Monday, November 30, 2009

Lights, Camera, Fail!

Suffice to say, I have a new-found respect for film directors.

Anxious to test out my newly-minted 7 scene script, I wrote out a list of "audience questions" to interview my family with at Thanksgiving dinner.

My brother and Sak's brother (who flew in from LA for a few days) helped set up the stage, just a blank wall with a chair on one side and a random painting on the other (off-center composition). We set up the camcorder on a tripod, and went to grab our first interview.

The first surprise of the night - not everyone has seen/heard of "The Office".

Seeing as the video is supposed to be a silly sort-of ice breaker, I was planning on going the mockumentary route, with people answering our questions a bit randomly. We needed funny, but still improvised - nothing scripted.

However, this didn't happen. The first group of interviewees, my father's side of the family, were just too literal.

Here's the questions we asked, and the typical responses:

What should every husband/wife (depending on who we were asking) be able to do?
Typical response: Cook, help with kids, provide emotional and physical support.
Best response: "Whatever she wants to do, whenever she wants to do it." (Courtesy of my uncle, bless him)

What is true love?
Typical response: Unconditional love. (Really, that's the best we can do?)
Best response: "What is love?" *bobs head to invisible soundtrack* (Courtesy of my brother, although it was staged..)

If you were stranded on an island, and could only have 3 things, what would you bring?
Typical response: water, food, companionship (see what I said about being too literal?)
No good answers for this one, sadly.

What are three words to describe Penga
This one didn't work at all, because silly me was in the room at the time. Of course there wasn't going to be any honesty. :P Brother-Peng realized this and started asking "what are 3 words to describe your mom" instead. It got a few better answers, such as "evil" and "crazy". I can use that.

Needless to say, I can't use a lot of the footage from that day. The question list needed revamping.

The next day (black Friday) we spent time with my mother's side of the family. We had more questions, and I had high expectations. Several of the family members dabble in acting, and my uncle (who's a designer) has been on many TV interviews himself.

But I guess when people don't know what's coming, and a camera is suddenly pointed in their face, things change. They froze up and started answering literally and seriously, even though we told them not to be silly say whatever came to mind first.

In addition to the questions we asked before, we also tried these out:

If you were a hallmark card, what would you say?

Describe the perfect date

What's the most embarrassing thing that could happen on said date?

Now, because of the problems we were having the day before, I wasn't allowed to be in the room during this round of filming. Only my brother and Sak were present, but they assured me that the answers weren't any better.

So now I'm at a bit of a loss. Where do we go from here? I have until Christmas to re-think this and try again. And only one shot at Sak's family during our scouting trip. I'm thinking of emailing everyone a clip of "The Office" and a list of the questions. Maybe spontaneity just doesn't work. I mean, even the TV shows are scripted, right?

How would you answer these questions? Are cameras really that scary?


  1. Oh Penga I know how this feels! I interviewed some of our students for a video and it was horrible! Some of our best, smartest, most outgoing students clammed up on screen. And the others came in too scripted (they didn't look sincere, they looked like they were selling you a Magic Bullet)... Its pretty hard to find that happy medium so GOOD LUCK!

  2. i think this is a great idea and you should give it another go. maybe you could try engaging each person in a longer conversation regarding their thoughts about relationships in general and you and sak, and have some key questions sprinkled in there, and if good answers come up you can use those. it's longer conversations to get people chatting and that make them feel comfortable--definitely more time-consuming, but i think that's one of the reasons why these things are hard. asking questions out of the blue might make them freeze.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, guys! I'll definitely take another stab at it later this month, with your suggestions :)