by Joanna D'Angelo

Last Sunday I was on a TV shoot for a food show pilot that I'm working on. The show follows a 20-something couple as they embark on a challenging new food business.  He's a chef and she's a self-taught home cook.  They met and fell in love a few years back at a hostel while on vacation in Spain.  The couple is an engaging and attractive duo with a great love of food. This won't be an easy road for them because they basically left two good jobs to pursue their dream and their financial situation is tight.

Shoots always start early - like 6:00 am early for day shoots - production takes a lot of set up and tear down and there's always a lot of hurry up and wait crap.

This particular show idea didn't come from me - but I was brought on board as the writer.  The reason why I played director on Sunday was because the actual director couldn't be there.  I didn't mind as it was fun to be back in the saddle. And it was a very small crew - just myself and my exec producer who was shooting.  So I was also the boom - which means I held the mic encased in the big fuzzy wind sock.  I have a huge respect for the crew because the work requires talent, technical skill as well as physicality.  Crew work is physical work. And I have the bruises to prove it!

While I have made several short films and a one hour documentary and while most of my work has been broadcast on TV - including my doc - I feel uncomfortable with calling myself a director.  I know some people who call themselves a director after making one short film - and I guess that's fine - but I think it takes a lot to earn that title. I don't know how long and how many credits it'll take me - but for now I'm more comfortable calling myself a writer who does some directing.

One of my favourite aspects of directing in the documentary/factual milieu is the on-camera interview. I love the interview. Why? Because I love talking to people and finding out their stories. And everybody has a story to tell. A good interviewer never interrupts and allows the subject to speak.  One thing I always do during an interview - is after my subject has answered a question, I'll allow some time to pass - and just nod and smile. Now, if we were just having a coffee that person might think I'm a lunatic - but in the context of an interview what happens is that the person then resumes talking - and usually this is when they become more comfortable, relaxed and are able to open up to me.

When I did my doc about romance writers a few years back I interviewed best-selling author Nora Roberts. She's a definite pro at doing interviews. Everything she says is a perfect sound bite - delivered in a voice that's dipped in whiskey and flavoured with smoke. She's just that good. But "regular" people take some coaxing and sometimes you have to re-ask questions in different ways in order to get them to open up. And when they do - and the answer is good - then, that bell goes off in my head - and I will immediately know that it's a useable clip.  Simple as that.  Or not. Because your mind is working on a few levels. You're engaging with the person that you're interviewing and listening to what they're saying while also anticipating your next questions and thinking about what you're going to use later on in the rough cut. I generally don't take notes while doing an interview because I think it's distracting and I want to be as present as possible. So while I may on the outside be smiling and serene, on the inside my mind is whirring with ideas.

There are a lot of other aspects to directing factual and documentary programming of course - I haven't touched on the visual side.  Save that for another time. I can operate a camera and I always have a good visual sense of what I want. I do story board - not with pics but with words. And I pay attention during interviews to things that people mention that we might need images for - but I always trust the camera guy/gal - as they usually know more than I do.

And of course the editing process - is where the magic happens. But I'll also save that for another time as well.


  1. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes - film editing, especially, sounds interesting to me. I'll look forward to that story.

  2. thanks Kathy - well we'll see what happens with the show. ;)

  3. Joanna, how wonderful to be pulled aboard! Hope the shoots are going well and that you'll be sharing all the glamour (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) in future posts (*batting eyelashes*)

  4. Wow!! As always, I love your 'slice of life' articles, especially when it touches on the professional life.

    How fascinating and exciting (along with being very challenging work)!! I love your interview technique. Really good stuff. I was watching one of the many award shows awhile back and thinking to myself that someday that will be you running up on stage to grab the award for Best Documentary.

    Yeah, baby!!

    You rock, JoJo, and I love your posts!!



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