Graeme Ross HND Short Documentary

Graeme’s Short Documentary Feature: The Art of Falling

After my original (documentary) idea fell through, I was unexpectedly presented with an opportunity for an interesting documentary. My wife was doing a Skydive for her 40th Birthday and I decided I would do a little blog video of her experience. While waiting for the Skydive to go ahead I was reviewing some of the footage I had shot and I started to think this would make a good documentary. Something different and unique.

After she had completed her skydive and she received her footage, the idea of doing a documentary on Skydive Strathallan was in full swing. I already had a load of B roll footage shot during the 2 days I was waiting for my wife to do her skydive and I also now had actual footage of someone completing their first skydive. The way I looked at it was that I already had almost half of the doc filmed before I had even started thinking about it, all that was missing would be interviews and B Roll from within the hangar. At this point I was 8 weeks down, 8 weeks of no documentary work, 8 weeks still in the thinking stage. Quite a few of my peers had already been through pre-production, filming and were now in post-production deep into their edits, exactly where I had hoped to be with my original documentary idea. I was still feeling frustrated and dejected from the failed idea but was really coming round and coming up with fresh ideas for the skydive doc.

I received responses straight away from the organiser and the videographer of Strathallan skydive who were both on board for me filming but it would all come down to the Chairman of the association to make the final decision. After 3 weeks I finally got the permission to go ahead with the documentary. I was over the moon and ecstatic to get going. I planned the filming for the first week in November so that would give me plenty of time to go into post production and spend as much time as possible editing it all. Then COP26 came steam rolling into Scotland to put a further delay on the start of my filming as airspace around Scotland was closed meaning no Skydiving could take place and Strathallan had to shut down for the period.

During this period I was lucky enough to get some filming time in at a COP26 event which was a great experience. At the same time, this break gave me plenty of time to note down exactly everything I wanted to film on the day up in Strathallan and it also gave me the time to get the 2 interviews of my wife’s experience filmed, her before and after reactions.

All that was needed now was 2-3 interviews from people within Strathallan and some more B roll of the site. Something I was confident in getting in just the 1 day on site, since I had already been twice before with my wife and got plenty of footage.

As soon as they opened back up again I got permission to film on the first day I could, roughly 10-11 weeks since we started work on the docs and only 2 weeks until we had to deliver a first draft of the documentary to fulfil the assignment deadlines.

The day of filming couldn’t of gone any better. As much as it was meant to be a quiet day, a few skydive schools showed up creating a brighter atmosphere around the hangar and it was also a nice calm day which meant they would definitely get up for skydiving. I filmed 3 interviews on the day and loads of B Roll and was made to feel very welcome. After that it was time to get home, wrangle my footage and then get on with the editing since I only had 2 weeks to get a first draft submitted.

The edit ended up being very easy as I already had a structure planned on how I wanted it all put together. I knew I had to be quick with the edit but also knew to take my time and get it right. As much as it would be my first draft I always like making sure my first drafts look almost complete so if anything needs changed it should hopefully just be minor tweaks and changes here and there. In the end it only took 2 days (a few hours each day) to complete a draft that was as close to the final version as I hoped it would be. This included sound design, soundtrack and some colourising.

I always had 1 music track in mind ever since I saw the raw skydive footage we received from Strathallan and after including it in my draft I think it fits absolutely perfect at the moment my wife jumps out the plane and gives a nice moving moment to the skydive itself.

And that was my first draft complete and handed in for the end of November deadline. On the final day in college before Christmas we had to showcase our first drafts to our peers. I was overwhelmed with the feedback from everyone which was a huge relief, especially after everything I had been through trying to get my original  documentary made and then the down period trying to come up with a new idea to then be in a rush to get it all filmed and edited.

I am very happy with the end result but more relieved that I got something filmed in the end and that it turned out far better than I had hoped it would. From a complete passion project to a rush job, this has been a very big learning curve about always been prepared for the unexpected and always be thinking creatively just in case you need to move onto another project. That being said, the skydive idea just happen to land in my lap and I think my documentary is all the better for it. Unexpected, passionate, family affair, different, scary, fun and heart. I am very proud of what I have produced in the end and the amazing response I continue to get from family, friends and peers has shown that I made the right decision to go back to College after 20 years and continue to learn about something I have a passion for.

Graeme Ross, HND Film/TV student
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