In our Tips & Tricks segment, Jennifer interviews documentary filmmakers Andrew Burke and Morgan Paar about how to get a show onto Current TV.
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Jennifer O’Rourke: Today we have two Videomaker Presents alumni, Morgan Paar and Andrew Burke, who took off 9 months ago to go to South America to make some documentaries. And, they’re going to tell you a little bit about the gear they used and some of the trials and tribulations you went through.
Jennifer O’Rourke: First off, welcome! Welcome back to California.
Morgan Paar: Yea, it’s good to be back.
Jennifer O’Rourke: Andrew, of course, has been with us on the vidcast; he came back about a month and a half ago. But, Morgan has been out and about still. Where are you living now?
Morgan Paar: Well, I’m still kind of living out of my backpack and kind of couch surfing and just still editing the pieces. So, I haven’t really settled down yet.
Jennifer O’Rourke: And you’re editing the pieces out of a backpack with your laptop?
Morgan Paar: Yup, yup just using an old PowerBook and I’ve got a couple hard drives. And I was in Saint Louis for a while, and then San Francisco. I’ll be in New York in another week. And, yea just editing as I go.
Jennifer O’Rourke: Now tell me a little bit about the, how you got the gig first off and what made you decide to just leave everything behind and go?
Morgan Paar: I knew the opportunity was there and the way Current works is you make a video, you could make it anywhere, the idea is that you make it in your own home town. You make a video from 4 to 7 minutes and you upload it their website and then the viewers, the community at Current, can give you a green light, and if you get enough green lights, it goes on air.
Andrew Burke: Yeah!
Morgan Paar: Or if a producer for Current really likes what they see, they might just pull it and put it on air. And so I immediately contacted Current. I told them that I had to interview them for the magazine and we made a little demo reel I think and we sent it to them and they were like we want your stuff!
Jennifer O’Rourke: Oh wow! And the difference with Current TV as opposed to what other people are putting up on Youtube besides the quality of the videos is you actually get paid for these, don’t you?
Morgan Paar: You get paid. The pay scale is a little different all over the place, but yea there’s different pay schemes and you can find on their website how you get paid. But you get paid. It’s not a lot, but it’s more probably the opportunity for the people like in the Videomaker community. I mean, it’s network television, its 24/7, 365. It’s all documentaries. And it’s nice because it’s 4 to 7 minute video so I mean the difficulty comes in making something that short actually all of our videos are like 14 minutes long.
Andrew Burke: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Morgan Paar: And trying to get it down to 7 minutes is hard but I mean to have an opportunity, especially you know for like high school kids. If you can make a video and get it aired on broadcast television and then you go to interview for college or a job, how great does that look?!
Jennifer O’Rourke: Well, yeah, wonderful! I totally understand that editing down 14 minutes, some people might think that 14 minutes is not very long, but when you’re working on a project like what you were doing or like what I used to do with news where I had a three minute piece and that was considered a luxury to be able to shoot three minutes of stuff. You have to really narrow your focus down to exactly what you want the public to see.
Morgan Paar: Yeah, it’s hard.
Jennifer O’Rourke: And editing; the editing process what is it 3 to 1. Three hours of shooting for one minute of editing or something like that.
Morgan Paar: That’s tough! I don’t know; I think we were shooting easily 60 minutes to 120 minutes per piece so I don’t know, I can’t do the math off the top but …
Andrew Burke: And that was actually pretty decent because we were shooting HD, we’re using the new solid state cards and so we were a little bit more limited than with the Vtape as far as the length of recording time in some instances. And so, but what I found was it kind of fit the format. We were shooting for short videos, we didn’t have as much recording time and it was a limiting factor sometimes but overall it worked pretty well.
Jennifer O’Rourke: So, shooting for a shorter format than a longer format what tips would you give someone in a situation like that? Obviously not leave the camera rolling as you’re setting up but …
Andrew Burke: Just boiling it down to the essence, you know, not getting too complicated with tons of locations and just boiling down the story.
Jennifer O’Rourke: Tell me a little bit about the equipment that you took with you.
Morgan Paar: Well, Andrew and I pretty much sold everything we owned.
Andrew Burke: Yup.
Morgan Paar: Because we really wanted to get a Panasonic HVX200.
Andrew Burke: I sold my old camera kit.
Morgan Paar: And I sold my camera.
Andrew Burke: Bikes. Yea, we both did.
Morgan Paar: Bikes, furniture, everything.
Andrew Burke: Yeah.
Morgan Paar: Blender.
Andrew Burke: It was a little last minute. It was something that we had decided that we really wanted and it wasn’t until I think I got it in the mail two days before we left.
Morgan Paar: I was in the airport in Miami, making a second payment on the camera before getting on the plane to, well, we went to Argentine and Bolivia. And so I was in Miami making the second payment, it’s pretty funny.
Jennifer O’Rourke: Thank you for joining us. I’m Jennifer O’Rourke for Videomaker Presents. In the future we hope tohave more documentarians on our show and we hope you enjoyed this interview, and more to come.