Focus Statements, Characters and Advanced Storytelling

Hello all. Just some updates since my last full post last spring. Again sorry for being missing in action but things have been quite hectic since my last post.

First, I attended the NPPA’s (National Pres Photographers’ Association) Advanced Storytelling Workshop at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas in March. Originally called the “Advanced Team Storytelling Workshop” it was geared towards TV crews with a certain number of years experience. Now with the recognition that many of us work solo as vj’s or “one-man-bands” the word “team” was dropped from the title. Itw as also opened to print photographers like myself who are increasingly doing video for our newspaper and magazine websites. Again a certain degree of experience was required. Myself and a shooter from USA Today were the only 2 newspaper photographers.

The course was a week long and we hit the ground running. Our first assignment had been mailed to us weeks earlier, and it was to edit and form a story from the raw footage of a tornado. We were also expected to arrive with story ideas because the course was treated like a full time working news room. We had story meetings were we had to pitch, defend, shoot and edit our own stories for deadline. Needless to say there wasn’t much sleep.

This is my first assignment, shot, written and edited by me on the NPPA’s Advanced Storytelling Workshop held in San Marcos, Texas in March ’09. A little rough around the edges but it’s still a nice little story.

The staff was dedicated (more than a few Emmy award winners) and talented. The candidates were from as far away Europe, but I was the only Canadian.
I learned much. I had to unlearn many bad habits that I had picked up over the years but I came a long way on that course. They even pushed me to track my own voice on one of my stories.

It is so hard to apply the things you learn on a course, after the couse because part of the process is still to unlearn some of the crap you practiced before. That’s why they warned us at graduation that for the first few months, the stories we shoot would be the worse in our career. They were right. I am proud of almost NOTHING I’ve shot since March. But I’m getting better. The two biggest things I came away from the course are: how hard, and how important focus statements are; and how important it is to spend time capturing good sound. I also learned how to write to pictures and improve my skills enterprising stories. Oh. And how bad so much of TV news is!!!!

Since I graduated the best story I’ve shot is about stories of Mohawk peacekeeprs. It’s still rough, but i’m still working on focus statements, and unlearning bad habits is still hard. But I’m getting better;-)



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

2 responses to “Focus Statements, Characters and Advanced Storytelling

  • Martin Benoit

    I really like the Kahnawake movie even if it’s not perfect. The imperfections make it more trustworthy and we need trustworthy stuff.

    It feels focused to me. The statement is: Here is the kind of life and challenges that this police meets.

    Martin B.

  • Ava Atcheson

    Clinton had an extremely hectic schedule and writing a book without assistance would have been logistically impossible.

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