Note: This is Excerpt #8 in Diane’s Diary. If you would like to read previous excerpts, you can find Diane’s Diary 1-7 here.
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We were all prepared for my first shoot and I was excited. A little nervous, but mostly because I just had no idea what to expect at all. Though I had met Chateau, my cameraman, in person, we had never worked together- which makes sense because I had never filmed anything for this project before. (I filmed a children’s video years ago with my sister, but that was a totally different experience and doesn’t really count.)
I was so grateful that the people at Cal State University Fullerton (CSUF) were happy to have us document their program. I went in with an open and beginners mind.
Chateau and I arrived around the same time at CSUF. We unloaded his gear from his car and walked over to the quad where the event was taking place. Chateau asked me if I had a permit to film.
Uh oh. That was goof number one. I didn’t have an actual permit. (Because of that, even though this was the first event we filmed and ultimately edited, it is NOT the first film that we released. We figured out a solution and we will be releasing it at a later date, but it was a bit stressful for a while.)
Gloria, the coordinator for the event was waiting for us with a warm, welcoming smile. (GAH- I neglected to get a still photo of Gloria. You’ll see her lovely smile when the film comes out in a few months.) Gloria is the health coordinator for the Student Wellness program at CSUF. The program they were promoting is a week-long mental health program during finals week (May 2019). This was the day that included therapy animals.
Steve and Henry, the therapy dog team that connected us with CSUF, showed up soon after and we had a chance to hang out with Henry a bit before the students found their way to the event. (To learn more about Steve and Henry, please read Diane's Diary #7.)
Then the other two dog therapy teams showed up as did the rabbit team!
Chateau finished setting up his camera, including sound, and started taking B-roll of the signage, the table, etc. B-roll is footage that you capture so that you have something to cut to when editing, particularly when you are filming an interview. But it is useful to have lots of footage for the editor to work with, to keep the film interesting visually.
We interviewed Gloria about the program and then the students began showing up for the event. They were so excited to be there. They had to check-in at the desk to sign a waiver and then were free to pet the dogs and rabbit.
There were limits to how many people can be with each animal at a time, so the handlers and program volunteers were mindful of that.
The students were so happy to be able to visit with, and learn about each of the animals. They were also able to share some of their own personal challenges during their interactions which was truly therapeutic. A few of the students were happy to be interviewed about their experience with the therapy dogs. Of course, not everyone was interested in being on camera which was absolutely fine.
And then here’s where things got sticky for me. I had printed out dozens of releases prior to the event. In my mind, things would be orderly, and people would sign a release after they were on camera. But what really happened was that there were 3 dogs and one rabbit, with people moving from animal to animal. When Chateau was done filming, I would ask anyone whose face appeared on camera if they would sign a release. But he kept filming (which was awesome) and it was like a circus trying to keep up.
That was goof number two. I should have brought along a Production Assistant (PA) with me to help me capture signatures. Live and learn!
I’m certain I didn’t capture everyone’s signature, so when it was time to look at the footage, there was some I couldn’t use for fear that someone would be in a shot without consent. It made the editing a lot trickier, but it was a good learning experience.
Overall, it was a joyous experience. The students were happy, the therapy dog teams were happy to be supporting the students and we were happy capturing it all. What’s great about the program is that it’s optional. The students who want to have that experience can have it. And the ones who aren’t interested don’t have to participate.
I hope that the film we captured makes other people happy too. Maybe more high schools and colleges will be inspired to bring therapy animal teams in during mid-terms and finals weeks.
Tune in next week to find out about the editing and post-production process!
If you haven’t yet had a chance to watch our first 3-minute mini-documentary, here’s a link: