Published on Wednesday, 02 November 2011
‘The Thing That Happened’, a documentary directed and produced by IDENTITY director Andrew
Walton, won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary short at the United Nations Association
Film Festival 21-30 October.
|The 20-minute documentary profiles the Hope North Secondary and Vocational School in northern Uganda. Founded by Okello Sam, a victim of Rebel attacks, the school is a refuge for children caught in the crossfire of Uganda’s civil war, orphaned, forced to be child soldiers, or left in abject poverty. The film focuses on the many challenges facing Hope North’s teachers as they try to help the children overcome their pasts and build a positive future. The UN Festival took place in Palo Alto, California and the film has its New York premiere at New York's Documentary Festival 2-10 November.
Andrew Walton, a commercial director represented by IDENTITY, produced ‘The Thing That Happened’ independently with the help of private donors and fiscal sponsorship from non-profit Arts Engine, who also helped the director finance his first full-length feature documentary, ‘Arctic Son’ in 2007. The director raised US$10,000 to cover travel costs for himself and DP Jeff Stonehouse to spend three weeks filming at the school in Uganda, and collaborated with many other people and organizations who donated time and resources including Whitehouse Editorial, IDENTITY, Gramercy Post, Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys, musician Michael Rohatyn and others.
|“This school is incredibly remote, it has no electricity, no technology, and around 200 students sharing four textbooks. Even if you don’t know anything about the civil war in Uganda or the Lord’s Resistance Army, you watch this film and understand immediately that this is simply a school that needs help. And the goal with this film is to help them out,” explained Andrew.
He described the production workflow as it could be carried out on location. “We had four 500GB Lacie Rugged drives. I had one that I used for downloading our cards as we worked through the days. I would then back up that drive each night. When that one was full, we used the other two in a similar fashion. When I got back to New York, I put everything on to one drive and created a project in Final Cut Pro.
“The first task was to sync everything, which I did using PluralEyes. It was rough going at first as PluralEyes was still working through some bugs at that point. But after their technicians helped us out, everything sunk fairly easily. Once that was done, I handed the whole project over to Steve Jess, the editor, who transcoded everything for FCP.
“We brought a generator with us and fired it up each night to charge batteries and download all of the footage. The school has a solar system but their batteries had long since been cooked. So they had light at night because of our generator and were loving it! My DP Jeff actually made a donation to the school while we were there that helped them afford new solar batteries. He was a hero for that.
“I did do some very rough assemblies and trials with PluralEyes in the field just to see if the reference tracks we were getting on the camera were clear enough for syncing. But my time was pretty limited each night as we were also trying to conserve fuel for the generator. The priority was to download and then back up and then tuck the drives into their air-tight pelican case every night. We did also have a solar charger that worked quite well during the days to top off the camera batteries.
“Steve and I worked very closely on the edit. We have worked together several times. The usual process is that I will give him an outline or some notes and he will start to shape a cut from his selects. In this case, it went a step further as we had all of the sync dialogue transcribed. So I actually was working on each act in paper cut form and then forwarding those notes to him. As he roughed out each act, we'd meet and he'd get my notes. The thing I love about working with Steve is that he has incredible patience for letting the footage speak to him. He made a lot of smart decisions that really impacted the story.”
Jeff Stonehouse, the film’s DP of the film, said a major advantage of the Canon DSLRs was their size. “Because the DSLRs are so small and light weight you can fit more in smaller cases, and that was essential when working with a two person crew. There are no sidewalks in the bush for carts, so you need to carry most of your gear on your back a lot of the time. We recorded onto 16GB and 32GB cards in the cameras,” Jeff said.
“I was able to bring everything I needed for this remote type of shoot such as video goggles - EVFs for these cameras had not come out yet - for a viewfinder, matte box, filters, time lapse control, mono pod and tripod. We have a lot of Canon glass but decided we wanted to push the look on this so we brought a lot of Nikon macro lenses including a Nikon macro zoom 35-70mm which became the ‘bread and butter’ lens. We loved the beauty of the extreme shallow depth of field those lenses gave us.”
Andrew was introduced to Hope North as a potential film subject by Cause Effect Agency, a media and marketing firm dedicated to various causes. He said, “I feel incredibly lucky in my job as a director, and this film not only allowed me to experience the creative freedom I don’t usually experience in the advertising world—but also an opportunity to apply my filmmaking skills towards a very great cause, not to mention work with so many amazing people. From cinematographer Jeff Stonehouse, to editor Steve Jess to composers Adam Horovitz and Michael Rohatyn who all generously donated their time and talent to this film.” www.IDENTITYid.com
Title: The Thing That Happened
Directed and Produced by: Andrew Walton
Edited by: Stephen Jess
Cinematographer: Jeff Stonehouse
Original Score by: Adam Horovitz & Michael Rohatyn
Colorist: Matt Schwab
Re-Recording Mixer: Joel Raabe
Editorial services provided by: The Whitehouse Post
Visual Effects provided by: Carbon VFX
Sound facilities provided by: Grammercy Post