Gazette 3-part Online Documentary: History of Quebec Anglo Exodus.

After four months I finally finished post-production of this short doc, the biggest project I’ve ever worked on in my 14 years in the business. It’s about the history f the Quebec Anglophone exodus from the province, seen through the eyes of 9 people who left Montreal for Western Canada.

The story was generated by writer David Johnstone, and last October The Gazette sent us out west to track down these nine people: Vancouver Island, Vancouver and Calgary. Then we went to Aylmer, Quebec for one other person who moved there after leaving Calgary.


ED Rene.hrAs the photojournalist on this project, my job was to pruduce the visiual part of the story, including the video. When I was briefed on the story, I decided right away that it had to be a documentary, not just a simple video report. There were so many layers to the story and the historicl significance was to important not to delve into it deeply. Having decided that, I had to decide how to structure it, what elements I would need, what information I needed to get from the “subjects,” what questions to ask them. The writer had his own needs for the written portion of the story, and ahd his own set of questions for the interview.

Because of what I needed, I had to call the “subjects” before leaving Montreal, to do pre-interviews to A: help prep them for what I would need, B: get ideas for anything else I could use, and C: get ideas for other questions we could ask during the interview. I even watched a few documentaries to get ideas of what could work.



On the ground, I also had to shoot b-roll, tons of it given that we had nine people to interview. During the interviews, having informed the writer what I needed, I had to pay close attention to the questions. The writer could easily forget questions that I need asked since he is busy dealing with his own questions and his own needs. Also, the answers give me ideas for b-roll, (including archival pictures or old family pictures) and other questions that might suit the needs of the documentary. So after every interview the reporter wold ask if I had other questions or if I needed anything. I can’t afford to forget to ask something. If the writer does he can always make a phone call later. If I forget, I can’t fly back from Montreal to ask the question on camera, so It could create serios problems.

All this to say that team work on projects like this is VITAL. Whenever he had ideas he’d ask my advice or opinion, and vices versa.

For stills I decided to shoot mainly portraits o the subjects, and if editors needed other images I decided to use stills puled from the video. The gear I brought with me: 2 Canon 1D Mk111 still bodies; 1 Canon XHA1 vid cam; 1 tota lamp; 2 umbrellas; 2 Canon 580EX speedlights; 1 Canon 70-200 2.8 lens; 1 Canon 17-35 2.8 lens; lights stands and infra red transmitters, loads of batteries, tapes, extensions cords and a small video tripod.

Then it was time for post production. I shot close to 6 hours of tape, and I certainly had enough material to make an hour-long documentary, but for online purposes I decided to make it half that, chopped into 3 episodes. For editing I had to decide on scoring, find archival images, etc. After some reseach I decided on two Bowser and Blue songs, which they kindly gave me permission to use. Total post-production time was about 1 solid month, spread out over 4 months.

TS Fete 10.jpg

Lessons learnt: plan everything down to the last detail BEFORE shooting (I could’ve planned better). Be thorough during pre-interviews so the people understand what you need; plan shots carefully so you don’t end up with too much tape; BRING A HEAVY TRIPOD, no matter how much gear you have (had so many problems with the small one I brought; VERY jerky); shoot deails for b-roll (you can’t have too many); don’t forget to manual focus during interviews; PLAN EVERYTHING.

I loved every minte of this project in spite of the many, many frustrations. Would love your critique so I can get better. Thanks.

About Phil Carpenter

Hi all. I'm a newspaper photo/video journalist at The Gazette in Montréal, Canada, and I'm just reviving my film making skills from my university days, for the online version of our paper. It's been 13years since I began shooting professionally, four years at The Gazette, and a year since I've begun shooting and producing video stories and documentary shorts. I'm enjoying it immensely. In addition I have taught photojournalism at Concordia University's school of journalism, been a guest lecturer and panelist on classes and workshops on photo and multi media journalism. View all posts by Phil Carpenter

7 responses to “Gazette 3-part Online Documentary: History of Quebec Anglo Exodus.

  • Angus Farquhar

    Very nice Phil, loving your work. You really captured some emotions there and it was a very interesting watch even for a non-Canadian.
    This kind of thing goes a long way to show what a good Photo Journalist can do given the desire to push yourself.
    I think the split in to three parts worked really well and you did a good job of explaining everything to someone that isn’t 100% on all the history. The mixture of archive footage and photos in with the contemporary stuff was a nice touch.
    The only small thing that drew my attention away from the film was the audio in places could do with some better cross fading and level management – the intro on the first vid particularly.
    Other than that I’m really impressed. Not surprised it took you so long to put together, there is a lot of work there, I really hope it gets the views it deserves.
    I’m itching to try my hand at some longer form stuff and I’d be very happy if it turned out like this.

  • Phil Carpenter

    Thank you Angus; much appreciated, and I’ll take note of my audio level management in future. Coming from a sound engineer I’ll certainly take note. thank you.

  • Fagstein » Gazette explores anglo exodus, DiMonte

    […] goes into some behind-the-scenes detail on his blog, saying it took him four months (on and off) to put the three-piece, half-hour documentary […]

  • Denise Duguay

    Phil. i’m going to send a link to this blog (and angus’s comment) to the arts writers to give them good insight into the process, what’s involved from shooter’s end and the very well phrased descriptions about working together. I know from my former life as a Winnipeg Sun reporter, I quickly learned to tune my attention not just to the subject I was interviewing but to the photographer’s pause: it usually meant he/she had a question to toss into the invu which would come from a fresh perspective. It added to all of my stories. this is a great reminder to me, out of the game so long on the desk. but i’m dipping my toe, going to mess around this weekend with a new digital audio recorder to learn a bit and hopefully have some fun. some day! cheers

  • Phil Carpenter

    Thanks Denise. Have fun this weekend;-)

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