by Quinn Prunty, Class of 2015
When I first arrived to CUA in the Fall of 2011 as a freshman, I had already declared Media Studies as my major. While I was able to spend the entire first year analyzing films, learning about the history of various media platforms, and getting accumulated with college life, it wasn’t until sophomore year that I finally got to try my hand at production.
As a media major, everyone is required to take at least one production course. It’s certainly an overwhelming experience the first time you try your hand at production. It’s a fast paced course that requires absorbing a lot of new information about the camera equipment, lighting, mics, editing software, framing a shot, etc. I just so happened to love everything about the process, which inspired me to continue on in the Media Studies major in the production focus. This meant that I went on to take a junior level production course the next year, and finally senior seminar in production.
The production focus for senior seminar is unique, in that rather than a writing a paper, you dedicate yourself to a semester-long project creating a ten minute long documentary. Within the first few weeks, you have to come up with an idea, something that you can realistically plan out, and execute in the time allotted. For my senior project, I decided that I wanted to choose something fun. I thought it would be refreshing to focus on a lighthearted matter for my project rather than the serious route that students often take. I was aware that there was a comedy scene within D.C., and thought it might be cool to feature a working comedian in the area. I then took to the internet, and after some Google searches I just started emailing people to potentially feature in my project. Luckily, one guy responded rather quickly. His name was Sean Joyce and in his response he gave me a little description about the work he does, along with why he believed he would make an interesting choice. For a number reasons, I agreed, and made plans to shoot my first interview with Sean at The Big Hunt – a bar in Dupont Circle.
I got to the bar about two hours before his stand up routine was scheduled to start. It takes at least about thirty minutes to set up all the equipment that is required for a formal interview. You need to find a nice, quiet spot to film, set up your lighting, lav mics, and get your camera ready and rolling before you can begin asking questions. Luckily everything went smoothly and I was able to film a pretty successful first interview, as well as some b-roll from the show that happened afterwards. It’s important to build up a trust with the subject of your films, this way you’ll get more open and honest responses from the interviews.
I probably met with Sean to film around eight to ten times. What was nice about my project in particular was that while filming I was able to see some cool places in D.C. that I hadn’t been before. Along with the Big Hunt I also got to shoot at Vendetta on H Street, Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights, Bier Baron Tavern on 22nd St, and Capitol Lounge in Capitol Hill. It worked out pretty well that filming my project also meant I got to attend some great comedy shows in the city at some cool venues.
I spent all of September and October working on obtaining the footage that I would need on my final cut, and once November hit, it was time to start the editing process. Sitting down for the first time to edit can feel very overwhelming. You’re just sitting in front of your computer screen looking at the hours of footage you’ve captured, and trying to pick out the best parts to highlight in a ten minute film, all while working with software that you’re just starting to pick up. It helps to first go through and transcribe all of the audio you have recorded from your various interviews. This way you can see all in one place the audio clips you have, and from here begin to select the essential bits you want in your final piece. After this you can then go in and start placing interesting b-roll over top of the interviews, and slowly but surely a documentary starts to form. I spent about a month working on the editing and assembling of my final project.
It’s difficult to articulate the amount of work that it takes to produce even the ten minute film that comes out of taking senior sem. It’s countless hours of hard work and dedication in hopes that your final result will be even remotely close to what you had envisioned three months earlier. My final film ended up being fairly successful overall. Sean, my subject, was very pleased with the final result, and it even won me the Facundo Montenegro Award for Excellence in Media Production. Choosing to pursue the production route means innumerable amounts of planning and organizing, hours of work in the lab, and really dedicating yourself to the project. So much can and will go wrong, but if you’re willing to put in the work it can certainly pay off.
Click here to see Quinn Prunty’s completed documentary, “Underground Comedian!”