In 2005 I attended the Platypus Workshop, a nine-day intensive video boot camp in Ventura, California. The not so subtle battle cry of this workshop was to “tear down the still shooter and build you back up as a videographer.” That did not quite happen to me as I continue to covet my still camera. I did gain some career altering video storytelling skills though. When the 2007 Platypus approached, I was asked by my newspaper’s editor who I would suggest in the newsroom to send? Photojournalist Dan Pelle was my quick reply. I already had given it some thought. Pelle’s qualifications were perfect. He’s a strong still photographer with a great eye for composition and moment. Though Pelle is not a gear geek like me, I knew he’d take care of a video camera if given one.
A couple months before Platypus, Pelle got a shiny new Sony HVR V1U, a Sennheiser wireless mic, and a decent fluid head tripod. As he shot his first few stories, I tried to teach him the fundamentals of video. A perfectionist, Pelle agonized over every missed shot and technical glitch. I just smiled knowing that all that fussing over edits and shots would eventually make him a better video storyteller and editor.
When Pelle arrived back from Platypus, he was tired, and a little bit shelled-shocked. They jammed so much information into his brain he did not know where to start. Slowly he began to find stories that fit his groove. His first, and one of the most popular videos of all time on Video Journal, was a story on a paraplegic dog.
Pelle has a great sense of story in that he is able to connect to the viewer on an emotional level. I helped him with the edit, but the story is all his. As time passed, the editing training wheels came off and Pelle was able to fly solo in Final Cut Pro. I now look forward to each story he does. Every one of his videos is an intimate portrayal of a subject. He took to heart Platypus instructor’s Dirck Halstead’s mantra that a video story “is not about an event, it is about a person.” My only wish is that Pelle could do video storytelling full-time. But alas, the newspaper photo grind keeps him busy. His recent story about a group of neighborhood kids that help a woman struggling with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is one of his best. It makes me miss shooting full-time. My video I just posted pales in comparison. Way to go Dan!