Nov 172011

Working alone in the field can be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that Michelle Michael has mastered. Since 2003, she’s been shooting, writing and editing her own stories for the US Armed Forces Network. This year, she won the NPPA Solo Video Journalist of the Year award. What’s her advice to other one-man-bands?

“If you don’t really love doing it, you’re not going to do well,” she said in an NPPA interview. “It’s such a monster that you battle every day. You have to be so many things in a day.”

Here’s one of Michael’s prize-winning stories, a story that she says changed her life because “it showed me a lot about what people are willing to give up and do for other people.” It’s also an example of the value of listening. Michael says she met the man in the story when he demanded to see her ID as she entered a government building. She had to put down all her gear to find it. She wasn’t all that happy to see him again on her way out, but when he asked if she wanted to hear his story, she stopped long enough to hear what he had to say.

Michael does plenty of stories like that without a stand-up, but when she does decide to include one she spends a great deal of time setting up and shooting it. The result is often a multi-part stand-up, like the one in this story.

Did you count the number of shots in that stand-up? How long do you think it took Michael to get that done, working alone? Here’s the answer, in a behind-the-scenes look at how she produced that stand-up:

Thanks, Michelle Michael, for sharing your work and showing what it takes to do it well.



  5 Responses to “Tips from a prize-winning solo video journalist”

  1. Excellent visual tutorial, even if she did wear out a pair of shoes and expand that hole in the ozone layer….

    My first reaction to this was, “Dang, that woman sure spends a lot of time on a stand-up.” I wondered how else she might have used the time to develop other elements of her story. Did it suffer because of her attention to the stand-up? Obviously not. She’s solid and artful from beginning to end. It’s reassuring to see someone having the time, or perhaps making the time to pay such attention to small details. Why can’t we all produce good looking work like this?

  2. Hell, yes, to the many excellent tight shots! (One might argue they’re too much of a good thing, but they are quite good–especially the air drilling and the bubbles on the glass paint.) The viewer becomes an on-scene observer, rather than remaining a passive popcorn-muncher in the distance. Personally, I would have varied the mix a little more with MS, but it’s refreshing to see someone get the camera where it needs to be.

  3. […] Start by watching Michelle’s finished story (the second video on the page), then go behind-the-scenes (the third video). Click here for Michelle’s Tips from a solo video journalist. […]

  4. Interesting video but stand up is not the only way to tell a video story. It can be a lot more interesting if you get interviewee’s to tell the story for you and then use your edit to add the editorial in the selection of shots and interview content you use.

  5. Absolutely right, Alastair. There are many ways to tell a story, and if you watch the “Bob the bugler” story–the first one on this page–you’ll see a good example of what you’re describing. But sometimes you don’t have enough good video or strong enough interviews to carry an entire piece. That’s often when a stand-up becomes your best option. What Michelle Miller’s work illustrates is that anyone can produce a multi-part stand-up that’s visually interesting, even when working alone.

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