An interview with church filmmaker Tim LaPointe about how he made his documentary short Sandy.
First of all, Sandy is such an impressively tough person.
Yeah Sandy’s a hoot. She’s from Maine which is where I grew up so we got a long super well. And man she was funny in between takes, too.
I was affected by her story in so many ways, I’m curious to hear how you were affected by her story as you filmed and edited this project.
I actually didn’t know Sandy’s story until we shot it. When we shot this I was working full time in addition to doing film projects for the church so (long story short) I had just come from my day job when we shot Sandy’s story.
Sandy’s story really reminded me of just how beautiful the love of Jesus is. All of us face trials along the way but as Sandy put it so simply and yet so beautifully, “He’s there.” Those two simple words are such an assurance to me, just knowing that He’s there should give us so much confidence in knowing that He’s faithful to give us what we need to fulfill the calling on our lives. His timing is perfect, He’s never wrong, He sustains is, and He’s there.
Are you full time at the church now or still volunteering/contracting?
As of June 1st, I’m now freelance full time. I’m still contracting with the church, but the goal is to do a lot more nonprofit and ministry work.
How you feeling about that transition?
I’m super excited! This is something my wife and I have been praying about for six months or so. We’re hoping and praying that this brings more flexibility to be able to work with more ministries. For example we’re going to East Africa this summer and I’ll be filming while we’re there. Freelancing opens the door for me to work more along side this ministry and help them tell their stories.
That’s awesome dude! If you don’t mind me asking, what was your old full time job?
I wrapped up my job working as a cinematographer/editor for a local creative agency. Worked on everything from documentaries, to commercials, to music videos and did some nonprofit/ministry work there as well.
Nice, so what role(s) did you play on Sandy’s video?
Director, cinematographer, audio engineer, editor haha. There are a few staff members that helped out in more of a producer role, but I’m the sole video guy so to speak.
Did you do the interview or was someone else chatting with Sandy?
One of the staff members interviewed her, but she had prepared what she was going to say ahead of time and simply talked for ten minutes, no breaks, and then she was done.
She nailed it.
Wow, that’s super impressive – especially considering how raw the emotions were. So coming from your day job onto this shoot I imagine things had to happen pretty quick, how did you approach this shoot from a technical standpoint?
It was a total God thing, in full transparency I did not feel prepared for this shoot, but God did amazing things through it.
The church doesn’t have a big budget for film equipment so the equipment they have is what I had access to, in addition to my 5D mk iii. I wanted to go for a darker yet cozy vibe. Initially I wanted to use the natural light from the windows in her living room but it was a dark and dreary day and I wasn’t getting much light at all so I used one small key light on her right, used a little bit of natural light as a fill. Turned on the lamp in the background and turned off the dining room lights behind her.
For b-roll, the sky had actually gotten a bit brighter when we started shooting that part so I was able to use a lot more natural light in addition to the lamps around her house. I think in hindsight, this worked really well because the use of the two different types of lighting matched well with the theme of her video.
Also, the B-Cam was the church’s Canon 7D.
How long did you have for the shoot – from arrival to driving off?
I believe were were there for about 1.5 hours.
Wow, I need to learn how to work faster, haha. I think it would take me that long to just figure out where I want to set up.
Well in all honesty, being the only crew member setting up and everyone else was waiting for me, I definitely felt pressure to setup quickly, haha.
That is the nice thing about my previous job is that a lot of times we showed up to a shoot never having been there before, we had a short deadline of when interviews needed to be complete, so we had to find a location and setup quickly. It’s stressful sometimes for sure, but I’m so glad I had that experience going into this shoot.
What did your editing process look like? How did you go from her full interview to a 4-5 minute cut that the church was happy with?
I’ve found labels to be my best friend lately. As I listened through her story, if I heard something that stood out to me as pivotal to the story, I’d make a cut at the beginning and end of that section and label it red or orange (rose or mango in Premiere – for me red clips are better than orange) so when I was putting my final timeline together, I’d be sure to use the best parts. And it also prevents me from having to go back and dig through the interview to “re-find” the best parts, I already visually know where they are.
That being said, the orange and red parts together were still too long and I ended up cutting some really crucial parts of her story out. I really wrestled with that, but covered it in a lot of prayer and felt that what was left in my timeline was cohesive and made for the better five minute story.
Awesome, how was the response to the film from the church and the congregation?
Beyond what I could hope for, seriously. So many people talking about how they were impacted. In fact, I heard that Sandy went shopping and an employee that she did not know came from behind the counter and hugged her and thanked her for sharing her story. No clue if the employee was a church member or saw it online but either way. It’s a God thing man.
It’s a shoot I didn’t feel prepared for at all, and it was awesome to see how God showed up.
That’s so rad, what a great reminder of who’s really doing the work through our films. Was there anything that you learned from doing this project?
Two main things that probably seem to contradict each other. Prepare better, and believe that God can do incredible things even when we fall short.
Prepare better: it’s amazing how this video was used, but I’m still called to give my best. That includes (when possible) scouting, talking with the subject ahead of time, learning their story, etc.
On the flip side: We played a video the previous week that I shot on a borrowed BMPCC 4K that was way more planned out and I thought looked far better, yet we had some members of our congregation saying that Sandy’s video was the best video our church had put out. Much like the point of Sandy’s video, give what you have to the Lord (your talent, your effort, your skills) but trust that even when you feel you didn’t put your best work out there, that He can still do something absolutely incredible with it.
Love it. Where can people connect with you and check out more of your work?