How to Use Sound to Depict Theme in Your Documentary Film

In my previous blog, I stressed the importance of making deliberate filmmaking decisions to capture specific themes. Although I focused more on visual elements, I would now like to turn up the volume on the importance of sound. How you utilize sound is another critical choice that can allow your theme to shine through. Films are what we see AND hear, which means sound is 50% of your film. Do not underestimate the vital role...
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Free Solo: A Case Study of Inherent Structure in a Documentary

(Alert: Spoilers) In my previous blog post, I highlighted the importance of finding the inherent structure in your documentary subject. I stated that the foundation of that structure is usually tied to an external goal of the main character in order to achieve the basic framework of a beginning, middle, and end. This concept is clearly illustrated in the Oscar winning documentary, Free Solo. Free Solo follows Alex Honnold, the world’s best free-solo mountain climber....
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How to Depict Theme in Your Documentary Film

One of my primary criticisms of movies today is either the complete absence of or the pathetic attempt to capture theme. A story’s theme is the magic we take with us after the lights come on and we return to our mundane lives. Themes can offer us a new perspective that literally changes how we view the world and even function in it. To not focus on theme in film is a betrayal of our...
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Find Your Documentary’s Inherent Structure

Normal life has its dramatic moments, but most of the time our lives are pretty boring. The occasional exciting event is only amazing to us because it’s happening to, well, us. We each have the benefit of years of personal context leading up to that moment, but an outside observer’s emotional response would likely be minimal without an appropriate frame of reference. With documentaries, we need to get an audience of strangers to care about...
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To the Light: The ‘Dream of a Refugee Boy’ in Kenya’s Kakuma Camp

Erjok “David” Makuei was one of the film students we met in Kakuma refugee camp, the place he’s called home for the past 23 years. Born in Kakuma, it’s the only home David has ever known. In addition to performing a personal spoken-word rap, he candidly revealed his life experiences and future goals, which extend far beyond the boundaries of Kakuma.  David spoke in exceptional English, something he developed from years of watching Hollywood movies....
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Spoken: A Kakuma Refugee Tells Her Story

“I thought it was a dream.” This is how Nyamad’s spoken-word poetry piece began. Standing in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, the 22-year-old adorned an incongruent white t-shirt with “Los Angeles” printed in small black lettering on the front. Her eyes were closed for the duration of her poetry as she felt each moment of her rhyme. She often held her hands flat and extended from her body as if to create a physical point of...
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The Tailor Made Crew Throws Down for the Showdown

On a bitter cold Wednesday in January, my crew and I piled into my salt-stained SUV bound for Brooklyn. “I Want My Future Back,” a music video we produced and directed for Astronauts of Antiquity, was being featured in the 2018 Silver Sound Showdown Music and Video Festival. Our music video was released a little over a year ago featuring a post-apocalyptic love story between robots. We were excited to skip our daily routines to...
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Filming in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Many around the world view refugees as a herd of scary “others” flooding countries and threatening our safety. Even when they don’t reach our shores, some potential host countries would rather ignore refugees than support them. The world then forgets about these desperate people while they continue to endure unspeakable trauma and loss. Due to this escalating humanitarian crisis, we have decided to further document conditions on the ground by filming stories of those who...
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5 Tips for Incorporating Video into Your Marketing Mix

My background is strategic marketing with private schools, however, many of these ideas can be applied to any other industry. Overall, video should be a major part of your marketing plan and content strategy. Here are five tips to help you effectively include video in your marketing mix and get the biggest bang for your investment. First Thing’s First: Develop an Overall Marketing Plan – Your marketing and communications strategy should identify your 1) key messages...
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Write The Lake: An Analogy On Writing

Every avid fisherman has the same goal: hook the big one. Some anglers never land that elusive monster, while others come close, having only a broken line in their boat or a mysterious shadow lurking in their memory to show for it. So what does this have to do with writing? Well, like fishermen writers have the goal of writing the “perfect” story, just like fishermen have the goal of catching the “perfect” fish- one...
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$30,000 in 30 Days: How We Successfully Funded our Documentary on Kickstarter

In February of 2015, my film production team reached our goal of raising $30,000 on Kickstarter to help us complete our feature documentary, Refugee: The Eritrean Exodus. The process was time consuming, exhausting, thrilling, and tedious at times, but it was well worth the energy. I’d like to share some of what we have learned from the process with the hope that it will help you plan your own successful crowdfunding project. It is not...
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Drained – Tales of a Modern Water Crisis

Tailor Made Media is currently developing the web series, Drained: Tales of a Modern Water Crisis, in which they highlight domestic and foreign crises related to the most vital resource on earth: our water. Over 70% of our planet is covered by water, but less than 1% is clean, fresh, and readily available for consumption and safe use. Our web series will aim to inspire sustainable water practices and promote environmentally and socially responsible water...
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Part 1 – Piece Pipes: America’s Addiction to Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

In Part 1 of our series, we focus on America’s continuing reliance on hazardous liquid pipelines to deliver fuel across the country. We will be examining the benifits and costs of added pipelines to our infrastructure to explore ways we can limit our dependence on fossil fuels and look toward a brighter, cleaner future. The Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 is regarded as one of the most successful victories for the Sioux Indians on...
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Part 2 – Black Mesa Unearthed: Mining and Its Impact on Our Water Table

In part 2 of the web series Tailor Made Media will illustrate the facts of mining and its impact on our water table. We will also report the untold story of how the Navajo and Hopi continue their fight for their water, something that was once free and plentiful. Thanks to an impressive grassroots campaign of opposition, many of us have heard of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. But this is only one of many...
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Part 3 – Watersheds and Agriculture

Watersheds. Look down, you are on one right now. Whether you are standing at Times Square, the Appalachian Trail, or a farm in Virginia, the rain that falls by your feet drains following its associated watershed until it reaches a common outlet like the mouth of a bay, outflow of a reservoir, or any point along a stream channel. How you treat your section of the watershed affects your neighbor and so on, until the...
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Part 4 – Upstream: Tracing the Flow Our Tap Water

Most Americans are lucky enough to have access to some of the safest potable water in the world – just by turning on the tap. Tap water is an essential part of our daily lives. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses just over 100 gallons of water per day. Freshwater is consumed with every shower taken, every time someone brushes their teeth, each load of laundry and every cup of coffee....
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Speaking at an ADVIS Event – Using Video in Marketing Strategies for Independent Schools

About a month ago I was asked to speak to a group of marketing professionals about the benefits of using video content in marketing campaigns for independent schools. The event was hosted by The Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS) at LaSalle College High School. If you’re interested, here is a Link to the event page on the ADVIS website. The event began with an excellent keynote presentation by Rob DiMartino from Finalsite. Rob...
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Lessons Learned Making My First Documentary

Congratulations! You woke up this morning and have a great idea! Now you are planning to make a film. That is awesome and you should do it, but you should know that making a film is not as easy as you may think. This is what I learned while making my first documentary. Before I get into the details of this process, let me tell you how the story for our documentary, “Refugee: The Eritrean...
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Why Independent Schools are Using More Video Marketing

When it comes to influencing parents and students to enroll in a college or independent school, there is no question about the importance of the institution’s website and its online content.  In March 2014, Noel-Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and NRCCUA polled 1,000 college-bound seniors and more than 500 parents to study their attitudes, expectations, and behaviors using online recruitment. The poll found that 62% of students and 51% parents said that they preferred web-based resources for learning about colleges rather than other...
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5 Major Reasons Video Boosts Your SEO

There are lots of reasons why businesses are consistently increasing their video marketing budgets every year.  Video is an engaging medium that has a higher retention rate than text (65% v.s. 10%) and a substantially higher viewer sharing rate (video is shared 12x more than text).  In addition to these advantages, video is also a powerful vehicle for search engine optimization (SEO).  Here are some key factors that explain how and why video can boost...
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