shots of regulation of movement in the area.
15) The foreign team assessing methods to control the fire.
16) Use of sophisticated machines by them.
17) Triggering of blasts by them to put off the fire.
18) The result of the blast on the fire etc.
Note that I have not used technical jargons for the various shots. If you are well versed with the terms used- you could explain it as long shots, close ups, wide shots etc.
Recce or reconnaissance
A visit to the area where you are going to shoot your story helps in planning the story better. Look for the following details while undertaking this recce.
1) Take into consideration the lighting in the area. Based on the lighting, fix the ideal time to shoot there. For instance if a place looks good during sunrise or sunset plan it then. Eg: seashore.
2) Listen to the ambience sound in the area. You may require to take a special microphone to capture the sound in the area or to avoid unwanted sound.
3) This visit can help you choose the ideal place for interviews
4) This will also help you in identifying the shots to take. Make a note of all of this.
5) New angles to your story may also emerge.
6) Look for the various visuals, which you could possibly get from there.
7) Spot the locals you could interview and set them up. Also conduct research by talking to them.
8) If the shooting would be at night make sure the availability of electricity for lighting. If there is none, you might have to take a battery sun gun.
One more step ahead in planning a story is to write the pre-film script. This is a good idea only if you know the story well in advance.
Write a proper script with visuals on the left side and Commentary and sound bites on the right. i.e. typically like a script.
The art of writing a script would be discussed in detail in the chapter on Scripting. A pre-film script looks exactly like a script but all the elements are imagined and put on paper. The real story will be an attempt to emulate the pre-film script
One drawback of planning – Reality may not exactly be the same. But yet planning will not go waste because it does give you the framework to work with.
Also remember that despite planning your story you should be open to ideas and willing to change the story as per reality.