Potential subjects are screened prior to the workshop, and slips of paper with their contact information are put into a hat for a random draw by the participants. In some cases, the leads fell through, and the participants went to backup possibilities or finding their own stories.
One of the challenges for coaches across all teams was helping their participants narrow their focus to what they needed for video and interviews. For those new to video, it was sometimes difficult at first to visualize what their videos would need to tell a story.
This discipline of finding the multiple elements of a story can be new to someone who has worked primarily in still photos, capturing moments.
“They learn about story, and then they bring it back to their still photography, and their still photography gets better,” Gitner said. “You can actually strive to dive deeper.”
After long days of shooting, followed by long days of editing, each participant had a finished video. The workshop does not give awards for best video or best edit because everyone at the workshop, coaches and participants alike, is on a learning path. Each team did name a participant who stood out, often for overcoming adversity. One person won a “remember to push the record button” award, while at least two participants had encounters that resulted in law enforcement being called.
Two people did win camera gear through a random drawing. Canon donated an EOS M50 mirrorless camera kit, and Sony donated an a7s II mirrorless camera with a lens.
Still, one of the unique moments was the final afternoon, when all of the videos were screened. It is unusual for visual journalists to see their work shown in a theater environment and even more unusual to view them alongside their subjects who are seeing the video for the first time.
Alyce Henson, a photographer for Rotary International, attended the workshop having only previously shot short video clips and never a full story. Her video featured Deka Dancil, a woman who works with teenagers at the Syracuse Boys and Girls Club, along with Dancil’s co-worker and boyfriend, Jeff Eysaman.
At the screening, Henson sat next to Dancil. When the video played, they both looked a bit nervous, and Henson later admitted that she could only glance briefly at Dancil, not wanting to make her feel self-conscious. In the video, Dancil talks about her impoverished childhood, and they visit the abandoned home she once lived in that Dancil describes as “horrific.” The video also shows how Dancil works to help similarly troubled kids and the tenderness of her relationship with Eysaman, who describes her as someone who cares about everything.
After the screening Dancil told Hanson that she was impressed. “Someone sees beautiful things in my life,” she said.